What exactly is an adventure and where do you find one? Touring companies offer them all the time—they must know. Usually, for a tidy sum of money, they promise unique adventures that anyone can go on. Is that being adventurous—going where everyone else has gone before? Sure it is, but we don’t need to spend our hard earned money to have someone else show us something different, off the beaten path.
We call ourselves tourists, when we venture off to discover something new and different from the norm. Unfortunately, many of us become sheep, using travel agents and guide services to tell us how and where to find what we seek. For hard working individuals who need to get away from it all, there is nothing wrong with that.
For real travelers, or adventurers, we know what is required. We know that you have to get off that beaten path, peek over that fence, look around the next corner, and drive down that next road to see where it leads. It’s not rocket science, it’s a yearning, curiosity, and desire to enrich ourselves and learn something new. It’s enlightenment.
In reality, we’re nosy folks who want to do cool things and see neat shit. And our adventures need not be to far away or exotic places. You can be adventurous in your own neighbourhood if you put your mind to it. Many of us travel around the world to quench our thirst for adventure, when it can satiated by taking a drive outside the city.
Cathryn and I chose to spend two months in Melaque, Mexico this winter. Although we picked the quaint town for our place to stay, we’ve also used it as a base for smaller day trips. Our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, about four hours north of us, is just one example. We hitched a ride with our friends Brenda and Al—we all had people we wanted to visit in P.V.
I won’t get into the fun we had hopping the flavourful bars and restaurants there, because this story is about an afternoon adventure that we took from the big city. We’d made arrangements to hook up with friends at 3:30 in the afternoon on our second day in P.V. so we had time to kill before the meeting. After breakfast, Cathryn and I caught the chicken bus to Boca Tomatlan, just up the Pacific coast from Mislemoya and P.V.
The local buses are always an adventure in themselves, but once you’ve had the experience it’s no big deal. Why go on about a fifty cent ride on a beat up metal container with a smashed windshield, where the driver sits on a lawn chair. No adventure was planned for the day, just a leisurely stroll around the tiny hamlet and scenic bay at Boca (meaning river’s mouth).
Having been there once before, I thought I’d play tour guide for Cathryn. On arrival, I suggested a walk along the beach in the quiet little bay. I took pictures of a pelican while my wife got her feet wet. At the opposite end of the beach we had to walk through the shallow river, to gain access to the path that continues along the shoreline. My goal was to get to the restaurant on the opposite side of the bay, a place I’d been to on my previous visit.
Once we forged the river I asked a woman coming from the other side if the restaurant was still up the path. It wasn’t the one I remembered, but she said there was one around the end of the bay and that we needed to make reservations. We continued along the path which worked its way uphill, offering stunning views of the beach. The grade was easy and the changing scenery made it worth continuing past the site of the old restaurant.
We saw two men installing a palm thatched roof—they were three stories high, working in bare feet, with no safety equipment. We met others on the path and saw signs that said the restaurant was just around the bend. Right. The path went from paved to dirt, and then from scrambling over rocks to crossing rickety wooden bridges. It got a bit challenging—all the more reason to continue.
Finally, restaurant signs that read 500mts, then 300mts…we were almost there. The jungle was thick and hot, even in the shade, but we figured that a cold beverage awaited us just around the next corner. Then the path forked—the one that looked like it went to the restaurant was gated with a no trespassing sign. The other led down to the beach, where we assumed the restaurant must be.
Normally, going down is easier than climbing up, but tree roots, rocks, and steps that were half Cathryn’s size made the traverse laughable. Finally, at the bottom, there was a beautiful, secluded beach with sand like talcum powder. Standing there in awe of the beach, I saw the restaurant perched above the bay, near the path we just came from. It was closed.
A bit thirsty, and somewhat bewildered, we asked some other people on the beach about the restaurant. One couple said they had reservations there, and they were more disappointed than us. Looking at the climb we faced to go back to Boca, and the seventy-four kilometres of jungle trail, we considered our alternatives. Normally, boats ferried people to the restaurant and back—when it was open.
One couple said they thought we could wave at boats passing by—that they might loop into the bay to pick us up, but they weren’t sure. A guy that came off another path said it was only forty minutes to the next beach, along the trail he’d just come off. Uh-huh. That’s when we made our second bad decision.
We were about fifteen minutes into our climb up the path when we saw a boat cruise into the bay we’d just left. Cathryn wanted to run back, but I knew we’d never make it down in time, and we had no way of knowing when the next boat would come, if at all. We continued on for another forty-nine kilometres…or so it seemed, until we stumbled across a deserted beach more beautiful than the last. Only two other people were there, with no boat anywhere in sight.
I saw signs for another restaurant, further along the path. With little choice, we trudged on. Gawking at the beautiful scenery, Cathryn’s wows turned into so what’s—the hike was taking its toll. Then, like a desert mirage, we saw a resort. Breaking free of the jungle, we made our way along the pristine beach. Like we were on autopilot, we headed for what looked like the bar.
A man sweeping the path asked if he could help us. Only one word fell from our lips; cerveza. He shook his head. It was a private resort and we weren’t guests. Fuck! He pointed to the path and said, “Animas,” the next town. Cathryn and I looked at each other, shared a hysterical laugh, and then marched on.
We came to another beautiful beach…big deal…who cares…but then we saw a boat, and it was coming into the beach. Like we’d been on a deserted island for years, we ran in that direction. Two people got off the skip and it started to head back out to sea. I hollered, “Boca?” The boat hesitated. I yelled again and the pilot waved. Thank god.
The first mate introduced himself as Pedro—my new best friend. He told us to bag all of our valuables because we were going to get wet. There was no dock. He gave explicit instructions to heed his commands; the boat was riding the six foot waves so it wouldn’t get beached. Pedro yelled, it was time to go. Cathryn was first—he lifted and flipped her into the boat like a fresh-caught mackeral. Then he waved at me frantically, “Let’s go, let’s go.” Pedro offered me a knee as a ladder into the boat. I no sooner had one foot on his step, when he flipped and rolled me into the boat. I landed like a sack of wet cement. It was an impressive feat, I thought, since I was twice the man’s size.
While I was still rolling across the bow like a beached whale, our pilot had the boat in reverse, backing away from the beach. Cathryn and I scrambled to follow our instructions and move closer to the back of the boat. When we were finally settled, our savior asked, “Did he tell you how much for the ride?” I said I didn’t care. I looked at Cathryn and we laughed. We looked across Banderas Bay to Puerto Vallarta and thought about our friends we were supposed to meet. I said to Cathryn, “I wonder how much to take us to P.V.”
It was less than a ten minute boat ride back to Boca, the best seven bucks we’d spent on the whole trip. After climbing up a slippery ladder on the dock we met two women who said they were on their way to the restaurant—they had reservations. We wished them luck.
We stumbled into the closest bar/restaurant and ordered up two beers. Instant brain freeze—the coldest beers we’ve ever had. And the most deserved. We checked the time and knew there was no way we could catch the bus and get back to P.V. in time to meet our friends. We had no way of contacting them. There was only one thing that we could do. We ordered more beer.