Trip Report and other Ramblings

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Escrito por Anita Cowan () via proxy desde ( el día sábado, 13 de febrero, 2010 a las 13:20:25 horas :

Our trip and stay-of-two-months report:

We drove down, leaving Texas on 12/8 and returning 1/28. Crossed at Laredo-Nuevo Laredo. Mexican immigration in Nuevo Laredo was not busy. High school students in uniform were stationed in the lobby, asking foreigners and Mexican nationals alike if they would like help in filling out entry forms. The exit from Immigration feeds into Bulevar Luis Colosio, taking you around the east side of the city and feeding into Hwy 85. Having been socked in by rain and fog through Texas, we were pleased that the sun came out and the sky turned blue as we climbed toward Monterrey. I thought, "This is why I love Mexico!" It was a good omen as we went through the first Caseta de Cobro and entered the great system of toll roads. Signs for the next 200 km announced "National Money Only". They don't want us waving dollars at the toll-takers with the fluctuating exchange rate. A trumpet fanfare, please... the toll road between Monterrey and Saltillo is finished and free of traffic. This cuts an hour off the trip. We sighed when we passed the restaurant El Chivero on the outskirts of Matehuala, but it was too early for lunch. This year we broke the trip at the Marriott Courtyard on hotel row in San Luis Potosi. The elevator always seemed to be carrying a contingent of Chinese businessmen. San Luis is an industrial center and China is digging in. The Sirloin Stockade next to the hotel has a 2 for 1 buffet beginning at 6 p.m. On our southbound departure, we ate breakfast at the first OXXO. But wait, not stuff from OXXO, but tacos from the vendors that set up along the edge of the OXXO lot and sell food fresh and hot from their blue and white coolers. I have no shame... I ate four bean-and-potato tacos at 4 pesos each. They were quite small and individually wrapped in waxed paper. Absolutely delicious. I thought "This is why I love Mexico".

The route still depends on taking the exit at the BIG sign for Celaya and, in a bit, the exit to Irapuato. Even circulating around Morelia was not as daunting this year. By the time we passed the Patzcuaro exits on the tollroad, it was just past 1 p.m. What scenery through the Tierra Caliente (so many trees in yellow blooms). We pedaled on, arriving at the house around 5 p.m. As we started to unload the four-door Chevy, a procession for the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe came past. Men in beige costumes wearing festooned sombreros, a beautiful flower-adorned statue being born, women and children marching along, flutes and drums playing. I thought "This is why I love Mexico!"

There had not been a single military or police checkpoint on the whole southbound trip. There were a few on the return trip, beginning with of the marines just past the entrance to Troncones. None required a stop. All roads were good. The only bottleneck was that northbound exit out of Morelia to Cuitzeo due to construction.

Our rules of the open road: 1) drive only between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.; 2) drive only Monday through Friday. There is so much celebrating and drinking on weekends (birthdays, quinceañeras, weddings, etc). Moreover, this is when "la raya" (the week's salary) is paid, and sadly, more impaired drivers are behind the wheel. So, we prefer work days for highway travel and like to share the road with DHL, Sabritas, Gamesa, and all of the other traveling business people; 3) Always take toll roads when there's a choice; 4) No bursts of spontaneous exploration down dirt roads; 5) Carry all necessary tools for car repair -- although the Green Angels, now in spiffy white trucks, were in evidence; 6) Keep an eye on who is out there on the road with you; 7) If there's an option, drive an older car instead of the new pickup or SUV.

Over the two months, we ate out a lot. El Perla Negra served us the best margarita of the trip and R the carnivore said his steak was the best of the trip. Celia's in Los Achotes (open only on Sunday, 7 am - 2 pm), Vista del Morros in Las Pozas for red snapper with crispy fried garlic on top, Pollocoa in Coacoyul, and Queto's in Col. El Limon (you can't find better ceviche than that). With construction blocking the lower entrance to El Limon, you'll have to enter the far, high end. The main road down through the colonia will take you there, passing the relocated original Pollo Loco. Other places that have stood the test of time are Mi Chayito, Captain's Daughter (ribs), Casa Cafe (where else can you get a breakfast porkchop in green sauce for 20 pesos?), the take-out tortas (pierna... yum) from the lunchbar (stools on the sidewalk) on Juan Alvarez, on the street behind Elvira's, and for those of us in El Hujal, the hamburgers from the cart located every night at the corner of the SS hospital and Pemex station (30 pesos). For tamales sold by 8:30 a.m in front of the SS hospital (main door) -- red/chicken steamed in corn husks, or banana leaves at 6 pesos a tamale. And that... burp...perdon... is why I love Mexico!

We bought Mune's (Mun-ye's) lovely coffee in La Barra. My coffee loving friends say it is some of the best coffee they've ever had. It sure smells good. The other gift that stateside friends like was a new brand of Kahlua--Kalore -- bought in the liquor store on main street. Said it is far better than the other brand that I've been buying for years.

We attended various events during our stay including the night of Dec 11th for the Virgin of Guadalupe at the church by Plaza Kyoto. I felt sorry for the traffic police as they tried to organize and direct more than a dozen processions arriving from all points, art exhibits, gathering in homes and on beaches. One was a happy reunion on La Ropa with two MN sisters who I had met on an India, Malaysia, and Singapore tour in November. Further proof that all roads lead to Zihuatanejo. I recommend El Refugio de Potosi, the nature center on the Las Achotes-La Barra de Potosi road. We liked it enough to take friends out twice. Local bilingual guides take you through and its well worth the 40 peso entrance fee. There's a nice touch at the end when the guide uses tongs to give you an icy-cold damp hand towel to clean your face and hands. Of all the Domingo Culturales at the basket ball cancha, the best was the performance of folkloric dance by the dancers from the University of Coahuila. Nothing like those norteño polkas. Several pieces incorporated the folkdancers from Zihuatanejo. A highlight of the evening was the piece in the program when the dancers acted out the familiar drama and hundreds in the audience threw their heads back and sang out the popular northern corrido "Rosita Alvarez". The stage and the audience were one. I thought "This is why I love Mexico!"

Home ownership in Zih is a sub-category of touristic experience. It includes maintenance chores, gardening and a bit of decorating. Thank you, MG, for recommening Hardwall Hangers for hanging pictures on cement walls -- only available from Ace Hardware (not in Zih), but truly the answer to a maiden's prayer. Thanks also to HJ for baby Heliconia plants. They seem to be thriving. And Gracias to AH and L for a lively discussion and listing of 25 medicinal plants in the area.

I dream of a parque (and many would love to see one developed in the Las Salinas area) that would have a garden divided between trees/cacti of the region, the coconut and ajonjoli industries, the plants used in Mexican cooking, and the plants used for medicinal remedies. While I'm dreaming, another part should be devoted to the history and culture of the fishing industry in Zih. Surely there's still one last shell of an old parota cayuco for display, a panga, the nets, recorded voices of the oldest fishermen still living, and so forth. Even blown-up photos of these beautiful birds -- the spoonbills, the pelicans, etc. that we enjoy seeing posted on this site. To me, this is what Zihuataejo should be proud of and show to the world. I know it's not a concept that appeals to every age and taste, but for those that want to know the difference between a mango tree and a papaya tree or a marlin and a sailfish, it would be a great place to visit... and it would recognize the extensive cultural knowledge and skills of the region. I know I'm dreaming, but Mexico is a place that makes us dream and "That's why I love Mexico".

So start your week with a walk at dawn on La Ropa or the nearest beach , grab a copy of Despertar de la Costa for the latest in mayhem and other news. (I do like the mayor for his efforts.) Turn on the radio call-in show on Radio Variadades at 690 AM "Digale Sin Temor" (Say It Without Fear) to get the daily buzz, say "Buenos Dias" to your neighbors and friends on the street and "Provecho" when you enter a restaurant for your chilaquiles. (Ditto for exits.)

Since tomorrow is Valentine's Day, I close with a little scene that I observed from my terrace in El Hujal one day. There is a park across the street and the tables under the shady parota tree are a magnet for courting couples. Voyeur that I am, I watched a couple sitting on the bench of a table, completely entwined in each other's arms. She was in his arms, he was in hers... except for a small detail. Her left hand was free behind his back and held a cell phone. Her head, cradled in his shoulder, was turned slightly toward her hand. And yes, sports fans, she was reading her text messages.

All together now: "That's Why We Love Mexico!"

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