Growing up, I spent many nights at my Grandparents’ house, and my Grandpa would watch old movies with me. The classics. One of them was The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, starring Humphrey Bogart as a guy who goes along with a gold-panning scheme in Mexico. To think I’d ever be traveling through those famous mountains from the film! Though the van and the husband are a slight upgrade from a stubborn old burro.
I insisted we take Highway 70 to Guadalajara: it was supposed to be a very scenic drive, and I was dying to see a very scenic old mining town en route called San Sebastián.
It wasn’t long before we began to doubt this choice of road though. According to Google, the 60-kilometer trip from the resort in Nuevo Vallarta to San Sebastián would take an hour and 20 minutes. But we had to pull over four times to let the transmission cool off, so it took us almost six hours! This was because the roads were steep and the warm temperature so unrelenting.
At one point, road works (repairing apparently 37 sections of road damaged by rockslides) forced us to take a one-lane dirt road detour which made a 45-degree descent and then had us ford a gushing stream! I can’t believe we made it. As we climbed back up, we saw the transmission temperature rise and pulled over.
A while later, a fireman came down and said he needed to escort us up; his buddies were waiting to send a convoy of cars in the other direction, a fact to which we were completely oblivious. They were a nice bunch and invited us to sit with them in the shade while the van cooled off a little more. While waiting, we saw a massive coach haul ass down the detour road we had just struggled up! Typical.
Anyway, when we heaved into the Pueblo Mágico of San Sebastián del Oeste, everything changed. The gently sloping cobbled streets were shaded by tall oak trees and the air was a crispy crunchy cold.
This village was different to what we were used to. The white buildings looked like those from northern Spain, with second story balconies and wooden railings. The stone walls were covered in deep green mosses. And of course, it was pleasantly chilly.
We explored that night, had dinner in the plaza (wearing sweaters!), parked next to Cafe La Quinta for the night, and explored the next morning too.
Here you go:
The next day, we woke to hear a tour being given in English outside the café–a bus of tourists from Puerto Vallarta! It felt strange that they’d come from the steamy coast that morning for an excursion while our long journey made it seem like we had come so far.
We thought that we’d make it to Guadalajara that afternoon. Instead, after four and a half hours, we managed only to make it to Mascota, 45 kilometers (28 miles) away. Maybe the van was as stubborn as a mule after all!
Mascota has recently been named a Pueblo Mágico, and was undergoing work on its main plaza. Unfortunately, we didn’t do much exploring there. Despite being fuelled by Oxxo coffees, we just wanted to sleep.
A nice man at the electricity company in town let us fill out water tank from his spigot. Then we drove to the outskirts of town to a shady park where we chilled out and didn’t leave for the rest of the night.
In the quiet morning, Edd spotted a milkman carrying heavy steel jugs of milk from his farm to his truck. Across the street, workers cut down cornstalks. Then the trucks and tractors started to rumble down the cobblestones. The road noise brought us back to our own reality. It was time to go.
It all went downhill from Mascota, and that was a good thing.
I recommend the Highway 70 route to anyone! It was a beautiful, beautiful drive and could be driven in a half a day in a normal car. The people were also really friendly.
Now that we have crossed the Sierra Madre three times—from Tepic to Tequila, from Tequila towards Puerto Vallarta, and again on the way to Guadalajara—we know that these mountains hold many other treasures to be found.
And although our trip was a far cry from the movie, I couldn’t help but to secretly repeat, “Badges? We ain’t got no stinkin’ badges!”
That one’s for you, Grandpa.