Fish it is
The curvy road feels empty out of Puerto Vallarta. Except for a few vehicles in either direction, I ride in complete solitude at my own pace and with the freedom to enjoy the beauty around me. This ride is a pretty one! The mountains aren’t as tall as those in the north, and yet they call to me. I take the ride slowly and deliberately.
I’m still amazed at how frequently the terrain changes in Mexico. A single day can mean beaches, deserts, forests, and jungles. I’m zipping and unzipping vents just to keep up with the temperature and elevation changes!
The road and I wander through the mountains as if we both have no hurry to get anywhere. Small towns come and go as the valleys and rivers come and go. People tend to congregate in the flat areas. Vast tracts of agriculture fill these spaces too. Where there is water, fields of sugar cane abound! The tall, wispy azúcar stalks sway effortlessly in the breeze. It’s a dance I stop to enjoy for a few moments while I think about a camp for the evening.
A patch of green on my paper map means there’s a national park ahead. The blue lines running through it mean I may even find a water camp. This has me excited, and so I press on. Slowly, nature once again takes the place of agriculture.
The last vestige of humanity is a youth soccer game in the small town outside the sugar fields. Young men in bright uniforms kick the ball around a brilliant field of green grass. The streets are dirt and the buildings falling apart, but the soccer field is perfect! People young and old watch the game from the sidelines. The game all but stops as I ride by.
This is where my GPS and the road beneath my wheels disagree. The magenta line on the display says to ride straight through the center of town as if it doesn’t exist, but the road does nothing of the sort and my eyes say otherwise! Every attempt to drive through the town leads me back to the soccer game. I try again, this time taking the narrow road around the field. This time the road finds an exit on the other side and leads me back to the magenta line. I once again climb into the hills and away from civilization.
A sign nearly too worn to read announces the park at the crest. Campsite hunting habits kick in pronto. The valley below looks lush and green compared to the almost desert-like flora of the hillside. Just the thought of the river running through the center makes me giddy.
My cruising speed slows to a pace where curves come and go without a hint of brake or accelerator. The motorbike hums along at the perfect speed for enjoying the sights without filling my ears with obnoxious noise or risking a tumble over the edge. When the road finally meets the river, a smile of self satisfaction fills my face. This is my camp for the evening.
From the main road, a steep driveway of sorts drops the height of a house to the riverbank. Concrete picnic tables and a makeshift fireplace occupy the small space beneath the overhanging trees. A single-lane bridge also crosses the river here. The land on the other side of the bridge looks private. A fence follows the edge of the river, and beyond the fence I see cattle grazing.
The park isn’t large or private. A couple are parked at its very center. Their truck is blocking my way to the most secluded and promising camping area. I don’t ride past them for fear of disturbing whatever it is they’re doing wrapped in each other’s arms. I can share this beautiful space as long as it means I get to sleep without too much noise.
I go about looking around and planning my camp without saying hello.
This of course is a terrible idea. I should always say hello! Save Canadians, Mexicans are the friendliest of people I’ve met in all of my travels. The man does this for me after I silently walk past their truck ten times. Shame on me for being so antisocial.
His name is Geraldo, and the girl is the love of his life. She blushes at this and shyly retreats to something important on her phone. Geraldo and I talk about life in this part of Mexico. He lives an hour west and works in a mine. Copper, silver, platinum — he mines it all. The work affords him and his girl a luxurious life. The phone occupying her attention is a smartphone of some variety. His truck is a newer model and has all of its original paint even if it is quite dirty. In a country with such obvious economic disparity, these luxuries confirm his story. He works for a living, but the work pays better than most.
He offers me a beer. And when I finish the first, he offers another. The phrase of the day is otra más. Another and then another. Saying no is merely a courtesy because every no is followed up with a cold beer in my hand. They are tiny beers after all, and he has a bucket full of them.
When a fisherman walks by, Geraldo asks if I want pescado for dinner. Again, no gracias means, por favor in these remote parts of Mexico where the hospitality grows on trees. He trades the man a beer for three fish and has them cleaned, salted, and cooking on a fire in no-time.
I don’t even know why I buy groceries. Spaghetti will just have to wait because tonight, I’m eating fish and drinking beer with a kind stranger next to a beautiful river in the mountains of Mexico.