Tuesday, October 20, 2015


For the first time on the trip I stayed in a hostel instead of a cheap (or expensive) hotel or camping. And it was 100% worth it.

I pulled into Sayulita in the afternoon after a pretty long day of riding, and made my way to one of the two hostels I'd heard about in town. "The Amazing Hostel" was a block or two farther from city center, but looked like a cool place. And man was it ever.

The hostel boasts a pool, a rock climbing wall (damn injured ankle), and half a VW van in the common area, as well as a pretty nice kitchen area and a few hammock chairs for hanging out in. I got the tour, set my stuff down, and then did a quick tour of the town by foot, getting some street food on the way.

The town definitely has charm. While there's a bit of a tourist feel, there's a definite undercurrent of laid-back locals just there to enjoy life. Whether surfing, fishing, kayaking, or anything else, everyone seems to be there to have a good time.

I caught a few neat art shops with some cool sculptures, and then wandered up and down the beach a little bit before daylight faded.

This store had about 50 of these skeleton sculptures. Mr. Jackson here was m favorite.

The lagoon just on the edge of the beach.
As I made my way back to the hostel, I debated my previous plan to head to Puerto Vallarta the next day - and by the time I was back, I'd changed my mind. I immediately went to the desk and paid for a second night.

Part of what makes a single night in a place so hard is that it means the next day is a riding day. And since I don't want to ride at night at all, if I want to make good distance on a riding day I have to be up kind of early, which means not staying out late. All that adds up to arriving in a town in the evening, and only having a few hours before I have to be preparing for the next day.

Sayulita charmed me enough that I wasn't willing to spend so little time there just to make it Puerto Vallarta - which I'd heard was more of a tourist location anyway. So knowing I had a bit more time, I decided to relax a bit before the evening, and headed to the pool. I ran into a few other hostel residents there, and worked on my Spanish with them since they (thankfully) spoke enough English to help me through the parts I couldn't say. I also ran into a French guy, and practiced my French a little bit - finding, as I suspected, that my French often deteriorates into Spanish now that I'm learning both.

After chatting, we decided that we'd meet up after dinner and go out to the bars in town, as a few of them had dinner plans. One of the guys who didn't have plans joined me and we wandered the square for a little bit before settling in at a restaurant.

The entertainment on the square included these guys.
After grabbing a table in the street, we ordered a platter filled with shrimp, steak, "diablo" shrimp, and healthy helpings of guacamole, rice, beans, and pico. We stuffed ourselves and tossed back a few beers to keep the "diablo" shrimp at bay, and then headed to the bar next door to check it out since there was a live band playing.

It turns out, that bar pretty much IS the nightlife in Sayulita. Don Pato's (pato as in duck - there's a giant rubber duck painted on the wall) was packed with people dancing, smoking (many things), and drinking. And since it's pretty much the only nightlife, it turns out our friends were already there dancing. (I later found out the French guy I'd talked to was also there, though we never ran into his group.)

From the third floor looking down at the second (main) floor.
One of the highlights of the night was when a man came over with a box around his neck that had a single dial on it, and two cables coming out connected to metal handles. Any guesses what it did?

If you guessed "shocks you like a tazer," you're correct. But there's a bit more to it than that. He'd have two people each grab a handle, and then hold hands, or sometimes throw a third person in there too. Then he would slowly turn the dial. Each notch of the dial upped the voltage... first a little buzz, then a sting, then your muscles start grabbing pretty hard, and then they're contracting so hard it's probably not possible to let go of your own volition without him turning the dial back down.

Why does this guy do this? Because whoever gives up first pays him a buck or two. So every weekend this guy goes out to the bar and shocks people for money with what appears to be a homemade contraption. I'll be honest, it's not one of the smarter things I've done in my life, but it does make a fun story.

The morning was... let's say a little slow moving for most of us. I didn't have a hangover, but I may have been in the minority there. I wandered out and got a nutella waffle and some coffee, and by the time I made it back most of the rest of the crew still hadn't stirred from their beds, so I made my way up to the pool to hang out. One by one people got up and joined in swimming off the night before.

We spent the afternoon lounging, and then made our way over to the beach when hostel checkout time came for them. Laying out on the sand, eating fresh fruit from the vendors walking by, going in the bathwater-warm water... it was a rough afternoon, let me tell you. I worked on my Spanish a bit more, but mostly just relaxed as my brain was pretty tired from both the previous night and a few days of trying to understand native Spanish speakers. Eventually, their crew decided it was time to head back to their home in Guadalajara, and I decided to head back to the hostel and relax.

Sunday night is a much quieter time at the hostel than Saturday night, and it was much appreciated. It gave me plenty of time to write a blog post (which I didn't) and do some route planning (which I did). I called an early night again, and this time slept a bit more restfully, which let me wake up nice and early and get on the road to Guadalajara. I was stuck for a little bit just out of town - the cops were preventing any cars from heading down the curvy mountain road out of town until they cleaned up an accident, but that ended up working out perfectly for me, because I snaked my way up to the front of the line and guaranteed there were no slow cars or trucks in front of me this time.

The ride to Guadalajara was another long day, but a very interesting ride. The curvy road kept me pretty focused, especially with how poor the quality of the pavement was - any curve could hide a giant pothole around it, so I had to stay very vigilant. But as I made my way closer to Guadalajara, I found that the ride got more comfortable... and for the first time since I started the trip, I had a ride that didn't involve sweating gallons any time I stopped the bike. By the time I arrived in Guadalajara it was downright pleasant weather, even with all the bike gear on.

There were quite a few interesting towns on the way to Guadalajara (Mascota was one of the best - wish I'd stopped to take pictures of the cobblestone streets and architecture), but I was in the zone and didn't really feel like stopping, even for food. Once I got out of the curvy section I popped in my headphones and put on a podcast, and just cruised all the way into town. It was a bit shorter ride than the ride to Sayulita, but with the pavement and curvy roads took a bit longer.

Two nights in Sayulita was definitely the right decision - I met some really cool people, had an awesome night, and still had plenty of downtime without rushing things too much. I really don't feel like I missed out on much in Puerto Vallarta either - and if I did, it's a huge tourist destination, so I'll have no problem flying back there sometime if I really want to. Chalk another win up for the Roll With It philosophy.

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