Sunday, May 6, 2012

“Don’t turn on your left blinker”

We left Sayulita on Wednesday, April 4th, three days after Bill, Anne, and Maya left to go back to the States. After a three week stay, it was time to switch gears and head to the hills. Our friends packed up their gypsy caravan (sorry guys, ours is no better) and they hit the road back to the U.S. to work at the salt mines so they could return as soon as possible. 
Bill, Anne and Maya's last day in Sayulita
We don't blame them; Sayulita certainly has charm and a beautiful layout. We got used to it quick and what we thought was going to be a week turned into three, but it was worth it. We were able to make some minor repairs to the car, enjoy the most amazing sunsets, relax on the beach, check out the area, and get used to our new life on the road. Mostly we enjoyed spending time with our friends and meeting new ones.

We packed up our gypsy caravan and headed East towards Guadalajara; it was another sunny and warm afternoon. 
Last day in Sayulita
After an hour of driving Aaron thought it was my turn to drive so I am better prepared to drive in this reckless and high paced environment.  We switched at the gas station before a pass where the traffic shortly slowed its pace. Where do we stay tonight? Bill told us about a place called Rio Caliente that has inexpensive campsites as well as access to a hot river with water coming out of a hot spring. It’s about 45 minutes before Guadalajara. Since we left late in the day (about 2pm), we needed to find a camp spot before dark so we searched for Rio Caliente.

“Don’t drive at night” has been the only safety advice we have been hearing from the locals and other travelers around Mexico. First of all, because most of the bad incidents happen at night and secondly, because of the hazardous driving conditions in Mexico. Driving in Mexico has been an adventure in itself since one never knows what to expect after the next curve. When we see the sign “Curva Peligrosa,” we know something is coming up. What will it be? A tractor, a chicken bus, a guy on a horse or a bicycle, a cow or a kid walking with their donkey? Maybe an animal… alive or dead? Other surprises are the topes (speed bumps). They always show up out of nowhere and we usually hear them before we see them. Sometimes, they are not painted or marked with a sign and they vary in size from a few inches of the ground to big mounds of asphalt.
Aneta's favorite boys, she always gets excited when she sees them
Driving down the highways we have seen many police and military vehicles, some undercover. The men always have their rifles and pistols ready to shoot, but in reality they look much scarier than they really are.  We have been waving to them and asking for directions. One thing we learned on the road is not to turn on our left blinker as we most likely will be passed on our left before we make our left turn. That’s right! Most Mexicans actually turn on their left blinker, pull over to the right lane to let the other cars pass by, and then turn left from the right lane. Other than that, driving in Mexico has not been too crazy; it’s been much easier than we thought. But heck, what do I know? So far, Aaron has done most of the driving…
We were approaching Guadalajara as it was getting dark and since Rio Caliente was not marked on our map, we had to pull over and ask the paramedics for directions. “Derecho, derecha, derecho, derecha” they said and thank goodness pointed! “Muchos gracias. Adios” we replied and turned to our wonderful device called the GPS.

We spent the night at the Rio Caliente campground (50 pesos per person per night/about $8 US for both of us) and went in the hot river early the next morning. The river was shallow, but pleasantly very warm. 
A sleepy walk to the Rio

Soaking in Rio Caliente at 7:00 am, great way to start off a Tequila tour day
After a quick soak, we hopped in the car and headed to the town of Tequila, which is a very nice and clean tourist town with great food and unlimited tequila tastings. One can either pay for a tour (about 150 pesos per person) or visit the smaller, family owned distilleries. We opted for the latter. We already bought a bottle of tequila on the way to town in a small distillery called Marengo. 
Our first distillery stop of the morning!
Agave at Distillery
It was a bottle of Anejo, nice aged stuff for 150 pesos (about $12). In fact, I am drinking a tequila, Coca Cola, and lime drink with it right now. After a couple of hours of walking in the heat and a few shots of tequila in Tequila, I needed some lunch and a lot of water. Instead of a pricey restaurant, we chose the local Mercado and split an order of fabulous, deep fried Chile Relleno for 50 pesos (about $4 U.S.). Definitely not the healthiest option, but boy was it good! It came with chips and salsa and rice and beans. Rice and beans, my favorite!
Our third Tequila Distillery of the day
From Tequila to Guadalajara. I had to take a nap; the traffic was bad and the tequila was still floating in my blood. “Could you help me look for a hostel or a hotel?” said Aaron. I woke up and looked around in amusement. 
Complete madness before Good Friday
We were in Guadalajara right in the middle of it all. Hundreds of people were crossing the streets and not obeying the stop lights, horse drawn carriages were flying down the narrow cobblestone roads, food stands and street performers were on every little corner, and more and more people… none of them gringos. “Sure.” I replied “There is a hotel over there. We should park and ask how much it is.” And then we realized: “Park? Where?” We drove around for about an hour looking for a parking spot; it didn’t help that it was the Thursday of Semana Santa (Holy Week).
One of the many Churches in Guadalajara that we visited while there
We finally found parking on the other side of town and came upon Hotel Pino purely by accident.  It turned out to be the best deal in town; it was 160 pesos or about $13 for both of us. It was located right downtown, walking distance from the square. We stayed at a pretty clean room, with TV, Wi-fi, and a private bathroom with hot shower. We stayed there for two nights and got to explore the center of Guadalajara on foot. After we got settled at the hotel, we went to look for some dinner. Guadalajara was super busy with visitors and street vendors everywhere. Unfortunately, most of the food we saw was junk food like fried chicken and potatoes, chips, corn, sweets, and ice cream. Everybody was eating something. After a while we settled for cooked veggies: potatoes, broccoli, and eggs with cheese, mayo, crema (sour cream), and salsa on top.
More food covered in what else other than Mayonnaise, Chile and Lime
The next day was all about exploring this beautiful colonial city. Guadalajara looked a lot like a European city with a big market square in the center and an amazing, big Cathedral. We visited the theater, museums, government buildings, and many old Spanish Catholic churches. Guadalajara is definitely a powerful cultural center of Mexico. 
This guy was raking in the pesos, he would only play for 20 seconds or so then pause like a pantomime till more pesos were put in the dish then start playing like a mad man again.
The streets were filled with street performers: dancers, pantomimes, jugglers and clowns. I ended up participating in a street clown show with a large audience. As soon as the clowns spotted us, the two “turistos gringos”, we knew we were in trouble… I went on stage; it was hilarious. At that point, I really wished I spoke more Spanish, but I understood what was going on and laughed my way through it. One of the clowns tried to kiss me and by accident I knocked down his big, red nose. 
These two worked us pretty well.
He made me a souvenir, a pink balloon flower, which in reality looked like a fan. 

Aaron was laughing hysterically and was taking a ton of pictures and a video, but did not want to go on the stage. That did not stop the clowns from making fun of him.

Later, we came upon one of the largest Mercados in Mexico, Mercado Liberdad, as Aaron mentioned in the previous post about food. 
Fresh Chile Rellenos or Pescado anyone?
We had lunch on the second floor of Mercado Liberdad, which was packed with various restaurants and crowded with people eating foods such as seafood, chile rellenos, fish tacos, quesadillas, and much more. The strong smell of cooking and frying made us hungry and ready to try the wonderful cuisines. Since we were enjoying Mexican food for over three weeks now, we opted for some Chinese Chop Suey and shrimp for a change. It was delicious and affordable; we paid about 100 pesos or $8 for lunch for both of us, actually about twice as much as we would usually spend.

That night we went to church as it was Good Friday. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to see the Passion Play, except we saw parts of it on the Mexican news that evening. Apparently Guadalajara does not do the Passion Play; the largest Passion Play takes place in Mexico City and includes about 170 people.

On Saturday morning, we left Guadalajara and drove towards Lago de Chapala, which is about an hour and a half away. On the way, we stopped at Tlaquepaque, a small, very clean and beautiful town, full of amazing art, furniture, clothes, and jewelry. It was definitely the nicest little town we have seen so far.
Pope John Paul II is everywhere in Mexico, he is in most churches one way or another.  Everyone loves him still to this day.  When Aneta tells Mexicans she is from Poland they like her even more.  Tlaquepaque

Lake Chapala

We got to Lake Chapala about noon. There was a big traffic at the entrance to town as everybody was going there for the Easter weekend. A guy showed up at our truck window handling out flyer's. “Campamento Xochime” it read, exactly what we were looking for! We drove down to check it out and it was the perfect little campground for us, very clean, quiet, close to town, and with super friendly owners. The price was right too: 80 pesos or about $6.50 for both of us for a night. We ended up staying there for three nights and making good friends with the owners. In case you are ever there, we highly recommend it
We will miss this crew

Lake Chapala

Lake Chapala and Ajijic are great places to visit if you are in the Guadalajara area. The lake is the largest sweet water lake in Mexico; it reminded us of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala (considered the most beautiful lake in the world), where we spent our honeymoon in August/September 2009. Unfortunately, Chapala is not very clean and we decided not to get in the water. After visiting Lake Chapala we headed back to the Oceanside. The ocean is where our hearts lead us back to.
Click on pictures to enlarge
At the gates of another Tequila Distillery 
The church in the main plaza in Tequila

The interior of one of the distilleries
A buffet that we smelled from the street.  We had to pop in and check out what was cooking for the buffet Argentinian style

The chic streets of Tequila
The Jose Cuervo auditorium ready for tasting. The final stop of the Tequila tour.
Agave by the truckload off to be baked
Theater in Guadalajara
This painting took up the entire ceiling in a grand stair well in one of the many historic government buildings
Aztec Indians giving free health rituals.  A quick back adjustment and some smoke in your face and you are on your way for free.

A small section of the largest Mercado in Mexico and Central America
Another way of making those pesos on the street
The Church which contains the painting of the Lady of Guadalupe that took us a few days to find.
Tlaquepaque, quite cosmopolitan 

This is what you get when gringo's take over a Mexican town.  This was 20 ft up in a tree so no one can take it down however it was hard to spot.

1 comment:

  1. Nice photos! Those street clowns scare the crap outta me.

    lol at the dog poop poster. silly gringos