News from Around Banderas Bay | March 2008
|Adventures in San Sebastian|
JOY! - PVNN
Semana Santa is a good time to flee Vallarta and leave it to the tourists who flock to the beach for the holiday. So, on Good Friday, I drove up to San Sebastian with some friends.
It is a two hour drive into the Sierra Madres to this sweet little mountain village. There's not a whole lot there; just a well kept town square around which everything revolves. There is a restaurant, a coffee shop a hostel and a hotel for the visitors, a couple of tiny stores for the locals, and of course, the church.
It wasn't always this way: On January 20 1605, the mines of San Sebastian del Oeste were discovered, and by the early 1800's this tiny town was a city; one of the main mining centers in the New Spain during the Colonial period. By 1785, ten gold and silver reduction haciendas and nearly 30 mines had been established there.
The 1910's brought the military revolution however, and foreign companies in charge of mining works moved to other areas. The last mine was abandoned 1921, and San Sebastian fell into oblivion.
Nowadays, its main economic activities involve agriculture, stock breeding, increasing tourism and to a lesser degree, forestry.
One silver reduction hacienda has been converted into a museum of sorts. You pay $10 pesos ($1 USD) to enter the house and see this family's history and learn about their lives as leading citizens in San Sebastian in the 1800's.
Nine-year-old Monica gives us a running commentary while she shows us all the treasures and artifacts from that time. Everything from the baby clothes and bed pan to the fold up chairs they took to church before the pews were built.
Her ancestors worked the silver for many years, she showed us the machine they used to make the bars, and the bills they printed that said you owned x number of bars – basically a cheque. "There were many bad men who wanted to steal the silver," she told us, "But we were very lucky, in all the years of transporting silver we were only robbed once."
San Sebastian really hasn't changed much from the way it's depicted on the map from the 1800's.
The same winding alleyways, original stone pavements, plastered mud-brick walls, archways, attics and wooden and tile roofs are still part of the integrated typology that constitute the town's distinctive traits.
ATVs are the easiest transport on these precarious streets. Shopping is very basic, we saw two stores, both very tiny and cramped with half of the stock hanging from the ceiling. Almost everything is homemade including the alcohol we bought from a stand outside a house.
We stay in a friend's hacienda, a long low building that one enters using a very large key to open a very large door. This door opens on to the living area, which has a chimney fireplace that does little to take the chill off the walls. There are three huge bedrooms, each with at least three huge beds, more like a dormitory than anything. The kitchen is long and very basic, designed to fit and feed a table of workers.
The back garden contains a wonderful wealth of food and we set about gathering everything from oranges and lemons, avocados and peaches for lunch, and coffee beans which we pick to roast later in the sun.
The next day we head up into the mountains to a place called La Bufa. We leave town, and the paved, relatively wide roads behind us, our destination is 2300 meters up. I elect to sit alone in the back of the truck, despite the cool mountain air, the views are simply too good to be shielded from.
Julieta and I are dropped off at a certain point on the trail, the others will meet us at the top. The walk reminds me of my adventures in Sequoia National Park in Southern California. The air is pine sweet and the mountains exquisite. We are so high we are watching a pair of Golden Eagles soar below us, their nest is directly beneath where we are admiring the view.
Julieta tells me to keep an eye out for a woman carrying a baby on her back, she haunts this part of the mountain apparently. We don't see her but we do find a shrine to the virgin hidden in a tiny cave above the trail.
It's a magical walk that ends at an astonishingly powerful little church in a pueblito of perhaps 25 people. It is a perfect place to stop and offer thanks for the beauty of the mountains.
At our next stop we all get out and climb even higher, past giant agave and enormous, strangely sentient boulders to a peak where the three mountain ranges can be seen rolling all the way to the sea. Banderas Bay is visible as a crescent on the horizon, and San Sebastian looks like a toy village through maximum zoom on my camera.
As challenging as this peak is to get to, there are a surprising number of puffing tourists enjoying the 360 degree view. We will be here for a while, so I go exploring, led by a vulture to a point far beyond anything I thought I could climb to.
"Look where you've got me!" I scold him "How am I ever going to get back?"
"You'll figure it out" he tells me, and I laugh. It's true. Meantime if I've come this far and I have no idea how I'll return, then I might as well go a little further. So I do, and there is only this moment and I am a part of the mountains and the wind, and my spirit soars with the vulture.
"Am I crazy?" I ask Alejandra when we are back on level ground "I wondered when I had that thought 'if I've come this far and I can't get back I might as well go further.'"
"No," she told me, "It's good to push your limits, and if you've already pushed them beyond what you know, what have you got to lose by going further?"
I like this woman.
We head back down the mountain but this time the ride is so hairy I turn my camera to video and make my last will and testimony as we go. Something has upset our driver and we are racing down the precarious trail at insane speed, careening round corners that give me a clear view waaaaay down very sheer drops.
I breathe a sigh of relief when we finally come up behind another truck and we are forced to slow down, but then he finds a place to pass and nearly hit a blue car coming up. You'll understand why that photo is somewhat shaky.
It's good to have the occasional life review opportunity, it keeps one clear about priorities and gives one the chance to see what might be left undone.
I was pleased to note that, apart from the jolts that lifted me off the back of the truck, I was pretty peaceful and living the De-worrying Process from my book 'No Worries, Mate!' automatically: We'll either make it down the hill or we won't, and either way, worrying won't change a thing, so I might as well relax and have faith. I doubt my work here is finished yet.
And sure enough, I lived to tell the tale, and now have a renewed commitment to my book tour later in the year. If you want to live a worry free life 'No Worries, mate!' is available from my website ExperienceJoy.com. It has a money-back-guarantee to eliminate all worry at its source, so you've got nothing to lose – except your worries!
Click HERE to read about Celebrating Easter in San Sebastian
JOY! Is an internationally acclaimed life transformation coach, famous for her unreasonable success in helping people move through their challenges with her unorthodox approach and emPOWERment tools. For more information, visit her website ExperienceJoy.com or call 044-322-129-1128.
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