After two-and-a-half weeks of lazing around, reading novels, watching the sunset, strolling along the beach and grazing at local restaurants, playtime’s over. It’s time to get back to work, lazing around, reading novels, strolling the beach and grazing at local restaurants. I know it sounds like the same thing, but house-sitting comes with enormous responsibility. We have to take the dog with us when we laze around, read novels and stroll the beach. It’s hard work. Particularly when your responsibility is to a celebrity.
We left the gleaming tourism mecca of Puerto Vallarta and drove due north for nearly an hour along the relentlessly twisty Highway 200 to the pueblo of San Pancho. This is not a tourism mecca, but many of the local business owners wish it were. Most of the residents, however, hope it stays exactly the way it is, to preserve and protect the reasons they live here, one of which is that it’s not Puerto Vallarta. No disrespect to Puerto Vallarta.
San Pancho is small, dusty, and entirely unglamorous, unlike some of its residents. And by that I mean they’re glamorous, not necessarily small or dusty. But some of them could be, I don’t know. Haven’t been here long enough to find out. What it lacks in gleam it makes up for in charm. It also has a mile-long, nearly empty soft-sand beach, with waves and undertow so strong they keep the swimmers away. Sayulita, just a few minutes drive south, has the gentler waters — but better breaking waves — that attract families and surfer dudes. So San Pancho remains that dreaded cliché, “sleepy fishing village”, and that’s fine by us — and by most of those who live here.
There are a lot of well-heeled Norte Americanos and Europeans who have bought or built extravagant homes up on the hills or down at the beach. They live amiably next door to locals, many of whom come each day to clean their pools, mop their floors and mind their kids. The house-sitters they mostly recruit from out of town. Good for us.
We take the job seriously, no matter whom we do it for. But we soon discovered we were sitting for someone quite famous, a first for us. Walking the streets, total strangers stop in their tracks, or roll down their car windows, or look up from their coffee and newspaper to call out a greeting. If they start taking pictures, we may have to dodge them, like the paparazzi. Like everyone else, we became instant fans.
Who is this famous face? A gorgeous, friendly, easy-going, smart poodle* we call Oprah, because she’s a bit plump, has curly black hair, and is rich beyond belief — not with cash, but with friends, the much more valuable currency. She shares her sprawling hilltop home with three amigos: a feisty little fur ball of a kitten we call bebe (baby), because she acts like one most of the time; an older fur ball a few little grey cells short of a fully functioning brain whom we call The Duke, for reasons that will become clear; and a feral fur ball who pops in for food when no one’s looking. We call him gato montes, Spanish for wildcat. We shorten it to Monty.
Oh, and then there are their humans, of course. Like many ex-pats here, they are transplanted Americans who came on vacation and never left. They built their home overlooking the sea and, also like many, started populating it with strays. Now when they take sojourns north of the border they need someone to care for those strays. And we’re more than happy to do the job. Particularly when it’s for someone as beloved as Oprah.
I’ll tell you more about all of them — and the funky little town of San Pancho — in upcoming posts.
* As with most of the details in this blog, identifiers like people’s and pets’ names and where they live, have been changed to protect their privacy. The rest is all true, as filtered through my eyes.