After a wonderful week in San Miguel de Allende, we headed South to San JuanTeotihuacan located about an hours drive before Mexico City, to visit the Mayan Pyramids of the Sun and of the Moon. We then left our rig securely parked at the Teotihuacan Trailer Park and took the bus to Mexico City for a few days of sightseeing.
Mexico City is the capital of Mexico and one of the most populated city in the world with 20+ million urban inhabitants and sits at 7,380 feet (2,250 m) of elevation. A lot of people skip the City when visiting Mexico but we had heard such good things about it, that we wanted to see it for ourselves. We were not disappointed.
Where Mexico city now sits, the Aztec built the City of Tenochtitlán in 1325. It was almost completely destroyed by the Spanish Conquistadors in 1521 and Mexico City was later built over the Aztec ruins by the Spaniards. After independence from Spain was achieved, the federal district was created in 1824.
Now Mexico is a vibrant and happening city with a perfect mix of old and new. Colonial, modern and Mayan architecture, a thriving Artistic and Cultural scene, all the museums you can imagine, ancient ruins, fabulous restaurants, neighborhoods waiting to be explored …
We took the bus from Teotihuacan and got dropped off at the Metro Station. We got a couple transfers and emerged in the historic center where we spent a lot of our time walking and visiting the main attractions. We felt safe and were impressed by the ease of going from one place to another either by walking, taxi or metro. We only spent four days but could have stayed a lot longer, there is so much to see and do.
Edgar Degas , Ballerina 1876 and Alexander Calder, Evelyn 1970
The Voladores is an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony up a 30 meter pole
We stayed at the Teotihuacan Trailer Park for a total of 8 night before and after visiting Mexico City. It was the perfect location to visit the Pyramids, meet other ovrlanders and leave our rig while we visited Mexico City. The owner Mina was so accommodating and helpful. I even got some dental work (two crowns) done by her dentist/daughter and one of her dentist colleague from the City.
We visited the Historical Cultural Center in the town of Otumba and made a quick stop in the town of Axapusco
Angie and Pedro made us taste Escamoles (Ant eggs) considered a delicacy and Jumiles (dried crispy worms) both are harvested from the Maguey (Agave) plant.
At the local market we discovered these tiny salty fresh water shrimps and Chicken Barbacoa cooked in Maguey (Agave) leaves.
Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon
“Teotihuacan was Mexico’s biggest ancient city and the capital of what was probably Mexico’s largest pre-Hispanic empire.The city’s grid plan was plotted in the early part of the 1st century AD, and the Pirámide del Sol was completed – over an earlier cave shrine – by AD 150. The rest of the city was developed between about AD 250 and 600. Social, environmental and economic factors hastened its decline and eventual collapse in the 8th century.”
Our next stop after the state of Jalisco, was the state of Guanajuato where we spent time in the town of Guanajuato (same name as the state), a brief stop in Dolores Hidalgo and a week in San Miguel de Allende where we visited a friend.
The Unesco World Heritage city of Guanajuato was founded in 1559. It was definitely one of our favorite cities in Mexico because of it’s colonial buildings, stunning plazas, brightly colored houses and the presence of Art everywhere.
The tunnel system in the center of town is quite impressive! In our research we had read that “what ever you do, don’t get into the tunnels because it’s a maze and you will never found your way out”. So what is the first thing we do? We get in a tunnel!! Thank God, our GPS led us directly to the campground through tiny tiny steep streets. Not to toot our own horn but Joe is a great driver and I am a pretty good navigator so besides the occasional arguing,screaming,wrong turns, bad directions, u-turns, application failures, backing up, we seem to always make it to our destination!
San Miguel de Allende
Like the town of Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende (SMA) is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It was one of the first item on the list of places we wanted to see in Mexico. San Miguel’s main attraction is it’s well preserved historic center, filled with buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some say it’s the prettiest town in Mexico and we may have to agree. Walking down the cobblestone streets admiring the striking Baroque and Neo-Gothic Architecture, the warm earthy colors, stoping for cocktails on a rooftop terrace or sipping coffee in one of the many courtyards filled with plants, is what San Miguel is all about.
As early as the 1930’s, expatriates have moved to San Miguel to reinvent their lives. Now 15,000 of the city’s population of 80,000 are expatriates, roughly 70% of them are from the United States. Thanks to its somewhat remote location San Miguel has remained intimate and welcoming. With it’s vibrant Art and Cultural scene, incredible climate, great restaurants, shops, bakeries, cafés, boutique hotels, language schools, cooking and art classes, yoga, who would not want to live here? And for a fraction of the price it would cost in the US or Canada.
And to make our visit even more memorable, we had our own private tour guide. My friend Louise moved to San Miguel about 2 years ago from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Thanks to Facebook we had reconnected just before we started our journey. I had not seen her in close to 20 years but it felt like we had seen each other the week before. She is just that kind of a person! On our first night in San Miguel, Louise invited us to her beautiful apartment in one of the historic buildings with thick stone walls. We had cocktails on her incredible rooftop terrace overlooking the famous Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel and blooming Jacaranda trees, followed by homemade Chiles Relllenos and lots of wine! Louise and I caught up while Joe was lounging and watching Tennis on TV with his new friend Coco. Throughout the week, Louise took us along a few of her social outings around town, introduced us to some great restaurants, let us use her washer and dryer, found a technician to repair Joe’s cell phone screen and cooked us a great pasta dinner. Thank you Louise for your hospitality, your are still the hostess with the mostest and a wonderful friend!
After celebrating our birthdays in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta we drove through the mountains and crossed into the state of Jalisco on February 25, 2016.
When we started planning our trip to Mexico we contacted our friend John who is originally from Scotland but has been living in Guadalajara, Mexico for more than 15 years. We had made tentative plans to visit with them during the holidays. We ended up enjoying the Baja more than anticitpated and being “Overlanders”this was becoming the norm never knowing how long or short your journey would take you.
Pinar de la Venta…3 weeks with friends
Our friends John and Andrea live in the beautiful neighborhood of Pinar de la Venta located about 25km from the center of Guadalajara. They welcomed us into their amazing house like we were family and we immediately felt at home even though we had not seen John for more than 15 years and had just met Andi. We ended up spending 3 weeks with them and their pups Oxxo and Nina.
We took this opportunity to have some maintenance done on the truck. We had the cracked windshield replaced and oil changed at the Dodge dealer, double layers of security film installed on all 4 windows, some guards welded to our front and rear lights…We received a part for the grey water sump pump being mailed from California by XPCamper.
But mostly we spent our days just lounging, cooking, reading, catching up on the blog, taking day trips by ourselves or with John and Andi. We love our life on the road but this was a very nice break thanks to John and Andi, we still miss Andi’s Moms brownies which she brought every week on Tuesday, to die for.
Andi showed me how to make Chile Rellenos, stuffed poblano peppers, accompanied by Agua de Jamaica, hibiscus water and Requeson, kind of like Ricotta cheese. Yummy!
Guadalajara is the capital of the state of Jalisco and the second most populous city after Mexico City with 4,4 million people (2010) in the metropolitan area. It is the birthplace of mariachi music and tequila, but also one of the country’s industrial and business centers, sometimes referred to as Mexico’s Silicon Valley.
The historic center is dotted with colonial plazas and many beautiful buildings, we were lucky to have our own tour guides.
On Sundays it’s nice to walk around the historic center and take in the culture. There is so much life in the plazas with street performers, souvenir vendors, food stalls … Fruits and chips are the favorite snacks. Hard choice to make sometimes.
The Hospicio Cabanas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is now a Cultural Institute where you can admirer the impressive frescoes painted in the 1930’s by Jose Clemente Orozco and many expositions by local and international artists.
Tortas Toño is known to have the best Tortas Ahogadas in Guadalajara! It is a typical dish, sandwich of chopped fried pork on a baguette and drenched in a chili sauce and topped with onions, cabbage and cilantro! On Sunday morning you have to wait in line! Great for hangovers!
A suburb of Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque has narrow cobblestone streets with old mansions housing wonderful stores and galleries offering wood carvings, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, jewelry and so many neat restaurants.
If you like interior design like I do, this place is heaven! Now that we live in our truck, it was just fun window shopping. But if we ever have a house again I would seriously consider coming back here to furnish it.
There is a multitude of furniture stores offering unbelievably nice furniture and home accessories.
Ok enough with the chi-chi stores time to eat some Chapulines, grasshoppers!
The town of Tequila is located about 60 km from Guadalajara, so we decided to take a day trip with our truck, you can also take a train tour from the city. The drive through the Blue Agave fields was very scenic.
Many distilleries welcome visitors, we decided to visit the Jose Cuervo distillery, because they were the first to produce this fine beverage in 1795! Best selling tequila in the world with 35% market share!
The production of tequila is divided into seven steps: harvesting, cooking, fermentation, distillation, aging and botteling.
After three weeks in Guadalajara it was time to move on, but not to far, only 35 miles (55 km) away. We made it to Lake Chapala on March 16, 2016 to visit Josée’s aunt and uncle who also, like John, had been waiting for us for a while.
The town of Chapala is located on the shore of Mexico’s largest freshwater lake and is a favorite weekend and holiday destination for Tapatios, as the people of Guadalajara are known. Unfortunately the lake seems to have issues with its water levels and pollution.
The town of Ajijic located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, about 3 miles from the town of Chapala, it is a haven for retired expats from the US and Canada. Boutiques, galleries and restaurant galore, much of the town retained its charming colonial vibe with cobblestone streets but its far from the typical Mexico. English is almost has common as Spanish and the prices are relatively high.
The area is considered to have one of the best climate in the world. Cool nights and mornings, warm afternoons and no humidity. It also benefits from good medical care at extremely reasonable costs.
Beautiful Tante Pierrette in front of one of the many murals of Ajijic.
Josée’s aunt and uncle have been coming to the area for more than 10 years and have a very busy social life. We met a few of their many friends and were able to get a glimpse at the expat lifestyle. Not sure its our thing but it was a lot of fun for a few days!
We also took the opportunity to get our teeth cleaned for a whopping 150 pesos (about $9.00 USD) and get a tire fixed and a rotation done on the truck (which Joe ended up doing himself) after they noticed our rig and tire size no biggy Joe’s tools worked better all he really wanted was their lift.
Spending time with my aunt was such a treat, she reminds me so much of my mother who left us way to young.
We left Mazatlan on February 12th, 2016 and drove along the Pacific Coast into the state of Nayarit. We stayed on the coast also called Riviera Nayarit in Santa Cruz de Miramar, Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta. Mexico has 31 States plus Mexico City’s Federal District. Nayarit is our fifth state after Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sinaloa and Chihuahua.
Santa Cruz de Miramar
Our first stop in Nayarit was the village of Santa Cruz de Miramar located on the Pacific coast just south of San Blas. We found a little slice of heaven at the Paraiso Miramar Hotel & RV Park. We stayed four nights, the first couple of days were a bit busy because it was the weekend but the last two days we had the place to our selves and enjoyed the pools, the restaurant and the incredible views of the ocean, the sunsets and the magnificent gardens throughout the property. Perfect setting to celebrate Valentine’s Day ♥. We paid $250 Mexican pesos (about $14 USD) per night.
We find ourselves so lucky to be able to experience an ocean front “resort” in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature and kind, discrete people and be able to sleep in our comfortable bed every night and cook our own food for $14 a night! This is why we chose this lifestyle and love it so much!
On the road
From Santa Cruz we continued down the coast, stopped for lunch at a Taco Stand where they had handmade tortillas and freshly squeezed orange juice all prepared by a husband and wife team, right there on the street. We drove through the small town of La Peñita then stopped along the road to buy some fruits and continued on to San Francisco aka San Pancho where we thought we would be camping. The town had a great artistic vibe but we did not really like the camping option so we decided to continue to Sayulita a few miles South.
Sayulita, beach life!
We had heard a lot about Sayulita and were afraid to find it overcrowded and touristy but the campground was located on the North Beach which is a bit more quiet and we ended up loving the vibe and stayed six nights. Free yoga classes every morning and the rest of the day was spend enjoying beach life: walking, swimming, sunbathing, watching the surfers, getting food from the vendors or just day dreaming! Everything was walking distance: the many restaurants options, arts and crafts, farmers market…
Next was the big Resort town of Puerto Vallarta where we celebrated our birthdays touring the city. We strolled down the Malecon (oceanfront promenade) then had an amazing lunch in an authentic, kind of upscale, Mexican Restaurant next to the Cathedral, then walked around exploring the different neighborhoods until we found a nice bar on the beach for happy hour, walked some more and had dinner in a little Italian restaurant, walked some more and finally jumped on the bus back to our campground completely exhausted but happy and full!
After more than 2 months into the Baja, we arrived on Mexico’s mainland on February 3rd, 2016 via the TMC ferry from La Paz. For 2 adults and our truck camper the cost was $4,230 Mexican pesos ($235 USD). After much discussion and research we decided to go to the Port of Topolobampo instead of Mazatlan which is further south and apparently safer. We could not pass up the opportunity to see Copper Canyon, that consists of six distinct canyons, larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon. So we took our chances.
We got off the ferry around 9:00am and were driving on the road to Los Mochis (Yes, where El Chapo was captured in January) when we experienced our first “shakedown” which is the term used when the authorities exercise intimidation tactics to get money from you. In our case it was the municipal police of Topolobampo. As we drove through a large intersection we made the mistake of making eye contact with a the police unit sitting in the middle of the intersection. They swing around and pulled us over just past the light, we were almost already stopped. The officer was insisting that we were speeding, he said he was going to keep Joe’s drivers license and kept on showing us his ticket pad. Joe even politely mentioned he was a retired Customs and showed his badge but we don’t know if it helped or not. We told him we were going to the police station. The officer was impatient and was receiving no help from his partner who remained at the rear of our rig. After 5-10 minutes of back and forth nonsense in broken spanglish he shoved back Joe’s license and gave us a warning and let us go. As we drove off we noticed him and his partner in a big heated discussion. It was our first but certainly not our last shakedown but at least the ice was broken.
El Fuerte, Sinaloa
El Fuerte is a beautiful colonial town, part of the *Pueblo Magico program. It was founded in 1563 by a Spanish conquistador and served as a trading post for silver miners and gold seekers from the mines in the nearby Sierra Madre.
*Pueblos Mágicos or Magical Villages is an initiative led by Mexico’s Secretariat of Tourism, in conjunction with other federal and state agencies, to promote a series of towns around the country that offer visitors a “magical” experience – by reason of their natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance. (Source: Wikipedia)
So far we have visited a few of the one hundred plus Pueblos Magicos (Loreto, Todos Santos, Creel, Mascota) and were never disappointed.
Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon), Chihuahua
The most popular way to explore the Copper Canyon is by train. We took the train from El Fuerte to Creel where we stayed three nights and took the train back to El Fuerte where we had left our camper.
Land of the Tarahumara
The Tarahumara or Rarámuri how they called themselves are Indigenous people of northwestern Mexico, they are renowned for their long distance running ability. Originally inhabitants of much of the state of Chihuahua, they retreated to the high sierra and canyons such as Copper Canyon on the arrival of the Spanish explorers in the 16th century. They have kept their traditional way of life but today they struggle to protect their land from being taken by the Mexican army, drug lords or corporations wanting to exploit their mineral resources. Tarahumara women wear the traditional brightly colored clothes and sell their crafts around the Canyons and the town of Creel. We saw a few men still waring the traditional Huaraches (car-tire-soled sandals) that inspired barefoot running.
One of our most memorable experience was the day we rented mountain mikes to tour the main attractions on dirt roads/trails around Creel. A 20 km itinerary that was suppose to take about 4 hours. We were having a good old time until we realized we were lost. Somehow we had lost track of time and took a wrong turn that took us 15 km away from the trail. We went up and down mountains mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape and found ourselves in a dead end in a remote Tarahumara community. Darkness was coming and we did not have the stamina to go back up the mountain. Luckily we spotted an old pickup truck (the only vehicle in the community) parked near one of the huts and were able to negotiate a ride back to Creel. The young Tarahumara man who immediately offered his hand asked us to wait and went back inside. He came back out 15 minutes later with his young wife and their newborn baby wrapped in colorful blankets. We stowed our bikes in the truck bed and sat in the backseat. We were so thankful for their kindness we just could not believe it. The road was so bad that it took more than hour pushing his 1977 Chevy 2 wheel to make it back to Creel. We tried to initiate a friendly conversation, but to no avail. On the way we picked up an old man on the side of the road, he was also going to Creel and strangely enough they did not speak to each other! Once in Creel, we thank Ignacio profusely and gave him $500 Mexican pesos ($28 USD) and a bag of peanuts and said our goodbyes. Our four hour tour had turned into a seven hour journey! Joe even made it back to the hotel on time to watch the Super Bowl! WHAT A DAY!!!
We were a bit apprehensive about driving through the state of Sinaloa so we left early from El Fuerte to drive the 302 miles (486 km) to Mazatlan. We made it under five hours on the cuota (toll road) 15D with no incidents.
Mazatlan is a resort town on the Pacific coast where tourism and fishing are the main industries. It’s the birth place of the Pacifico beer and Señor Frog’s !!! It seems that it has past its prime but we still enjoyed long walks on the Malecon and exploring its restored Centro Historico (old town).
We entered Mexico via California through the border town of Tecate in Baja California 2 days after Thanksgiving on November 28, 2015. Our Baja adventures ended up lasting more than two months.
Before crossing we had agreed to meet another couple of Overlanders who were heading South at the same time. On the morning of the crossing we met John and Mandi in a parking lot just a few hundred yards before the border. It turned out that they were also from Florida and had left just a few days before we did back in early May 2015. They had visited almost all the same spots and National Parks in the Western US/Canada/Alaska. Our schedules were different so we had never met. We were very happy to be traveling with another couple for companionship and also for security reasons.
It was a very special day for us! We had heard so many wonderful things about the Baja Peninsula and crossing into Mexico was another milestone, it felt like it was really the beginning of our big adventure.
This journey is special because of the people we meet along the way. Locals or fellow travelers are the reason we decide to spend more or less time in a specific location. So far we have met incredible people that we hope we will have the opportunity to see again.
Home cooking, overland style…
Fauna and Flora…
Towns and architectture…
Everywhere you go in Baja there will be a dog wandering or following you. Joe being a dog lover gets his heart broken in every town. You just want to take them with you. Here’s just a few of the many dogs we’ve encountered, including the hairless Mexican dog.
As an Overlander you are always curious to see other rigs. Here’s a few European rigs we’ve come across in Baja.
We entered Nevada from Utah on November 1st, 2015 and camped at Elk Flat Campground (Cave Lake Sate Park) after watching the NFL football game at the Historic Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall in Ely, Nevada. I don’t care much about football but watching the scene at the Hotel Nevada was entertainment enough. Joe loves his Eagles and does not get to watch football as often has he would like… life on the road!
While in Utah we had decided to go back to XPCamper in Grass Valley, CA to get our Webasto Dual Top (hot water and heater) fixed and a few other items before heading South to Mexico. We drove Highway 50 through the whole state of Nevada from East to West without really stopping until we hit a snow storm in the little town of Austin, NV. We pulled along side of the road and settled for the night but not before having a shot or two of Honey Bourbon.
We had a few days to kill before XPCamper was ready for us so we headed to the California Coast for some sun and warmer climate.
Back in Grass Valley for a few days (Nov. 10-16, 2015) XPCamper got everything in working order in our camper and Tom’s Car Care Center Dodge Ram Pro Derrick installed our new cryo treated brake rotors and pads, put a resonator on the pipes, tuned up the joints and corrected a few issues, the new work made El Capitan purr! Thanks Tom and Mr D!
From Grass Valley we headed South for the Mexican Border with a few stops along the way.