This will be the last story from Sayulita, so enjoy! We will be moving down the road.
The day started out like so many others in beautiful Sayulita. The sun was shining, the waves were lapping the shores of the sandy beach, and the chickens were making themselves known to the entire village. We did our daily exercise routine, along the beach and discussed what we were going to do that day. Bernard, said, “the college kids that we met at turtle camp want to take an expedition tour to see the petroglyphs”. We decided that today would be the day we took them.
We Facebooked them to let them know we would be there before lunch. After a crash course on the location and history of the site, we set out to pick them up. There were 6 people total. With the way my vehicle was set up, only two people could ride with me and 4 with Bernard. We set out following the limited directions we had. Getting to the exit off Highway 200 was easy. After that, it became a little more challenging! The directions said things like, “turn at the steel post gate”, or “turn down the road next to the tree orchard”. The interesting part, was we were in the middle of an area with numerous fences and orchards. We turned into one banana orchard that appeared, to the best of my ability, to be the right one. We followed along the two-track path, through trees, over rocks, and finally came to a seeming dead-end. Several people jumped out for photo ops, as Bernard and I concurred on the path to take. Either way, this didn’t look much like ancient petroglyph landscape. Why couldn’t they have placed them a little closer to town? Use some foresight maybe.
Back out on the road we decided to ask a local driving a pickup truck for directions. After canvassing the group nobody spoke enough Spanish to effectively communicate. However, one girl boldly tackled the conversation. After pointing, repeating phrases and lots of humorous sign language, the game of Charades was over. He agreed to hop in and show us the turn. Up the dirt road not more than 200 yards was a sign on the corner pointing to turn towards the petroglyphs. So close! We thanked him and continued on our way. We got this, now we will surely find the ancient site. On we drove and drove, following the dirt road looking for the next landmark, a “rebar gate” was the only clue.
After what seemed like hours, and backtracking, still no rebar gate was to be found, We drove through another banana field only to find another dead-end. Straight ahead at the end of the road, the two track, started turning menacing. The deep ruts, with rocks protruding out, and dense overgrowth, indicated not many had passed this way. Hey, we are on expedition, so a little fun was in order. I drove down the steep incline first with Bernard following behind. The trail became, steeper, tighter and more difficult with each passing moment. I felt the rocks beneath me shifting and occasionally bottoming out on the skid plate underneath. Slowly, meticulously, we trudged forward. We had to straddle wash outs, where water had eroded what was left of the trail beneath us, exposing large boulder size rocks. The previous weeks rains left the path greasy with mud. This was fun. This is what expeditions are all about! Suddenly, my tire slipped and the Land rover slid down into one of the large crevices with a solid “thud”. We had bottomed out and caught the rear receiver hitch. Bernard called on the radio, “I think we should turn around”. I said, “I am committed now”. Maybe, I should have said, “I am commit-able” . I could not back up the steep drop off, and there was no room to turn around. I felt it was best to continue on and hope to find a clearing ahead.
I dropped the transfer case into four-wheel low range, and locked the differential. A little stomp on the gas pedal and the engine roared as we pulled off of the rocks. Heading the rest of the way down the hill was assisted by the force of gravity and the slick, greasy mud. Finally reaching the bottom, I rounded the corner. Straight ahead was a mud boggers dream. Dark, rich dirt saturated in standing water. It looked like a mucky, mud pit that you might find in a back country field with rednecks driving their trucks with huge tires and engines screaming. I suppressed the redneck in me, deciding it would be best to return our clients safely back to their lodgings in a timely fashion, rather than bury the land rover. We did not need to test Bernard’s winch with trucks full of people, looking to us to return home safely. So with chagrin, I began a multi-point turn around in the middle of the trail.
Coming down turned out to be the easy part. Going back up the steep incline was going to be interesting. I told my passengers to hold on. “It might get a little tricky”, I said, secretly looking forward to the challenge. Choosing the best path to I started the incline, making sure to climb from rock to rock carefully. About half way up, I could see Bernard and a couple of the guys waiting. The tires were beginning to slip due to the greasy slimy mud. As long as I stayed on the rocks, it was ok. As I pushed the gas a little harder to climb the grade, traction broke and my front tire slipped sideways just enough to drop into a deep crevice. I began to rock back and forth. The only forward progress I could make was when the tire would grab the rocks. I asked Bernard to throw some of the smaller boulders into the deep ruts on the driver’s side front where the tire was spinning.
I was finally able to gain the needed traction to pull the wheel out of the hole. All of a sudden the passenger rear dropped about 3 feet into an even larger rut! I heard metal carnage and grinding. I looked in my rear mirror just in time to see the cover on the bumper being peeled from the frame. I stopped just in time to keep it from being pulled completely off. At this point, I felt the damage was done and it was do or die. I held the brake long enough to stop the rear from sliding back down the hill by gravity, before I gassed it! I heard scraping and popping as the frame untwisted from its near pretzel stance. But it worked! Hey, I was moving forward and running quickly toward Bernard who was standing in the narrow trail directing my steering.
He jumped out of the way, just as I gained more speed and momentum ,determined to make it to the top. Once safely to the top, I got out and accessed the damage. The rear bumper cover was laying back on the ground some 100 yards back, being retrieved by one of the guys, along with my rear tail lights I looked over the body. Unfortunately, the passenger side quarter panel had several deep gouges in the side from contacting the rocks. The damage was nearly three feet from the ground, to put the depth of the ruts into perspective. But all things considered, it went pretty well. I strapped the bumper to the top of the roof and we decided to continue by foot to find the petroglyphs.
After wandering around through the jungle, mud, weeds, swamps, and forests for nearly an hour, we determined that the petrogylphs couldn’t possibly be back there. It was a group effort to get everyone back to the vehicles. We had to wade through running streams of water, cautiously step through mud that would suction cup people shoes right off their feet. Two people lost shoes and one girl went in up to her knees. It was quite a trek, but our clients tackled it with enthusiasm.
Headed back down the trails in the vehicles we finally found the unceremoniously unmarked corner at the fence that we had been looking for. We turned and drove as far as we were able. We then set out on foot for approximately another mile or mile and a half. The “road” had been severely washed out and not taken care of. It made for a beautiful walk as we again had to cross streams running with cool water, and through a couple of fields finally to the entrance to where the petroglyphs were.
Each masterpiece was explained by a large bilingual plaque in front of the artwork. It was amazing to think that ancestors of the area had stood right here many years ago carving in the stone. The artwork was very detailed, telling different stories in each one. We walked further and further into the canopy jungle, lined by massive boulders and flanking the deeper running creek.
All of a sudden the dark overgrown jungle opened up into the most picturesque view I could imagine. Deep in the jungle and past the boulders with their carvings, was a large waterfall, The fall wound up in a deep pool at the base that several people chose to jump in and enjoy the refreshing cool waters of . Words cannot explain the beauty of this wonderful place. All of the days trials and tribulations led up to the most tranquil setting imaginable. We couldn’t help but think we were special to have been able to find this place. It was definitely not a well-marked or visited place. The ground is considered sacred by the locals so they do not frequent it. There are no signs leading you here, so you must have been fortunate enough to have been on our expedition or happen upon it yourself, because it is truly a hidden gem.
Everyone headed home with a spring in their step, excitedly talking about the adventure of the day. We were proud that we were able to actually provide such an exceptional outing for everyone, ourselves included!
If you would like to see more pictures of our adventure click here: Petroglyph pictures