February proves to be a very busy month at the Marival Tennis Club and Humberto works 2 weeks straight before he is finally blessed with a day off. The first Sunday in March is a perfect summer’s day with blue sky stretching over us like a flawless canopy.
We decide on impulse to take a trip to San Sebastian del Oeste. We have heard that it is quaint and pretty and worth a visit but really have no other information on which to base our decision to go.
After taking care of our dogs, we set out in earnest. We have not had breakfast and I am starving. Humberto spots a road side vendor selling all kinds of fresh fruit and coconuts. I am especially fond of coconuts and love to drink the milk. It is the perfect fluid for rehydration and the white flesh is moist and nourishing.
As well as coconut I have fresh mango, pineapple, papaya, cucumber and a little jicama which is a bit to dry for my palate. I am well fuelled up and we strike out on the road out of Puerto Vallarta and head towards the mountains.
A traffic policeman tells us to go straight on and that the road has no speed bumps. I joke with Humberto that there will be cattle crossing the road instead of speed bumps to slow us down. I don’t know how often the policeman has made the trip but it turns out that there are plenty of annoying speed bumps.
Along the roadside are the ubiquitous bouganvilla, and a curious tree with intense yellow flowers. It is the brightest yellow I have ever seen. There are occasional roosters, chickens, goats, horses, mules and donkeys too along the way and we are in fact slowed down by some cows crossing the road with no harm done to anyone.
It is very hot and we drive along with the windows open. Dust blows in and sticks to my sweaty skin. Travelling in Mexico is always like this.
The road carves its way through the rocks which form the mountains known here as the Sierra Madre. It must have been very hard work and time consuming too to forge a way through.
We drive through Las Palmas first and then some time later we spot a huge bridge spanning the valley below. It is dry season but this mountain area is densely wooded and a road sign showing a mountain lion suggests that the jungle here is home to many exotic and some dangerous creatures. Mountain lions are shy and we see none but they may well have seen us.
About an hour or so out of Puerto Vallarta we spot a sign for San Sebastian. We are almost there. Before we enter the town we pass along a wide tree lined avenue with horses standing at the roadside and their rancher riders walking on foot into the town ahead. They are all decked out in hats and boots with some trailing their jingling metal spurs behind them. Some are carrying bottles and drinking Raisiya which Humberto says you only need a sniff of to get drunk.
Further along, in front of us, is the band which really slows us down. It is composed of young boys and men of all ages. They are playing brass and wind instruments and of course there is a big drum to keep the beat. Intermingled with the band are the merry ranchers.
Eventually we are allowed to pass and one of the musicians jokes that whoever passes pays for the next song, everyone laughs and we enjoy the humour too.
San Sebastian itself is purported to be a 400 year old settlement. It is garbage free, the houses are nicely painted, stone walls surround the gardens and divide the fields, and the roofs are all neatly tiled. There are no garish signs and no ugly neon lights. We park in the plaza or town square and walk around the well kept rose gardens.
Humberto and I are enchanted by the tranquil, olde worlde charm of this town caught in a time warp of a bygone era. It is Humberto’s first visit here too and he and I are delighted by our find.
Hunger beckons again and we make enquiries about somewhere to eat from the polite, friendly locals. We are told that there is good restaurant a little ways from the town centre somewhere on the left but no one is able to give us a name but everyone insists it is the place to eat.
We follow these directions and our search takes us up a dirt track. We park, and look up through the open doorway and see some tables neatly laid out with linen table clothes. Humberto announces that this is a good place to eat. I am not so sure but want to eat sooner rather than later and in we go.
Snoozing in the open doorway enjoying the sun is a black and white spotted dog. I view him with some momentary envy and then turn my attentions to the menu. Humberto orders carne asada which is a thin beef steak and I opt for puntas de rez, thin beef strips fried with onion and tomatoes and garlic. Both dishes are served with frijoles or refried beans and are warm, and delicious.
Well fed we contemplate our drive home and head out of town. On our way out I am struck by the sight of the fat trunks of the Parota trees so impressive that they remind me of a scene straight out of Avator. I imagine that they are as old as San Sebastian.
With some regret we drive away from a town which seems to us to have defied the unpleasant touch of time.