On the advice of Walter, our host at the Airbnb in the jungles East of San Pancho, Fine and I would head North to the coastal town of San Blas. “Definitely a local beach,” he told us, holding his pantless blond-haired son porky pigging it around the jungle. “Very few gringoes at all, man. You’ll love it.”
“Very few gringoes,” is all I need to hear to venture to a place. My mother and her boyfriend would drop us off in the sleepy town of Las Varas on their way back to Guadalajara, and from there we fended for ourselves. Las Varas only exists as a pit stop for passing truckers on their way to Puerto Vallarta. A town of quiet locals slowly munching on their morning Chilaquiles as they day slowly unfolded before them.
After interrupting a few locals from their morning munching to find out where the bus to San Blas would leave from, we decided to just wait along the highway for a bus that would probably come, at some point.
About an hour later a large bus pulled up to the dusty town to take us down the windy road to San Blas. Mexican provincial buses usually have some form of live entertainment in the form of a bootlegged B-movie for the entire bus to enjoy. The volume is always set to max, with your only respite laying in the guarantee that the scratched DVD will eventually stop playing halfway through the film and provide you some silence.
San Blas is another dusty Nayarit town, but with a decidedly more local atmosphere. There are no resorts, no big flashy restaurants catering to the snowbirds, and best of all: no gringoes. The town is centered on a sour fishy-smelling square with a white adobe church and locals marinading in their jeans under the shade of a jacaranda.
Unlike San Pancho, there were no dirty-footed hippies along this beach town. Only Mexican families eating freshly grilled fish and drinking 1.5 liter beers affectionately called caguamas, thinking to themselves “Oh god, the dirty footed hippies found us,” while looking at me and Fine.
After a few calm days of local beach life, drinking caguamas while watching family Chihuahuas race up and down the long beach, Fine and I continued our journey down to Tepic, the capital city of Nayarit. Tepic reminisces of Guadalajara in its landscape, rimmed by arid volcanoes and living under a pervasively foreboding sun.
Tepic is a nice town to walk around for a few hours, with a central market with Huicholes selling some of their wares. Fine and I popped into the History Museum, featuring a ceramics collection that really amazed us. The local cultures sculpted everything into miniature clay life. Little dioramas of how life looked, even complete with figurines of a medicine man servicing clay figurines of people with tuberculosis and cleft lips. Sculptures depicted the process of sucking sap from the maguey plant to make pulque, a process still utilized throughout Mexico to make this cummy-yet-delicious beverage.
Like most of Nayarit away from the resorts, Tepic is wonderfully devoid of tourists. Locals delight in your enthusiasm for their culture and products, and simply asking them about the fruit they are selling will result in them giving you a sample and telling you about every detail of the exotic little fruit in question.
We decided to spend a night in Tepic before going further to La Querencia, a small town near a lagoon deep a valley filled with volcanoes. We found a cheap Airbnb here, owned by an old British ex-pat who married locally and built his own little paradise in the hills of Nayarit. Here, we would wait for Fine’s boyfriend, Timo, a French-Mexican mycological writer on fresh from a road trip with his parents around the California Sur Peninsula.
While we waited for Timo, Fine and I rambled around in the hills. The only way to get around was by our thumb, which we held out while walking up and down the only arid road in the area. Usually, a passing pickup truck, seeing two white faces, would simply pull over and wait for us to hop on without a word.
When Timo arrived, it signaled that it was my turn to return North for a brief period. But I would be back, to soak up more of the Mundo Mexico and venture further South into the unknown. Fine and her boyfriend decided to stay longer at the Airbnb, while I rode with his parents into Tepic so I could catch a bus into Guadalajara before my flight home.
On my second time in Guadalajara I would stay at a cheap little place in the Northern part of the city, a bit more suburban and welcoming. The streets were lined with modest gated houses with plenty of guard dogs to protect the locals. But the locals stayed out late at night, sitting in the streets with their kids eating ice cream, and chatting about the day. My host gave me a little walk around the house, pointing out all the places to see in the neighborhood. Then he decided to about the taxes in Guadalajara, and how Guadalajara was the biggest earning city in Mexico and the capital was stealing all of their hard-earned pesos. “You must be a capitalist!” I said awkwardly, half joking.
“No.” He replied with a cold serious face. “I’m a warrior.” He removed his hat, exposing a huge scar across his skull. “I’m an Aztec warrior. I served in the military, and now I’m awake to what their really doing.” I, being the naive conversationalist that I am, prompted him to keep going. Sensing that my ears were warmed up to listen, he dove into a rant about the vaccines and their microchips, how the Kardashians bathe in the blood of aborted fetuses, and how he’s the only one that’s really awake to the insanity of the current reality.
“Ya, shit’s pretty fucking crazy right now,” I replied without commitment when I was finally able to get a word in edgewise from his rant.
“Hey, by the way!” He said, excited that I was still listening to him. “There are some really good bars up the street, with really cheap booze. You can also find white girls, colored girls, whatever you’re looking for.”
“Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind when I go out.” I thanked him for his time, and as I closed the door his eyes looked upon me with the scared sad eyes of a little boy stuck in a man’s body. The look of a man who has lost himself, a man trying to piece together some form of existence from the fragments of his own mind.
The following day I went back stateside to spend time with my mom and help her move out of her house. Like me, she was also now on a hunt for a new community. But I’d be back in Mexico in a week, and the fulfilling spontaneity and search for purpose after a life of mundane routine would assuredly continue.