Monthly Archives: April 2008

Boondocking in Bermejillo, Durango, Mexico


The night was hot. The air was heavy and thick and the ever present Vicente Fernadez’s beautiful voice singing Estos Celos was filling the diesel scented air with his smooth notes. The vulcanizer store next door was still busy with the trucks arriving in late and needing some repairs. The whole family was out in the street with children giggling outside the trailer while the father set about fixing the truck. The truck cleaning men were still waving down the drivers enticing them to park up and have their huge semi-remolques cleaned while they stopped to rest for the night. This is when having an older trailer works – we blended into the mayhem of the place, our 24ft 5th wheel looking petite next to the medley of colourful trucks. After spending a few hours watching the street I realised that it was not mayhem out there at all. This was a small town fully geared to servicing the truckers. The following morning after not much sleep we had a wonderful Huevos a la Mexicana from one of the street stands. Having come from Patzcuaro and Zacatecas where the 7000ft+ altitude gives you hot days and cool nights we were shocked to find that the temperature never really dipped much below 34c even through the night. It was steamy, loud and smelly where just the sheer exhaustion of all the travelling allowed us to store a few hours in the sleep bank. We were not really sure where we were and it was only upon leaving the town the next morning that we found out the name of the town. It was Bermejillo about 40 kms from Torreon in Coahuila.

When you travel in Mexico looking for a place to stay for a night, the Pemex gas stations are generally a good spot. The trick is to buy your gas and ask whether it is alright to park for the night. The Pemex station outside of the towns are generally better as they tend to be large and act as truck-stops. But pick the right one make sure you know what is around you and that you are going to feel safe for the night. Other good places are Police stations or even motels or restaurants – just ask. If you park in street which we did in Los Mochis make sure the street is well lit and that you check out the neighborhood and know what kind of place you are in and don’t be surprised in the morning if you find some curious people checking out your trailer from underneath…

Never park in a deserted area as you never know what is going down in that area it may not be deserted.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Mexico

CouchSurfing – Free lodging across the World


Surf ChairHaving the money to fly to places and to see them doesn’t always guarantee that you really see them. Staying at a hotel in the tourist zone of any town can be lots of fun but not always fulfilling. The irony here is that due to having insufficient funds you may find yourself having a much more fulfilling experience than the above traveler. I have just come across CouchSurfing.com through a recommendation of a fellow traveler who has been using this site around Mexico. “Couch surfing” is a choice for the budget traveler who is seeking free lodging and the chance to meet local people. This launched in 2004 and how has 50,000 plus members from 226 countries.

So how does it work? Create a profile and then start connecting with people either by offering your couch or your time for a cup of coffee OR by accepting the offer of either of these two options. Now the obvious question is safety and this one that has been thought through by this on-for profit organisation with verification levels built into the system. However, like anything in life the ultimate decision to connect with strangers in this way lies with you. This is something I will be looking at as I travel for the next few months.

Some other sites offering similar service are Global Freeloaders and The Hospitality Club

2 Comments

Filed under Travel Hints

Patzcuaro, Mexico


The more time I spend in Mexico the more excited I am by the people, the culture and the landscape. Driving into the western highlands of the Mexican state of Michoacan past old volcano’s and rolling fertile plains rich with a diverse flora and fauna I am struck by the how different Mexico feels as I move around the country. The Mexican experience is one that is continually varied. Here in Patzcuaro the center-point for the surrounding Purepecha Indian villagers who flock to the town to sell their crafts and food I can feel the spirit of the indigenous peoples striking in their traditional clothes. The air is rich with varied smells of foods and fruits and there are plenty of street cafes to hangout in and just watch the world go by, but never expect quiet because you are likely to have a mariachi band stroll up and start playing beside you at any moment. While your there try the local Tarascan soup which is on most menu’s made with blended beans, dryed chilies and tomatoes, poured over fried tortilla strips, with melted cheese, avocado and cream on top.

Plaza Don Vasco

Patzcuaro (pop: 50,000) in the western highlands situated in the Lake Pátzcuaro region of the Mexican state of Michoacán is famous for the Day of the Dead celebrations in November which is a mix of pre-Hispanic beliefs and Catholicism. The original meaning of Patzcuaro in the Purepecha language is “door to heaven” and this is not far off the mark even today. It is situated in an area thickly forested with pine, oak and eucalyptus so in the cool mornings the air smells divine. The town is a colonial gem with 16th century architecture, stucco walls painted white with dark red borders, friendly people, colourful markets, good food and a laid backness that gets into the bones. There are no major stores or chains just amazing buildings. Peak into any given tienda or store and you will see a long hallway leading to a courtyard garden. It’s is packed with churches, beautiful plaza’s that transform into markets depending on what day it is, Fridays are great as this is the major market day for the villagers from all around the lake who sell their wares in the main plaza’s such as Plaza Vasco de Quiroga. This plaza is named after the still revered Don Vasco , a bishop who fought for the rights of the local population rebelling against any ideas that they should loose their liberty and introduced the concept and skills which still persists today of each village producing a particular craft. Paracho is known as the guitar capital of the world, Tzintzuntzán pottery, Santa Clara copper products and Nurío woven woolens.

Market

And if you have a fascination with the catholic crafts step into the arcade called Casa De Los Naranjos on the corner of Plaza Vasco de Quiroga where you can buy many Dia de Los Muertos figurines, local CD’s and further into the arcade try making a selection from a wall plastered with hundreds of catholic crosses and iconography in that truly Mexican style. When I visited in April there were very few overseas tourists so if you have the desire to experience real Mexico this is the place to visit.

Crosses

Getting There

Patzcuaro Location – By air, there is a small airport that connects with Houston (4 hours), LA (3 hours), Mexico City (55 minutes) or take the luxury air-conditioned bus Primera Plus which is 5 hours direct from Mexico City for about $50 return. Getting to Patzcuaro from any place is Mexico is easy as long as you go through a major city.

Where to Stay

Camping – There are two parks here, I stayed at Villa Patzcuaro Hotel and RV Park has rooms and RV camping in a large garden out the back surrounded by eucalyptus and many birds. Not far from town to drive or jump in a collective.

There are many beautiful historic hotels at great prices in the town center.
Hotel Meson del Gallo, Dr. Jose Maria Coss 20. Single or double, $28; (52-434) 21474.
Hotel Fiesta Plaza, Plaza Bocanegra 24, single $37; double $43; (52-434) 22516.
Hotel Mansion Iturbe, Portal Morelos 59, (52-434) 20360, on the main plaza. is an elegant bed-and-breakfast; $70 for either a single or a double , breakfast included. Discounts for longer stays.

When to go

In terms of the weather, day-time temperatures are consistent year round but winter nights can be very cold as the town is at 7200ft altitude.

Major Fiestas

March 14. Don Vasco de Quiroga week: art and cultural fair, concerts. Patzcuaro.
March-April. Holy Week: processions, passion plays, Stations of the Cross, feasts. All towns.
May 3. Santa Cruz Day. Patzcuaro, Tzintzuntzan, Erongaricuaro, Quiroga, Zirahuen, Tingambato.
Oct. 31. Kuirsi-atakua: ceremonial preparation of duck casserole in advance of Night of the Dead: Janitzio, Jaracuaro, Tzin tzuntzan.
Nov. 1 and 2. All Saints’ Day and Dia De Las Muertos: offerings to the dead (food, flowers, candy)
Dec. 8. La Senora de la Salud Day: Dances, Indian artisan fair, parades, bullfights. Patzcuaro.
Dec. 12. Virgen de Guadalupe Day
Dec. 16 to 24. Christmas processions in the streets, fiestas, fireworks, pinatas.

Interesting Articles

Deep in the Heart of Mexico, The New York Times

3 Comments

Filed under Camping, Mexico, Travel Hints