Saturday, March 6, 2010

Road Trip, Pacific Coast, Mexico, San Blas, Nayarit State

San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico Pacific Coast

      Fish grilling on outdoor barbeque racks, oysters on the half shell, grilled shrimp, and banana bread stands; these icons of coastal Mexico let you know that you have found San Blas.
     I had left Route 200 at Las Varas and continued north along Matachen Bay.  At the northern end of Matachan Bay, a group of banana bread stands crowd the road near the La Tovara lagoon rides. If you go back south a short distance on a dirt road you come to the huge open bay where you find a dozen palapa restaurants. The road continues to your left out along the bay where you see no houses, palapas, nothing but beach and bay. You can camp there but it is best to have a posse.
Back on the road to San Blas, I found the fishermen’s cooperative docks and from there found Los Cocos RV park where I put up for a week, 920 miles south of Nogales.
     San Blas made the Guinness Book of World records in the 70s when its Matachen Bay produced the longest surfable wave. Some of those 70s surfers are still hanging on in San Blas, long in the tooth, specters in faded tie dye.
Time seems to have stopped in San Blas, the last time in the 70s, but time has stopped for San Blas more than once over the years.
      The first occasion that San Blas felt the ebb of commerce was in Spanish Colonial days when the forests up stream of the River were clear-cut, the river silted, and the harbor became shallow, too shallow for the ocean-going traders that were sailing to the Philippines and hauling home exotic Asian trade goods. The deep water boats moved south to Acapulco and the San Blas boat building and cargo handling ended. The Longfellow poem, the Bells of San Blas recounts the loss of the square-rig industry for San Blas and its abandoned church, the crumbling bell tower no longer able to support the bells.
     San Blas bounced back from the loss of shipping when it developed its shrimp and fishing industry. A huge mangrove estuary extends from San Blas north for a hundred miles to Mazatlan and this is a rich nursery for fish and shrimp. Prosperity came again to San Blas but it was short lived when foreign boats quickly moved in and depleted the shrimp and fish.
     Surfing and tourism would next invigorate San Blas but once again that would ebb as the bay silted and the waves no longer produced those record rides.
Eco-tourism is the next wave for San Blas. While whale watching (humpback and whale shark) and lagoon rides for birding may never make San Blas the future Puerto Valarta, San Blas will retain its small town fishing village ambiance and will host enough tourism to remain a delightful alternative to the mega resort.
I loved the place and I will go back if I get the chance.
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