Our trip south was a motorboat ride all the way to Barra and the Grand Bay Marina...uneventful and easy...my kind of passage. Fortunately we managed to arrive the day before our friend Yvonne arrived in Mazanillo for a brief visit on “Full & By” . After a couple of days relaxing and enjoying The Grand Bay facilities we set off to Cuastecomate, a small quiet little bay only six miles away known as the “Secret Anchorage”. The water is usually lovely there, clear and blue and there is nice snorkelling reef on the west side of the bay. We were surprised by some unexpected rain and squalls very unusual for this time of year which affected the water clarity and put a bit of a damper on the snorkelling however we did have a lovely time playing in the water with all our toys (floaty chairs, paddle board, and our sit on top kayak). Eventually we did manage to snorkel the reef and enjoy the pretty fish even with the visibility not up to par. We also shared a lovely meal with new friends( Nancy & Hubert) who had rented a lovely place high on the hill overlooking the bay. Our next anchorage was Tenacatita,
one of my favourite spots on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Here we have a fresh water lagoon to explore (birds), a nice golden sand beach to walk, a palapa restaurant, which serves good fish and pawn meals…. and of course good cervesa as well as a beautiful bay for swimming, snorkelling and water fun. We took our dinghy up the estuary to take pictures of birds
and look for crocodiles….by the time we got back it was low tide and the surf was up! We decided to leave Yvonne and the cameras on the beach while Dick and I tempted fate and the surf. Of course we mistimed the waves….. the first wave swamped us, the second crashed on top of me, but somehow we managed to stay 90 degrees to the surf, stay upright and get the outboard engine started which saved the day and us and the dinghy, which was now full to overflowing with water. It was at that point we noticed a broken oar (our oars are wooden..the oar had broken right at the oarlock) Then we realized the other oar was missing! Fortunately, Yvonne after watching our near disaster had accepted a ride back to our boat with another cruiser and she managed to get back to us along with the cameras dry and in one piece and she had even the found the missing oar! Following this mishap, Dicks’ back was giving him grief. So the following morning, although a day earlier than we had planned, we headed back to The Grand Bay to get some down time for Dick as well as get ourselves and “Full & By ready for our trip inland to Mexico City and beyond …planned for three days later. Soon we were saying farewell to Yvonne and “Full & By” and we were off. Dick could barely walk so I wasn’t sure how we were going to manage but manage we did with help of our friends Fran & Jean Guy who we met up with in Mexico City later that evening. The horseback ride up to see the butterflies six days later cured him but that’s another story!
Our adventure into the heart of Mexico started with a short hop flight from Manzanillo to Mexico City, greatly delayed due to pile up of air traffic in Mexico City. Our cab driver Alehandro was great, giving us an excellent tour through the historical district from the airport to our hotel and he was reasonable to boot! He gave us his phone number for future reference and offered to take us anywhere we wanted to go. Our hotel, Hotel Gillow was conveniently located in the heart of the historical part of Mexico City…..one block from the Zocolo…four blocks from the cultural Palacio de Bellas Artes…and less than a half a block from Starbucks! Although the room was a bit cozy and there was a tilt to the floor …it was clean and had a lovely terrance
surrounded by flower boxes overlooking the street six stories below. Jean Guy was waiting for us in the lobby on arrival and soon all four of us were all together organizing and planning our short stay. The Anthropological Museum was first on the list …..a not too long bus ride across the city and we were there. It was extensive, vast and way too much information for my old brain to absorb in one day, but we tried..eventually we were too cold to carry on…no heat in the buildings, high ceilings, stone walls and high altitude …Mexico City is 7,300. feet elevation and evening temps were single digits…so all combined makes it very cold inside the building in spite of wearing fleece and my down jacket! We all finally decided we had to call it a day and headed into the restaurant for hot tortilla soup before heading back to our hotel. For future reference I would recommend setting aside several days to do justice to this place …everything was beautifully displayed, many exhibits had english interpretation and as well there were english electronic interpreters available although at times it was a little difficult to follow in sequence as not all the displays were referenced.
The following day it was Alehandro taking us to the pyramids known as Teotihuacán, The main location of Mexico’s pre hispanic empire. One cannot help but be impressed by this magnificent site even on a hazy day……walking along the Calzada de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead),
looking up at the pyramids of the moon and sun, it was hard to believe this place was built 1 AD and that it was built on top of a yet another previously built ancient city. The Aztecs found this place and believed it was the City of the Gods as they did not believe man could have built such magnificent place. The builders of the pyramids positioned the structures in such a way that knowledge of astronomy was clearly evident and this knowledge it is believed was used to determine optimum times for planting and harvest. Archaeologists believe these pyramids were used for religious purposes, not tombs as were the pyramids in Egypt or as thought by the Aztecs who didn’t build them but incorporated them into their city. Who built them is still a mystery which lends itself to much speculation and even a little mysticism. For us visiting it was a great experience in spite of my vertigo and arthritic knees. I did manage to climb to the top of one of the pyramids….the third highest, but I still had to come down on all fours …like a toddler, carefully placing my feet down one step at a time. The high risers and narrow steps…. apparently improved the acoustics (at the top when you speak loudly your voice carries a great distance) either way the steepness of the rise and narrow steps make it particularly precarious to climb these structures….I couldn’t help but think of how many people have must have fallen and been hurt or worse. There are no railings and at 7,000 feet I am sure many a soul has experienced dizziness and shortness of breath as they climb to the top. Of course Jean Guy and Dick had to scamper up to the top of the highest pyramid….The Pyramid of the Sun, the second largest pyramid in the world! From a safe vantage point Fran & I were able to spot their tiny bodies at the top but then we lost them in the crowds on their way down.
It was a long tiring day but well worth it. The next day Fran & I wandered around the city taking lots of pictures while our spouses headed out on the subway to the bus station to purchase bus tickets to take us onto our next stop. Soon Fran & I found ourselves inside the Palacio National
where we were able to view Diego Rivera’s tableau of Mexican History
among many other historical relics…fabulous. That afternoon we rode the Mexico City “Metro”, the subway (very clean and efficient and cheap!) out to the floating gardens (public transportation in Mexico is always entertaining… hawkers sell everything…candy, bicycle bells, electronic music, blow bubble kits and sometimes a serenade..with or without accompaniment. It is an experience not to be missed.) From the end of the subway line we boarded a high speed train and then it was just a short walk to where we found the boats. Our boat was named ” Esmeralda”…. and soon we were afloat,
enjoying the afternoon with hundreds of families out for the day. We were being constantly entertained by food deliveries, souvenir hawkers and the multiple mariachi bands floating up and down the canals..it was a perfect way to end our last day in Mexico City or DF(District Federal) as it is known by the locals. That evening we attended a performance of the Mexican folk art ballet at the famous Palacio De Bellas Artes
….a beautiful building both inside and out. The performance was fabulous, as you would expect in such a beautiful place..even sitting in the gods! A quick walk back to our hotel and we were snuggled into bed ready for our next days adventure.
The following morning we were on our way to the south west Mexico City bus terminal known as “Observatorio” where we boarded a so called “direct” bus to Angangueo, a silver/gold copper/zinc mining town 8,500 feet high in the Sierra Madre close
to the monarch butterfly reserves, which we intended to visit over the following two days. The cool dry mountain air was hard on our skin and nasal membranes even though we were breathing much fresher air than the polluted haze in Mexico City. Our hotel Plaza Don Gabino was not heated but many blankets were provided and the hospitality of the owners and the staff made up for the lack of heat in the air. A fire welcomed us every morning and evening in the dinning room and meals were beautifully prepared and served. Of course all the warm clothing I owned, I wore…Dick continued to wear shorts! We rode horses up to the butterflies at the Rosario Reserve. The first day the weather was not ideal as the sun played in and out of the clouds. The butterflies hung in large clumps known as grapes and they stay there until they feel enough warmth from the sun to fly off in search of nectar.
Not many butterflies felt the suns warmth that morning, however we still were in awe of the numbers and managed many photos. Horseback is the only way to go…it is a steep uphill climb to 11,000 feet…not for the faint of heart….my horse huffed and puffed most of the way after all she had a heavy load, but I was glad it was her and not me! I requested a tranquilo caballo and was pleased….it is an easy ride and they lead your horse all the way!
Anyway we made it… if not for the horse, I might still be there huffing and puffing somewhere on the trail. The following day was spectacular…. abundant sunshine and blue blue sky all day. We left a little later, this time to the Sierra Chincua Reserve, at an even higher elevation…thank god for the horse! It was fabulous, everything we had hoped for. The butterflies flew past us in clouds especially if disturbed/suprised by a bird. I found the photography difficult just because there were so many butterflies
and most were moving even when they were not flying, however I did manage to take several hundred shots some of which were good ..thank heaven for digital!
It was a phenomenal experience I will always treasure.
We met up with cruiser friends Ian & Ellen, also doing some inland adventuring themselves and had a great visit with them sharing our various experiences by the fireplace in their hotel room with a few glasses of wine followed by a meal at their hotel. It was good to see them again and catch up and we discovered we were heading the same direction the following day so …..another good yak was had over a street fare dinner in Patzcuaro and a good time was had by all.
Getting to Patzcuaro from Angangueo was a bit convoluted, however Victor our butterfly tour guide drove us to the nearest city bus station where we could easily board a bus to Morelia and then on to Patzcuaro, our next destination. The bus ride over twisty mountain roads at high speed had us wondering a few times if we would make it intact however……no problema. Our B & B in Patzcuaro was delightful, Hotel Casa Encantada
…us up in the loft and Fran & Jean Guy on the main level. We had a fireplace in the room, and a small kitchen to boot. Unfortunately when we turned on the fireplace all the heat ended up in the loft making it too warm for sleeping, especially as there were no windows to open so we chose not to use the fireplace.
There were several highlights to our brief stay in Patzcuaro
, the buildings in the historical centre, built in 1550-1600 soon after Cortez, the market, fresh fruit everywhere, guitar serenades both in the square and at our B&B….and best of all was a trip to Paracho where almost all the string instruments in Mexico are made and where I bought my new hand made guitar!
Now I have no excuse but to practise enough to make such a beautiful work of art make the sound it deserves. Patzcuaro was a great place to use as a base to visit the many little places close by each known for different crafts and expertise.
Too soon our trip was over …a luxury bus ride back to Mexico City followed by yet another entertaining Metro ride this time to the airport. From the bus station to the airport at the opposite end of a city of 16,000,000. took less than an hour and was only 6 pesos each! Our plane back to the coast was on time this time and before we knew it we were back on “Full & By”. A long day of travelling but well worth it. Our friends Julie & Rick had decided to come down for a visit so while we were gone they took care of “Full & By”, enjoying the resort….it was a win win for us both, especially since they were able to bring with them our much needed new oars for our dinghy! After a couple of days recovering from our trip, we were ready to head back to Tenacatita which is where we are at the moment enjoying the warm sunshine and water. In another week it will be time to say goodbye to Rick & Julie and start our voyage back north. It has been great having them here with us.