San Miguel de Allende to the Pacific Coast Feb. 07, 2006

Filed under: Mexico — Aaron and Amy at 12:08 pm on Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Following are several travel logues written as chapters over the past month. Although we intend to update more frequently we do not always have the opportunity. We hope you understand and appreciate your interest in our adventure.

We finally left San Miguel de Allende on January 3rd, heading for the beach in the general direction of Manzanillo. We spent a night in transit at a Pemex (gas station) on a small highway skirting the northern side of Lake Chapala (Lake Chapala is South of Guadalajara). Pemex stations are well known for allowing overnight parking for truckers and RV’s, but we found a gem for an overnight stay! This Pemex had a restaurant, small mechanic’s garage, lavanderia (washing machines), showers, bathrooms and a small soccer field that was perfect for the dogs! The vigilante (security guard) backed Aaron into a spot between some trucks and we settled in for the evening. There was a “dog” that belonged to the owners and also served as additional security. Lobo was his name and he was a spitting image of Khorrah, except for his eyes, which were ice blue. The attendants stated Lobo is a wolf (hence his name) that the owners purchased for 3,000 pesos (about $300 US). They put Lobo away so the dogs could romp for a bit and we met the owner’s son and grandson. We had a wonderful dinner while watching some Spanish dubbed TV and called it quits for the day. Aaron took advantage of the showers and we had some laundry done.
The next day we were very excited to be on our way to the beach! After a year of preparations we would finally be on our Mexican beach! We thought we would try to find a dry-camping spot (no hook-ups or facilities provided) in Barra de Navidad, but because we were losing light we settled on a spot in the village of San Patricio Melaque. We expected it to be free, but when we stopped in the village to make sure we were going the right way we were informed there is a small fee because they now provide water. We arrived at the site to find quite a few RV’s lined up by the beach, some with palapas built right next to the rigs. We parked the RV and asked some people playing bocce ball in the middle of the road what the necessary procedures were in finding a location. They informed us to park wherever we could find a spot and Ramiro would find us to collect the fees. We walked around and considerately asked some of the residents if we could park in an obviously available spot next to their rig. After several “no” answers with explanations of “my dog likes to sleep there” or “we like our privacy” or “I really don’t think there is enough room”, we spoke to another person playing bocce ball. He suggested we stay right where we were which was at the entrance under a tree. A gentleman approached us and said, “That section there is for the French-speaking residents, and that section over there is for the English speaking – but there isn’t any room. These people are from French Canada and really like to live among themselves. They are a quieter people and there are fewer fights. They like to keep it that way. It’s not really segregated, but they like their own people”. Flabbergasted at this man’s comments, we asked where the hell the Spanish-speaking people park. We left our RV under the tree and headed into town with the dogs to find an ATM and dinner on the beach. We discussed what had just happened with great disgust and disappointment. Talk about culture shock! Driving into an RV park full of a French Canadian clique is the worst we have ever experienced. Fortunately for us these are not the first French-Canadians we had met. Gyslin and Felix is a wonderful couple we befriended in the RV park in San Miguel de Allende. They are very adventurous, curious about the local people, their customs and language and they mingle with others that are not from Quebec. Our last evening in San Miguel we had dinner with some friends that informed us that Gyslin and Felix are not the average type of people from Quebec. They explained in detail the same kind of cliquey behavior we experienced upon arrival in San Patricio Melaque. At first we couldn’t figure out how someone would want to travel to another country only to surround themselves with their same “kind” of people and segregate themselves from everyone else. We concluded that not all travelers are like us. In fact, most are probably not like us. The entire purpose of our trip is to experience the local people, language, food, culture and history. Other people simply want to pick up their lives and spend 3-6 months doing the same thing they would at home with the same people as at home; only they get to live on a Mexican beach. Aaron couldn’t shake his first impression of the place, so we were set to leave the next day. After we had a lovely dinner in a beach restaurant with the dogs, we walked home to the RV park. Everyone was asleep, locked tightly in their RV’s – except for one section of the RV park. There were about 20 people of all ages celebrating together under a tree. After we got home Aaron said, “You know what? Let’s go hang out with the only people here who are having fun!” The only liquor we could offer was an open bottle of rum, but that would have to do. We walked passed all the Quebecer’s dark RV’s and walked right up to the Mexicans and asked if we could join their party and get to know them! Manuel is the patriarch and he immediately greeted us and prompted EVERYONE to introduce themselves! There were about 5 different families celebrating New Year’s and Day of Kings holidays together at the beach. We introduced ourselves and told them where we were from and what we are doing on our trip. Everyone was as enamored with us as we were with them! Manuel, his wife and his mother were a few of the adults that spoke to us more regularly than others. Only Spanish was spoken until the kids started asking us the English equivalent of some select Spanish words and names. Then Aaron taught them the days of the week! Of course one of the reasons we wanted to be there was to learn Spanish, which was quite clear to them. Sometimes it seemed we were playing charades in order to convey the correct word in Spanish! We stayed for about 3 hours before we excused ourselves – and they kept on partying! During the course of the night it was discussed that Manuel had a fishing boat, Aaron had enough fishing gear for 3 people, and it was Amy’s birthday in a few days. Manuel declared they would fish in the morning and then we would have a fiesta for Amy’s birthday in the afternoon! The next day some of the guys fished, we all played on the beach and then had our fiesta. Some of the girls wanted to braid Amy’s hair, so they gave her some stylish beach braids on the top of her head. They are great in the heat, when you are on the beach and not bathing every day – but since they only did a portion of her head they only lasted 3 days. We ended up staying two nights, but that was enough in this touristy little beach village. We enjoyed our first taste of the beach, but we were really looking for something with fewer foreigners. We said our goodbyes and traded contact information and were on our way in search of another beach.
We were looking for a place where we could pull up to a restaurant and ask permission to camp for a few days. The next place after Manzanillo (a big resort destination) was El Real (south of Tecoman). When we turned onto the road that runs parallel to the beach we discovered lots of restaurants with small pools and kiddy waterslides. We drove along until we found a restaurant that had a place to park right on the beach. We asked the vigilante across the street if we could park here for 2 or 3 nights and he said of course! A Manager-looking gentleman came out of the restaurant and Aaron conveyed our desire to stay for a couple nights. He said it would be very safe and we could use all their facilities (pool, bathroom, shower, fill RV with water). Aaron gave the vigilante a tip and we backed in the RV. The Manager introduced himself as Rafael and asked if we would be joining them for dinner. We got the RV settled and then had some dinner and cerveza at a beautiful restaurant right on the beach! There were two red flags on the beach and the waves were pretty big. We asked our waiter (who was the Manager Rafael, catering to our every desire) if they were very big right now. He said no, they are regular right now but they get very big at night. We watched the waves crash on the steep brown sandy beach, wondering if we would even be able to play in the surf! During dinner we were watching the waves and the birds flying just above the water when Aaron spotted something interesting in the water. Amy saw the same thing earlier but thought it was just waves crashing. It was a whale!! It was about 100 feet offshore and appeared large and very slow. We anticipated its next surface location further south and there it blew again! A big beautiful spray of water from his blowhole! Amazing! We asked Rafael about it and he didn’t know what kind of whale it would be, also indicating it is not common along this shoreline. We congratulated ourselves on a parking spot well found, and turned in early.
The next day was Saturday, which was Amy’s 27th birthday. We woke up and Aaron made her apple cinnamon pancakes in the RV. Aaron asked Amy what would make her day complete, and all she wanted was to relax and sit on the beach. Just as Amy was about to slather on sun block, Aaron presented her with a surprise birthday present. In the short period of time we had been here in El Real, Aaron had managed to find a masseuse for Amy’s birthday! She is Cuban-born, has been here in Mexico for 25 years and is right down the street from us. She also has a chiropractic office so Amy got a combined massage with an adjustment! It was different than any other massage she has had and was really a great part of the day. We walked back to the RV along the beach, and then settled under the restaurant’s palapa to begin lunch. After relaxing and enjoying the beach, sun and shade, Rafael and a handful of waiters and waitresses walked up behind Amy singing the Mexican version of a happy birthday song! She was utterly surprised and couldn’t believe Aaron had managed to pull this surprise off as well! Rafael basically said it was okay to do so and all the waitresses gave Amy a hug! This isn’t a TGI Friday’s! That’s for sure! After being prompted to eat the first bite of the cake with only her mouth, Amy reluctantly conceded. Upon doing so, she quickly had her face smashed into the cake! After purchasing a hammock and losing some flip-flops to the ferocious waves of El Real, we called it a night, and a wonderful night it was.
The next day was Skylos’ 2nd birthday, so Aaron gave the dogs some leftover chicken from the refrigerator. We worked on some necessary items on the RV for a while, and then had some great fish tacos and beer. Aaron decided the surf had died down a little and threw in one of his surf fishing rods. After a while he pulled in a little crevalle jack. A short while later he got everyone’s attention after reeling in what we believe to have been a 3-foot long angel shark, which looked sort of like a small ray. It was very busy at the restaurant and on the beach because this is the last day of a weeklong holiday. Looking around at everyone enjoying themselves, we reveled in the fact that we were the only gringos there! Finally we had found a place where there were no other foreigners, only Latinos! We really enjoy talking to locals, which allows us to practice our Spanish as well as get to know them.

Continuing South along the coast from El Real;

We left El Real and stopped at the Bodega (grocery store) in Tecoman to get more supplies before hitting the road again. Some friends we met at the San Miguel campground suggested our next destination to us. They were reluctant to release the information at first, but then decided we were worthy. Out of respect for them we will refer to it as the village.
As we drove from Tecoman to the village, we wound around hills that opened up into breath-taking bays with beaches that seemed to stretch for miles. We thought we had missed the village and stopped to ask directions several times. (Not all villages have names, and not all named villages have signs indicating their name). We spotted another RV ahead of us on the road, wondering where they were headed. This is actually only the second RV we have seen on the roads. We saw one class C (like ours, with the bed over the cab) further inland, but all the others have been in the RV park in San Miguel. We saw the driveway for the village and exited towards the beach. We drove into the village and headed in the direction we assumed we should go. We encountered a local who said there were two roads leading to camping areas, but the one ahead was dangerous. We turned around and asked around to find out where we could park. After speaking to some locals and the policeman sitting on a porch we were headed in the right direction. The larger class A RV (bus like) had pulled down into the village and a woman had gotten out to determine where to park their rig. We gave them the information we had acquired and headed in the same direction. As we came to the end of the road there was a man sitting under a palapa (thatched hut) on the beach. We asked him if it was OK to park here for a while and he indicated there was no problem. When Aaron asked if the area was safe, the local pointed to a military base 50 feet away and said of course its safe. Aaron decided to speak to the military guards to make sure it was OK to park in front of their base, right on the beach. They said there’s no problem and assured him of our safety. Aaron promised that if he caught some fish he would bring them some, and they all accepted with enthusiasm.
Graeme and Moira were the couple from the other RV. They are also on an open-ended trip through Canada, the US and Mexico. They are from England, but purchased their rig in the states and plan to ship it home and sell it when they are done with their trip. They are a wonderful couple, and we really enjoyed their company on this beach with few other inhabitants. Moira is an excellent cook, and she graciously prepared several dinners for us. Moira is a nurse back in the UK, and Graeme used to drive tour busses (for bands on European tour) all over Europe. This experience enables him to easily maneuver their 38’ rig around Mexico.
When we first asked the man under the palapa if we could park here, he told us the fenced-off area we saw on the beach is a turtle sanctuary! The fence was made of branches and wire to keep the baby turtles in and as many predators out as possible. There was no cover on the top of the fence, so they also had small round mesh covers over where the eggs are buried. After the turtles lay their eggs on the beach at night, the scientists (guys standing guard under the palapa) collect the eggs and rebury them within the sanctuary. They are marked with sticks indicating when they were buried. As soon as we walked out onto the beach you can see the holes that turtles have dug in order to lay and bury their eggs. There are also sets of tracks from the turtles all over the beach. Some are from the mother turtles going onto the beach and back into the water, and then there are a whole bunch of teeny tiny tracks that are from the babies that have hatched and fled to the ocean. (The scientists apparently don’t get all the eggs in time. This is evident by the baby tracks that make it to the ocean on their own and by the remains of eggshells that were eaten by predators.) After the eggs are buried under the sand for 45-46 days, they begin to hatch, crawling out from the sand. Once enough babies have been collected throughout the day, they are released towards the ocean at about 10:30-11:00 p.m. We witnessed different stages of the entire process out of order. When you look at the pictures in the photo album, the pictures will be in the correct order in which the events actually take place. After speaking with the attendant, he showed us a box of about 50 squirming turtles, desperately trying to get out of the box. On several occasions we asked whether or not the turtles needed to be in or have any water after hatching and before being released, but he said no. We came back at about 10:30 p.m. and helped to collect the babies as they oozed from the sand. Some holes that contained eggs only sprouted a couple babies who leisurely crawled out of the sand towards the light that is provided (they are attracted to light). Other holes oozed baby turtles in amounts ranging from 10-20; one coming out right after another. They all crawled around on top of one another trying to break through the mesh dome that was protecting them from birds above. We were all standing around using our flashlights intermittently to look for babies. Amy turned around one time and discovered that about a dozen babies had emerged without any of us noticing! They all started to crawl towards the light, one by one falling into the plastic box that was buried in the sand in order to collect them. Once the attendant determined we had enough in the box (about 100), we walked them to the ocean’s edge to release them. One of the attendants had a sling-shot to get rid of any birds that attempted to pray upon them! There were two different kinds of turtles in this batch; black turtles and gulfina turtles. The black turtles were considerably faster than the gulfina, so they reached the water’s edge first. This beach has incredibly large and ferocious waves that have created a steep wall at the water’s edge. Then there is a plateau for about 6 feet and another steep incline. The turtles are released at the top of the slope closest to the water, but even once they get down the slope, they are usually washed back up to the top at least once by the waves. We all wait until the last baby turtle has gotten completely into the ocean before we go back to the sanctuary to collect the next batch. The attendant gathers the hatchlings throughout the night, and takes down a box each time it is full enough. He usually makes 4 or 5 trips releasing the turtles in one night. All babies that hatch during the day are saved for the first release at 10:30 p.m. After giving these baby turtles a helping hand in the first stage of their life we are mesmerized, and saunter off to bed. The next morning we set our alarm for 7 a.m., wanting to take advantage of this beautiful place we are in. The beach where we are camping is called Long Beach. It is actually one of three surrounding this village. There is nothing on this beach but the turtle sanctuary, the military base and us. The beach stretches for about ¾ of a mile to the north. It ends at a rock wall that reaches about 600 feet high. We wanted to walk all the way to the end of this beach, and that best time to do that is in the early morning before it gets too hot. We took the dogs and started walking on the cool sand. We discovered more and more turtle tracks as we walked. There must have been hundreds of them! Some holes were in the middle of the sand on the highest plateau while others were all the way up underneath the shrubs. These turtles have quite a trek on this beach with such steep hills! Both the mothers and the babies! As we were walking Aaron noticed a turtle slowly crawling in the sand towards the ocean! She had finished laying her eggs and was headed back to the ocean! Fortunately I had my camera and got some fantastic shots of her returning to the water. The dogs were VERY interested in her, but we were able to keep them at a distance so as not to disturb her. As soon as she headed down the last hill the hardest part was over! Now she just had to fight the waves to get back in! You can almost hear her sigh in relief as the first wave rushes over her body. First it carries her out to sea, and then another one comes and pushes her back up the hill. Finally she is successful, and we watch as she goes under water for a while, and then breaks the surface for some air before heading home.
Unfortunately Moira had just missed the turtle returning to the ocean during her walk that morning. We all went back out that night to see if we could find some more turtles laying eggs. We walked along in the dark silence of the night looking and listening for anything that resembled a slow-moving turtle. We heard something in the bushes and sure enough there was a turtle digging in the sand! We couldn’t see her so we didn’t know if she was digging the hole for her eggs, or if she was already burying them. All four of us were crouched next to the bushes just listening to her fling the sand away. Suddenly Amy realized we were all just staring in this one spot and that maybe we should look around and see what other activity could be found. Sure enough, less than 10 feet away was another turtle heading for the ocean. We watched her until we were sure the water had swallowed her. We walked along a little further and Moira spotted a turtle that was trying to get out of the grasp of the waves that were pounding her on the beach. It was a game of give and take. Every time she gained some ground another wave would take her back to the sea. Finally she didn’t come up for another try. We walked further south thinking she may try again after drifting in the current for a bit. We were pleasantly surprised to see another turtle get up the beach – we assumed and hope that it was the one from before. We watched her slow ascent as she headed towards the bushes and started to dig. At this point there were so many turtles in different stages of the process that we could walk from one turtle to the next and monitor their progress. One turtle that Aaron, Moira and Graeme were watching actually went to three different holes that already existed before choosing the perfect one for her babies. We sat and watched one of them dig for a long time. Aaron was starting to fall asleep, so we watched a little longer and then called it a night. There were other people that were starting to appear from the village. It kind of broke a trance we were all experiencing. Watching the miracle of birth and nature’s process was truly an exhilarating experience! Moira and Graeme’s last night at the beach was celebrated by another great dinner prepared by Moira. As we began to trod off to bed, Moira and Aaron noticed a noise that we were familiar with by then. While we were gabbing away, a turtle had climbed all the way up the beach and was digging a hole within 10 feet of Moira and Graeme’s RV!!! She actually moved around for a while, trying out different holes. At one point she was digging within 10 feet of our RV! The dogs were going crazy inside listening to her dig! She ended up in her original hole by the other RV and didn’t leave until about 8:30 the following morning. We have heard from other travelers that the turtle’s lay their eggs all along the pacific shoreline, so we hope to experience this on another magical beach!
We took out our kayak together for the first time in Mexico the first full day we were here. As we mentioned before, the waves are quite ferocious and the water’s edge steep. We waited for a lull in the waves and made it out successfully. We wanted to head in the direction of the rocks that jut out in front of the village and the other beaches that surround the village to our right. Aaron had his fishing poles trolling behind us and we were looking for a good place to put in the anchor. As we skirted the first set of rocks, we saw a seasonal resident of the village. Warren and his wife Sherry live here for about 5 months out of the year when they are not in Colorado. Every morning Warren goes spearfishing. He brings home some fish to eat, but always gives some to the local villagers. When our friends Jim and Angie told us about this village, they told us to look for the blue school bus and we would find Warren and Sherry; and here he was floating in the ocean just off the side of our kayak.
After riding a wave into the beach, Aaron went to catch some bait at the mouth of the river with his cast net. This part of the village has some really beautiful rocks that stretch towards the sky. Some parts of the rocks have holes in them so water comes crashing through it like a chute. Other rocks are actually small islands, and the waves dramatically brake between them.
There are palapas set up along the beach that are rented out for people to camp underneath. There are a few dramatic palapas that are perched on top of some of the rocks overlooking the village, beaches and the bay. Most camp in tents, but the weather is so pleasant here that some people don’t bother with a tent and simply sleep in a hammock.
Aaron took Graeme out in the kayak but it wasn’t so easy getting passed the waves that time. The waves tossed them and the boat around like rag dolls. It snapped two of Aaron’s fishing poles and forced sand into every imaginable part of the reels. They got everything organized and got out into the ocean and had a great time. Aaron managed to get all the sand out of the reels and will attempt to fix the rods. He brought 6 different kinds of fishing poles with us on the trip, so at least he won’t be incapacitated while he mends the others. That wasn’t the end of the learning experiences on the kayak. Aaron went out fishing by himself one day and needed some more bait. He was coming in to the beach and a wave capsized the boat on the way in. Unfortunately he lost his cast net and a fishing pole. The water wasn’t deep, but the waves were creating poor visibility. Aaron and a handful of guys that were helping him were not successful in locating the equipment.
Warren and Sherry invited us to their house for dinner one evening, and we had another opportunity to get to know some more fantastic people. Warren prepared a skip jack tuna that he caught that day and Sherry prepared some plantains, a wonderful papaya, rice and beans. We all ate like kings and queens until we were full! Aaron was invited to go lobster hunting that night, so we excused ourselves and he made it to the meeting place just in time.
The departure time was set for 9:00 PM and Aaron showed up just in time only to find everyone asleep. After a stiff cup of coffee and toast we headed to the lancha (fishing boat) at around 10:00 (we are getting better at Mexican time). The lancha took us expeditiously to our first stop. Aaron was unprepared for what happened next as his friend Socrates (that’s right his full name is Socrates Ulysses!) stuck an air hose in his mouth and dove overboard. The air hose had a BC for breathing through and was attached to a large gas air compressor at the other end on the boat. Aaron later found out that during the summer they dive in this manner to depths of over 100 feet in search of large lobster. Aaron, equipped with free diving gear alone, jumped in after him. Socrates was down at depths ranging from about 15 to 40 feet and consistently returned to the lancha to deposit his catch that contained numerous lobsters, octopus and various types of fish. All of which were caught using a gancha (3’ shaft with a large hook attached to the end). The idea was to swim up to your prey in utter darkness using an underwater flash light and get the business end of the gancha past so that the hook can be pulled back, thus capturing your prey. In the course of about eight hours Aaron was able to catch one lobster and two fish, neither of which were really worth capturing. Meanwhile Socrates managed to fill the boat. At the end Aaron was offered the opportunity to use the compressed air. Under a full moon with no previous scuba experience Aaron dove in with all the instruction that he needed. Socrates calmly looked at him and said “Tranquilo” (Relax). Aaron stayed down for about thirty minutes without seeing a single animal. Apparently Socrates knew the hunting had come to an end and was only appeasing an obvious desire expressed by his new gringo friend. Aaron’s efforts, although fruitless, were rewarded with a small portion of the catch. Aaron, Amy and a few friends ate lobster over the next week.

Heading inland from the Pacific coast of Mexico;

We enjoyed the last village very much, but decided there are lots of other beaches in Mexico to explore, and that it was time to move on. After driving for an hour along the beautiful winding coastline, we came across a sign for an RV park. We needed some water so we pulled in to find out if it was available there. We spoke to some people staying there that we had met previously. It was about 2:00 and very hot. We decided to stay the night, and then ended up staying for over a week! The RV park is just south of a village named Titzupan, so the park is called Titzupan Palapas. It is actually located on an Indian reservation and we heard that the government helped build some of the buildings and the central palapa. There were also several palapas down by the beach that RV’s could pull right up to. All in all it was a really fantastic place right on a beautiful wide beach. This beach was very different than any other we had been on in Mexico. It was so shallow you could walk into the water for about 100 feet before it reached your waist. This was excellent for the dogs because the surf had been so rough that they couldn’t play in it. Even little Skylos could venture out into the water for a while!
We met lots of great people in Titzupan, but really spent a lot of time with a couple from Portland, Oregon. Jim was a police officer and Cheryl worked in a dental office. We really enjoyed our time in Titzupan and Aaron even picked up a new hobby. Both Aaron and Jim are avid fisherman, but Jim also goes spear fishing. Aaron used Jim’s spare gun and was instantly hooked! We drove to a nearby city (Lazaro Cardenas) and Aaron purchased a spear gun for himself. They both provided lots of fish that was enjoyed by everyone in the small RV park!
We met a couple from Kansas (Rod & Pam) that has some land nearby and has been building a house for the past 5 years (it keeps getting bigger!). They welcomed us into their home on several occasions for wonderful meals and great company. Rod’s foreman, Nacho, has a farm next to Rod’s house and wanted to slaughter a pig. Normally Rod would pay for the entire pig and throw a fiesta, but Nacho got Aaron and Jim interested in splitting the pork three ways with Rod. Since we had not experienced it before, we decided to attend the slaughter. It turns out that Nacho’s helpers were not available and Aaron was actually the one that performed the slaughter. It was a very interesting experience, and we now have lots of pork in our freezer!
After talking with Jim & Cheryl we decided that we were going to a lot of the same places and would like to travel together. We left Titzupan on January 26th and headed inland. Our first stop was supposed to be near the city of Uruapan, but the mountainous road was very scenic, windy and slow. We stayed our first night in the mountains in the village of El Reparito. We arrived just before it got dark and immediately spoke with a lot of the villagers. Jim and Cheryl brought lots of things for the kids, so they distributed some coloring books, crayons and colorful band-aids to about 25 kids from the village. Meanwhile Aaron played volleyball with some of the boys. Before the night was over the matriarch, Francisca, invited us into her home for some rice, beans and Jamaica juice. It was absolutely exquisite and ate until we were stuffed! We found out that night that we had not yet left the hot tropical lowland region! It was so hot and absolutely no breeze! The very next night we were at a higher altitude and into the cooler mountain region. We were looking for the Tzararacua waterfalls (90 feet high) that we saw on our road map. We finally found it and determined there was room for our RV’s to park overnight. The park only charged us the entrance fee to stay the night (about $2 US). It was a beautiful lush park that offered horses to take you down to the waterfalls. We opted to hike down with the dogs instead. There were actually two different waterfalls; the first is very spectacular and is where everybody goes. After enjoying the beautiful falls we found the trail for the lesser-known falls and the Capitzio River. The falls were much smaller, but there were lots of fish in the river. We returned to tell Jim and they decided we should stay another night so Jim and Aaron could try some fly-fishing. It was a beautiful place and no one objected so we stayed another night! After the waterfall (just south of the city of Uruapan) we were headed to the village of Angahuan (northwest of Uruapan). Angahuan is a Torascan Indian village that has become popular to visit for the Paricutin volcano nearby. Paricutin is famous for several reasons. One of which is that it is one of the youngest volcanoes in the world. Paricutin erupted continuously from 1943 to 1952, evacuating 4,000 people, lava flows covering 2 villages, but killing no one. There is a church that was mostly covered in lava, but its upper story and spires can still be seen rising from the volcanic rock that engulfed it. The description for a place for RV’s to park in Angahuan was not large enough for Jim & Cheryl’s 38 foot class A RV, and was questionable for our 24+ foot RV. Jim and Cheryl decided to stay 2 more nights at the waterfall while we drove to Angahuan to see if we could fit at the tourist center. This area is so beautiful, if you didn’t know you were in Mexico you would swear it was Flagstaff, Arizona. The pine trees smell so fresh and clean in the mountain air! We managed to squeeze through the small village, narrowly escaping overhanging cement balconies in some parts. The tourist center was remodeling their facilities before tourist season starts. It was a beautiful park right in the forest! This is also the location of the mirador (the lookout), where you can look out across the lava fields and see the spires of the church emerging from the volcanic rock.
Jim and Cheryl drove from Uruapan and met us in Angahuan the next day at about 10:45. The previous night we had negotiated with the guides and arranged for horses for us all to take a 7-hour trail ride. First we rode to the base of the volcanic cone that took about 2 hours. Once we arrived Aaron, Amy and Jim climbed the 1,391-foot cone. After we made it to the top we took some time to marvel at the crater and all the steam rising around us. From the crater we could also see steam fields surrounding the cone. Once we were ready to head down, we were instructed to go a different way; which happened to be straight down a slide of cinders! It was possible to run down this steep slope through the cinders as if you were skiing down a mountain! We had our fun swooshing down, in what was only about 7 minutes. Once back at the base we had our packed lunch and then rode 2 hours to the church that was buried in lava fields. The church was very eerie and so much fun to explore climbing around on the rocks! There is one section where an altar us still used with lots of flowers, pictures and burning candles. We rode about 45 minutes back to the park and Jim and Cheryl headed back to their RV back at the waterfall. The village of Angahuan is itself very charming. There was a beautiful church that was built in 1543. We arrived on a Sunday night so there was a lot of activity in the square and the church. The women were entering the church on their knees, walking all the way to the altar in the front of the church. It was very interesting talking to some of the locals in this village. The Tarascan Indians’ native language is Purepecha, not Spanish. A lot of people spoke Spanish fluently, but others knew a little Spanish and a little English. Now throw into that mix locals that were heavily intoxicated trying to talk to you in the little Spanish they knew! Here we were thinking the conversation was progressing only to realize they were asking us the same questions over and over again! All in all it was a very charming village with women wearing brightly colored traditional clothing. Everyone is so resourceful here! I have a great picture of a unique pigpen. It is a pickup truck without wheels, up on blocks with 2 pigs inside! Priceless! We left Angahuan on January 31, heading to Patzcuaro to meet up with Jim and Cheryl again. On our way out of Angahuan we ran into their market! Running into their market means they have the only exit blocked with stalls full of produce and low-hanging tarps all connected to one another! We asked if there was another way out, and they indicated that we would fit through the stalls and they would lift the tarps above the RV with tall sticks so we could pass. Unbelievably, stall after stall lifted the tarps enough for us to get through as we squeezed passed stalls and smaller trucks. When you get into a situation like that you are concentrating on getting out. Next time Amy will jump out and take a picture of the RV engulfed in a village’s small market because really, you just can’t believe that it’s possible without seeing it for yourself!
We drove back through the beautiful forests and headed towards Patzcuaro where we would reconnect with Jim & Cheryl. Patzcuaro is a city of about 48,000 on the south end of Lake Patzcuaro. There are about a dozen small villages surrounding the lake that each specializes in their own kind of crafts. There are also some that have some ruins from the Tarascan Indians.

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