Two buses, one taxi, a boat, and about seven hours.
That is what it took us to get to the somewhat off the beaten track, island village of Mexcaltitan.
Believed by some to be Aztlan, the ancestral home of the Aztecs, these days this small town still ekes out a living off shrimp, rather than the tourism one might expect.
We’d had a good run with connections for the trip thus far, and the trend continued during the morning.
A short wait for a bus to Tepic in Guadalajara, followed by only a 10 minute wait in Tepic for a bus to Santiago Ixnintla was another good start.
I’d been the one keen for us to come here (possibly because it did sound quite cool, being a town on an island), so was first worried about how long it would take us to get there, as well as simply hoping that 1. The towns only hotel was first still open, and 2. It had an available room.
In Santiago my optimistic run began to turn pear shaped.
We’d read that 4 colectivo’s run from Santiago to La Batanga (the dock where boats leave for Mexcaltitan) daily.
The problem was we didn’t know when, or from where they ran.
I mistakenly asked a taxi driver where to find one (I thought his uniform was from the bus company), and as you can imagine he was most unhelpful!
The lady at the bus station didn’t really know, or perhaps it was more a case of we didn’t understand, but by this stage we were both a bit hungry and thus grumpy, anyway (eventually we had to settle for a taxi)!
About 30km later saw us at La Batanga, where we could either catch a small lancha (launch) to the island, although it only runs to meet the colectivo, which we hadn’t caught, or we could pay a fee to a private boatman.
Thankfully it was a set fee ($90.00 pesos for the pair of us), so we were shortly putting along through mangroves out towards the estuary, where sits the island.
It was only a 10 minute journey, although even in that short time our helmsman did impress navigating between some narrow spaces, when we thought surely the boat would get stuck.
Apparently, when water levels and tides are high, some of the streets on this small little island flood, making it a town of canals, although for us, this was not the case (it would have been quite picturesque, but a bit harder for us to get around).
Perhaps fitting, the outermost street which circles the island (the village is layed out like a ring, or wheel) is called Venecia, and it was on this that apparently sat the islands only hotel.
The towns only hotel was not only still standing, but it was also very much open. The list of only’s didn’t end there however, as we were also it, and the towns only guests as well!
We checked in to a clean, but basic room, and then set upon the task of finding somewhere for lunch, and on an island like this, that meant seafood.
The few dining establishments, all seemed to be on the outer ring of the island (to utilise the lagoon views), and it was at one of these we soon found ourselves, sipping on the smallest beers we’ve seen in Mexico!
Thankfully we only ordered two dishes, as the portion sizes were huge, and the complimentary appetisers alone almost filled us (despite our ravenous hunger)!
Truth be told, this place is so small, it really doesn’t take much time to wander it and take in the whole town.
It was a ridiculously humid day, and the locations on the water (like where we lunched) were premium positions, as the breeze off the water offered some respite.
Once the breeze was blocked in the centre of the town however, it was again stifling indeed, not really inspiring us to wander around much further.
Thankfully our hotel was one of the few multi storied buildings, and it was on the second floor that our room sat, fronted by a large covered terrace that got plenty of breeze.
It was here we were able to sit an enjoy a couple of evening beers (we were too full for dinner, instead just having an Ice cream each), savour a lovely sunset, and later watch an incredible lightning show as the rains bucketed down.
As so often seems to be the case in the tropics, although the rain at times was thunderous (until we heard the even louder rumble of the thunder over the top), by morning it was again an island of calm.
Armed with some local knowledge, we also now knew what time the lancha would leave that morning to go and meet the colectivo (although three different locals gave us three different times… we just went to the dock 15 minutes before the earliest of them)!
Now costing us only $12.00 pesos each, and with the colectivo costing a fraction of our taxi fare (it ultimately cost us a third of the price to return from the island, as it did to get there), we were ready for our journey back to Tepic, for another little side detour to the Pacific coast town of San Blas.
With little else to do, Mexcaltitan was certainly a good place to chill out, but one night was definitely enough. There was a small museum on the island as well, which we neglected to visit, more because of the heat which sapped any desire to do anything, as at 10 pesos, it certainly wasn’t expensive!
* Mexcaltitlan really feels off the beaten track, and if you’re not a fan of seafood, your dining options will be fairly limited (a few places may be able to sell you chicken)
* Buses to Santiago Ixnintla run from both Tepic and San Blas, but you’ll need to check the local schedules for times.
* Unfortunately, we never did discover where & when the colectivos to La Batanga depart….