At the end of October, my boyfriend and I, a guide he hired as a surprise for my birthday, and another friend of ours, hiked to the top of Monkey Mountain. We knew that as we made our way to the summit the guide would be talking to us about the jungle and the history of the land but what we ended up with was a unique experience straight out of a National Geographic show.
Around eight in the morning the three of us met Chilly Willy near the main plaza in Sayulita. We piled into a jungle buggy that took us through washed out roads to the base of the hill. Monkey Mountain is the highest point in the bay, just south of Sayulita, and consists of a relatively steep hike up the cliff side ending in a 360-degree view. The half-day hike is an intense workout even for the seasoned hiker and will give you a heavy dose of interaction with nature and the jungle countryside. As someone who is a fan of fitness with a strong mental connection to the natural world, this hike was one of the best workouts I have ever had.
We began our journey on a narrow path until we made our way around a fenced off property near the trailhead. I use trailhead very lightly here because the path to the top is hard to follow and practically impossible to find without a guide. Almost immediately, we stopped to receive our first lesson from Chilly. He pointed to some twig-like branches on a tree to our left. Breaking it off, he made each of us smell it so we could recognize the familiar scent of skunk. That stench is the natural odor of this particular plant, which can be ground down to a powder and used for indigestion and other stomach problems.
Continuing up the path, we began to breath heavier. There were several points where it was necessary to use a rope that had been tied to a tree further up for steeper stretches. We held on and pulled ourselves up.
Not long after our lesson with the skunk plant, we stopped to watch Chilly crack open a nut that had fallen from a palm tree. Though it looked like a gemstone inside, it was essentially a hardened rock of coconut oil. Chilly told us how this particular seed is used to make a variety of products and then instructed us to eat a small piece of it. This was the first of several items that Chilly foraged for us to eat. We even collected a few fresh limes, and another more fruit filled palm tree seed, to consume along the way.
While we walked, Chilly pointed out bugs or markings on the rocks. He told us interesting antidotes or showed us how certain things, like giant oyster fossils, were symbolic of the underwater world that used to be where palm trees sprout today.
The jungle was only showing us a small amount of the life it holds. We talked about the potential jaguar sightings, and how the wildlife that was hidden among the trees was likely watching our movements. I looked around at all the green and resisted touching each plant. Chilly had already warned us about several harmless looking shrubs that could actually cause painful skin irritations.
We stopped several times more to talk about plants and bugs and their healing or harmful properties. Avoiding the line of soldier ants, we walked over to a plant that had small twigs covered in narrow green leaves like legs coming off of a centipede. Chilly reminded us that everything is living and breathing, even the plants contained active life. He proved this by touching one of the spines of the branches. We watched each leaf slowly closed in on itself creating a pocket rather than splaying out flat soaking up the sun. I was mesmerized and made him repeat this trick so I could catch it on camera.
When we got to the top it was so very worth it. You could see the birds flying at eye level, swarms of dragonflies buzzing around and the plant life was still thick. There was a distinct point made up of several boulders clustered together and from the top you could see a huge stretch of beach, the point of Punta de Mita, and jungle for miles.
This hike is certainly a challenge. However, it will give you a great workout and can help you reconnect with nature. Just be sure to hire a guide or go with someone who knows where they are headed.
Chilly Willy – Chilly Willy led our group and provided his knowledge of the local flora and fauna
Jungle Views – To the east there is jungle for as far as you can see
Ocean Views – From the top of Monkey Mountain looking south you can see the mouth of the Bahia de Banderas at Punta de Mita