exico: Texas to Belize
November 23, 2003 - January 26, 2004
We entered Mexico for the third time at the end of November after a month of R&R in McAllen, Texas. We had not intended to stay so long in Texas, but delays in first choosing Gerry's new camera and then getting it delivered (thanks Moshe!) contributed as did our lethargy once we got settled in at the Aloha Mo. l. Not only did we have access to the motel pool, but we were within a short drive of a great variety of pleasing restaurants, and best of all we could buy the New York Times daily!
Eventually however, we solved all of our technology problems, and on November ?? crossed the border at Reynosa and drove towards Real de Qatorce. It came highly recommended by other travellers, but they had omitted to mention the fact that to get there you had to drive over 32 kms of cobblestone road. It did nothing to help our ailing shock absorbers nor our temper, but all things do eventually come to an end and at last we came to the famed tunnel which gives access to the small town.
From the silver mining mountains of the north, our next goal was to visit the old colonial cities north of Mexico
Somewhat tired by now of baroque churches and colonial architecture,
we were ready for a change and found it in the small town of Uruapan.
The two main attractions here are the nearby volcano Paracutin and the buried village church of San Juan.
We had hoped to climb the volcano,
but found we were far from the needed physical shape.
Instead we walked to the buried village and scrambled around to get views of the front and back walls,
all that remain of the building buried as it is in lava.
Back in town we also explored the surprisingly lovely park along the ?? river canyon.
In Uruapan we were on the west side of Mexico City and continued to skirt it visiting the nearby and very lovely little town of Patzcuaro where we got to see a traditional "Posada", a celebration of the journey made by Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem and their search for a bed for the night. From Patzcuaro we went to Morelia and Toluca, two state capitals, and finally to Taxco, another former silver-mining city that now mines tourists. We spent the Christmas holidays here in a pleasant room with a terrace overlooking a very nice garden complete with swimming pool. Sadly the cool nights made the pool a little too chilly for us. Like the rest of the tourists we bought silver here. The local shops specialize in silver inlaid with turquoise and other semi-precious stones and manufacture some very beautiful pieces. From Taxco we hopped to Cuernavaca, south of Mexico city and then east to Puebla where we celebrated the end of 2003 and the arrival of 2004.
With January already being used up, we started to look anxiously at the calendar. How could we see all that we wanted to in only three weeks with Chiapas and the Yucatan peninsula still to go? In our terms by rushing. We spent only three days in Oaxaca, a very nice city that sadly saw both of us get sick. From Oaxaca we spent a full day at the ancient zapotec city of Monte Alban which we both loved. Then it was on to Chiapas and the famed mountain resort of San Cristobal de las Casas. From there it was on to Palenque, first of the big Mayan cities, and our favorite so far. In Palenque we finally left behind the cool mountain air and had to get accustomed to more humid steamy temperatures.
In our last two weeks, we hopped around the Yucatan peninsula seeing Campeche with its old city wall and fort, Merida, jumping off point for Chichen Itza and Uxmal, both large ruins of Mayan cities, and then suddenly we found ourselves within a few miles of the border and the end of our Mexico experience. At this point fortune smiled on us and we found the Hotel Laguna in which to rest our weary bones for a couple of days and reflect on the two months we had just spent. One thing was certain. We were now Spanish readers if not quite yet fluent Spanish speakers. But ahead was a new and strange experience for us: a foreign country that spoke English. We were off to Belize.
Because we had dallied so long in Texas in November, we had barely enough time to see the highlights of Chiapas and the Yucatan Peninsula before we had to make a dash for the border at Chetumal. We weren't sure whether our visa was really for six months or for exactly 180 days, which are clearly not the same thing. We erred on the side of caution and left on the 179th day after a most delightful day and a half on the shores of Laguna Bacalar, 20 miles north of Chetumal.
We are always on the lookout for that perfect hotel with a view. We came close in San Cristobal de las Casas with a view from the balcony over red-tiled roof tops to a white church tower against a backdrop of mountains. It was lovely at sunset but, alas, the altitude of San Cristobal meant that at night it was so cold in our charming but unheated room that Jan had to go to bed just to keep warm.
We were heading for Chetumal, south of Laguna Bacalar, but stopped at the hotel to get some directions. We got the directions, looked at the view, looked at the hotel pool, looked at the view again and said to one another that such a view must be beyond our budget. But it costs nothing to ask and when we did we were pleasantly surprised. The room would cost 390 Mexican pesos (about US$35.00 at current exchange rates). The room was simple but large with a tiled floor, private bathroom, and private balcony — you guessed — with a view of the pool and the lake beyond. We were hooked. We spent our last two nights in Mexico there and wished we could have spent even one more day there.
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