My very first trip outside of the country was to a relatively small tourist town in Mexico called Puerto Vallarta. The city is just outside of Jalisco, near Guadalajara, and is a post-popular escape for travelers who are looking for a slightly affordable, left of center Mexico excursion. Travelling with a few friends, I went for a 4 day absconder.
Puerto Vallarta, the part readily accesible to tourists, has little to offer to the naturalist and outdoorsman. Everything is centered around the many resorts, and the few local ventures that careful tourists would dare sneak off the resort to visit. My friends and I, however, could not help but be enchanted by the golden Mexican sun, and my audacity to explore the city.
We lounged on the beach, drank at the resort, lounged some more, and drank a LOT more. The fun really started when we decided to go on a 4-wheel ATV tour of a local mountain. We scaled up the sheer cliffs with a guide, and rode around for what seemed like hours until we stopped at a tequila distillery for snacks and refreshment. I was covered in golden mud and gasoline fumes by the end of it, pure heaven. The ride through the mountains showed me the lush vegetation that exists in this part of mexico. The plant life grows unabridged and large, similar to something you’d see in a Jurassic Park movie. Its in direct contrast to the town outside of the main resort area of Puerto Vallarta. This was my first exposure to areas that aren’t as developed as the USA, and my inspiration for seeing the unseen whenever I travel to a different place. It forced me to accept that I am priviledged, was uninformed, and had a lot to learn about the way people coexist with or trample over nature in and around the world.
The next day, we rented a Jeep, and drove around Jalisco and Puerto Vallarta at our own leisure. With no set destination in mind, we found ourselves again in the jungle, this time looking for a waterfall that street signs were slowly leading us to. My friend Joshua handled the driving, Brian navigated, and I was awestruck at the local culture ravaged by tourism. So many small shops and smiling faces that grew less frequent as we ventured further out of the bounds of resort-world. I was fascinated by what started to look more and more like normal life in this area; families living together to support each other, lots of consumption of american products, relaxed lifestyles, and an unshakable sense of community.
We soon found the waterfall, snapped a few photos, and made our way back to the resort.
What i’ve left out so far is how unbelievably gay friendly Puerto Vallarta is…and this is coming from someone who’s paranoid and was deeply anxiety ridden at the time of this trip. I almost couldn’t board my flight due to a breakdown, exacerbated by some special brownies, but that’s another story. I felt completely at ease in PVR, but also aware that we were being catered to for our dollar. We found the “gay area” on the beach, which was of course restricted by how much money you could afford to spend there to access it and its treasures. Different bars, resorts, and restaurants own certain parts of the beach, and in the gay friendly area, you had to rent chairs or purchase drinks to sit comfortably in that location. It goes without saying that there seemed to be no local gay people here, just more tourists trying to see and be seen and the hired community facilitating that. The nightlife was above average, but heavily catered towards sex-tourism and raucous college debauchery unfortunately. We found an amazing drag show at a club, and a great dance party at another, but nothing trumps the strip club…of which name I cannot recall. It was a divisive moment for my party, as I wanted to stay and dance around with the guys, but my friends weren’t really having it.