Mexican on-the-road diary.
Still licking the wounds of our Copper Canyon trip, we drop of some photos at Lydia's, then leave Los Mochis.
Culiacan, a cultura de la calle festival with the good the bad and the ugly.
Pleasant Mazatlan has a nice sunset beach, away from the tourist mile one finds the Pacifico brewery, in the cosy centro histórico architecture reminds of the Mexican Empire under Maximilian. When hopping from bar to bar I wonder what it would be to buy one of the blue houses here, put a bar serving excellent drinks in its first floor, more a world music lounge with VJ light show on the walls to generate the ambiance after sunset. I keep dreaming for about 17 Pacificos and 2 tequilas.
Red Hot Chili Peppers. Chilies/Chiles/Chillies whatever the spelling...
Sinaloa, the stripe of plains which we drive down, from the ocean to the slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental Ranges is a prominent agricultural producer, anything can be found from tomatoes, beans, corn to wheat, potatoes, sugarcane, melons, and – chilies.
The red chilies come straight from the bush onto the coco-nut fired grill, the 5-6 hours roasting takes most of the liquid but also the bitter taste, an additional 6-7 days drying in the sun follows suite. It all goes into the fine Mexican hot sauces that go with almost any dish, fruit salad included.
23/May San Blas, Nayarit.
South we go from Sinaloa into Nayarit, the tropics take over, birds become more colorful, iguanas cross the path, steamy the air, some days are all cloudy, the first rains a few weeks away still.
Taking small roads we sweat it from village to village, San Blas has a violent ocean, Guayabitos in a bay is much calmer, finally we get to San Francisco in Nayarit, naked feet burn on hot sand, drinking cold beer seems the only solution, - and put the AC on, just for a few minutes, then sweat again.
25/May Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.
Late afternoon we ride out of Puerto Vallarta for further south, as an idea a tiny road over the mountains to Manzanilo, destiny spills us back when we discover what we have in fuel would not be enough; after so many years on the road I know when to listen. After a night where I feel the energy fading already we leave so early, early morning for Guadalajara over the mountains, past raicilla distilleries and agave plantations. The road is long, hot, arduous and beautiful.
Totally exhausted after 10 hours driving we cruise Guadalajara's city center for 3 hours, find a hotel, a beer and I sleep in knowing I am sick. I wake at midnight and a tennis ball is stuck in my throat, swallowing tiny quantities of water has become as painful as spitting out green, thick, large clods. I stumble down to get salt from the van, gurgling salt water is the only remedy I can think of, the only remedy avail. I sleep, gurgle, spit, keep gurgling, sip some hot lemon tea, some spicy chicken stock and vegetables for almost 48 hours.
On 3rd eve here we walk round a bit, after 2 hours I am just glad to be back at the hotel, when I fall asleep there is thunderbolt and lightening outside, but still no rain. Morning comes, first morning where swallowing is possible, weak still we dare a second walk and some Pacificos, 4th night, 4th morning, the same hotel, the ball has been spit out and with some tristeza we leave.
There is something colorful and something run-down, something provincial and something metropolitan to Guadalajara, the tens biggest city in Latin America ideally deserves another, second visit. A mariachi festival is held in September, maybe I can be back for that.
After a walk round Tlaquepaque we turn to Lake Chapala, still and hazy. No-stress, a beef stew and Corona, the feet high we watch the birds go by.
Along the evening lake on country roads we pass small lost rural communities with stunning late views on the hazy flat below. We reach Jamay for night and after much back and forward end in the wrong spot and I know it, we both sense it; some kids on bicycles smashes the rear window, I see the jubilating brats ride off, roar out proud of their deed; just brats but today's brats are likely those involved in the drug trade tomorrow.
Next day on the way the 4th trash yard where we ask has our used rear side screen, we get it fixed in Zapoco, already in Michoacan. Zapoco has an idyllic clear lake, the source is right underneath, there is a shop next to it which has Venta de Cerveza aqui painted outside, I love Mexico!
Zapoco is at an elevation of 2,000m, Guadalajara was around 1,500, since we left the coast and drove up the Sierra Madre Mountains we have kept on the top, on the plateau, the heat is bearable, dry compared to the tropical coastal plains.
Morelia, the best so-far, is a delight in architecture, historic buildings that house art schools and conservatories, classical oboe or violoncello music reaches the ear as we cross the students' compounds and colonnade shaded university court yards. The atmosphere is right in Morelia, maybe another place to send my boys to university, after all Mexico is expected by some to be the 5th largest economy on earth by 2050, you want to go where the music plays.
2/June Mexico City.
We spend an evening and a few hours of sleep in Toluca, my inner system wakes me at 3 in the morning as it is best to get up early on such days. Toluca is already at an altitude of over 2,600m, in Europe this would be considered high Alpine. At night we drive out and climb a 3 lane highway that reaches an elevation of almost 3,200m just 20km before Mexico City, a 20 million people metropolis. Yes, if you want to enter a megacity swiftly you come by night; and we drop down into the Valley of Mexico, ride the serpentines chased by the trucks who know their way which I don't, a speedy descent all the way to the grand tree lined boulevards of Ciudad de México, at 2,300m. At 5 still all is completely dark when we face a deserted center with market, Metropolitan Cathedral, all dimly lit, spooky, lots blue and red lights of police cars on every corner. After some cruising we find a place and sleep.
Well that was a bit of a rushed run on the capital, sometimes it's like this. We see Mexico's national icon Our Lady of Guadalupe, walk the City Center from the Cathedral to the Palace of Fine Arts, have some drinks in Zona Rosa or is it La Condesa, we know nothing yet and have more drinks and fly out on June 5th, Christina to Eugene, I to Miami.
Hasta la vista. We'll be back soon.