By Gary Rose
“My names Alan, but YOU can call me Sexy Alan,” comes a voice from behind my head. This is not what I need right now.
I’m on a boat excursion from Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, to Yelapa — a small fishing village about 25 km to the south, which is difficult to reach by road. I’m sitting on the bottom deck, land-side, near the front, staring at the mysterious plumes of smoke coughing out of the coastline. Enjoying the absence of muzak. The silence.
It’s unexpectedly lush and mountainous here. It was a short-notice trip and, being light on research, I’d expected parched mules trekking over cacti-peppered plains.
The man who calls himself Sexy Alan is the head honcho of the boat’s crew. A twenty-something Mexican wearing tight, yellow tennis shorts and a ginger beard. Alan’s not the most Mexican name, and the way his tan degrades into pastiness on his upper thighs also hints at more northerly origins. He sounds local though, as he barks through his mic, introducing his fellow crew members. Each does a little dance as he springs up to the stage.
I self-consciously look back at the scenery. The original Arnie Schwarzenegger Predator film was shot in this area. “There’s only one predator around here,” I think, as Sexy Alan gyrates his hips in the direction of my female fellow journalists.
I glance around to get some solidarity in my outrage at this breach of the peace. One of them is being sick. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look Sexy Alan related. Her face is a shade Farrow and Ball might describe as “cooking apple green”. The rest of my party are captivated. They love Sexy Alan.
Another crew member leaps up for his party piece. He looks like a handsome warlock, and he’s balancing some crystal balls on his arms while doing some kind of loco Kate Bush dance. I realise that Sexy Alan and his amigos are not mere tour guides. They’re… entertainers
If someone had told me two weeks previously that I’d be sailing down Mexico’s Pacific coast with Sexy Alan and a globe-balancing warlock…
The funny thing is, we’re not even supposed to be on this boat. We have Roger to thank for that. Due to some bureaucratic cock-up, poor Roger is left behind and we end up missing the excursion we were booked on. Our group leader looks like she might cry until one of the entertainers takes pity on us. “Come aboard, you were meant to be on this trip. It’s fate,” he says, with the serene confidence of an omnipotent gigolo.
When we reach Yelapa we realise we got lucky. Vividly coloured shacks, beaten-up workshops and ramshackle market stalls line the path leading up to the village’s main attraction: a shampoo-advert waterfall that visitors can stand under, pretending they’re Michael Douglas or Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone.
I’m not a fan of cold water, but you only live once. It feels like that stupid ice bucket challenge. I flick my head seductively a few times, trying to look nonchalant, but inside I’m screaming like a toddler being forcibly ejected from a playground.
En route back to the beach I meet a sweet lady selling woollen dolls with wonky eyes, which she assures me she makes herself. “Siete dias, mucho trabajo,” she claims. Later I spot some other dolls that look identical, but I give her the benefit of the doubt.
Further ahead, a boy cuddling a fluffy alsatian puppy is causing a bottleneck. The scene looks like something from National Geographic, but there’s nothing staged or affected about it.
“Como te llama,” I ask him in my GCSE Spanish.
“Sam,” he squeaks, cutely.
“Muy bien,” is all I can manage in response. A passing American asks me if I meant to ask the boy’s name, or the dog’s.
“Erm… the boy’s,” I lie, realising my mistake.
Back on the beach, there’s time for a quick beer and a gawp at some outsized lizards before jumping back on the boat. Everyone wants to stay longer.
On the way we pass a scene that, for some reason, brings to mind Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. A gang of frigate birds are skulking ominously at a river’s mouth, like a bunch of winged hoodies waiting to jack a passer by. I realise what’s really troubling me: my reunion with the ginger Colonel Kurtz.
On the return leg, the lads crank the show up to eleven. They come out dressed as Wham, then ZZ Top, then some disco dude from the hit parade who seems very popular. But I’ve had my dose of tranquillity now. Pleasantly sedated by Yelapa (and, by this time, two margaritas), I finally succumb to the fiesta.
Sexy Alan has won. I am a reluctant groupie. A Sexyalanette. I pop a damp, crumpled 50 Peso note in his tips bucket as we drift into port.
First published on www.sonikbeach.com