San Pancho, Mexico
We recently heard about a music festival going on in the beach town of San Pancho, Mexico. San Pancho? Where is that? We'd never heard of it.
This map of the greater Puerto Vallarta area shows San Pancho in yellow, northeast of Sayulita
When we heard it was a mere two bus rides away, and that the music festival was free, the "economy cruising" crew of Espiritu cried: "Sign us up!"
After a short bus ride to Bucerias, we then plopped down on the side of the highway to wait for a bigger bus going north to Guadalajara/Tepic, which would drop us off at San Pancho.
Leaving Bucerias, nearly immediately our bus was in the middle of the jungle (the map above shows the route of the road from Bucerias to Sayulita and San Pancho). The two lane highway twisted and turned through 15 miles of pristine rain forest.
Finally we arrived at our stop, which was just outside the village of San Pancho. We had about a half mile walk through town to get to the beach.
The village of San Pancho
San Pancho used to be called San Francisco, but about 30 years ago they tired of competing with the "City by the Bay" and changed their name to San Pancho. Good move!
San Pancho has a similar feel to it's surf-mecca neighbor Sayulita, but it's got a slightly older clientele.
The stunning San Pancho beach
If you like white sand and turquoise water, then San Pancho is for you
Every inch of the surrounding peaks are covered with coconut palms
palms, frigate birds and blue sky
Limited camping is available on the beach. Seriously -- who needs the South Pacific?
We have a rule on Espiritu -- walk the entire length of the beach. It's a no brainer: it's good for the mind, body, spirit...and marriage! :-)
At the southwest end of the beach I came upon an older Mexican woman perched at a prime spot on the rocks, taking in the beauty of the place. Shoes off, her toes wiggled contentedly in the sand as she gently ran her well-work rosary beads through her fingers.
Her eyes met mine, and she greeted me with a friendly "Buenos tardes." Her name was Glorietta, and she told me she'd lived in San Pancho all her life.
Glorietta with her rosary and sand between her toes
She comes down to the beach every afternoon to say her Hail Marys. I said in Spanish: "It's easy to feel close to God in such a beautiful place." She looked me in the eye, smiled and nodded, saying "Si." Her face emitted near complete contentment, love and peace.
I pulled up a rock next to her and for several minutes we sat quietly, watching the waves, the birds, the sky, the people -- so grateful to be in this beautiful place.
We were just two women, sitting together.
When it was time for me to go we took each others hands and said our goodbyes.
I tell you -- there is an amazing quality about the Mexican people. There's no other word for it but grace. They are graceful.
Despite living often in extreme poverty, they want for nothing and are happy and content wherever they are. Living with them and amongst them is changing me. It's humbling me.
Glorietta and I said our goodbyes, and Chris and I headed back into town for the music festival.
Like all Mexican beach towns in 2016, there are tons of gringo expats living in San Pancho.
One gringo business owner wrote this little sign and posted it on the street:
It says: "A poem: I hate mornings. I wish I was drunk. The end."
Now -- I get it. It's meant to be amusing. It's a joke (sort-of). But compare this "message" with the unspoken one of my friend Glorietta sitting quietly and contentedly on the beach.
I mean -- we're GUESTS in THEIR country. A sign like the one above is just sort of tacky. It's so AMERICAN. And it kind of pisses me off.
Anyway, we grabbed some tacos on the street and headed for the music festival -- which exceeded our expectations. The jazz (featuring original members of the group Kilamanjaro) was amazing.
As if the music and the beauty of the place weren't enough, Chris pointed up in the trees surrounding the outdoor stage. A flock of Aztec parakeets had arrived and chirped excitedly as they flitted from tree to tree.
Aztec parakeets -- evidently they like jazz!
Chris and I gave each other a look that said: "Wow. How is it that we're even HERE at such a beautiful place and time?"
As soon as the sun dropped below the horizon, though, we shook ourselves out of our dreamy trance and realized we need to start the long journey home.
Wandering around lost at night in Mexico is best avoided if possible.
We walked the half mile out of town as the jazz gently echoed through the valley. By the time we reached the main highway, it was night. Black night.
The highway was jungle-bound and completely unlit, so we stood by the side of the road and waited.
We saw a bus, waved frantically, and they pulled over. It was a packed overnighter bus halfway through their route from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta. We scampered aboard and the door closed behind us. It was pitch black inside the bus. Chris stayed up front to see where in the hell we were going, and hopefully get us off somewhere near Bucerias.
I felt my way to the only empty seat in the back of the bus. The driver tore out and began speeding over and around the twisty mountain road. The bus interior was completely unlit. Black. Noone was reading, there was not a single light on. Everyone had their curtains pulled and appeared to be sleeping contentedly, but inside and outside were only absolute darkness. No street lights, no headlights reflecting from other cars.
The only tiny bit of light was from a small TV screen at the front of the bus which was showing the James Gandolfini/Julia Louie-Dreyfuss movie 'Nuff Said.
James Gandolfini and Julia Louie-Dreyfuss, dubbed in Spanish
I realized as the bus careened through the blackness that I probably should be concerned. Did he even have the headlights on? I saw none from my vantage point. It was only extreme jolting from side to side, up and down, left and right in complete and utter darkness -- like being inside an unlit clothes dryer, with a chance of dying.
From somewhere on the bus, a baby cried fearfully and fretfully. Apparently he and I were the only ones aboard who understood the gravity of the situation.
It was only me, the baby and James Gandolfini -- who, by the way, is now dead. 'Just saying. (OK, OK. Julia Louie-Dreyfuss is still alive, so there's that.)
Anyway, as I looked at the sleeping people around me (or, should I say, listened to them breathe and snore -- since, as I said, it was completely BLACK, inside and outside), I was amazed at their trust. Their attitude seemed to be:
"Well, we've gotta get from here to there. Yeah, the guy's driving like a wildman through an unlighted, twisty mountain jungle road, and we can't see a thing, but -- the odds are on our side. And since we may die any moment here in this complete darkness, and there's nothing we can do -- we may as well take a nice long nap."
I realized that bus was a metaphor for us humans on planet Earth. We're here, careening through the dark universe at hundreds of miles an hour. Really, we can't do much. We have no control. We've gotten on the "bus," so we're committed. There's no getting off.
So we may as well enjoy the ride.