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San Sebastián Ole

by Peter Wells Scott

Life's sweetest memories often require considerable effort in the making. The trip to San Sebastian is no exception, especially if you travel overland. Some say that the trip can be made in two and a half hours from Puerto Vallarta, but that depends on where you start the clock. The small village of Las Palmas is the actual starting point. The road from the airport to Las Palmas is actually quite uneventful. You'll get a look at the new jail, the university, and the town of Desembocadas on the road leading to Las Palmas.

Once leaving Las Palmas, you will be enchanted by the rainforest which will be your companion for much of the trip. Vallarta Adventures has its famed CANOPY, which is a series of platforms connected by ropes that strand through the forest. Their participants' age from "8 to 80," but you may not want to complete both events on the same day. The road winds and winds with stops often necessary to allow for passage of a vehicle going in the opposite direction. God forbid you would have a flat tire. A small pond on the left looks very inviting, but it is quicksand. Teak trees grow on the right. About midway, you approach the canyon with precipitous drops edging the road. Then there is nature's own infinity pool, which is an excuse for most folks to stop for a "breather." From there to the town of Estancia the road is quite moderate. There are a few family owned restaurants in Estancia which will please you with an order of tacos or quesadillas. A few more hairpin curves and you're almost there.

San Sebastian, some four centuries ago, was a mining town with a population approaching 40,000. Most of the workers slept up in the hills on leaves spread out. Only the jefes were afforded the luxuries of the town, which did not include bath facilities. Just outside of town is the San Sebastian airport. Stopping there, the gate was locked but the Aerotron plane was stationed there with the cockpit door open. Yelling at the tower produced a young fellow who informed that "Juan had gone into town to Christie's." Asking how he had got there, the lad said: "he walked." We decided to follow. Twenty minutes later we were having an afternoon snack at Christie's.Juan advised us that he had to clear out for he was going to take the short 45 minutes ride to a Bufa. The latter is a landmark of San Sebastian. On a clear day, you look far below at the shoreline of Puerto Vallarta. The view, or is it the altitude, literally takes your breath away.

At one end of town is La Quinta, a family-owned coffee plantation. At the other end is a homemade distillery which produces a clear tequila drink called raicilla. La Lupitas restaurant is near La Quinta. Looking for a place to "bed down" generally starts in the town square. Our first attempt was a lesson in Mexican futility. There were 4 or 5 beds to a room and each bed had its respective price, depending, of course, on how many people each bed would accommodate. When we went upstairs to look at rooms on the second floor, and returned, the prices had inexplicably doubled. We ended up at La Posada, where the price was a standard 100 pesos per person. There are 3 or 4 nice little hotels each with its series of legends. Friends stayed at the inn next to the Posada. At
midnight they were awakened by a loud knock at the door. Opening it, no one was there. Ghosts routinely make their rounds in San Sebastian.

Pachita is an 80 year old poet of quiet distinction. Her family came to San Sebastian when she was four. Her verses include "Un Jardin Hermoso," "La salida de la Luna," "Madre Tierra," and "El Vestido de Jesus Nazareno."Time seems to stand still in San Sebastian. Even the clock in the church tower seems to honor that. It has read 20 minutes after seven since anyone can remember.

And, oh yes, you can take the airplane to San Sebastian from Puerto Vallarta. It's a less stressful 20 minutes depending on whether you are going or coming. Returning to Vallarta you'll be treated to a spin along the south shore. July will see a modernization of the runway in San Sebastian. All the comforts of home in this mysterious little town carved out of nature's turf.

A trip to be remembered whether by land or air.