Friday, April 5, 2013

Progress Got in the Way of My Adventure


Pablo's Palapas, the old Sayulita
Riding a mountain bike in the hills around Sayulita offers magnificent views of the point which sets up the surf.  The guide for this trail told us told plans for the future of the surf point---Five star hotel with pier for yachts.  When that happens no more surf break.

Surfers discovered this former fishing village over 20 years ago.  In those days, the only accommodations were simple palapas on the beach.  When I first came here in 1995 we stayed in a big room on the beach swarming with mosquitoes cooled only by the ocean breeze.   

It is an often repeated tale:  Surfers or artists ‘discover’ a very cool spot--Isolated, native culture, great scenery, and cheap.   Eventually the word gets out and reports of a secret getaway appear in a surf magazine or the travel section of the Sunday paper, and then a trickle of first adopters check it out.  Soon, enterprising foreigners who want to indulge their surf or art habit set up a small business; a cafĂ© or a small guesthouse.  Pretty soon it gets known as a ‘cool’ authentic spot for package vacationers in the nearby tourist mecca, in Sayulita’s case Puerto Vallarta.  After a few years luxury villas are built and provide all the amenities of home. 
Redevelopment, 2012

During this trip (March, 2012) to Sayulita, the town center was undergoing a major gentrification; new sidewalks, utility lines underground, and new cobblestone roads.  This ‘upgrade’ was a rush order for an upcoming show and tell junket for North American travel agents.  New branding was announced on auto license plates for the state—Riviera Nayarit.  The tsunami is coming and the surf is going.  Not only will most surfers be unable to afford to stay here but the surf will be gone due to a proposed development on the point.

Sayulita, the Nayarit Riviera
That is not the only potential damage to the natural environment.  As I was riding on this back road outside of town, a major stench arose.  Checking the stream bed below, it was obvious what caused it.  Gray water sewage poured out from an eco-resort which shall be unnamed.  I was angered and saddened by this ‘progress.’  Then, it hit me that adventure can't be had in retracing one’s old haunts.  The old saying that you can’t go home again applies places were adventures in our youth.  Some remnants may be there, but the character has probably changed.  

In Sayulita, Pablo’s Palapas is currently undergoing a makeover with scaffolding and boarded windows.  The old beach campground is shut down pending approval of a new luxury hotel.  The town is gearing up to offer the tourist culture of Waikiki beach with a Mexican flavor.  Doesn't sound like adventure to me.

Pajaro de Fuego, the new Sayulita
Sayulita is now a comfortable destination.  I sit there and quaff my latte with a gourmet dinner, after working out in the air conditioned gym. Local culture and novelty?--are down the roadSomewhere over the rainbow. One of the mountain bike riders in the group, intently queried the guide about new, relatively unknown towns along the coast--Places where few gringo explorers have set up homes or little rancheros.  He rode his motorcycle all the way from Canada, so clearly he is not a comfort seeker.

Rhino seeks new horizons in San Pancho
Adventurers like the motorcyclist often share tips of places which haven’t been totally consumed by the flood of globalization and have maintained their character and unique culture.  

Not so in Sayulita, where most Mexicans speak English and are not likely to be patient with stumbling attempts at Spanish.  It is easy. But like surfing, the thrill is in riding the wave and in order to ride it you must be a little bit in front of the break.  It is a challenge and is not easy.  But it is fun.

Catching the waves of the world is an optional mission.  The unknown promises novelty, complete with its doubled sided coin of fun and hassles.  As  Bob Dylan once wrote:  'There is no success without failure.'  The adventure trip may not succeed, but in the long run, boils down to an experience.  And that is more long lasting than that ice cold latte.

No comments:

Post a Comment