From Sayulita, Nayarit to Mazatlan, Sinaloa

Platanitos Reconnaissance

The road into Platanitos

Camp at Platanitos

The surf has slowed down significantly from the winter months. I have been doing more of checking out setups of spots rather than actually surfing them. I did find a sweet river mouth break at the Estero Platanitos. I camped there with my friends Mark and Donna, under the palm grove on the south side of the river. Just us and the jijenes (no-see-ums). We arrived the first day to a total afternoon glass-off (no wind). The little background NW swell made beautiful peaks and little ripping lines as it peeled down the sand bar of the river mouth. The little beachbreak peaks, the emerald lips of the waves, and the backlit light reminded me of a dawn patrol session in FL.

Sunrise over the Estero Platanitos

river mouth break

Mario scales the coco palm.

On the second morning, I awoke to the work of three men harvesting coconuts around my campsite. One man, Mario, climbed the tree (like a spider monkey) and the other two lowered the clusters by a rope and cleaned the debris from the fruit. Mario’s job included summitting crown, leaning out over the side, and cutting loose the ripe clusters of cocos with his machete. They sold the cocos at roadside stands on the highway to Puerto Vallarta. While camping here I got the hang of cutting open the cocos with my machete. The coco water makes me feel great – lots of nutrients.

From Platanitos, I moved north on the coast through the town of Santa Cruz, Nayarit. I met a bunch of workers on lunch break who were working that day on the beach. Their jobs entailed filling a front-end loader with cobblestones from the beach. The front-end loader dumped the rocks into a big dump truck, which took them to the construction site where others were busy making a road. Who needs asphalt when you have cool cobblestones? They work as a natural speed controller.

I moved north into the torabi, the mangrove swamp. Here I found a town called San Blas. My attraction to this place was to check out the wave on the point of land called Playa Islitas. I found no wave but had some fun 4×4’ing. I got attacked by the afternoon swarms of jijenes and decided not to camp out there. I headed into the town of San Blas, where the afternoon market was just ending. I steered through the crowded streets of people going home from work. I made my way to Trailer Park Los Cocos, on the outside of town across from the naval base. I ended up riding my bicycle back into town to get a haircut, have dinner, and use the internet.

Perfectly formed waves for an ant. All I got in San Blas was eaten.

San Blas has one huge drawback – the infinitely strong mexican air force, perpetually present waiting to suck your blood and eat your skin! I got out of my rig in the morning to do the daily chores. Within 20 seconds I was covered with dozens of jijenes and a handful of mosquitos. I kept them off with long clothing but I couldn’t keep them all off. I can’t believe that the people can live here with such a persistent force. I hypothesize that the bugs influence the consciousness of the town. In retrospect of my experiences there, people did not seem very outwardly friendly or welcoming, compared to Sayulita, Santa Cruz, and Mazatlan nearby. On the street people did not smile or return waves. Sometimes I would get a grunt and many times no recognition at all. My barber seemed preoccupied with violence around the country. The gringos that I met that come here come for two reasons: 1. to get away from the other gringos, 2. to party and get fucked up. I’m ‘outta here. I couldn’t find anything at San Blas worth staying for, worth getting eaten for.

Jack Fruit hang on a tree in the coastal lowlands of Nayarit.

I headed north, through the expansive mango huertas of the Nayarit countryside. I stopped at a roadside stand to get directions and ended up having a good conversation with the doña. She told me the same thing I hear all over t his state “Es bonito, pero es pobre”. We talked about the mango industry and we watched the construction taking place across the street of a new mango packer. I ended up buying a Jack Fruit and got back on the road.

While on the autopista, I pondered this common perspective I have heard around Nayarit – “Es bonito, pero es pobre”. Since I’ve been here I have seen people with a bounty of food – both agricultural and maritime. A healthy tourist/ex-pat market exists here. I see a significant boom in their agricultural industry as many mango orchards are coming online as well as construction of new infrastructure. As I traveled north into Sinaloa I understood the Nayarit perspective more. The Sinaloan farms appear to be even more industrialized, the towns are bigger, with many new cars; it appears that more money flows through Sinaloa. Still, I wish the citizens of Nayarit could see the southern areas of their own country and their neighboring Central American states. If they could only know Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras, they may not think they are so poor. From my limited perspective, they appear to be doing quite well.

A heavy sorghum crop in Nayarit.

After a few minutes of the autopista, I decided to exit because I felt I was missing the entire countryside. From the first exit I found the Careterra 15 Libre and resumed my usual pace of 45-50mph, dodging the close-courtered traffic. I had bit of bad luck at the agricultural inspection station where the inspector found my newly-purchased jack fruit. I made a deal with him to let me clean it there and only take the meat, leave him his desired peel.  Here’s my journal excerpt for the event –

Tobacco crop, looking close to harvest. The field in the back has gone entirely to flower.

“I grabbed a pair of gloves, my knife, and a Tupperware container. There on the table, next to the busy bus inspections, I carved into the jack like it was a dead beast. I ripped out the golden arils and put them into my container. I threw the peels into the trash but managed to leave a gooey mess of white latex sap all over the inspection table. I left the inspectors the other  half of the jack as a “regalo por la experiencia”. The Mexican passengers of the searched busses watched me in amusement. What a show to watch a gringo try to clean a jack fruit on the side of the road!“

Once in Sinaloa I took a chance with a local lunch dish – coctel campecheno. The cook brought me out four containers of seafood for my inspection – shrimp, squid, octopus, and sea snails. They all were cooked and they promised me to give me the the hot coctel (I expressed concern about eating anything raw). With a plate of tostadas, saladitas crackers, and  hotsauce I went to town. The tomato-lime broth brings the whole thing together.

Field Drying of Tobacco.

The landscape changed to a much drier climate; the jungles of Nayarit gave way to the monte of Sinaloa. The mangos grew shorter (but the plantings no less numerous), the crops broadened to include ripening sorghum and tobacco. I passed over the familiar Rio Balluarte (where I worked last year) and headed north towards Mazatlan.

Sinaloan mango huerta. I think the white paint is some kind of ant control.

Before I got to the city, I took a small coastal route out to the Isla de Piedra and Cerro Chivo. This small jut of land lies opposite the bay to the city of Mazatlan. It feels so rustic but is only a five minute water taxi over to Old Town Mazatlan. I have made friends with some incredible people here, including the owners of Benji’s Pizza Restaurant. They invited me to park in their area where my camp is now secure. We’re situated out on the very tip of Cerro Chivo, looking back at the rest of the beach and city. Ely puts it well: ”it feels like we’re on a boat“. I agree. I’ll get some pics of Mazatlan up ASAP.


1 Comment

  1. Renee said,

    April 4, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Hey John it sounds like an astonishing advenure, day after day of mind-boggling encounters. I hope you are doing well on your own. It sounds like you are making many friends along the way, especially surfing friends and food/farm types. Best wishes, Renee and Greg

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