In 2001, the Mexican Secretary of Tourism (SECTUR) created an initiative called “Pueblo Mágico/Magical Town.” This program seeks to highlight towns around the country that offer a unique and “magical experience – by reason of their natural beauty, cultural richness, traditions, folklore, historical relevance, cuisine, arts & crafts, and hospitality.”
This past weekend we had the good fortune to be invited, by Ron the radio expert on the Cruisers net in Banderas Bay, to visit the official magical mountain town of Mascota and his ranch up in the hills. It was good timing because we were itching to see more of Mexico and get some relief from some unusually hot weather here in the Bay.
We started out on Saturday morning on the bus from Puerto Vallarta up to Mascota. It is how the locals travel. $8 equivalent a person for a 3 hour trip. While the bus was definitely a 1960s or 70s vintage, it had plenty of legroom so it was comfortable, and the windows opened so there was a cool breeze once we got up into the mountains.
The bus was challenged by the mountain grades, often much steeper than anything that would be allowed in the US – as much as 15% Larry estimated. Lots of grinding of gears, very slow progress up hill and brakes burning on the way down. As we got higher we could see wide open vistas of hills, the valley with scattered corn fields, and small towns as we passed through them.
We checked into our bed and breakfast the Santa Lucia Inn and were greeted by the friendly owners as well as a menagerie of dogs and cats, and later, the resident pig. Our room was on the upper level, cool and airy overlooking a lovely courtyard.
In the afternoon we walked the town, luxuriating in the temperate air, and visited the Museo de Arqueológico for a fascinating and extremely well done exhibit on the prehispanic excavations done by Dr. Joseph Mountjoy and team early in the 2000s and supported by National Geographic. The ceramics have been dated to 3,000 years old and clearly there was a very organized society with cultural and detailed burial practices living here. There was an English translation booklet that guided us through the whole exhibit. The photographs of the archeologists actually doing the work really added to the experience – clearly I would never have had the patience!
We had a second educational experience with a stop at a Raicillería to taste raicilla, which is an agave based liquor similar to tequila. We sampled a number of styles. Very enjoyable, but in the end decided that we like the more mild taste of tequila. This of course led to the need for a siesta, which it appeared everyone else was doing too as the streets were quite empty when we walked back to the inn.
In the evening we enjoyed strolling around town and sitting in the town square watching families socialize and lots of little kids run around and laugh. The whole time we were in town we only saw one other gringo couple, and we studiously ignored each other, guessing we each wanted to remain in this immersive experience.
The next morning we were awakened first by roosters well before sunrise, then by church bells at 6am, and then the gradual sounds of town stirring around 7am. The sun rises late here, really close to 8am. At 9am we found a taxi to take us the 45 minute slow ride up the narrow road to Ron’s place up at 7,300 feet. Along the way we passed through charming towns, waited for a herd of cows and felt the air get even cooler.
Ron, a long time expat, and his wife Maly, from one of the southern Mexican states, hosted us to a wonderful day in the hills. We walked parts of their property which are a mix of almost pine barren type landscape with various types of cacti thrown in, hidden waterfalls, lemon and many other fruit trees. I got to take home a bunch of lemons.
They toured us around both on their 4 wheeler and in Maly’s old VW bug which she was expert at driving on steep grades. We visited two other tiny towns and were introduced to some of their friends. Navidad is a quiet town, and another Magical town, of not more than 250 people normally, but swells to many times that once a year for a week or so of festival.
There is so much more I could say about this experience, but I will stop here. We look forward to more like it, and can’t thank Ron and Maly enough for their hospitality!