We finally leave Mats yard late in the day. He suggests we camp another night, but we are keen to head off. There are a few hot pools down the road where we hope to camp. First stop: the massive supermarket & then the hot pools. It is getting near to closing time. The first ones say “No” we can’t stay in their massive carpark. The second say “Yes”, but just as we are getting settled the boss comes out & says “No”. There is no night guard, & only 2 months ago someone camped in the carpark & got robbed at gunpoint! Bummer. It is already dusk so we stop at the next Pemex Station. So much for a nice long hot soak.
The next day we head on to the Colonial town of Guanajuato which has been recommended by loads of people. Our book says under no circumstances drive into the city, so we stop at the campground outside town. Here we bump into our American mate from the last campground. Once we catch the bus into town we see why it would be very challenging to drive here. The town is set in a gully in a maze of tiny cobbled streets. Many of the roads pass underneath the town in old tunnels that were previously river beds.
It is as gorgeous as expected and we spend hours exploring the streets. By 5pm we head back to our bus stop & wait, & wait…. Finally after an hour we discover that we were told the wrong spot. We are relieved to get onto a packed bus before dark. After 30mins we are keeping a close eye on stops to make sure we get off at the correct spot as by now it is nearly dark.
After a slow start the next morning we head off towards the city of Morelia passing some huge lakes. They look shallow & reedy…in fact we drive on a causeway that runs right across Laguna Cutzeo. When we reach Morelia, instead of heading into the city we park at a supermarket on the ring road & taxi to the centre. What a lovely place. Tidy, clean, organized & very Spanish looking. We particularly love the long aqueduct & the cathedral. Even better is the Dulces Market (my favorite is the candied limes stuffed with coconut) By the time we get back to GR2 it is getting late. Time to head out of the city to find a quiet spot to sleep. Where better than yet another Pemex Station with the trucks. Safe & free!.
An early start the next morning (Sunday) sees us arriving into the gorgeous lakeside town of Patzcuaro. This means we can park right in the centre of town & explore the cobbled streets, then the markets. Sadly the lake is shrouded in mist so we don’t head out in a boat. On instead towards the industrial city of Uruapan & take a short detour south to visit Tzararacua Waterfalls. Very pretty, but with lots & lots of steps down, & then back again. John suggests he leaves me plodding & make a cup of tea. After seeing how many bullets the local policeman/guard here has in his gun, I suggest I would feel much safer staying with him!! (John has now said no more waterfalls until Niagara & no more ruins until Alaska!!!)
And so follows more driving surrounded by volcanoes, 100’s of them. One village has a military checkpoint before & after – not sure what’s going on there!! But we are well past it now. After a lot of bumpy roads we make the decision to return to the toll road. Much easier driving with great scenery & we get a few more miles under our belts. Finally we reach the massive Lago Chapala (we plan to follow the lake rather than pass through the city of Guadalajara – the second biggest in Mexico). We had hoped to park beside the water, but it is cultivated for miles. Instead we find a Pemex, fully guarded by the police 24hrs a day, with a fantastic view of the lake. Perfect.
A lovely drive around the south side of the lake before heading along the Tequila Route, stopping of course to look at some of the tequila production. We choose to stop at the Hacienda Herradura as they have the old & new production, & get our own English tour. Still don’t appreciate Tequila as others do! A quick look through town before returning to the toll road & our final stop for the night – the absolutely magic Crater Lake at Santa Maria del Oro. Can you imagine swimming in a warm lake!! Needless to say we don’t leave as early as usual the next morning.
We plan to reach Mazatlan tonight, but it wasn’t to be. After a late start, stopping in the modern city of Tepic at the supermarket & then detouring to the coast via a windy little road through the most avocado trees we have ever seen (lots of Guacamole here!) & following the rather non exciting coastline to San Blas we don’t make it. So it was another Pemex (ah well at least they are free) & the next morning we roll into surely the most expensive campground in Mazatlan – but it was right on the beach.
We only planned to stay one night, but it rolled into two. And we sure did enjoy swimming (probably more than exploring the city). We ate out twice (big for us), meet quite a few Canadians & Americans who come here every year, & of course caught the local bus in to town to explore. But best of all was the gorgeous sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. It was also a good chance to update the website, Skype the family etc.
Time to drag ourselves from the beach. Our next adventure awaits – the amazing Copper Canyon. After a lot of research (mainly other people’s blogs) we have decided to head inland & approach it from the south. So we are heading up the brand new toll road to Durango. One of the Americans told us it had been closed due to slips, & has just reopened again, so we are in luck. We set off – what a stunning drive. The brochure we were given states there are 61 tunnels & 115 bridges over 230 km. The old road apparently takes over 6 hours, the new under 3. It is not just the amazing canyon scenery of Puerto El Espinoza del Diablo (Devils Backbone) that it staggering, but the amazing road. What can I say but WOW!!
The road leads us to the modern city of Durango – we drive to the centre & find a gorgeous centre. Clean, tidy, organized. After a yummy lunch of gorditas (corncakes stuffed with meat – rather like a Mexican meat pie) we continue north towards Parral, stopping for a quiet night beside a cemetery. Arriving in Parral, we find a Wal-Mart, so stop to stock up on food. The place is pumping…it is a long weekend so it is starting to get busy. We try to head up to the old silver mine located on a hill right in the centre of town, but we get snarled in traffic & have to concede defeat (we had wanted to go to the info centre to find out about roads into the Canyon – we will just have to wing it!) While filling up with diesel we discover that our tail light isn’t working, so the next few hours are spent locating an auto electrician & getting a repair job. It is on dusk as we leave…..but we want to get out of the busy city. We head off on our side road towards the Canyon, finally pulling over at a Zoosanitario Checkpoint between States. A surprisingly peaceful night.
Coming next: The Copper Canyon.
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