Continuing our drive South to the home of Mariachi the state of Jalisco, Mexico for a few days. Exploring around Lake Chapala and Guadalajara.
Our Next Trip South 2007
For some photos from Jalisco Click Here
The autopista from Tepic to Guadalajara was for the most part an excellent highway. Newly paved, four-lane divided. In one section the northbound lanes are not quite completed so all traffic is routed to the southbound lanes. Of course that section is all uphill going south and we got stuck behind a very big truck that must have been loaded to the hilt. Did 5mph for about ten kilometers. This was also another expensive section of the highway about US$65 just today. So far the tolls have totaled US$290.00 More than we expected. Going into Guadalajara there is a ring road that circles the city; we wanted to get on it to avoid some of the traffic. Of course we missed it. And we were all watching for it. On the maps it is called “Anillo Periferico” - later found out the street signs call it “Manuel Gomez Morin or M Gomez Morin - now how could we have missed that! Sooo anyway we drove through part of the city, thank goodness it was the outskirts and not the center. It was bad enough. Lots of traffic and stop lights and trees growing out over the road in front of all the street signs. Bill kept mumbling, “I hate big cities,” as he wound his way through the chaos.
Hooray! We found the sign pointing to Chapala and managed to cut across the three lanes of traffic and turn. The edition of the campground book I had said there was a place in Chapala. We followed the directions “after the turn .2 miles it will be on your left.” Another lesson learned, get the most up to date book you can as the campground is closed and the area now all Gringo homes. We had gone a long way past the .2 when Bill found a place where he could pull over and ask someone about places to stay. We were lucky and pulled over four blocks from the only remaining RV park around. We unhooked the jeep and drove down to make sure we knew where it was. First the four blocks were down a cobblestone road that was more potholes then road. I would not recommend it to anyone who isn’t flexible and wants to camp with no problems. The water worked when it wanted to as did the electric. A couple days before we left the pump for the water was fried by a power surge but luckily the roof top tank was full. There are no restrooms that can be used. However, the view is wonderful looking out on Lake Chapala and it is behind locked gates and very private and quiet. Except for the roosters and cows. We ended up staying for nine days. Right up on the main road was a mechanic for jeep and RVs so we made his acquaintance. He recharged the air conditioning in Willie and fixed the electric plugs we had burned out in Tepic. He also helped us with the awning on our big slide, it was hanging up and interfering with the in/out of the slide. If you are ever here the campground is called La Garza, the owner is Hugo, and the mechanic is Rivas Auto Mechanic. Also a very good restaurant on the corner “Mom’s” if you are tired of Mexican food. She serves meatloaf, fried chicken, potato and macaroni salad, omelets and all kinds of “home cooking.” There is also a paperback book exchange there. Bring one and take one. Paperback books new here cost US$12! So we exchanged six books. Also, in Ajijic, which is just a little way down the road there is an Internet Café that has Wi-fi. And it is right next to a small market that sells lots and lots of American brands and types of food i.e. hamburger chips, Bernstein dressings, Rice A Roni and Hagen Das ice cream. Of course you pay $$ for them. If you are in the area on a Sunday be sure to go to Toni’s Restaurant for the lamb or pork shank dinner. Wonderful. Toni’s is in San Antonio between Chapala and Ajijic.
We kept busy. Chapala is a nice little town. On Mondays there is a Farmer’s Market. We bought some delicious strawberries, tomatoes and cantaloupe there. No meat or chicken though. Somehow I just can’t quite buy something like that that has been sitting out in the sun for a couple of hours. On Saturday and Sunday there are vendors set up along the promenade on the lake. Produce, snacks, clothing and handicrafts for sale. It was neat to watch the old Indian women weave cloth. They sit on a blanket with their legs and bare feet stretched out in front of them and their loom on their laps never missing a warp or weave. The material they weave is so colorful and really soft. I bought a purse to remember them by. Every day there are small boat rides around the lake or out to one of the islands. Several restaurants line the beach and the Mariachi bands stroll through them playing requests. The Municipal Building on the main street of Chapala right next to the pier is a must see. It used to be a hotel and was purchased by the city a few years ago. Inside is the most astonishing mural. It tells the story of the area from the first Indian settlers, when the Spanish arrived to the present day problems with pollution of the lake. It goes up a staircase around the turn in the stairs and continues on the ceiling. It is a mouth dropper.
One day we went into Tonola now a suburb of Guadalajara to the Farmer’s and Artisan’s Market there. We were there in 1978 when it was a small town, it now has 500,000 inhabitants. We did find the old part of town and the original Market we went to then. There have been a lot of changes. Then we went on into Guadalajara Centro itself to roam around the main plazas and enjoy the wonderful old buildings there. One hotel we saw was built in 1610! And it is beautiful. The Cathedral dates back to the late 1500s early 1600s inside are 11 beautiful altars. Outside it twin towers are decorated with yellow and blue tiles. The Degollado Theater was finished in 1866 and is beautiful inside.
While driving here you have to be very aware of the direction of the traffic as most of the streets are now one-way. On the sides of the buildings on the corners are the names of the streets and arrow indicating the direction the traffic moves.
Guadalajara and the surrounding areas are around 5000 feet in altitude. After walking around for a little bit we could feel difference in altitude. Just not used to it. That is something to keep in mind.
After nine relaxing and fun days we left Chapala headed for the coast again. We are 34 days into the trip and 2260 miles.
The road out from Chapala to the toll road south is a challenge. Going through Jocotepic you have to make a couple of hairy turns, one left and one right. And the streets are pretty narrow. We met a couple of big trucks coming the other direction and it was a tough go to pass them. Couldn’t put a sneeze between them and us. Made it though. Got on the toll road south.
More details about this part of the journey are on the travel blog.