It hasn’t rained in Sayulita since last October 8. The often-steep dirt roads leading to our villa are covered in sandy powder that also coats the dense vegetation bordering the road. Water for gardening, showering, washing, all arrives where I sit and to many other places via a truck delivery, and potable water arrives separately by jug. But lack of rainfall does not mean lack of life.
As I write this I’m surrounded by a group of “tropical turkeys,” and hummingbirds buzz about the flowers. In the evenings, geckos gather on the ceilings to chirp about insects, and last night a large red crab attempted to impede entrance to our bedroom. And last but [least or not least?] there are tourists like us. Once a quiet fishing village enveloped by surrounding jungle, Sayulita’s waves were discovered by surfers.
We’ll be taking a surf lesson tomorrow, but technically we are just the tourists who followed the surfers, looking for a unique, slightly less generic version of Mexico that might be found in larger resort towns. And so the town, which still retains colorful charm, is apparently bursting at the seams with people like us, both gringos and Mexicans. It is a safe assumption that the town’s leadership is (and has been) grappling with a tourist destination’s inevitable question: How can we be both hidden and discovered?
To date, I am more than pleased to have “discovered” it. The Pacific’s deep, beckoning blue attracts my gaze, and the roar of its swell battering the beaches below is a raucous, engaging symphony. The steep dirt roads and rough edges feel just a bit like home, but the odd critters and colorful, inviting town all shout that we are doubtlessly far away. But when folks like myself discover it by the thousands, we challenge all facets of already-shaky infrastructure: roads, electricity, sewage management, and so on.
It is hard not to ponder Sayulita’s future, but it is also hard to imagine Sayulita becoming another Puerto Vallarta. The terrain here is challenging, and so too would be improving access and infrastructure. But as we sat in painful traffic on our taxi ride here, we saw a large bypass being built overhead; it was pointing towards Sayulita.
Rainy season will return this summer, and the dust will wash down the hills. Visitors will leave tracks in mud just as they create clouds of dust, and no many of us will ponder how to leave not a trace. Meanwhile, those who were here before the hoards, who will still be here next week when we are going, must grapple with both short- and long-term questions.