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A Puerto Vallarta Dune Buggy Adventure

Getting rid of road rage

Brian Weatherspoon


My day-to-day typical driving adventure involves navigating a Chevy across town during rush hour or trying to maintain control over 7 little-leaguers for a few miles. It’s the kind of every-day driving aggravation that occasionally makes me want to take the wheel of a monster truck and crush everything in my way. Since that’s not socially-acceptable behavior, I found a better way to release my “inner driver” with a dune-buggy tour through the mountains above Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.


My parents joined my girlfriend and I in Puerto Vallarta for a much-needed week of de-stressing from the day-to-day rigors of life. We all had a tremendous time…Puerto Vallarta is a beautiful, fun, and friendly city. But while the leisurely days of shopping or simply hanging out on the beach with a book and a beer do wonders for calming the spirit, our dune buggy adventure really got the tension out of our systems. This was a chance to let loose and drive like we’ve always wanted to drive, without the hassles of battling the legal system over such trivialities as speed limits and wreckless-driving charges.


ATV and Dune Buggy tours in Puerto Vallarta MexicoWe took a taxi to the ‘depot’ on the south side of town, and joined a dozen other like-minded tourists in a brief session to familiarize ourselves with our vehicles. There wasn’t much to learn: There’s the standard gas, brake, and clutch pedals; gear shift; an on-off switch, and a starter button. All this on an open-cage tube-frame which supports a pair of low bucket seats and a VW engine. We’re issued goggles and bandanas to keep the dust out, taught how to follow a few hand signals from crew leaders at the front and back of our convoy, and then we’re off. A few of our fellow tourists have chosen fat-tired Honda ATVs and will join us.


We begin by driving through town, taking the cobble-stone back streets up the hill above the city, past tiny stores and restaurants and houses with violet buganvillas cascading down from the balconies of the homes above. Before long we’re on the outskirts of town on dirt roads high above the city and bay, with a new beautiful view around every corner. Our dune buggy is quick to accelerate, bouncy on fat tires, and handles like a race car. I’m a new road-warrior already.


Puerto Vallarta Dune BuggiesWe reach the edge of a sand dune and check out a river below. One of the crew goes across first, showing us the most shallow crossing point. I’m ready for some mud, so I hit the gas and tear across, sending plumes of water on either side of us. One of the other drivers, however, has pulled along side us and we are drenching each other with our sprays, cackling like mad men. My girlfriend is screaming with joy as we reach the other bank, only to realize that the ‘other driver’ is my father. “That’s for putting that dent in my Ford when you were learning to drive!” he yells. Mom is drenched too, but no matter…it’s rinsed the dust off our legs and arms and the water is refreshing. Under the bright sun and warm breeze we dry quickly, only to pick up more dust on the next leg of our journey through farming country. The roads are straighter here, with shallow dips and rises that allow us to ‘catch a little air’ beneath our wheels. We pass a farmer leading his burros to a day’s work and cowboys riding their patch of range.


Our stop at a refurbished hacienda gives us a chance to shake a little of the dust from our hair and relax over a cold drink and fresh tacos made before our eyes. It’s a shady spot of refuge from the sun under a huge spreading tree, and the hacienda houses a small tequila operation, with a lesson in how the Mexico’s national drink is made, and samples for those so inclined.


Puerto Vallarta Dune BuggiesSoon it’s back into the buggies, with my wife taking the wheel for the return trip. She apparently has some pent-up driving frustration as well…we’re taking a different route back to town, a gently curving dirt road along a stream, and she’s giving it all she’s got. It’s a side of my wife I seldom see, and I’m glad I’m seeing it here rather than in the Suburban back home on city streets. She manages to find and precisely drive through a couple of sizeable puddles, sending splats of mud into the air and onto the drivers behind us (“in-direct retribution”, she says, for her future-mother-in-law in front of us showering us with globs of goo). We find the river crossing again, challenge my folks to a side-by-side crossing again, with the same predictable results.


Soaked and laughing like hyennas, we wind our way back into town, by which time we have dried to a dusty sheen. The entire group looks like a pack of raccoons once the goggles have been removed, showing clean circles around our eyes (but dusty everything else). We wipe off what we can, head back to the hotel for showers, and relax soundly in the afternoon with the knowledge that we’ve gotten our road-rage under control for at least a while!

Dune-buggy adventures are one of Puerto Vallarta’s most popular activities…reserving your trip in advance is recommended.





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