Patzcuaro to Zihuatanejo March 7, 2006

Filed under: Mexico — Aaron and Amy at 10:08 am on Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Patzcuaro, Morelia, Troncones and Zihuatanejo (January 31 – February 28)
There are two photo albums that go with this post. They are labeled with the date above as well as “Part One” or “Part Two”

The libre (free) highway from Uruapan to Patzcuaro was a gentle ride through the beautiful mountains. Jim & Sherrol decided to take the cuota (toll road) instead, so we met them in Patzcuaro. By the time we arrived at our predetermined meeting place; they had already been in town long enough to locate a good RV park. Including our two rigs, there were only three RV’s in a huge field! There was a lot of room for the dogs to run, until more RV’s started showing up.
Or first day in Patzcuaro we took it pretty easy. After doing a bit of laundry (in the sink with ridges to help get the clothes clean), we decided to head into town and explore a little. We already heard they have a great daily market, and were highly anticipating their weekly market on Friday. We thought we would look at some of the crafts in town, and then find them in the villages where we could buy directly from the artisans.
The next day we all wanted to drive around Lake Patzcuaro to some of the villages and ruins. Jim & Sherrol drove their truck (their tow vehicle) while we rode the motorcycle. We stopped at a smaller ruin near the village of Ihuatzio, and then explored the church in the village before moving on to a small village that specializes in wood furniture. There were several shops along the street and we poured through each of them with awe and amazement. The woodwork was so beautiful and you can’t imagine the prices! These items probably sell for ten times as much in the states (at least from what we have seen in Arizona!). They have incredible desks, armoires, buffets, bars, dining room tables, doors and headboards for beds. There are several motifs used throughout the furniture. They use a lot of horses and scenes from Diego Rivera paintings (lots of women holding calla lilies). The next village along the lake was Tzintzuntzan (pronounced “seen-soon-sahn”). We knew there were some large ruins and a good market in town that we were anxious to visit. After exploring the small museum and ruins (that consisted of a series of five large pyramid bases) on the hill above town, we went into the village in search of lunch. We were just about outside Tzintzuntzan when we saw a little restaurant and pulled over. There was a cute old Tarascan lady cooking over open fires with clay cooking surfaces. We had an excellent meal but Amy just couldn’t eat it all. When she asked for a box, everyone watched in amazement as the waitress put the food on a clean plate (the same plate you could buy in a store in the village) and then in a bag. Amy asked how much they wanted for the plate and gladly paid the equivalent of about $1 US. A souvenir from the restaurant! We told her we were traveling in our RV’s and she said she had room to park behind her restaurant. Upon inspection even our small RV may have difficulties getting down her ally, but it was very sweet of her to offer! After lunch we headed back into Tzintzuntzan to do some shopping. Jim & Sherrol found a large mat made of woven palm leaves to use outside their motor home. We finally settled on a brightly colored bedspread. It is thin cotton, so we can use it over a sheet while in the cooler mountains. It has horizontal blocks of bright orange, yellow and blue. It goes fantastically with our brightly painted RV! (We painted the interior of the RV bright blue and lime green on alternating walls). The blanket adds a few more bright colors to our Latin American style RV! The churches in the village were at the end of a large park with lots of trees. It was lovely to explore and sit on a park bench before heading home.
The next several days were spent meandering through Patzcuaro’s narrow cobble stoned streets, markets and several visits to the internet café. We had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant overlooking one of the squares in town. They have little tables out on tiny balconies that are just big enough for two people. Amy had an exquisite Indian chicken curry dish and Aaron had the local specialty of white fish. There must have been a wedding, because there were several cars that were completely covered in flowers driving around the square honking their horns for about twenty minutes!
We came across the opportunity to view a house that was for sale just outside Patzcuaro. It was a three bed, 2 bath, two story fully furnished home about 5 minutes outside of town. It was a beautiful home but was located in a community that had 32 other similar houses built by the same contractor. It had an attractive price of $210,000 US! After we looked at the house we continued on the road south of the lake to the nearby village of Santa Clara del Cobre. Cobre is Spanish for copper, and that is the town’s specialty craft. There were stores all over the village with copper pouring out of them. Some of the stores had workshops in the back where you could see the artisans working with the copper and molding it into all the various objects available for purchase in the store. The items we buy have to be utilitarian in our small RV, so we purchased a small canister for sugar (we will buy another one for flour), a small bud vase for our gardenia flowers and a rectangle tray with a wave pattern all around the sides. We checked on the price of a double sink for our RV, but the rush order was just too expensive.
Both February 8th and 9th there was a blockade of taxis and small busses blocking all traffic into the center of town. The situation as we understood it is that the government is trying to verify and restrict who can operate as taxi drivers – and the taxi and bus drivers basically feel they are being infringed upon and don’t want to pay any more money for the business they are already operating. The situation was all very interesting and peaceful (other than all the horns honking from the cars that chose to ignore the blockade that get stuck in traffic trying to get into the center). Since we were traveling by motorcycle, we had a huge advantage over everyone else. We had heard the center was blocked, but were confidant we could pass on the motorcycle. Every time we came to a blockade we just asked the taxi drivers that were milling about if it was alright if we passed. They said of course pointing to the bike. It seems the situation was if you were capable of getting by on a small vehicle, they had no problem with it. But they were blocking all cars. While we sat in the internet café we noticed that traffic started coming into town. Then the horns started and cars started turning around. After the internet we drove towards the center for lunch. After passing another barricade right at the center square, we realized that the blockades were moving closer to the city center. We’re not sure why, but the cars that were waiting to get in were under the impression that the blockades were lifted and attempted to enter the city only to find out the taxis tightened their hold on the city. Therefore the cars proceeded into town only to get caught in more traffic. We proceeded to get our lunch and sat to eat in the square. We noticed how quiet and peaceful it sounded here in the center where there is usually so much commotion! We felt bad for the restaurants and storeowners that must be losing business, but the blockade was all done very peacefully.
After nine nights in Patzcuaro, Jim and Sherrol headed back to the Pacific coast. We said our goodbyes and planned on joining them again somewhere around Zihuatanejo. On February 10th we set our sights on the capital of the state of Michoacan, Morelia. After many attempts to get permission to park in the Wal-Mart parking lot for 2 nights, we finally got an answer that we could only stay for one night. We knew we would be there for 2 or 3 nights so we moved on to a place where we could stay for a while. We settled on a hotel outside the city that had several RV spaces, but we were the only ones there. It was really great to have so much room for the dogs to run and play and not worry about them bothering other RVers! It was a courtyard behind a small hotel, which is where we stayed for 5 nights. Morelia is the largest city we have been in, with a population of 620,000 people. It is a colonial city bustling with cultural activities and several universities focusing on literature, language and music. It is a completely different part of Mexico that contrasts greatly with the small villages that we had been visiting in the mountains and along the beach. Morelia is full of kids and young adults being educated and trained in a wide variety of subjects and the arts. We sat down in a bar one evening and had a wonderful in-depth conversation with one of the young bartenders about many interesting topics regarding Mexico, the United States and general issues in the world today. At first Amy took taxis into town and back, but then we used the very inexpensive bus system. Amy explored by herself for a couple days while Aaron worked on the RV. This allowed Amy to really get to know Morelia and she fell in love with it! There are about 15 churches, temples and convents in the city, and it’s possible she saw every one of them! She had two different maps, a downtown map in a guidebook and one slightly more encompassing copied from a book. Combined they didn’t show all the churches and temples to see in Morelia! Amy walked around different neighborhoods, would turn a corner and discover another church she didn’t know was there! There are also a lot of mansions and government buildings from the 1500’s that you can visit because they have been converted into museums, libraries, art exhibits, universities, dorms, restaurants, stores and tourist information facilities. All the mansions and government buildings are at least two stories high and built around a central courtyard. Each one has slightly different architecture inside, some more elaborate than others. The cathedral is in the center square facing old government buildings and the main street. There are always people in the square around the cathedral, but the two days Amy visited were on the weekend, so there were even more people out enjoying the scene. The balloon venders were out in force and Amy loves photographing them! There is an aqueduct that was built in the 1700’s that runs for about a mile along a park and busy street, and then turns a corner at an intersection with a beautiful square and fountain. The aqueduct turns another corner at this square and begins to get lower and lower until it ends just up the street. As the aqueduct arches get lower, it is actually incorporated into the front walls of houses on the square! In some houses it is one of the walls of the house. In others there are gates inside the arch that creates a front porch or secure parking spot! What a creative architectural use of the old aqueduct! The point at which the aqueduct and fountain meet is a picturesque intersection. The fountain is called the Fuerte de las Tarascas (“Strength of the Tarascans”; Tarascans are an indigenous group). It is three bare-breasted women holding a basket of maize. In the background behind the aqueduct you can see the bell-towers of a small church. While Amy was taking pictures of the fountain, a group of young boys were on the sidewalk across the street hooting and hollering at her. Then they started hollering for her to take their picture! She did her best to ignore them, but they walked across the street to the fountain and she gave in to taking a picture of them in front of the fountain! Very entertaining! When Amy was touring the city she found a great little café in a small square to have lunch. So many old buildings surrounded the square she was in heaven! There were two old convents and temples on two sides, a mansion that houses a regional museum on another, and old apartments and stores on the fourth side. There was a beautiful garden and fountain in the center along with artists displaying their crafts. It was perfectly peaceful to sit there soaking in the beautiful architecture and to watch the weekend foot-traffic go by. After Amy toured the city, we both went into town to the local zoo. We heard it was designed after the San Diego Zoo, but having been members of the SD Zoo, we were not expecting much in comparison from this small Mexican zoo. As far as we could tell, it was only designed after the SD Zoo because some of the exhibits were left open instead of being completely caged in. The condition and numbers of some of the animals was discouraging, but we did our best not to judge it just because they aren’t the conditions we are used to. Many factors must be considered and the lack of funding is an obvious one. We paid the equivalent of about $4 US for entrance to the zoo. (The San Diego Zoo charges $25/adult). One very interesting aspect we did notice after spending several hours in the park was how much playground equipment they had for children, yet they were usually lacking objects for the animals to play with and structures for them to climb on. While at the zoo, Aaron decided to ride an attraction called the Euro Bungee. There were several large bungees strapped to him and he was shot into the air like a slingshot repeatedly for about 10 minutes!
We left Morelia and backtracked to the Pacific Coast in order to meet some friends that were flying to Zihuatanejo. Justin and Stephanie were renting a friend’s house and checking out the area for a possible wedding location this fall. We jumped at the opportunity to see some friends from the states! We had a few days before they were supposed to arrive so we stayed in a small village called Troncones for 3 nights, just north of Zihuatanejo. We followed a tip from a book indicating there was a restaurant with a few RV spots on the beach. We got there only to find out there have been no RV spots for at least 8 years. The restaurant, the Burro Burracho (“drunken donkey”), was extremely accommodating and welcomed us to park in the beach access area next to their restaurant. We had several great meals and drinks here before moving into Zihuatanejo to meet Justin and Stephanie.
They were renting a house in a walled housing community right on the beach from a friend of theirs in Flagstaff. There was no room for the RV there, so we drove down the dirt road and asked a beach restaurant if we could stay there for a while. The restaurant is just down the street from a small village called Barra de Potosi and is actually about 30 minutes from the larger town of Zihuatanejo. An adorable older lady named Luz and her husband Ajilio run the restaurant with the help of their daughter, Bria. Luz is a spunky lady with a spirit that reminds us of Aaron’s grandmother. We ended up staying with them at their restaurant for 11 nights. During this time we were able to get to know them a little and found out that Bria has rheumatoid arthritis. Her medicine costs about $105 US per box, and that lasts her 2 weeks. Needless to say she doesn’t have her medicine all the time. We prefer to stay with people like this in places like this – but it is all the more special to us when the money from our tourism can actually go to wonderful local people who get the money themselves. (In contrast to staying in big hotels and eating at big restaurants where the money does not get to the local population). Luz, Ajilio and Bria were extremely accommodating to us during our entire stay, and we were frequently the only people at the restaurant all day. Aaron asked Luz if she could make him some bags for each of his 3 spear guns so they wouldn’t be damaged. She proceeded to pull out her sewing machine and make him the bags out of bright floral material they use for their tablecloths! They work perfectly! Aaron commented on one of the hammocks hanging in the restaurant, and Luz promptly said she would wash it and would like to give it to us as a gift! Aaron tried to pay for it, but Luz wouldn’t have it. She said that every time we sit in it we could think of our good friends! Our last day there we took pictures of them and delivered the pictures the next day! They were shocked that we were capable of producing them overnight in our RV!
A couple that lives at the housing community where Justin and Stephanie were renting act as property managers for some of the units. Phil and Carol are from the states but have lived in Zihuatanejo for about 7 years now. They were very helpful while Justin and Stephanie stayed at the house and we continued to hang out with Phil and Carol after our friends left. Justin and Stephanie decided they wanted to go into Ixtapa and have dinner and drinks, so we all piled into their rental car and drove in. After walking around we found a nice restaurant for dinner and had a couple drinks afterwards. It was a really interesting experience being in this resort area built for tourists after having so many wonderful experiences with locals, small villages and even cities in Mexico. It was a shock to our senses with a plethora of high-rise hotels, big chain restaurants, loud club music and gringos everywhere! The only locals were working in the restaurants and stores. I think it was Stephanie that said it felt like Disneyland or Las Vegas! It was basically a fake adult playground plopped on a Mexican beach.
We have seen plenty of sea life in Mexico, the most impressive being the whales! We saw our first whale back in early January at El Real. We saw it blowing water from its blowhole as it moved along the shore and that was it. Then we saw some more at Troncones doing the same thing. The whale activity we have witnessed in Zihuatanejo can be described as nothing other than spectacular! The day we arrived at our restaurant campsite there was entire pod of whales in the bay breaching not far from shore! There were probably 4 or 5 of them and they each took turns breaching one right after the other. While sitting at the restaurant with a clear view of the bay, we continued to see whales almost every day. Our second day in Zihuatanejo Aaron took the kayak out to some large rocks in front of the bay. He came across one of the whales in the water that was about 30 feet from his kayak! One day while eating at the restaurant Amy looked out and saw a pod of whales breaching more than they ever had before. Some of the whales were actually coming completely out of the water! There were 5 or 6 of them and they were spread out over about 100 feet, jumping out of the water performing a beautiful dance. Amy called to Aaron, Luz, Ajilio and Justin and they all came running over in awe of what was happening right in front of them! Another great experience was when Aaron and Jim went fishing in Jim’s zodiac out in the ocean, and they found themselves in the middle of several hundred dolphin!
Aaron asked Ajilio if he knew anyone that owned a lancha (“small boat”) that could take us out on a fishing and snorkeling trip. He rounded up one of his sons, Miguel, and he took us out on his boat for 6 hours for about $__ US. Aaron, Justin and Phil fished for a few hours catching several big ones. While trolling around some of the big rocks in the bay we saw two turtles and two dolphins swimming by! While we were snorkeling Amy saw a dolphin very close to us! After we got back to the boat both Aaron and Phil said they heard the whales underwater! They were so loud that sometimes Aaron would look around half expecting to come eye-to-eye with one of the behemoths! Aaron, Justin and Phil made several attempts at learning how to use Phil’s kite surfing equipment. First they practiced the kite on the sand, and then took it into the water with the board. It will take a couple more times before they master it! Either way they had excellent time learning!
The same day that Justin and Stephanie flew back to the states we found our friends Jim and Sherrol that we hoped to reconnect with after leaving them in Patzcuaro. The following day we loaded all our snorkel and dive gear onto the back of the motorcycle and drove into town to meet them. Aaron and Jim went fishing in the morning and then we all went snorkeling at a great little spot right near their RV park. That night we had a big dinner at our beach restaurant with Jim, Sherrol, Phil and Carol. We brought the fish that Aaron caught and Luz prepared a wonderful dinner for us.
Well, Skylos did it again. If we forget to close the door to the bathroom in the RV when we leave the dogs inside, sometimes we come home to find Skylos with the small garbage can lid stuck on his head. Once we stop laughing, we wonder how long he has had this thing stuck on his head like a collar to stop him from licking something! It is pretty hilarious, so we decided to share a picture with you!
We have been in Acapulco for the past week and are leaving Wednesday morning (3/8). That portion will be included in the next post. We will continue south along the coast, with our next inland destination being Oaxaca City! Thanks for keeping updated with our website!

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.