Where the Jungle Drips into the Pacific: Our First Day in Lo de Marcos, Nayarit

Beach at Lo de Marcos, Nayarit, Mexico, looking north – Best Places In The World To Retire – International LivingIn the period of less than half a day, our senses and emotions had experienced quite a workout.  In the morning, we were on a ferry in the Sea of Cortez, headed towards Mazatlan.  In Mazatlan, we were treated to an entirely new concept: jungle in an urban setting.  From there, we had found the toll road, breezed through green and wooded highland farmland, and then gradually descended into a profusion of jungle, not only on the sides of the road, but overhead, as we glided towards our destination: Lo de Marcos, in the state of Nayarit.
In contrast to our state of serene enjoyment of the road and scenery, the Mexicans in the other cars appeared to be fully engaged in a game equal parts “chicken” and “Russian Roulette.”  With the curves, trees and vines, not to mention several large trucks, visibility on the two-lane road (one lane in each direction, with just a normal width shoulder on either side) rarely extended more than 50 yards.   At about 45 miles per hour, we were among the slower moving vehicles.  Time after Multiple cars passing on road to Lo de Marcos, Nayarit, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingtime, even on blind curves, not only were we passed, but we were several times treated to the spectacle of three or four cars ahead of us pulling into the opposite lane passing three or four other cars and trucks all at the same time, which not only provided close to zero margin for error, but demonstrated a remarkable faith in the driving ability of all involved. (The picture to the right is of a two lane highway; one in each direction.)
It crossed my mind that perhaps we didn’t know how to drive in Mexico; that this was perfectly safe driving behavior, and we should learn their ways, in this case, of driving.  However, this well intended and open-minded proposal was shattered by the reality of several crosses and shrines along the road (evidently the result of someone dying in a traffic accident at that place) and the no less than the three Map showing Lo de Marcos, Nayarit, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingaccidents we witnessed in various stages of cleanup.  Considering this, decided to maintain our driving cultural bias and keep to our own lane at our standard Gringo speed.
As we slowed down from cruising speed and turned right just past the one sign that marked the town in which we would spend the next eight days, we were suddenly immersed into another setting altogether: a small, rather traditional Mexican village that had not yet been changed very much at all by expats, or at least it seemed.  We rolled forward at the normal speed in these types of towns of about 5 – 10 miles per hour, oscillating our heads side to side to take it all in, pretty much the only vehicle we could see moving, at 3 PM in the afternoon on July 6.
Cars and trucks were parked in various directions on either side of the main street.  A few people walked by, but not many.  On the left side, was “Tacos Diane”, one of many astoundingly surprisingly great and sophisticated restaurants we would be eating at that were really not much more than a few white plastic chairs next to old tables placed in an extension of someone’s side yard, with their home just feet Tacos Diane, in Lo de Marcos, Nayarit, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingaway or attached.  To the right and left were various smaller grocery stores, boutiques, ice cream shops and pharmacies, and the place where in a few days I would get my hair cut; some open, mostly closed, either because it was low season, or siesta time.
The entire length of the town from the main road to the Pacific is less than three quarters of a mile, so you could walk it comfortably in 20 minutes.  Quite easily, we found the owner of our property management company, Armando Contreras.  Outside his open doors slept a larger, skinny, brown dog that seemed to like to hang around Armando’s office, but didn’t belong to him.  Inside were Armando and one of his very helpful, young assistants.  A minute or so after our arrival, an old, smaller dog appeared from the back that Armando had rescued from a nearby town several years earlier.  Even though there was no air conditioning and it was in the late afternoon in early-July in a Mexican seaside village carved out of the jungle, Armando looked completely comfortable and fresh in Dog in front of Galvan Real Estate, Lo de Marcos, Mexico – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livinghis long pants and polo shirt.
We followed Armando in his car as he rambled along a cobblestone road, which alternated between areas that could fairly be described as “maintained” and areas that could not be fairly described that way.  The town of Lo de Marcos could be characterized the same way: some of it is very well kept and even shiny and new, and some of it is not.  In fact, some of it is completely abandoned, with jungle reclaiming the terrain, over what looked to have been at one time, very nice hotels, providing silent witness to what was most likely a past more glamorous than the present and big dreams (and perhaps big money) that had fallen by the wayside.
Within a very short time, we came to a full stop in front of a large, black gate that would provide entrance to our van, surrounded by a solid wall that looked about 10 feet tall.  There was literally no way anyone could know what was behind this formidable enclosure / barrier without opening these gates, walking through the locked side door, or parachuting in.
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As Armando opened the gates for our van and we rolled in, we were treated to the front of the house, which was all garden and designed by a very talented landscape architect, whether he or she called themselves that or not.  (Here's a video of the Lo de Marcos garden.)  Of course, it Pool leading to the garden at Lo de Marcos home, Nayarit – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingwould be easier to create a lush, beautiful garden with the plenty of choices of plants, tress, vines and flowers that one would have in this setting than in others, because this setting had plenty of water and sunshine, warm temperatures, and what looked to be very accommodating soil.
Within the confines of the two bedroom two bathroom house and circumscribing walls was a small but very usable pool, an outside bathroom, and an outside sink and shower (which I enjoyed many, many times), and a large, covered mirador (rooftop area with a view), complete with furniture and bed.
After unpacking just a portion of our clothes, I searched out the beach, which was just one vacant lot away.  Especially compared to the magnificent beaches we had experienced in Baja California Sur on the Sea of Cortez, I expected to see a rather boring Pacific beach.
I was wrong.
I stood in the middle of the sandy beach at Lo de Marcos, 20 yards from the Pacific.  To the right and the left, perhaps a 20-minute walk in either direction, were hills that formed the boundaries of the little bay.  The hills were filled with all sorts of jungle vegetation, some managing to secure their roots in the smallest and least likely of areas.  Where these hills met the ocean, there was no sandy beach, as in Path to the beach in Lo de Marcos, Nayarit – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingplaces, the jungle dripped into the sea.
Towards the bottom of the hills and just yards from the beach, were palm trees.  After taking it in with appreciative and somewhat awed silence for a few reverent moments, I made the four-minute walk back through the empty lot and to our rental home.  “You’ve got to see this,” I said to Jet.  “It’s a lot nicer than you think.”  (You can see a video of the garden and outside of the house here.)
Inside the house, Jet’s experience had been a bit different.  She had seen something crawling by in the bedroom that looked like about a four-inch crab, evidently as surprised by Jet as Jet was by it.  (Well, perhaps Jet was more surprised, because she had never seen a crab inside a house before.)  There was also the largest moth we had ever seen by a factor of about five, quite dead.  It also must have measured four inches across.  Even though I found it odd to think so, to me, this moth this moth was quite beautiful, with its triangle-shaped aerodynamic body Moth in Lo de Marcos, Nayarit – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingadorned with intricate and rich tones of brown and black.
Welcome to your home in the jungle.
As luck would have it, the day we arrived was Wednesday, which Armando told us was special, because every Wednesday, there would be a band playing in the square, with dancing and food vendors.  After our initiation to the beach, it would be a nice way to get to know a bit about the town and its people.
Upon arriving at the square at about 8 PM, we met the only expats we would see in Lo de Marcos in over a week, sitting outside at one of the many little restaurants across from the square.  We took the table next to them, and sat down.  They laughed at Jet’s story about her horror at seeing the crab and told us there was nothing to be worried about.  As if to emphasize their point, right about at that moment in front of the restaurant, another crab ran over Jet’s feet.  Of course, she screamed, but recovered soon enough.  More laughter from our new expat acquaintances.  Oddly, we would see no other crabs for our entire stay in the state of Nayarit.
The expats told us what to order: a “volcano,” which I would describe as a very glorified tostada.  As for the beer I wanted, they told us that the restaurant didn’t serve it, so I should walk next door to the little store and buy it there.  “Won’t the restaurant be Dogs waiting for food outside restaurant in Lo de Marcos, Nayarit – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Livingupset if I do that?” I asked.  The reply: yet more laughter.  I certainly wasn’t at a typical restaurant in the US where you can’t bring anything in.
As the expats left, the four completely different looking dogs that were patiently attending them, looking for a handout, dutifully and cautiously arrived to try the same with the new people in town.  Perhaps we would be a “soft touch.”  The “volcano” turned out to be absolutely delicious, and the beer was cold and perfect (and very cheap, because I had purchased it from the store).  The total cost for the meal was around $4 for both of us, beer included. 
So there we were, eating fabulous, ridiculously inexpensive food, drinking cold beer, with four dogs patiently and cutely waiting, sitting across from the square, listening to the band, watching the people dance, all in the warmth of a Lo de Marcos, Mexico, summer evening.
Dancing in the plaza, Lo de Marcos, Nayarit – Best Places In The World To Retire – International Living
We were going to enjoy our next 7 ½ days.

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Next The Drive from Mazatlan to Lo de Marcos, Nayarit: Confusion, No Shortage of Dried Shrimp, and Then the Prize in a Disneyland-like Jungle

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