It was cool but sunny. We enjoyed looking out to many different birds while we had breakfast. We had admired the attractive church tower up behind us, but we weren’t so keen on the bells, which, apart from tolling every quarter hour during the night, clanged with great vigour just before 7.00!
We planned to walk to the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan today, so started by walking into the town of San Juan. We passed our Canadian neighbour on the way, then continued through the busy, bustling town. It was about half an hour’s walk to the site of the pyramids, which was vast. It is obviously THE place to visit, as there were already crowds of visitors of all nationalities - we heard English, American, German, French, Spanish and Japanese.
The Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacan
We arrived by the huge Pyramid of the Sun, but started by walking along the long Avenue of the Dead, lined on either side by ancient buildings, to the Pyramid of the Moon. Many people were climbing up the steep steps, and we started to join them, but I soon knew that it was too steep for me, so I descended. Adrian climbed on up, while I fended off the many vendors trying to sell mostly rubbishy little souvenirs.
The Pyramid of the Moon
We were close to the Quetzalpapalotl Palace, so visited that next. We passed several groups with their guides, and were glad to be on our own! We did listen in occasionally as they described the various murals. We had brought a roll with us for lunch, and were glad, as, despite all the vendors, there was no food available. Finding somewhere to eat it was difficult, but we squatted down in a bit of shade by the corner of one of the pyramids. All the books warned of walking the long distances involved because of the altitude (we are at 7500 ft) and with the steep ascents and descents in the hot sun. We didn’t have that problem, as the sun went in while we were eating, and the day became increasingly overcast with large drops of rain later.
We walked back down the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Sun, which young children were scrambling up with great energy! We ascended for a short way then came back down and found our way to the badly signposted museum. This was a very modern affair containing a good many artefacts, but the really interesting thing was a huge model of this vast site, set under a glass floor, which we were able to walk over.
We continued down to the second palace, Quetzalcoutl, which isn’t open at the moment as they are in the process of restoring it. But anyway, the sky now looked very threatening. As the drops of rain fell, we made a dash to the nearby entrance building. We had decided to try to get a taxi back, as we were now much further away from the town than we were this morning. We managed to find a taxi, and the young ‘kid’ driver drove us frantically back to San Juan, charging 30 pesos. We now located an internet café, and read our few messages, but a peal of thunder warned us that we ought to get back to the campsite. We arrived just in time to bring in the few items that I had washed this morning before the rain started in earnest - the first rain of any significance that we have had in Mexico.
It felt quite snug as we drank our tea, sitting inside and listening to the rain falling. It was like being back in England!
We saw Gudi and Charlie arrive on their motorbikes.
It rained all evening, but stopped at bedtime.
Tuesday 30th March Bus into Mexico City
We were awake early with the bells! After breakfast we got ready for our 2 day trip to Mexico City. We left at 8.15 on a damp, grey morning. We walked to the square in San Juan and located the bus stop for Mexico City. A bus soon came along, and we were on our way. As we reached the first junction the men on the bus all had to get out to be ‘frisked’ by the police, then it was on through pleasant country at first, and then past some of the outer suburbs, to Mexico City. An hour later we were at the Northern bus station. We opted to take a taxi (70 pesos) to the centre. We had a very pleasant driver for this journey, and enjoyed seeing some of the sights as we travelled to the zocalo. Here we booked into Hotel Catedral, just behind the cathedral, 415 pesos (£21) for a very pleasant room.
The greyness made us think of London, but we hadn’t found Mexico City as chaotic as we had been led to believe. There are many fine buildings, but like London in the fifties, they are in need of a clean up!
By 10.50, we had left our room, and were wandering along the streets. There were dozens of photo printers right near the hotel. We tried many of them to get our photos done, but weren’t convinced that they would do what we wanted.
Much of the ground around the cathedral (and everywhere else) was being dug up, which made the going difficult, especially when roads that we wanted to walk along were closed. Also there are market stalls absolutely everywhere, so progress is slow! I had wanted a coffee, but the only place we could see was McDonalds, and I wasn’t going in there! We settled for buying some churros from a street stall!
The main square in Mexico City
The square in front of the cathedral was immense, but absolutely bare - it was like our image of the Red Square in Moscow. We made our way to the huge National Palace, which had free entry. Our overriding impression here, and everywhere else in the city, was of the number of groups of schoolchildren visiting, all neatly dressed in their uniforms. One group here had the idea of asking for our autographs, so we knew what it felt like to be famous! As my colouring is so different from the locals, I am constantly aware of stares (from both males and females!)
The Palace is renowned for its vast murals, telling of Mexico’s history, and painted by Diego Rivera. They did not appeal to me, but we enjoyed seeing the memorabilia in the parliament museum, set in the original parliament rooms. The building was vast, and we almost missed the part set up as a tribute to Benito Juarez. This contained rooms with many of Juarez’ belongings. It was very much a ‘don’t touch’ place (even when I rested my hand on the wooden rail!), but was good to see.
Next we moved into the enormous cathedral, where the vastness was the only thing to commend it to me! There were a couple of masses being held in different areas of the cathedral, but I had never seen people queuing up for confession before! There was much gold everywhere, but not as much scaffolding to hold up the sinking cathedral as we had imagined from pictures in our books - we believe it has now been underpinned.
We returned to our room to collect my sun glasses, but they were hardly needed, as the day remained very mixed - it clouded up as yesterday had, with a few drops of rain, which sent all the stall holders scurrying!
It was now lunch time, and we chose Restaurante Mexico Viejo, mentioned in ‘Lonely Planet’. It looked a bit posh, but we had excellent meals of mixed salad, Adrian’s with tuna and mine with chicken and avocado. There was more than we could eat and with a beer each, and bread etc, it came to about £8 total!
We walked back past the cathedral, where job hunting men were sitting with their neatly painted signs, advertising their professions - ‘electrician’, ‘plumber’ etc - it was like the English ‘hiring fairs’ of the 1800’s.
The job hunters outside the cathedral
We manoeuvred all the market stalls, from where ‘Imagine’ and other Beatles music was emanating and made our way to the ‘Templo Mayor’ - a major ancient site right next to the cathedral - it made us think of being in Rome. By now the rain was really threatening as we wandered around the walkways through the remains of the former Aztec pyramids (Cortes dismantled them all to build his city). Then we entered the vast museum, where again there were lots of groups of schoolchildren. Many of these were quite young - 5 or 6 - but they certainly seemed inspired by their young guides.
Vendors near the ancient ruins of Mexico City
We now walked up the road called the ‘5th May’ towards the Alameda. We came to the Palace of Belles Artes, a vast church-like building, used for various theatrical and art performances. It was under much scaffolding, both inside and out. We walked in and wandered around - it was quite grand, but perhaps not quite our cup of tea. Next to here were the lovely Alameda Gardens. With jacarandas and fountains, this was a really peaceful place to wander. We walked as far as an attractive arch dedicated to Juarez, then passed 2 more churches - San Juan with a conclave front and Santa Veracruz, which was next to the Theatre Hidalgo. Both were leaning, like many of the buildings in Mexico City that are sinking into the mud of the former Lake Texcoco, which it is built on - a bit like Venice! Opposite here was the grand old Post Office building, which we walked into.
Beautiful blue tiles on Casa de los Azulejos
As we began our walk back, we passed the Casa de los Azulejos - a house covered in beautiful blue tiles. I had noticed it as we drove past in the taxi this morning. Inside it is now a grand store and restaurant - Sanborns - so we stopped by to have tea and waffles in this charming atmosphere.
Tea in style, Sanborns
When we came out, the sky was very grey, and we had some rain and thunder. We were near the skyscraper ‘Latinoamericana’ tower, built in the fifties, but decided against a trip up it!
We passed more churches as we made our way back to our hotel. We were intrigued that a pedestrian street we took contained dozens of shops selling surgical corsets and suchlike!
The evening turned out really wet, so we were glad that we had decided to eat in the hotel restaurant. We ate a simple dish of fish and rice, with a beer each. I still felt full from the waffles. We adjourned to the bar where we both had a margarita.
Back in our room, we had a TV, and for the first time in over 2 months we heard some news in English from CNN. There were 2 items of particular interest to us. Firstly we heard of the death of Alastair Cook, aged 95. We hadn’t known how highly he was thought of in USA. Secondly we heard of the arrest of several suspected terrorists and the finding of a large amount of explosives in London - a sobering thought.
Wednesday 31st March Bus back from Mexico City
There was no noise from the traffic or the cathedral bells, but there was some extremely loud banging from an adjoining building site all through the night!
We enjoyed the unique experience of having TV news, before going down for an excellent breakfast of scrambled egg with bacon (A) and mixed fruit (R), with orange juice, tea/coffee and various bread/rolls.
We left at 9.30 for another day in Mexico City. We walked out into the grey day to the metro station at Allende. A ticket on the metro is only 20 pesos (10p) each, however long the journey. It all seems well organised, and is more like the Paris metro than our underground in appearance. We clambered into the crowded carriage, but as more people got in at each station, we felt like sardines - it did nothing for my claustrophobia! I somehow survived, and we got out at Chapultepec.
We had come to visit the Bosque de Chapultepec, a vast wooded park. We first saw the monument to the ‘boy heroes’, the ‘Ninos Heroes’, 6 young lads who jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to the Americans in 1847. Behind this was the castle, set high on a hill. Stalls were already being set up along the paved roads. After paying 20 pesos to use the loo, I had a coffee at one of the stalls, and we shared one of the fresh buns from breakfast. The coffee was a plastic cup of hot water and a jar of Nescafe (6 pesos)!
We walked up the paved road to the castle - again there were lots of groups of school children, all in their uniforms. One lot had colourful purple tops and white trousers/skirts! We looked down on to dense trees, with a few high rise buildings in the distance and could hear a band playing far below.
Mexican kids by a fountain
We were disappointed not to be able to get into the castle grounds, as this contained yet another museum (38 pesos), and all we wanted was the view! We walked back down, and then through the trees on a lovely peaceful walk through this delightful park, passing two lakes and back to another busy area of stalls and people!
We walked out of the park to the road called Reforma, which is quite grand, flanked by high buildings and fringed with tall trees and decorated with modern sculptures of cacti. We sat on one of the fine stone seats and ate our rolls (from breakfast) with butter spread with the plastic spoon from my coffee!
We enjoyed our long walk back - except where the road was all dug up, which made things really difficult. We turned off onto a side road. I really needed a loo, which are always scarce. In the end I asked in a small café and used theirs (the mens!) The pavements were often occupied by stalls of every kind, and we were hurrying now, as it was nearing 2 o’clock, our booking out time.
We made it back by just about 2 o’clock, booked out and left our bags there while we went out for a last look around. We wandered through the busy streets to Santa Domingo Square, passing all the stalls and buying an excellent black tortilla each.
A black tortilla being made for us
The buildings here showed much disturbance from earthquakes. We went into one fine building - now a museum of Mexican medicine (free). We found most of the exhibits pretty morbid, but the building was fine. The church was closed, but around the square were dozens of printers, all set up with their ancient little presses.
The sky was really grey now, so we made our way back to our hotel, collected our bags, and got a taxi (90 pesos this time) to the bus station.
We had some difficulty in finding our way to the right bus area (it was like an airport, with different booking in places), but once we did, a bus was leaving in a few minutes.
The first part of our journey out of Mexico City showed us what was meant by the traffic congestion! Also the bus got very full, and some people had to stand all the way. We saw more shanty towns on the homeward journey - we must have dozed a bit on the way! We got back to San Juan, noticing that it had rained really hard, and walked back to the Bam, getting back at 5.40. The rain then returned, as we got settled in and I cooked supper.
We had really enjoyed our trip to Mexico City.
Thursday 1st April 15 miles
This was to be our ‘catching up day’ particularly as we couldn’t drive along the Mexico City northern road today, as, to help prevent pollution, certain car registrations cannot travel on certain days, and ours was today (those ending in 1 or 2).
The day started well, with a breakfast of bacon, after which we sorted the diary and email to send. The cloudy morning brightened a bit, and we set off in the Bam at 11.45 with 3 ‘jobs’ - the washing, the shopping and the internet. We only succeeded with the last, and that with a struggle!
We started by looking for the laundrette that the campsite lady had told Adrian about. As we saw no sign of it, and we found ourselves near the pyramids, we decided to do our drive around the cobbled road surrounding them. There were several more palaces one could see on the way, but we only got to see one!
What we did find though, was a restaurant called La Gruta, set in the mouth of a cave. This sounded fun, so we gave it a try. We were the only people in there initially - the restaurant area was huge, with very brightly coloured Mexican tablecloths and napkins, which contrasted with the sombre cave surroundings.
A colourful meal set in a cave restaurant
Our waiter had spent 4 years in Dallas as a student 10 years ago, so spoke good English. He said that he preferred Mexico City to Dallas. We had been longing to try the cactus pads that we had seen people selling, so this was our chance - I had a cactus salad, and Adrian had bean and cactus soup. We must say that we couldn’t recognise the cactus amongst the other ingredients, but it was beautifully presented and tasted good. We drank a beer with this, then shared a dessert of cactus fruits filled with sultanas and pecan nuts. It was a bit like baked apple! The price was slightly higher than other meals we have had (220 pesos), but we certainly enjoyed the experience, although it was quite cool in the cave.
We continued driving around the outside of the pyramid site, and with some difficulty found the Atelelco palace. We showed our tickets from the other day, and were let in (the only visitors) to wander around yet more ruins. These had quite a lot of murals on the buildings.
We now drove back to San Juan, getting more and more frustrated with the number of topes and the chaotic traffic as we searched fruitlessly for somewhere to get the washing done, and a supermarket to get some food. In the end we gave up and headed for one of the many internet cafes. After initial frustrations, we were able to send our email home. We returned to the campsite at 3.45. The lady had said this morning that we could use her washing machine if we had no success, but she was nowhere to be seen now!
We ate cheese on toast for supper, then spent an enjoyable evening chatting to Gudi and Charlie, Peter and Madeleine in their van. We didn’t come back until nearly 11 o’clock.
Friday 2nd April 119 miles
We awoke to a sunny morning, breakfasted and left at 8 o’clock. We headed back towards Mexico City, on the route we had taken a few days ago. The visibility was good, and we had a lovely view of the 2 snow covered volcanoes, Popo and Izta.
There was a lot of traffic, many topes, and the going was very slow. We skirted the north of Mexico City, looking for somewhere to shop, and finally pulling into a Bodega store. We did a big shop, but for the first time Adrian’s visa card wouldn’t work at the till, although it worked for him to get money out to pay the bill.
We now made our way towards Tula, having to pay for an expensive toll road. We turned off that, and Adrian spied a propane place, so we were able to fill up. The country here was not very attractive, with oil refineries and suchlike.
When we reached the site at Tula we were able to use our ‘0ver 60’ status, so didn’t have to pay. We had lunch in the Bam before going in to explore yet another archaeological site. It was a long walk in, past flowering cacti - prickly pear with yellow and orange flowers, and cholla with magenta coloured flowers. Scores of schoolchildren were leaving the site, but we didn’t see any in there.
The huge statues at Tula
The notable thing about this site is the group of huge carved pillars on top of one of the pyramids. We scrambled up to see them, looking good with the pretty scenery beyond. We wandered back to the Bam in the pleasant sunshine and left at 2.45.
We found our way through the town of Tula with not too much trouble, then proceeded on our cross country route westwards. Adrian had found that there was a park with camping on the way we wanted to go. The last part of our journey was through lovely hilly country with stone walls, making us think of Yorkshire. Donkeys, turkeys and horses roamed free, and sheep were herded by Indian women looking like those from Peru, with straw hats and long skirts and aprons.
We reached Santiago Acutzilapan and the lovely Parque El Ocotal, and for about £2 were able to camp in this wonderful forest setting.
After finding our spot, and having a cup of tea sitting outside (and me having a swing on the swing hanging from a nearby tree), we walked out a bit, savouring this very different environment.
A swing on a swing, and then a campfire - what bliss!
There were fireplaces here, so we collected up a few bits of wood and pine cones. After a barbie of pork and baked potatoes, we lit the fire and sat out in our splendid isolation until 9 o’clock - a top spot!
Saturday 3rd April 153 miles
The sun was filtering through the trees, so we ate our breakfast of fruit sitting outside in our beautiful peaceful surroundings and left reluctantly at 9.15.
We drove through an old fashioned little town, and then through the large town of Atlacomulco, where we found our way to the toll road to Morelia. We needed to take the toll road in order to save time, so that we can fit in as many things as possible in these last 2 weeks.
The countryside was pretty and hilly, but very dry. We passed stalls selling hundreds of pots, and then men selling attractive looking baskets - all on the verge of what is ostensibly a motorway! Just before Maravatio we stopped for fuel and coffee.
We had lovely views down to Laguna Cuitzco as we neared Morelia. We had seen in Lonely Planet that there was a launderette in Morelia, and negotiated our way there. We were able to park quite close, so while the washing was being done, we ate lunch of enchiladas in the Bam. We put the washing in to dry, then phoned Simon. We had quite a chat, but as always it was difficult to hear, because of the traffic . When we went back to collect the washing, we found that the drier hadn’t worked, so we had to put it into another one for a second go.
It was 2.30 when we walked into the centre of yet another Colonial town. This one dates from 1500s, but was renamed after Morelos, another key figure in Mexico’s fight for independence, who was born here. We walked around his birthplace, which we hadn’t expected to be open today. Most of the buildings in the town are in pink stone, giving them rather a sombre look. I was amused at a small barbecue sitting glowing in the middle of the pavement!
The cathedral had 2 tall towers, and was quite pleasant inside. Outside the local Indians were crafting all sorts of handicrafts out of palms and reeds, presumably for Palm Sunday tomorrow.
The locals preparing for Palm Sunday, Morelia
The Governors Palace had a good selection of murals around the walls, and up the large staircase, which was interesting, as the stairs curved in 2 directions from the central stairway, instead of having straight edges.
We wandered past more buildings and squares - everywhere looked serene and sedate, there was no gaggle of street stalls as in other towns, all we saw was very middle class. After Mexico City, it was very quiet. We got back to the Bam just after 4 o’clock and drove towards Morelos Plaza, where there is a statue of Morelos on horseback. We looked into the church of Our Lady of Guadelupe, which was extremely ornate. I had wanted to see the ceiling of the dome, which we had a photo of, but a wedding was taking place, so I couldn’t.
Inside Our Lady of Guadalupe church, Morelia
The other thing to see here was the 18th Century aqueduct made up of 253 arches, built to bring water to the growing town, and which still runs for several miles.
On our way back to the Bam, we stopped to buy an ice cream, but the disinterested man didn’t deserve our custom! The ice creams were good, even if we didn’t know what flavour they were!
There were some little gypsy looking children outside the Bam, with their mothers, who were supposedly selling pistachio nuts. We had some sweets that we had been given and didn’t want, so we thought that these would be suitable recipients!
It was 5 o’clock as we left and found our way out to the road to Patzcuaro. We drove through pretty country, and arrived at El Pozo RV Park at 6 o’clock.
Sunday 4th April 64 miles
It was a much milder night. There was a very noisy train just before morning, then we had a message on the phone from Tom to say that he had a teaching job for September.
The sky was blue, but we breakfasted inside. Adrian lifted up the cooker top after I had cleaned it and found the crimping tool he had lost months ago!
We left at 8.30 for our tour of Patzcuaro Lake. We turned off first to Ihuiatzio, a little village with archaeological ruins nearby, which weren’t yet open. There were cows and horses loose on the road, and later we saw a mother pig with her 4 tiny piglets. We followed the ‘one way’ route, and ended up in the next village - Cucuchuchu. The road ran out here, and this was the first of many towns we had to manoeuvre our way out of today! We returned to Ihuatzio, seeing a lot of people beside the road waiting to take their wares to market, and others on their way to church for Palm Sunday. We had seen a village on a hill, and wondered why we couldn’t reach it when it dawned on us that it was Janitzio Island in the lake!
Having not had much success with Ihuatzio, we continued to Tzintzuntzan, where there is another archaeological site. At first we drove right through the small town, where people were setting up their craft stalls, to the lake. There was quite a lot of bird life here, but also a lot of rubbish! We drove back to the village and parked, then walked across past the craft stalls and into the convent grounds, which contained some ancient olive trees, said to be the oldest in America, brought over from Spain. Also there were 2 churches in the grounds, and we read on a notice that the Palm Sunday parade was due to be at 11 o’clock - it was now 10.00.
People were already gathering near the church, most holding their ornately hand made palm decorations. We walked back through the craft stalls and viewed some huge wood carvings and started walking up to the archaeological site behind us. We walked a long way up the road, but the entrance was still not evident. As we could see the huge bases of the temples from the road, we decided to walk back to the Bam. We had some good views to the lake, and saw attractive red flowered trees, and nearer the Bam a tree with lovely white flowers.
We walked back across to the church, where more and more people were gathering. Some were already inside the church. The cool day had now become very warm in the sun. We waited for ages, watching all the people arrive in their best clothes - some of the little girls in fancy, pretty dresses, older ones in jeans and smart blouses, and with their hair done in a variety of styles. Older Indian women wore their traditional long skirts and aprons, with shawls round their shoulders. Many younger women were carrying babies, most of whom were wearing Sunday best!
Palm Sunday Parade, Tzintzuntzan
Eventually the parade arrived, and I was quite taken aback to see that it was the re-enactment of Palm Sunday, with Jesus on a (real) donkey, and the other participants dressed up, one carrying a huge cross. I found the atmosphere really moving. The parade halted for a long while before proceeding into the church. Nearly all the crowd followed - we couldn’t imagine how so many could squeeze inside.
The balloon seller outside the church
We stayed outside with those that didn’t go in, continuing our people watching - the balloon man and the man selling churros (we bought one), the woman with her stall selling corn crisps and another woman holding her tiny baby. It must have been about an hour before people began emerging, and only then did we realise that it was all over, and everyone was dispersing!
We walked back, buying what we thought were real lemons from an old lady, but which had a very strange aroma! Back in the Bam we ate chicken tortillas for lunch before continuing with our tour.
The next town, Quiroga, had market stalls everywhere, and was really crowded, so we just drove through and continued to Erongaricuaro. This town seemed almost dead. There was a central square, rather like some in New Mexico, but very few stalls or activity. We found a phone and spoke to Paul, who told us that they had just bought another house near Watchet. We walked around the quiet plaza, and found our way to the church, where there was a wrought iron cross outside made by Frenchman Andre Breton, who lived here in the fifties.
The wrought iron cross at Erongaricuaro
Driving out of the town proved more than difficult, and in backing to get round a corner we ran into a post, badly denting the back step.
We took the road to Jaracuara, shown on our map to have a viewpoint, but the wide road narrowed to a tiny cobbled and bumpy street, and once more we had great difficulty in extracting ourselves!
We made our way now to Patzcuaro, where we intended staying in Villa Patzcuaro RV Park. First Adrian wanted to suss out the town, so we headed there, and had our final time today of getting hopelessly stuck in narrow streets!
At 4.30 we pulled into the RV Park, which was quite busy, but had a little swimming pool. I made my way there for quick swim.
Just then the couple from the neighbouring RV arrived back - they had waved to us as we drove through the town earlier. They were Dean and Alpine Kelly (and their 2 little dogs). He was a former Texan (aged 70), she Canadian, with Irish and Native American blood. They had met about 14 years ago (both had been married before), when he was travelling to Costa Rica to work on a bridge project (he was a construction engineer.) He stopped off at San Miguel de Allende and met Alpine. They had lived in San Miguel for some years, but now had a home in las Penas, near Playa Azul, and also a home on an island off Vancouver. They were very easy to talk to, both were very ‘world’ minded. They had visited Ireland and England, paddling down the Thames from Oxford to London in a kayak.
Alpine got busy cooking a stir fry for us all, which we ate out outside. Unfortunately it was rather too oniony for us. A woman they had met before arrived at that point, but also a thunder storm developed, so Dean and Alpine joined us in the Bam and we chatted until 10.30.
Monday 5th April 34 miles
It was sunny but cool, and remained like a blustery English day, with occasional hot sun. We had to sort yesterday’s diary and photos, so didn’t leave until after early coffee to explore Patzcuaro.
A combi came along straight away, so we had a ride to the centre (7pesos total) in a nice newly furnished bus. We then spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering around this busy, bustling town. The red tiled roofs made it look very attractive. Market stalls seemed to be everywhere, selling both craft goods and produce. We bought some fine strawberries for 25p and also some salad things and a beautiful cauliflower - all much fresher than in the supermarkets we have visited.
The ‘blue pot’ stall and the tomales stalls, Patzcuaro
There were, of course, a good many churches, most of them simple. The Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Salud had a figure of Mary made in the 16th century at Quiroga’s request, and had become another place of pilgrimage. The church had nice carved wooden screen doors.
The town was also well endowed with lovely courtyards - we visited the ‘house of 11 courtyards’, but didn’t find that many!
El Sagrario, Patzcuaro
We got some money from a cash machine, then caught a combi, which came along just then, back to the campsite, sharing it with several local women. We had found that time seemed to have moved on one hour, so we had a late lunch, including fresh rolls we had bought, before setting off again at 3.15 new time.
This time we were heading to a nearby town, Santa Clara, which specialised in copperware. We wandered around the streets here, where copper goods spilled out from numerous shops and all around the market place. We bought a little lizard, which we thought could go by the pond, and some tiny pots for the doll’s house.
We now had to decide where to stay tonight. We had passed a campsite on the way, but it seemed to be just that, and not suitable for RVs. We ended up by driving on the fast road, and so avoiding all the topes around Patzcuaro, back to El Pozo Trailer Park, which we had stayed at 2 nights ago. We arrived just before 4.30, now 5.30! We noticed, as before, the small blue lupins fringing the road.
Tuesday 6th April 161 miles
The day started grey, with a bit of rain, but became quite pleasant. We left at 8.40 (new time) and headed back towards Morelia. We negotiated ourselves successfully around the ‘ring road’ and continued northwards and then across Laguna Cuitzeo on a causeway. The small town of Cuitzeo was rather boggled with traffic, then we had a short hold up for road works (building a new tope!), and a long hold up for an accident - a large truck had come to grief and shed its load of hundreds of bottles of pop. Maybe it hit a tope too fast. After this, we were not amused to be stopped for a military check! In fact today’s driving was the most unpleasant we have had, and there weren’t that many topes either!
We pulled in to have coffee and a piece of the gooey puffed wheat and marshmallow stuff I had made. It was nice to see a humming bird in the rather barren surroundings.
We came to the town of Valle de Santiago nestling in the valley, rather like Wantage, but didn’t enjoy the diversion around it that we were sent on!
We continued towards Guanajuato, which we knew was situated in a steep valley and was impossible for us to drive through. We had 3 tries at locating the 17 kilometre ‘periferico’, stopping for lunch in between! When we finally got on to it, the road just wound round and round the hills, often through habitation, so plenty of topes! We could catch glimpses of Guanajuato filling the valley below, but I was feeling increasingly giddy from the travelling.
We knew that there was a so-called RV Park situated along this road, and followed directions to it. The last bit was down a steep, cobbled street, going the wrong way down a one way street! The real way round would have been too difficult for an RV. Adrian found a Canadian chap at the RV Park who watched out for traffic for us while we manoeuvred in.
After a short time to rearrange ourselves, we set off on foot to discover the town. We started by walking very steeply down cobbled streets, reminding me of Madeira.
We reached the main bit of the town, and stopped to rest for a while for me to recover from my travel sickness. A delicious ice cream helped after a while!
We soon realised that Guanajuato is a delightful town, full of character, and absolutely vibrant and bubbling. It is a university town, and is bursting with people of all ages. Attractive buildings are crammed in everywhere, numerous churches of course, but wonderful vistas wherever you look.
A delightful little Mexican boy Rosie in the ‘Kisser’s passage’, Guanajuato
The town is also a warren of vehicle tunnels, some converted from an old river that ran under the town, but many just tunnelled through the hillside to give access. Vehicles seemed to emerge and disappear all over the place.
A vehicle disappears into one of the many tunnels
There was a tiny square almost enclosed by thick trees, and this was the epicentre of it all. Later, a band was playing in the bandstand, but music was emanating from everywhere!
Above the town is a huge statue of Pipila, who was the key figure in enabling Hidalgo to win the first battle in the fight against the Spanish for Mexican Independence. We rode up to the site on a funicular railway reminiscent of Lynton and Lynmouth. From there we had a wonderful view of the town filling the valley below us.
A view of Guanajuato spread out below us
The muralist Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato, and his house is a museum which we were surprised to find still open at 6.20. The ground floor was set up as a late 19th century house, but upstairs were lots of rooms displaying his work. We have to say that not very much appealed to us, but we enjoyed the experience. Also on display was work by another famous muralist, Orozco.
Jardin de la Union, Guanajuato
Having had our bit of culture, we wandered back to the central area where we had a superb meal, right by the Jardin de la Union, the little square. We both had a filling chicken soup, then Adrian had a salad so huge, that we brought a lot back for tomorrow’s lunch - chicken, ham, cheese, bacon. I had prawns with spaghetti and a sort of ratatouille (called curry on the menu!). We had a delicious fruit drink - papaya(A) and melon (R) included, and a glass of white wine each. Total cost £10!
Outside local groups of musicians were playing, and selling their CDs. We bought one (£5) to remember this enchanting place.
University minstrels, Guanajuato
We now reluctantly began wending our way back, thinking that the walk would do us good after our large supper! People were still swarming everywhere, and the atmosphere was still vibrant.
We cleverly found our way back in the dark. It was nearly 10 o’clock when we reached the Bam.
Wednesday 7th April 63 miles
It was very quiet when we woke up. The sun was just coming up over the mountain behind us, but it was quite cloudy. We ate warm rolls, reheated from supper, for breakfast, and left at 8.50.
We drove back to the viewpoint by the old Cata mine, and enjoyed views down to Guanajuato as well as seeing some old mining memoribilia. We next stopped by an imposing church, which we thought was Cayetamo, but this was a bit further on. We actually preferred the first church! We had a problem leaving here, as a truck had come along and opened its doors, and we couldn’t get past! We got some fuel, then viewed the second church, and finally left Guanajuato, which we had really enjoyed.
We were driving through remote, hilly, tree-covered country which became drier as we neared Dolores Hidalgo. We wanted to visit this town, as it was where Hidalgo summoned his congregation to join him in the battle for Mexican independence. It was a pleasant old town, with narrow, cobbled streets. After a bit of trouble, we were able to park near the centre and walk to the square. A statue of Hidalgo filled the centre, and the church was to one side. There were quite a lot of people around, and the atmosphere was bubbling.
The statue of Hidalgo in Dolores Hidalgo
We bought ice creams in the square, then wandered back to the Bam, passing Hidalgo’s former home.
As we tried to leave Dolores Hidalgo, we drove up a difficult narrow street when the car at the front broke down as it tried to enter the main road. Men from the cars in front of us leapt out to give a push, but cars behind tooted loudly!
We found our way out, and stopped soon for lunch, eating enchiladas using the cheese, ham and bacon from last night’s meal. We arrived at San Miguel de Allende at about 2.30, pulling into la Siesta RV Park. We had just enough time to collect ourselves before we walked down into the town.
It took about 20 minutes to reach the centre of this town, which we had heard so much about. We knew that a lot of ‘gringos’ have settled here - in fact Dean and Alpine lived here for several years, and I had read a book which Emma had lent me (On Mexican Time), about an American who settled here.
Maybe the number of gringos is what we didn’t like, or maybe it was the amount of traffic, or the fact that it is rather touristy. We enjoyed our walk around, but it didn’t have the appeal of some of the other towns we have visited.
We did enjoy the market stalls, and in fact bought one or two things.
The town certainly had its supply of churches! The main church had ornate towers of pink stone which were apparently designed by a local Indian, who drew pictures in the sand for the builders. As we neared another church, San Felipe, we could see that something was about to happen. A procession was forming outside the church, and a band, dressed in olive green and white, was assembling. High above, boys were frantically clanging the huge bells. Unfortunately for us, the ‘parade’ didn’t happen for about an hour! During this time, ‘Mary’ had dropped her large pottery urn, and some of the ‘cast’ had gone off to the loo! We nearly gave up waiting, but finally the band started up, and the procession of biblical characters followed.
The procession is about to start at last!
Behind these came women dressed all in black, followed by child ‘angels’ in white. Many people were carrying huge bunches of what looked like feverfew flowers.
More of the Semana Santa procession at San Miguel de Allende
It was time now for us to begin our walk back to la Siesta RV Park, where we arrived just after 6 o’clock. We were amazed to find that in our absence we had been completely surrounded by Mexican campers, presumably coming away for Easter. We made a quick dash to the pool for a swim. After getting organised, we ate a meal of Spaghetti Bolognese followed by cheese and biscuits, lit by a candle in the new lantern we had bought. We had noticed how light it was, as we had changed time one hour.
Thursday 8th April 246 miles
We awoke to birdsong and left after breakfast at 8.30. The cornflakes we had bought tasted OK but the date said 2002 on them!
We stopped briefly at a viewpoint over San Miguel then continued to Gigante, where we bought enough to tide us over the Easter weekend.
Today was a driving day. We took a cross country road to Mex 57, which we followed north to San Luis Potosi. We stopped soon for another military check, but saying that we don’t speak Spanish usually gets us through! They just made sure that we read the notice about no firearms being allowed.
We had lunch, including the fresh rolls we had bought, and some pleasant ham, before we reached San Luis Potosi. We drove on into the town, as it was another place we had intended visiting, but the traffic was so heavy, that after getting stuck in a narrow car-lined street, we made a hasty retreat!
We headed on towards Zacatecas, driving through remote semi-desert. As we neared Zacatecas we were amused to see a road sign saying Cuidad Juarez 1230 km!
Zacatecas is the last large town that we are visiting, and caused us the most problem of any in finding the campsite (and that’s saying something!) There were no signs to tie up with the maps that we had, and we found ourselves heading out on a road which was one-way for several miles! Hence we had to go a long way before we could drive back in again! Even then, we had great difficulty in following the instructions to the campsite, which was actually a hotel, where we could ‘park’!
Looking down to Zacatecas
Like Guanajuato, we were high above the steep town, which looks like being fun to explore tomorrow. It was now just after 6.00, and we felt that we deserved a drink! The sky was blue, but it was very windy.
We had a short walk around outside, seeing all the lights of Zacatecas below.
Friday 9th April - Good Friday in Zacatecas
After a breakfast of a warmed roll, we prepared to walk down into Zacatecas, but first we ate a bun which we had bought, as a ‘hot cross bun’. I had made the cross with sultanas.
A noisy coach had pulled in beside us last night, and was either running the engine noisily or playing loud music, so we were glad to leave!
Shortly after 10.30 we walked down the steep incline to the town. The sun was warm, but the wind was strong and cool (we are at 8000ft). It seemed a pleasant town, busy today, being Good Friday, but we had difficulty in finding out when anything might be happening. It seemed to be that there was to be a procession at 8 o’clock tonight.
The cathedral here has an amazingly intricate facade, carved from pink stone, but was quite plain and bare inside. There were other huge churches of course, one, St. Augustine, was now being used as an art gallery, and we enjoyed wandering around the interesting modern pictures and models.
Next to the cathedral was the Governor’s Palace, looking like many others we have seen, but this time in pink stone. The good thing was that there was a loo in there!
The town had several nice little leafy squares, and also part of an ancient aqueduct.
The ancient aqueduct at Zacatecas
After a couple of hours, we climbed back up to the Bam to have our lunch, with the intention of visiting the 2 sites adjacent to us - the mine and the cable car. However, the queue for the cable car was now really long!
After lunch we set of to visit Eden mine. We bought our tickets, and sat waiting with the rest of the crowd for our ‘tour’. This of course was to be in Spanish. After waiting for what seemed like ages, we all started walking along into the mine. When we came to the bit where the lift would take you down, I got cold feet, and my claustrophobia got the better of me! I decided that it was better to bow out now!
As the queue was now even longer for the cable car to ‘La Bufa’, we opted for taking a taxi, which only cost us 40 pesos. It seemed a wise decision - all the world and his wife were visiting, but there was plenty of room to wander around the top of this hill, which gave good views down over the town. When we had seen enough, we thought that we would walk back down. This was quite pleasant, but meant that we had to go right down to the Cathedral, and then climb all the way up again to our spot. We enjoyed an ice cream sitting by the Cathedral when we got there, joining lots of people who seemed to be enjoying just sitting around.
A colourful street entertainer cashes in
When we had puffed our way back up to the Bam, we discovered that Adrian had lost his glasses on the way.
We ate an early meal of chicken and rice and left at 7.30 for the town. As we approached the centre, there were already crowds of people everywhere, some sitting and others walking around. We sat on some seats near the cathedral for a while, eating some tasty crisps which we had bought, and enjoying watching the children all having a good time running about.
We chatted to this Mexican family, waiting for things to happen!
We then wandered the streets for some time, wondering when things were going to happen.
Finally we heard the sound of sombre drums, so made our way in that direction. The parade was similar to the one that we saw on Wednesday, but without the biblical characters. It was incredibly long, with women dressed mostly in black, a few children, usually in white, and lots of people in long gowns, with hoods over their heads making me think of Klu Klux Klan. Also there were huge effigies of Jesus and Mary, carried aloft by 8 or 10 people each.
One of the effigies of Jesus, Zacatecas
I felt that I was glad to have seen the parade, but it really filled me with horror, and looked like the stuff of nightmares. The huge crowd watched in silence. By the time the procession had passed us, it was almost 10 o’clock, and they still had a long way to go! We wandered back up the 140 or so steps (plus all the slopes), and when we reached the Bam, we could hear the drums still continuing along the long journey. We felt ready to get into bed!
Saturday 10th April 377 miles
The sky was blue, but it was cool as we set off on our journey northwards.
Despite the lack of signs, we managed to find our way out of Zacatecas and towards Fresnillo. We had to pay 30 pesos for a short bit of toll road, but turned off into Fresnillo and got some fuel before heading out to nearby Plateros. The reason for visiting this was that it was yet another place of pilgrimage - this time it was a child effigy of Jesus that people came to pray to. We nearly gave up, as the town was already busy, and boggled with traffic and stalls. Numerous people tried to stop us, presumably to offer parking. We did take up one lad’s offer - he spoke English, and directed us to a parking spot near the church. He seemed satisfied with our 5 pesos tip - we said that we hadn’t time to be guided round (and taken into his gift shop!)
Adrian outside the pilgrimage church at Plateros
The setting was much like Esquipulas, which we had visited in Guatemala last year. We avoided most of the stalls, but did grab a chap selling hammocks, as we wanted another one as a present, and had given up seeing any.
We found the church rather unexciting - there were quite a few people just sitting in there. The figure on the altar was difficult to see. In the adjoining rooms and courtyard were thousands of mementoes of people who had been cured.
We were aware of our long journey ahead, so didn’t hang around. We had to drive back into Fresnillo to take the road north.
Today’s drive was really good. We drove through very dry country, with cacti and Joshua type trees at first, and hills in the distance. We crossed the Tropic of Cancer, and stopped for lunch beside the road, with the red/orange soil contrasting with the blue sky and the green vegetation. We joined the ridiculously expensive toll road as far as Gomez Palacio, but then thought that the ‘free’ road might be just as good (and much cheaper!). In fact we only went through a couple of towns with topes, and most of the road was good and fast. We hadn’t passed anywhere suitable to stop for the night, but just before Jimenez, we came to a restaurant with a large parking area at the back, so pulled in there at 5.50.
The sky became erratic and threatening looking.
Sunday 11th April - Easter Sunday 272 miles
We were awake early, and wanted to make an early start, as we had a long day ahead. We exchanged the little Easter eggs we had bought in Mexico City and ate a boiled egg for breakfast, waiting for the sunrise. Finally the huge squashed ball of the sun appeared from over the distant mountains.
We left at 8 o’clock, stopping soon for some fuel.
A superb day of good roads, with hardly any topes, and wonderful scenery followed. We took a nice road to Hidalgo del Parral, but were surprised and annoyed at having to pay a toll!
We wanted to see this town, as it is where Mexican Independence hero, and former, outlaw Pancho Villa was shot. The town was absolutely silent at this hour - but we hadn’t got a plan of it, so had to follow our noses. Amazingly, after driving through the centre of the town, and passing a couple of churches, we came to just the spot we wanted! The house where Pancho was shot is now a library and museum, but there was a neat and pretty square across the road, so we stopped for a few minutes in the pleasant spring sunshine.
The spot where Pancho Villa was shot, Hidalgo del Parral
Of course we had trouble getting out of the town, as always, with the lack of signs, then just one or two confusing ones.
When we made it, we came into pretty, hilly but dry country, with a lot of trees. We turned off towards Creel and stopped for coffee and little ‘Easter cakes’ - the puffed wheat concoction I had made, with the addition of tiny jelly bean ‘eggs’. We sat outside on some rocks, surrounded now by pine trees.
We travelled on through wonderful, barren mountain scenery. There were all sorts of different yellow flowers and flowering trees, but I did see one lone ocotillo with both leaves and lovely red flowers.
Arid scenery on the way to Creel
We now came to amazing canyon scenery, and memories of our trip to the Copper Canyon returned. We stopped for lunch of egg and cheese salad, then continued on our way, with more beautiful views, often with strange rocks beside the road. We passed a few log cabins, and animals - ducks, hens and pigs (one with about a dozen little piglets).
We came to the junction with the road to Batopilas, which we hope to take a trip to (the road is not suitable for our vehicle). We now had wonderful views of the canyon, but the few huge drops of rain that fell turned into more rain, and the last bit of this long journey dragged as we continued to Creel through rain, sleet and snow. This was not what we wanted, or what we had imagined when we had visited Creel 2 months ago, in the cold, and planned our return spring visit!
It was 5 o’clock as we drove into Creel, which looked very deserted and sad, with just a few of the colourful Tarahumara Indians sheltering under the verandas.
We wanted to find out about tours to Batopilas, and thought that the best place was the hotel we had stayed at on our previous visit. This would seem to be the right thing to do, as it seems that we have booked ourselves on to a 2 day trip starting tomorrow morning, for about £100 total for tour, hotel and meals. All we hope is that the weather doesn’t let us down!
Pleased with our efforts, we made our way to the KOA campsite at the far end of town. This looked deserted, but was its usual efficient looking place. We booked in, and made our way to a spot. It was now 6 o’clock, but the bad weather had settled in, and it was as unpleasant as could be! We headed for the showers, thinking that they would warm us, but were disappointed to find that they were almost cold!
There was a laundrette here, so we thought that would be a good thing to do, but it proved enormously difficult (as well as having to walk over in this foul weather), as people here seem rather uncommunicative, and words come out slowly! By now, water was pouring under the van, and also, for some reason, into it through the fan flap. The rain turned to snow for a while (and we had joked about the snow on the ground here in February!), but then the sun tried to break through briefly.
I cooked a chicken stir-fry for supper and afterwards we ate our little Easter eggs while we played yahtzee.
Monday 12th April 2 miles
The night was very cold, and we awoke to find snow on the ground, and a thick mist. We had breakfast and prepared for our 2 day trip to Batopilas, but then had a long frustrating wait, as nothing happened. Adrian went across several times to the Reception, to see if there had been a message for us (the man had said that he would ring before 9 o’clock), but there was nobody around except 2 cleaners. Even when the phone did ring, they wouldn’t answer it. We felt extremely frustrated, and at 10 o’clock drove up to the hotel in the village. Here Adrian made 2 discoveries - firstly the time was only 9 o’clock (Creel keeps a different time from what one expects). Secondly, the trip wasn’t on - not because of the weather, but because the other 4 people on it had cancelled!
Our spirits were pretty low! We wandered along to a tourist place we had visited in February, and hung around there ages while the chap fitted up a group for their trip. He couldn’t help us, but mentioned the town square. We made our way there, remembering that people had touted us here about trips on our last visit. Sure enough, there was a little tourist booth, the end result being that we fixed ourselves up with a chap called Maclen to take us on the trip we wanted on our own, for a similar price.
As we hurriedly drove back to leave the Bam at the RV Park, a couple stopped us and started asking all about our travels!
I quickly made up a few sandwiches, as this trip doesn’t include food, and we waited once more to be picked up!
All went well, and at 11.15 (10.15) Maclen arrived. He proved to be a very pleasant, quiet young man. He drove expertly and carefully (essential on this trip), except when talking to us, when he tended to take both hands off the wheel, or turn round to us! He played his Mexican music quietly while we were in the car, but turned it up immediately whenever we got out! He had learnt English in Chihuahua at a tour guide school. He made the trip to Batopilas once or twice a week, but still loved it - both the scenery and the town. When we arrived there, we found that he knew almost everyone he passed, because of his frequent visits.
We were delighted that the sky cleared almost as soon as we had left, so we had lovely views. We had driven the first 50 miles ourselves yesterday, but in ever deteriorating weather. Also, Maclen knew the best places to stop. Our first stop was to view the canyon, and an immense rock known as Cake Mountain.
We drove by several canyons, the next being Humira Canyon, where we could see the Tarahumara Indians’ plantations of beans, corn and potatoes. These quiet, shy Indians live in isolated communities, sometimes still in caves. They wear distinctive and colourful costumes, and the men are known for their swift running. We had enjoyed seeing them on our previous visit. We passed a school which the younger children attend (from 6-12 years). They stay there from Monday to Friday, and are then given money to take home for their families, to encourage them to come back the next week. From 12 years, they attend school in Creel.
As we descended Urique canyon, we walked along the road for a way, and Maclen picked us up further down. We stopped again by the bridge that we had stopped at yesterday. Adrian and Maclen walked down to a waterfall, but I stayed and photographed a little shrine shaped like a tiny church, and a log cabin. We bought a ‘cactus plant’, from a Tarahumaran woman crafted out of woven pine needles.
The little roadside shrine Tarahumaran women with their wares
We now turned off on to the rough track to Batopilas. This winds for 65 kilometres, hugging the side of the canyon, often high above it. There is often barely room for one car, but the locals often pass each other at places where only trust must get them by!
We ate a sandwich as we were driven along, then once again we walked along the track for a long distance and Maclen met us further down. We spent a long time admiring and photographing the scenery and the plants - various flowering cacti and other plants. There was a spectacular feature of rockface called modestly ‘7 step’, looking like many tiers of a great cake. The track here was reminiscent of the old St. Gothard Pass, with dozens of hairpin bends. We had dropped some 1850m (6000ft) during our descent!
The long and winding road!
By the time we reached Batopilas it was 4.30 our time. The ‘town’ consists of one narrow track alongside the river, stretching for a very long way. Considering its isolation, we were surprised to find how ‘normal’ it was. Maclen drove along this one ‘street’, which often looked as though it was ending, but just kept going, past piles of rubble, a huge white church, and a newly paved square, to ‘Juanita’s’, where we were to stay for the night. This was a pleasant little hotel, and we were given a room overlooking the river, which was a hive of activity, with women doing their washing, animals roaming and children playing.
The first thing we did was to wander out with Maclen to find somewhere to eat - being nearly 5 o’clock our time, we thought of it as supper! The third place we tried (Reyna’s), was able to provide food - it seems that Monday was a bad day!
The young woman, presumably Reyna, cooked our meal in her kitchen right next to us. Adrian had a T bone steak and I had cheese enchiladas, which unfortunately contained chopped onion, but otherwise were good. We both drank ‘lemonade’, which Reyna made from fresh limes, sugar and water. She speedily and efficiently prepared all our meals, while chatting to an assortment of young children, some of which were her own.
Reyna prepares a meal for us in her kitchen
After a while, Maclen drove us over to the other side of the river, to the ruins of an old hacienda. He left us here to explore, and to walk back ourselves. Having viewed the hacienda - derelict for over a hundred years when the mines closed, we crossed back over the river and looked at an old aqueduct before walking back down the one street. On our way we met a former Frenchman who now lives here. He was going back to visit France this summer for 3 months - he said that he missed the French food! He didn’t mention the wine, but he did seem as though he had been drinking! Or perhaps it was marijuana - Maclen had said that the people here were good - they lived from tourism and they grew marijuana, but we didn’t see any evidence of either!
We hunted hard and found a bar, selling just beer, but we both enjoyed sitting above the river with a can before coming back to our room at about 9.15 (our time). It was still really warm, and earlier had felt quite tropical. We settled for an early night, as we need to be up early in the morning.
Tuesday 13th April Trip to Batopilas
Despite the creaky bed, we slept well. We had set our alarm for 7.30 our time. The plan was for us to walk along beside the river to the ‘lost cathedral’ of Satevo, 5 miles away, and for Maclen to pick us up there and drive us back.
It was very pleasant walking along the little track in the early morning air. After a while, the sun had reached us, but it wasn’t too hot at this hour of the day. We could see one or two caves where the Indians lived, and passed a few locals, but mostly it was just us and the goats!
The 8 kilometres went very quickly. We had just spied the church in its lovely mountain setting, when Maclen passed us in his car.
We spy the ‘Lost Cathedral’ of Satevo
He waited by the church for us, and then unlocked it so that we could go inside. It was a huge church, considering that no-one much has ever lived here - there are now about 300 people living in the scattered village. Apparently it was built by the Jesuits in the 1600’s to impress the local Indians, but it seems that no records of it being built exist. Inside it was very plain, but it is used for services each Sunday.
The lost cathedral at Satevo
Maclen drove us back to Batopilas, but had trouble driving past the square as the road works here are extremely messy. We returned to Reyna’s for breakfast. She cooked Adrian a cheese omelette and me ‘bacon and eggs’ - more like a bacon omelette. Although we hadn’t eaten since 5.00 pm yesterday, and had walked 5 miles, we hadn’t felt hungry. Our plates were clean though! Reyna’s little boy of about 4 was playing with a large toy BMW mini - complete with loud music (and minus two wheels) - it must be a Mexican version! Another child, a little girl of about 8, brought through a bonny dark eyed baby of about a year. Reyna just happily carried on!
Back in our room we had a quick shower and set off on our return journey up the canyon at 11.30 (10.30).
The scenery looked fantastic, with the blue sky, as we began ascending once more. We saw some flowering cacti, and recognised some views from our journey down. It took 2½ hours to do the 65 km on the rough track back to the tarmac, then about 1½ hours to drive the paved 75 km to Creel. We ate our remaining sandwich as we travelled along. We stopped at just one viewpoint, over the wilderness of the Urique canyon. Although we could see no sign of habitation, Tarahumara Indians live throughout the area. We were pleased that it still felt warm.
We arrived back at the KOA Campsite in Creel at 3.30. We said our goodbyes to Maclen. It had been a great trip.
Farewell to Maclen
We ate supper, then walked through the chill night air into Creel. It was quite pleasant, with the scent of wood smoke permeating the air.
Wednesday 14th April 90 miles
The night was very cold and we awoke to see the ground covered in frost! However, the sky was blue, and the day later became hot. We ate tortillas as pancakes for breakfast, with lemon (lime) and sugar. Adrian finally found a tap with water, so we filled up and left at about 9.00 (8.00). We used our heart shaped hand warmers from Emma to warm our hands!
We set off for Diviserdero, which we had visited from the train in February, and wanted to see again. We drove for 44 km through attractive, pine covered scenery, with occasional glimpses of the railway and of canyon scenery. The road was very quiet at this time of day, but we did pass one or two Tarahumara Indians walking along. One woman was carrying a large baby, tied to her back, and all her goods to sell in a bag on her head. At Diviserdero, some Indians were already setting out all their crafts. We wondered how much they sold, from the few trains and occasional vehicles which stopped here.
We enjoyed viewing the canyon again, in our own time, and not rushed as we had been on the train. I photographed a young girl carrying a baby and gave her a few pesos.
We now began our drive back to Creel, stopping soon to have our coffee sitting on a rock in the now warm sunshine, surrounded by pine trees.
At Creel we got some fuel and a few bits of shopping. I revisited the mission shop and bought one or two trinkets, then we looked around the Tarahumara Indian Museum.
Tarahumaran ladies by Lake Arareco
We now drove off to Lake Arareco and stopped to have our lunch. Many Indians were sitting here, and I photographed some of the children. We drove on a few miles to Cusarare, where we wanted to walk to the falls. We first had to drive down a very bumpy bit of track, before we walked about 3 km along beside the river to the falls.
It was a really pleasant walk in the warm sunshine. At one point the track went through the river. Luckily an English speaking person was nearby to tell us which way to go. When we neared the falls, we saw Maclen in his car. We had passed him several times today, he was taking 3 women on a local tour. One time though, when Adrian thought that it was his car, and we drove over rough ground to say hello, we had strange looks from the people in it, as it wasn’t him at all!
The falls were very pretty. There were quite a few Indians around selling their crafts. We bought another little woven bag. Many of the girls were standing quietly weaving things from pine needles.
We realised that most people were brought down by tour vehicle to very near the falls, but we had to walk back. It was 4 o’clock when we reached the Bam and set off again. We had seen a beautiful western bluebird near the Bam. It seems that we should have paid to enter the Indian land here, but we didn’t know, and had no change.
We drove back towards Creel (on a road we have now gone along 5 times), and turned into the Indian settlement to visit the mission church. This time we did pay! We drove about a kilometre of rough track to the mission San Ignatio. Again there were lots of Indians around. One young boy asked us for candy!
Near here was the Valley of the Mushrooms and Frogs - an area of interesting rocks, but someone must have had imagination to name them! We met 4 young Germans trying to take a group photo, so we ended up photographing each other!
In the Valley of the Mushrooms and Frogs
We now took a rough track for 5 km to the Valley of the Monks (or Gods, or it does have another name!) The rocks here were formed into tall columns. It was pleasant walking on our own in the late afternoon sunshine.
The Valley of the Monks!
We were pleased to have fitted so much in today, but now came the difficult bit! We were heading for a campsite on the reservation, and tried taking a track through the woods to reach it. It should only have been about 3 km, but it was the longest 3 km I have ever known! Often there was hardly room for the Bam to squeeze between the trees, and often the branches hung down really low. The track itself was extremely rough! We spoke little (not at all!), but at 6.15, with great relief, we did arrive beside the lake at the makeshift campsite. Once more there were Indians trying to sell us things (only the children - the women never ask).
After a quick look at the lake, we came back to the Bam and Adrian made the annoying discovery that one of the tyres has a problem, and will have to be fixed in Creel tomorrow (and we were hoping for an early start). I bashed my toe, then soon afterwards a tin fell on to my foot, so it was a disastrous little while!
By now though, Adrian had lit the barbie to cook potatoes and beef chops. We ate these with pinto beans (the tin which had fallen on my foot), followed by toasted marshmallows (we gave a couple to some local kids). At bedtime looked out at the stars.
Thursday 15th April 217 miles
Lake Arareco in the early morning
It was a cold night, but a beautiful morning with mist on the water. We had breakfast and left at 9.45 our time. I had finished reading my book by John Chalkley, which I had really enjoyed.
We drove into Creel and found a tyre repairer. He fixed our tyre, charged us 40 pesos, and we had left by 10.15!
At San Juanita we came to a junction and had to decide whether to take the shorter, unpaved route, or the longer (by 50 miles) paved route. We opted for the latter, thinking that the better roads would save us time.
At the next junction we came to, the land was flatter with a lot of orchards, but then we ascended into the hills again. We stopped for lunch of excellent tortillas with views down to the plains. From then on the road was good but slow, as we wound around the mountains. Just before Basaseachi, we were stopped for a Military check. The young chap came into the Bam (where everything had fallen down because of the rough road) and looked into the cupboards. He tried the wardrobe first, which we had tied up because it always comes open on bumpy roads. He saw this, so didn’t try to open it! They then waved us on!
The Basaseachi Falls are the highest in Mexico, and the third highest in North America. We arrived at 2.45, parked and began the one kilometre walk along a rough path to the falls. We walked through fine gorge scenery, climbing up and down, and finally came to the area of the falls. These fell away from beneath us, so we could only glimpse them, but the vertical cliffs all around were really impressive.
A glimpse of Basaseachi Falls from above
We walked across a narrow metal bridge, which made a loud noise as we trod on each section, and when we had viewed enough we began our return walk. We had contemplated camping here, but realised that the camping area must be from the other road. Anyway, we wanted to get as far as possible today, as time is running out.
We reached the Bam at 4 o’clock, and after a quick drink, we continued on our way, leaving at 4.15. We wound round and round, up and down, through this wonderful mountain scenery, with a variable road surface! There was almost no habitation, no road signs, and very little traffic. When we did get behind a long lorry, towards the end of our drive, we couldn’t overtake because of the winding road. Eventually we arrived at Yecora at 6.45, where we pulled into a Pemex. We filled up with petrol, and asked if we could stay for the night.
All was well. I cooked a bacon and olive omelette for supper. There was a nice sky.
Friday 16th April 243 miles
We woke early and left before breakfast at our time of 7.40. As we drove through more mountainous wilderness country, we saw the sun come up but then disappear into some cloud.
We stopped to have our breakfast, leaving just after 9 o’clock and continuing through more remote country and winding constantly up and down. We must have had more ‘downs’, as, by the time we stopped for coffee 2 hours later, we had cacti around us and not pines, and it was hot!
We had only passed a couple of small settlements, but now the road became straighter, as we had come out of the mountains.
We stopped for lunch of beans on toast, leaving at 1.15. Before we knew it, we were skirting Hermosillo, with all the trappings of a large town. We stopped at both Leys and Walmart, and bought one or two things for the next few days (like wine and drinking water), and also a new cartridge for the printer.
We realised how much we had been enjoying being away from ‘civilisation’, but headed out for 70 miles to the coast at Bahia de Kino (the reason for our pushing on so far for the last couple of days!)
The countryside was flat and dry. By 4.30, we had reached Kino Nuevo (where the RV Parks are), and found a place right above a lovely sandy beach. It was pretty windy, but the first thing we did was to have a pleasant swim in the sea.
It was nicely warm as we did a few ‘jobs’, like cleaning the outside of the Bam. We realise that we are back in ‘U.S.’ country - prices are in dollars, and more expensive than we have been used to. 20 dollars for the site, and the showers are cold! Also, the Americans who speak to us don’t know what to say when they find we are from England!
Clouds came up, but nevertheless Adrian lit the barbie, and poured a margarita!
Enjoying a last snatched evening on the beach, Bahia Kino
Luckily the wind dropped, and we enjoyed our last barbie, sitting above the beach. We ate pork, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and a couple of unknown Mexican vegetables! The Baja wine was excellent. We finished with a few toasted marshmallows, then took a pina colado onto the beach and watched the lovely sky.
Saturday 17th April 177 miles
The kids had been revelling all night! We awoke to a windy, cloudy morning, but still had a short walk on the beach before coming back for breakfast.
After that it was a morning spent cleaning and clearing up in readiness for our return journey. We did one load of washing, which dried well in the wind. We had lunch and left at 1.20.
Further along the road we phoned Si and left a message about our flight, and used the rest of the phone card speaking to Emma. We hadn’t been enticed into the sea for a swim this morning, but I couldn’t resist a quick one now!
So at 2 o’clock we set off on the 70 mile drive to Hermosillo. We negotiated around Hermosillo, which didn’t seem to have much to attract us, and then continued north across flat country with hills in the distance. We stopped to get petrol at a place called Benjamin Hill! and arrived at Punta Vista RV Park, Santa Ana at 5.30pm. It was near a busy junction, but seemed like a little old fashioned English campsite. The owner Edgar came to chat, and later his wife Ana came to talk. She was originally from Mississippi, but had lived in San Francisco for some years, before coming to Mexico. They seemed a very pleasant couple. We cooked fish and ate outside - there was a nice sky.
Sunday 18th April 241 miles
It was cool at first, but there was a clear blue sky. We ate pancakes for breakfast and left at 10 o’clock. We stopped at the next town, Magdalena, and found the main square.
The church in Magdalena where we visited Kino’s mausoleum
There was a nice church here but also it was where Kino was buried. We found the mausoleum, where we could actually see his skeleton, which we found a bit strange.
We started listening to the end of our travels in Central America last year. As we neared the border, we were listening to us crossing the border last year!
We had to stop some miles before the border to have our Mexican vehicle permit removed from the windscreen. Then before we knew it, we were in the Mexican town of Nogales, which was bigger than we had imagined.
We found ourselves in the queue for the U.S. border. I changed the rest of our Mexican money. We were worried that we still had our Mexcian tourist visa, so I tried to talk to the officials to ask them what to do. They were very rude, and told me that I couldn’t talk to them, and shouldn’t be there! They said we had to hand it in in Mexico. We parked the Bam, to walk to the office, but a man shouted at us that we couldn’t leave the van there, it was blocking the lane. We were amused, as this lane, No 8, had a sign saying that it was for RVs only, and was always open, but it was closed - I had walked up to see. They opened it for us, said that we didn’t have to turn in our Mexican visa, and proceeded to inspect us. The chap came into the Bam, having asked the usual questions about what we had with us. He looked in the fridge, and came out rejoicing, with a pack of frankfurter sausages. He rudely told me that they were meat (which I doubt!), then we had the ‘man and dog’ inspection. Luckily all was well, and they finally waved us on.
It was now 1.15 by our time, so after a fruitless search for a Walmart here, we pulled in to have some lunch (minus the frankfurter sausages!)
We now drove on past Tucson to Phoenix. Although we had spent several days around Tucson in November, seeing it from the Freeway showed no familiarity at all, apart from a couple of mission churches.
Also we had driven right around Phoenix last year, but could recognise very little. We located Walmart at Tempe, where we hoped to stay tonight. We took in a disk with about 170 of my photos on, but had to wait absolutely ages while a chap sorted out his photos. Meanwhile I had bought another photo album to match the others, but was most unimpressed with the selection of food!
Looking out from the Bam in Walmart carpark, Tempe
We came back to the Bam. We had been keeping our time 1 hour ahead for the last few days thinking that it would be right when we got into Arizona, but now found that time here is 2 hours back from the time we are keeping! We decided not to change, as we will soon be leaving for England.
We drove around for a bit, hoping to find a more inspirational shop, but as we had no luck, we came back to Walmart. We looked into the adjacent flower nursery, which seemed much like one you would find in England. We started talking to one of the workers, Shane. We had a lovely chat about plants - which ones we could grow in England etc. We also spoke to a former English lady, now living here. It was a happy time.
We ate pizza for supper, and thought how rich and colourful Mexico was compared with USA.
Monday 19th April 23 miles
We woke early, but as we were keeping time 2 hours ahead of here, we dozed for a bit. We left at 10 o’clock.
We were out into Phoenix’ Monday morning traffic, but managed to find our way to ‘Ken’s Storage’, where we will be leaving the Bam tomorrow. Adrian chatted to Ken.
Now it was time to find our way to Tempe Travel Trailer Park, where we intended to spend our last night. It was as yuk as the RV Park opposite it, but we always need somewhere with good facilities for our last night.
We positioned ourselves near the entrance so that we were near the pool/laundry/showers and set about getting organised for flying home. I hung the washing on a line, as it hadn’t dried much in the drier. Sure enough the owner came along and told me to take it in! At least by then it was almost dry, so I ignored him!
The pool was lovely, and we both enjoyed a swim in the warm water, followed by a shower in fully working showers! But oh for some of Mexico’s free and easy attitude!
The day was hot and sunny as we lunched outside and continued with our packing, which seemed like trying to get a quart into a pint pot!
After drinking a beer outside, we ate our meal of excellent tilapia fish sitting in the warm sunshine.
Tuesday 20th - Wednesday 21st April 9 miles
We were awake early, and got ready to leave. We weren’t able to use the pool, as I had hoped, because it was still locked.
We left at 10.45 (our time), arriving at Ken’s Storage place soon after 11.00. Adrian did the official stuff, then it was off in a taxi to the airport. We had a very chatty taxi driver, who told us about the snow they had in Phoenix in 1985!
Our time at Phoenix Airport was a fiasco - lots of waiting about and queueing, which took all our time until boarding at 1.00 (11.00) for our 11.35 flight to Cincinnati.
I had made a sandwich, and we were glad of it, as no food was provided on this flight, only a drink. Also we didn’t have individual monitors, and no films were screened.
We had a family next to us with 3 small girls, dressed in pink. The blue eyed baby, of nearly a year, was fractious and moaned most of the time.
We flew over a lot or arid scenery, but did pass some snow topped mountains. As we came to Cincinnati, the scenery was very green, with a lot of trees, a grey sky and the big brown Ohio River.
We had just time at Cincinnati to have a cup of tea and a bun before it was time to board for Gatwick. Again on this flight, there were no individual screens - we particularly like to look at the flight map, to see where we have got to, so Adrian was really disappointed. We passed some of the time watching an enjoyable nonsense American film called ‘Cheaper by the dozen’, about an unlikely couple with 12 children.
We did get served a meal this time, but booze was extra - £3 or $4 for a glass of wine, so we didn’t bother! Adrian wanted to eat his cheese to supplement the meal, which meant delving down into the rucsac, which was up in the locker. After that we both dozed a bit (despite the flashing of the main monitor, and no masks provided! OK, it was a cheap flight!)
We were given a light breakfast as we neared England, but by now it was cloudy, and by the time we arrived at Gatwick, it was raining hard. I still didn’t think that it warranted them playing ‘Oh little town of Bethlehem’ over the loudspeaker though, as we taxied down the runway!
We got through the formalities quickly, and were met by Simon, who drove us back to Hermitage through almost constant traffic jams and in dreadful weather!
Not surprisingly, everywhere looked very green! We got to Elm Gable at about 10.30 local time, and were soon attacking the mountain of post. Colourful Mexico seemed a long way away!