Disappear to Yelapa


"This is exactly how I remember it," I say, standing on a wide, flat rock jutting into the sea. We're in Yelapa, Mexico, a tiny seaside village 45 minutes by boat - the only way to get here ― from bustling Puerto Vallarta. My husband, Pete, hops across a few small boulders and joins me. A rooster crows in the distance, and the low hum of an outboard motor draws our attention to apanga returning with the morning's catch. The sun sparkles on the water and small waves roll politely toward us.
Although Yelapa has baby-stepped into the 21st century ― it finally got electricity six years ago, and you can now make a phone call, check your email, and get a latte ― what's best about this place, aside from its glittering tropical beauty, is its timelessness. In the carless village, donkeys still serve as cargo trucks, sunshine and roosters are the only alarm clocks, and life's major decisions are of the snorkeling-or-siesta variety. Yelapa, people say, is what coastal Mexico used to be before it was discovered by the tourist throngs.
But these days, little Yelapa is hot. In the last couple of years, it's emerged as one of the must-visit destinations in Mexico ― or anywhere. Hilary Swank vacations here (I've seen her), and so does Peter Coyote (seen him too!). Yoga retreats are held here, and it's been written up all over the place.
Still, I'll always know this place as my childhood paradise, where I went to fourth grade and spent my afternoons snorkeling in search of moray eels, swimming under waterfalls, and exploring the paths that traverse this town. And on this visit, I am dragging my husband on a trip down memory lane, attempting, I suppose, to preserve it in my mind as it was.
When we first arrive in Yelapa, we forgo the safer exit onto the small pier in the village and instead choose to jump off the boat directly onto the main beach, risking a swamping and some soggy suitcases for the sake of that much more time on this lovely stretch of sand.
"When I was a kid," I tell Pete, "there wasn't even a pier. You used to have to get rowed in by dugout canoe. Watching tourists wipe out was a local pastime."
We stash our luggage and make for two lounge chairs under a thatched-palm palapa. It takes about five minutes before a piece of my Yelapan past comes to us.
"Pie, señorita?" A stern-looking woman, with a giant plastic container balanced on her head, is blocking my sun, and I am grateful. It's Augustina.
Yelapa is famous for its pies, baked by two competing local women who strut up and down the beach balancing lemon meringues on their heads. About a million years ago, I used to sell pies after school for Augustina's sister, Juanita, to earn pesos for Cokes.
She unloads her wares, but I don't even have to look. Without hesitation, I go for a slice of chocolate coconut. Pete nearly has a breakdown trying to decide, but finally settles on apple. Don't worry, I tell him. If there is one certainty, it's that Augustina will be here again tomorrow.
Article by Sunset Magazine

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