Yelapa – Forty Years Later


Yelapa Bay - within Banderas Bay

Yelapa Bay – within Banderas Bay

My soul was sapped, my spirit was drooping, and the vibrant colors of my being were fading. The events of the past year or so had finally caught up with me – the abandonment in Costa Rica, the betrayal of a sister-friend who left me holding a large credit card debt which I will be repaying for years, and the self-imposed task of being strong for everybody else. It was time to do something for me.

When the email came to my in-box,  a stab of adrenaline coursed through my veins! It was titled, “Fun in the Sun – Yelapa, Mexico.” YES!! I hit the button and committed to the adventure. I knew Yelapa from the 70s when I used to visit to get away from it all. It’s a peaceful coastal village accessible by boat or burro – no cars. Wait a minute. How am I going to pay for this?

It was a time for purging. I dumped my jewelry on the table and as I held each piece in my hand, I determined if it brought me joy or sorrow. These days my barometer for holding onto items is just that. Does it make me happy? If not, out it goes. As the discard pile grew, I wondered if I had time to sell the goods on Craigslist or Ebay. And then I remembered Dennis the jeweler, which would translate to instant cash. He was a friend of a friend – a man to be trusted, as I learned from my last go-round of jewelry purging. I plunked my pile on his desk at LaFont’s  Jewelry in Soquel. He weighed it on the gold scale and gave me the verdict. Yes! It would be enough cash to cover the trip. Yelapa, here I come!

As our group gathered to board the Water Taxi from Puerto Vallarta to our retreat destination, I wondered if I would recognize the place. We were about fifteen minutes into the panga (small boat) ride when I remembered a place called Los Arcos.

Jalisco, Mexico

Los Arcos

The boat slowed down, and slices of bread were passed around. Our host announced, “We are stopping at Los Arcos where you can feed beautiful fish.” As I watched my companions tossing bread, the light and airy pieces never even hit the water before the seagulls swooped them up. I smiled as I recognized my old friend the Laughing Gull. They show up in the Caribbean on April 1 for the summer. Their constant cawing drove me nuts when I lived in the Virgin Islands. I always wondered where they went in the off-season. Now I know – Yelapa.

It wasn’t until someone discovered that if you ball up the bread it sinks into the water and the fish stand a chance of getting fed. Pretty tropical fish rushed the scene,  we all oohed and ahhed, and my question was answered – the place hadn’t changed much since the  1970s. Oh, there were more tourists and less trash in the village due to the good deeds and eco-education by the environmentally conscious gringos who inhabit the area, but still primitive and simple.

As we walked the cobblestone paths to our splendid accommodations, I was happy to see there was a fair share of donkey doo-doo along the way, just like the old days, although the dirt paths had been cobble-stoned. There were tiendas (small stores), restaurants, and wooden stands which displayed beautiful samples of  fruits, vegetables, and juices. One, in particular grabbed my attention – the Michelada Stand. A happy customer nodded approval as I eyeballed his drink. “How is it?” I asked. “It’s great!” and I vowed to enjoy one before the end of our stay.

Michelada-500pix

Trini’s Michelada Extraordinaire

Trini and I chatted amiably in Spanish politely inquiring about each others marital status, age, number of children and their ages, and the weather. After the polite conversation established that we were okay in each other’s eyes, the real conversation started. Trini leaned in and whispered, “Ever try raicilla?” Raicilla is a local moonshine, a cousin to tequila, made only locally and illegally.

“Yes, I have! Just yesterday.” He looked askance, but my smile and twinkle in my eye had him wondering.

“I have some here. See this green bottle? It says Orange Liquor, but it’s really raicilla,” and he grinned while he reached for two small glasses. We toasted to good health and continued the conversation.

“So, tell me Trini, (now that we are raicilla buddies), do you have two prices? One for locals and one for tourists?”

“Yes! I even have two tourist prices,” he beamed. Seventy pesos for locals, one hundred for tourists. If I like them, I only charge ninety. For you, amiga, seventy! No charge for the raicilla.” And as a group of school children approached from down the street, he produced a bag of candy from under the counter. Without a word, each child was handed a treat which they acknowledged with a smile and a giggle.

Earlier that day, I had run into a group of children gathered on the path playfully shouting toward a balcony on the second floor of a hotel. They chanted, “Dulces, dulces, dulces” in an animated manner. One of them caught my eye as I watched and asked me how to say that in English. As I replied, “Candy,” I reached into my backpack and retrieved some Hershey Bars I had been toting around all week. I was looking for the right situation in which to give them away and here it was! Luckily, I had just the right amount for the group. As I turned to leave, I felt a slight tug on my arm. There stood a smiling boy of about eight years old handing me a piece of hard candy wrapped in paper. I thanked him and tucked it away. When I got home and unpacked, I found the candy and it warmed my heart. These are the moments that filled my soul and replenished my spirit.

There were more – after all this was a spiritual retreat sponsored by my church, Inner Light, of Santa Cruz, California.

The mantra was “Expect the unexpected.” I didn’t expect to get lost in the jungle on the way to the waterfall.

TrailMarker-500pix

Lost on the trail

to be continued…

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