ONE THING I KNOW FOR SURE about traveling, you can ask around and get information from locals, but always do your own research. Find out for yourself. For example, in Mazatlan we wanted to look at two RV parks before we made a decision. When visiting the first park we were told that the other park we wanted to visit was closed for remodeling. We decided to check for ourselves, and of course there was no remodeling, and they were open for business.
Another example was when I decided to stay in San Pancho for a month. Two property management companies said there was nothing under $500/month available. They also said there really wasn’t much available at any price at the current time. I looked myself and found four places. I looked at all four and settled on a cute, furnished one bedroom apartment for $350/month. It was clean and had air conditioning. I actually found it on Airbnb, and contacted the owner directly. I paid cash and didn’t have to pay the normal deposit or cleaning fee. Simple as that. That’s what I love about Mexico.
I love, love, love meeting people on this journey. Especially the people doing a similar trip. There are quite a few. Some are trying to make a living on the road by writing blogs, giving travel related reviews, etc. These people make the road their home, and seem to love it. About a month ago we met a family from Argentina – a husband and wife (probably late thirties or early forties) and two very small boys (ages 1 and 3). He is a firefighter in Argentina, and I think she said she was a teacher. They were doing a similar trip, but longer and farther. They were going overland from the tip of South America (Argentina) to Alaska on the Pan American highway. We started talking to them because we noticed a logo on their truck that said “Santiago Family Journey – Argentina to Alaska”.
They were traveling in a truck, with a shell over the truck bed – not a camper. They had a fairly new Dodge truck, but it was all banged up on the front end. I’m pretty sure that happened along the way. We met them at an RV park in Lo de Marcos, so they had already gone through all of South America, Central America and about half of Mexico. They said they are either sleeping in the bed of the truck, in a tent, or every once in awhile in a hotel. Their plan was to purchase a camping trailer when they got to California. I don’t know why in the world they would want to go that far without a camper. I just thought if they were going to purchase one, why not do it in the beginning of the trip? Regardless, I thought they were brave and adventurous. Those are the kind of people you meet on the road.
Anyway, we did a couple side trips in the last couple of weeks....
San Sebastian – An American (from West Hollywood, LA) told us about a place called San Sebastian. He said he was going with some friends just to eat at an Italian restaurant. He had been before and thought it might be a nice day trip for us...so why not?
After a very colorful 90 minute ride, we arrived at the small "Pueblo Mágico" nestled in a narrow valley of the Sierra Madre Mountains. A Pueblo Mágico is a place recognized for certain characteristics that make it unique and historically significant. San Sebastian was a mining town off and on from the 1600’s to 1930. Since the town remains almost untouched by time, you can enjoy a glimpse of one of the last remaining colonial towns in Mexico. We visited a little grocery store where they still wrap up the groceries in sheets of brown kraft paper. The cashier was an elderly woman, who wore an apron and took pride in working at the store for 40+ years.
I was so grateful to be in the mountains where it was cooler for a change. When we were there, low fog and clouds rolled in during the late afternoon, making it feel like a very mystical place. The cathedral and the town plaza were the center pieces of the town. Of course we had to try the Italian restaurant - worth the trip! Photos below.
Yelapa – Yelapa is a small fishing village, that you access by boat. Approximately one year ago they built a road to get there, but from what I've heard, the road is used almost exclusively to transport supplies. There are no cars, but lots of horses. The village is situated in the hillside above the ocean. Tiny, narrow roads weave through the village. The roads were more like trails, as they weren't wide enough for cars.
You can go everywhere on foot or horseback. There is a river that runs into the ocean, and all the horses drink from it. The popular thing to do is to hike to one of the village’s waterfalls, which we did. Many people visiting choose to go to the waterfall on horseback.
We met a guy on the boat who decided to take a horse to the farther waterfall. He rented a horse, and hired an 11 year old guide to take him there. Once they arrived the kid just disappeared, and the guy had to figure out how to get back on his own. Luckily he made it back in time to catch the last boat out that evening.
Before I close the book on San Pancho, I wanted to mention a couple places that are significant.
1. Las Huertas Golf Club, built in the middle of an orchard of mangos, grapefruits, cashew nut, cinamon, tamarindo, blackpepper and guanabana trees. It offers a 9 hole par 32 course. It looked beautiful from the outside.
2. La Patrona Polo & Equestrian Club attracts international visitors from around the world to San Pancho. I didn’t visit the club, but I did see some of stunning horses on the jungle roads I walked on every day. Wow, they are beautiful, awe-inspiring, enormous creatures. They have a variety of events at the club – I would have loved to have seen a polo match or a display of horse dancing, because both events I have never seen.
3. Entre Amigos Community Center. This center is the second largest employer in San Pancho (the hospital is the number one employer). You can tell this is a special place when you see visit the 15,000 square foot, green sustainable facility. It is a unique work of art from top to bottom. The center offers a library, play areas, technology center, art gallery and store, free access to classes on workshops and physical activities. It is a magical place that San Pancho is very proud of.
At the end of my month long stay in San Pancho I was sad to say goodbye. Chances are I won't return as there are a million other places I'd like to see. And so back on the road we go.
On August 14th I packed up my stuff and met Jorge at the PEMEX station on the side Highway 200 (see image below). My apartment was on a narrow street that Jorge couldn't access with the trailer. I found a taxi driver who got all my stuff in his car, including my bike and my dog. He charged me $4 for the 5 mile trip. It was time to get out of the extreme heat and find some relief in the cooler weather of Guadalajara and Lake Chapala.
As I write this we are at an RV park on Lake Chapala. Tomorrow we are traveling to Jorge's moms home town (just 20 minutes away from the RV park). His family will be cooking for us all day, so I decided to contribute by baking some cookies. It's not much, but I'm a horrible cook. At the moment I've got the cookies in the oven, rain is falling, and PJ is snoring on the couch. It's all good.
I'll keep you posted....