To: N.C. ....It snowed 5 centimeters last month in Calgary, Vancouver is preparing for rain non-stop through until May 96, and I hear Saskatchewan has been having hail storms. As Canadian Information Specialists hunker down for what some B.C. Aboriginals predict will be a colder than usual winter, many of us turn our eyes south - wishing we could afford to escape even for just a week.
But with the Canadian economy going through yet another "adjustment," more people are working on contract or for a smaller salary. If they do want to head south, it had better be cheap.
I think you'll like the attached articles, which might be a big hit with stressed out, overworked information specialists, librarians and researchers looking for inexpensive sunshine in the middle of a Canadian winter.... - From T.M. October 1995
You won't find the tiny, coastal town of BUCERIAS, NAYARIT on any tourist map or in any of the guide books to Mexico.
It's a well kept secret among the few travelers that head north out of the dazzling skyscraper resorts of Puerto Vallarta, out of the night life, the crowded, expensive hotels, and the lists of the fifty best things to do on a vacation.
But it's there for those looking for a little of the old Mexico at bargain basement prices.
What my husband and I wanted was to rent a piece of paradise right on the beach. It had to have a garden, maid service and plenty of drinkable water. It had to be reached from Vancouver without changing planes and be within a half hour drive from an airport. And it had to be really inexpensive.
Sound impossible? We thought so, until we heard, through word of mouth, about Lee Gibson, who owns the Los Pericos Travel Agency in Bucerias, just 20 kilometers north of the Puerto Vallarta airport.
Friends had raved about Gibson's services, so I put him to the test. Answering the phone himself, Gibson listened to my request and said he'd fax up a list of the properties he manages for absent Bucerias landlords. The fax arrived the same day, complete with a town map.
A large 1 1/2 bedroom house (the half was an alcove) seemed like a good match, so we booked. A month later we hopped into a cab for the twenty minute ride north on highway 200.
With the first glimpse of Bucerias we knew why it had remained largely undiscovered. An assortment of uninviting food stands, surrounded by diesel belching buses and plenty of unhealthy looking mutts lying in the dirt, made me wonder what we'd gotten ourselves into. Scenic was not a word to describe this place.
But before we could turn around, our taxi driver swung west and headed down a steep, cobbled hill. Three blocks and a left turn later, the street became a lane flanked by the walls of estates, all draped in a profusion of vivid red and purple bougainvillea. Through gates we glimpsed tall coconut palms and banana trees.
At a set of wrought iron gates, an inlaid pottery sign spelled out "Casa Linda." The inexpensive rental turned out to be an acre estate with a 1200 square foot, elegant, brick house filled with more Mexican art than we had seen in some Canadian museums.
Outside, bench-flanked, tiled walkways wove through the quiet, exotic garden to a private beach that was part of a five mile long expanse of powdery, white sand. Far across the pristine, turquoise waters of the Bay of Banderas, we see the tall condos of Puerto Vallarta to the south.
It was much more than we'd expected, which didn't seem to surprise Lee Gibson, who has spent the last 7 years building his business on giving Northerners more than their money's worth.
Ten years ago, after the death of his wife, Gibson left his import/export business in Oakland, and hit the road, towing a tent trailer. He happened across Bucerias by accident. He needed a place for the night, and the Bucerias trailer park had lots of room.
The next morning, captivated by the park's ocean front location, the palms, and the ever abundant, dramatically coloured bougainvillea - the entire town is draped in it, Gibson decided to explore. He liked what he saw, stayed around and built a house.
Soon after he teamed up with a long time Mexican friend, Paco Lopez, and built other houses, some for expatriates. Soon he was managing rentals for these expats, and slowly, Los Pericos was born.
Now the 50-something Gibson manages over 40 houses and condos, provides maid, cook and gardener services, radio communications for people on yachts, rents out post office boxes, offers telephone and fax service, and cashes traveler's cheques.
Whether you're looking for a pretty one room cottage on the beach (a deal at $35.00) or a seven bedroom villa, complete with pool, for $700 a night, Gibson will arrange it.
Gibson will organize horse back riding, bicycle rentals, and fishing, hiking and surfing trips. If you fall and break your leg or find yourself with an aching tooth, he'll personally drive you to English speaking medical help.
Gibson knows where the best bakery is, when local village festivals occur, where to get the cheapest deals on local arts and crafts, and which bus goes into Puerto Vallarta.
His love of the town and his ability to get things done is legendary. Several years ago, concerned with the lack of sidewalks and street lights, Gibson canvassed local businesses for donations and work started soon after. When a faulty pump caused problems with sewage, Gibson personally paid for the repairs. According to locals, if a pot hole in a road isn't fixed fast, Gibson, will do the work himself.
Such civic dedication has not gone unnoticed. Known by locals and expats as "the Gringo Mayor of Bucerias," Gibson recently solidified his ties to the community by marrying a local senorita.
"It's home now," says Gibson, of this tiny town of 4,000 residents. "There may not be much here, but that's the beauty of it."
Gibson advises first-time visitors to look beyond the cobbled and dirt roads, the chickens in front yards, the lower standard of living, and the lack of anything to do. Instead, he recommends relishing the flavour of a typical Mexican town.
"Bucerias may have only a few good restaurants, a handful of grocery stores, and a gas station," states Gibson. "But it's crime free, you won't get sick eating anywhere, and the locals like tourists."
People who want action should look elsewhere. The main activity here is beach combing, watching fishermen mend their nets, or sitting in Mark's restaurant. Owned by former New Zealander, Jan McMahon, Mark's makes a mean brick oven pizza and the best cappuccino this side of Vallarta. And for something different, visit those food stalls on the highway. They make the best take-out chicken I've had in years, and the dogs are friendly.
- Teresa Murphy © 1995