It's not every day that this travel writer finds herself standing knee-deep in a river with a bunch of strangers as a stern-faced shaman wafts smoking purification herbs at her.
But that's exactly what happened when I dragged myself away from Velas Vallarta's swim-up bar and booked myself ontoa free tequila-tasting and cultural day tour.
The tour startsout ordinarily enough. We drive into the city, take a peek inside a church, wander around a jewellery shop and wrestle down some tequila shots in a tequila factory.
Then we headinland from Mismoloyato Kawitu, a small Huichol village tucked away in the verdant green mountains where the Wixáritari people live.
I get off the coach to wander along the riverbank towards the settlement as one of the villagers begins to slowly strike a drum and a face-painted shaman wavessmoking herbs at me in order to free me of anyspiritual impurities that I may be carrying into the village from the outside world.
To be honest, I'm probably carrying quite a lot...
I'm then handed a pretty feathered arrow, which I carry with me along the riverbank until I reach a sacred spot at the entrance of the village. I'm asked to plant the arrow in this sacred spot and make a wish. I obediently do as I'm told and I quickly make a heartfelt wish to return to Puerto Vallarta some day.
The Huichol village is a kaleidoscope of crazy colours – bridges bedecked in brightly-coloured paint, vibrant murals covering almost every surface and ribbons of every hue floating in the air. The drum beats on as we walk down to the river, step into the water and stand, holding hands, in a ceremonial circle.
The shaman enters our circle and performs an ancient energy cleansing ritual that centres around the elements of fire, air, earth and water. It's hoped that that this will help us to find peace and harmony in our lives.
I feel like I may have a lot of peace and harmony coming my way because during the ceremony the shaman deems itnecessary to walk over to me not once, not twice - but three times - to wave his purifying herbs in my direction.
So I either I have a lot of peace and harmony to look forward to, or he feels he has to make extra sure that all of those impurities in my soulareproperly cleansed!
At the end of the ceremony the drumming stops. We all turn to our neighbours in the circle and share a quick hug. Smiles and giggles break out on people's lips and the seriousness of the ancient ceremony evaporates into the air.
I have to say though, I do feel pretty good as I splash through the water towards the riverbank for my mahi-mahi lunch. I feel safe in the knowledge that my heart is pure and – because I planted a feathered arrow at the entrance to the village – I shall, one day, return to Puerto Vallarta…
Velas Vallarta offers gueststwo free day tours– a city/shopping tour and a tequila-tasting/cultural tour. Simply talk to the tour specialist at the reception desk to book your spot.
About the Writer
Vickie Sam Paget is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver, BC. When she's not creating dynamic travel or tech content, globetrotting or gazing at the North Shore Mountains, you can usually find her curled up with a good book or sipping a pint of the good stuff in her local Irish bar.