Posted by: glenswatman | March 17, 2008

200803 01 MEXICO Jalisco Colima



SATURDAY 1 MARCH 2008 – Jack & Bonnie
offer us another trip to La Manzanilla. 
On the way back they detour to show us around and do some exploring near
Playa Boca De Iguanas.  A group are
collecting coconuts and we pass just as one of the men abseils down from the
tree.  There is a donkey waiting nearby
with baskets over his back waiting to be loaded up.  Heading south on a track back towards La Manzanilla we pass many
seemingly abandoned camping areas but the whole area is fenced off with the
only access to the beach via narrow walking tracks.  The road ends at a river and as Steve looks over he sees a huge
crocodile swimming past.  There’s a
broken footbridge nearby and we walk to the top to look down on the crocodile
as he swims towards the beach restaurants. 
Mexicans run over and get very close, seemingly oblivious to any
danger.  It finally rests by the edge of
the river and families with small children close in, perhaps they are all
related to Steve Irwin.  Steve wanders
over but hovers in the background taking pictures.  The croc opens it’s mouth as if to pounce but then glides back
and disappears into the murky water. 
Next stop is “Raicilla distillery” where we take the free tour.  Bootleg brewers have got together to
register and form a co-operative.  The
alcohol is similar to tequila but a better quality with the top of the range
one retailing at 295 pesos (£14.50) for a 700cc bottle.  Back at the slabs the camping area is
quickly filling up with Mexicans who camp so close to each other that you can
barely walk between the tents.  They
soon crank up the music and we are surrounded by different tunes.  By nightfall there must be over 100 people
and the party begins.  There are many
campfires probably made from fresh wood, as they smoke is terrible.  A generator is started up and the arc lights
come on and the music is turned up louder. 
With no chance of sleep we invite Jack & Trudy to play cards then
stay up reading until 12.30am.  It
doesn’t quieten down until well after 2am.


Suggested donation $5 (£2.50)


SUNDAY 2 MARCH – With family’s camped as well
as young people there is no chance of a lie in.  Everyone is obviously having a great time and there are soon lots
of people in the water and kids playing in dinghies.  Suddenly there’s a bit of disruption and a man emerges from the
water carrying a huge squid – at least 1 metre long.  He races up the beach with the red rubbery thing in his arms and
takes it to his camp with Steve following to take some photos.  At afternoon low tide we find it upsetting
to see many Mexicans walking out on the coral. 
There are signs up explaining how to preserve the reef but they totally
ignore them and even bring chunks back as souvenirs.  One Mexican man approaches them to explain about the coral but
they don’t want to know.  By early
evening all the locals have left and there are just the quiet gringos left plus
all the rubbish that has been left behind. 



MONDAY 3 MARCH – Cathie packs up her
“Travelling Dolphin” caravan to leave, as a lone 72-year-old lady you have to
admire her guts in touring places like Mexico alone.  There’s a big hill at the end of the spit and we climb up a newly
made dirt road to explore.  It would
appear that they are cutting areas out to be sold as building lots.  The views are superb as you can see at least
5 different beaches and in all directions. 
The ocean seems much calmer so we have a go at snorkelling but still find
it too churned up near the reef.  After
lunch Jack & Bonnie ask if we want to join them for a “washing” visit to
the river.  Steve declines but I go
along and take a few dirty clothes as well. 
The river is just beyond the nearest village and Jacks 4wd gets us right
down to the water.  It’s very shallow,
clear warm water and I am soon filling buckets to take to the banks to do our
laundry.  With that out of the way I get
on with my personal bathing.  Bonnie
does their washing whilst Jack cleans the car. 
We’re parked by a ford and during our time there it is crossed by a
couple of cyclists, a tractor with a load of chilli peppers, a cowboy on
horseback and an old man with a donkey and cart.  No one bats an eyelid at us, as this is the place where all the
locals come to do their washing. 



TUESDAY 4 MARCH – Maz and family leave and as
it’s a cloudy morning we go for a walk into the village.  There are no public phones but the hotel
allows you to use their mobile for a fee. 
Make arrangements with a host in Colima then settle in for a drink.  John & Sandy from Mount Shasta
California are staying in the hotel and we have a chat with them.  A last game of euchre with Jack & Bonnie
rounds off the day.



WEDNESDAY 5 MARCH – We are leaving today as
are Jack & Bonnie.  It’s been
interesting for us to see the amount of packing everyone else has to do.  Maz starting last Friday in readiness for
his departure yesterday and Jack seems to have spent at least a day in
preparation.  We on the other hand take
about 15 minutes, a big plus for having a motorhome large enough to keep things
store inside in their correct place. 
Continue south to the small tourist town of Melaque where we drive
through a bit of a village on the north side of the river to get to the “almost
free camping” area.  35 pesos (£1.75)
day gets you a safe level parking spot and if you are lucky, like we are, a
spot right on the water front with your own palapa.  The toilets are extremely basic and flushed with water from a
barrel but most people seem to have dug holes for their waste pipes and filled
the earth up around them.  Many people
remain here for the whole winter season. 
Just around the corner we take a walk along the unfinished Malecon
gaining us fine views over the bay. 
Exploring the camping area we find one camper is having his 5th
wheel cleaned and waxed by locals who have a portable truck with
generator.  On the top camping area one
van is obviously set up for the season with about 10 solar panels and even a
car port canopy for his truck.  After
lunch we ford the area we use the stepping-stones to cross the river where it
flows into the ocean.  The town
stretches a long way and begins with lots of beach restaurants.  You can’t continue walking behind the beach
as the ruins of a massive 3-storey hotel block the way.  Reaching the town proper we find many
Internet cafes, 15 pesos hour, mini supermarkets and above all else shops
selling beach wares and tourist goods. 
It’s still a very low key area as the hotels all look to be small family
run ones aimed more at Mexican holiday makers. 
Hot off the press we pick up a kilo of tortillas for 8 pesos (40p) from
a factory in the main street.  After
checking out the attractive main square we walk back along the beach. 


35 pesos (£1.75)


THURSDAY 6 MARCH – Sit out having breakfast
under our palapa whilst watching the sun light up the bay.  Throughout the morning more campers leave,
Semana Santa (Holy week) begins here next weekend and that is when the Mexicans
invade the coast.  There are many
species of bird here and as we are on a bank at the edge of the river they seem
to fly past at eye level.  Late morning
Steve is watching a bird then glances beyond it to see a small alligator
basking on a log in the river, the very river that we cross to get to the town.
Mid afternoon we walk to town, over the footbridge, to try and phone our next
host.  There are payphones around but
they are all the card type and we only want to make one call.  At least it gives us the opportunity of
finding an easier way out when we leave tomorrow.  Wish we had allowed ourselves longer here as we could have got a
bus to explore the adjoining resort of Barra de Navidad but that will have to
wait until next year.



            FRIDAY 7 MARCH
are heading inland now to cut across Mexico. 
It’s another misty departure morning but it clears inland and the sun
breaks through exposing huge palm and banana plantations.  The toll road to Manzanillo is free but the
main road through is not so we take the free road inland through many
interesting villages.  In Mexico they
cannot charge a toll if there is no alternative route nearby so the new dual
carriageway to Colima is free.  Local
stalls line the edge selling coconuts, a bargain at 20 pesos – 10p, and
salt.  Steve notices us being tailed by
the Police and eventually they pull out level with us and indicate for Steve to
pull over.  He is sure we have done
nothing wrong and they look genuine but we are still happy to pull off at a big
Pemex gas station.  The two officers get
out and whilst one of them begins quizzing us the other does a thorough
inspection of the outside of the motorhome. 
Only one speaks a little English but we gather that a motorhome like
ours was involved in an accident but didn’t stop to report it.  They make a quick phone call to verify
ownership and then apologise before sending us on our way.  Glad that Kevin fixed up our bump recently
or that may have taken some explaining. 
Colima is backed by a huge volcano and often suffers from earthquakes so
all buildings must be no higher than 2 storeys making for an attractive
city.  We get a bit lost trying to find
our way and end up with 1 police truck in front leading us to the house and
another behind!  She’s not home but the
cleaner explains she will be back later. 
He home is in a very nice newly developing neighbourhood and the road
outside is wide and flat for parking. 
She arrives back and invites us inside. 
Alpha lives with her mother and they only moved here a year ago having
had the house built to their design. 
It’s huge, light spacious and very modern, a total contrast to the
fishermen’s homes we have been seeing. 
We hit it off immediately and have lots to chat about including the
coincidence that she stayed with a host in Vancouver whom we had been in
contact with.  Her Mum is director of a
private school and Alpha’s New Zealand boyfriend Tom teaches English
there.  Her Lupita and Tom arrive home
and also make us very welcome.  They
have brought food to cook us a typical Mexican meal so we sit around the
breakfast bar learning how to prepare it all. 
After a brief siesta we go out for the evening with Alpha and Tom to the
theatre.  Our journey takes us through a
very modern area of the city with huge shopping malls; you could so easily be
in America.  The old part of town is a
different story with a very Mediterranean feel.  Pedestrianised streets are full of walkers and also old men sat
down playing chess.  Surrounding the
main square are many restaurants and bars with tables outside and music is
coming from the central bandstand.  The
nearby theatre has recently been refurbished and very impressive.  Inside the stalls are surrounded by 4 levels
of shallow balconies almost like boxes but without dividers.  There is no admission charge and it is very
busy but we get on the 2nd tier up. Alpha explains that it is mainly
music and dance but the occasional narration is poetry.  Much of the music is swing and jazz and it’s
an interesting performance including some Charlie Chaplin clips.  Back on the streets I can’t resist buying
some 5 pesos (25p) fat stubby churros (sort of stick like doughnuts) that are
filled with chocolate, strawberry or condensed milk. Alpha drives us to a local
bar where Steve & Tom are horrified to have their jug of beer served full
of ice.  This is soon replaced by
slightly warm bottles of beer; the owner explains that their drinks delivery
does not arrive until 9pm so nothing is chilled!  After chatting and sharing a snack we return home to camp out on
the street.



SATURDAY MARCH 8 – Everything is very laid back
in Mexico with no fixed time for anything. 
Breakfast seems to take place anywhere between 8am and 10am and the main
meal mid afternoon.  Lupita and Tom go
off to the school whilst Alfa has made time to take us out.  She uses the schools pick up truck so Steve
gets to sit in the back Mexican style. 
The nearby of Comala was home to the famous artist Alejandro Rangel
Hidalgo.  20 pesos (£1) gets us into the
University museum where we see examples of his work set out within his
home.  His pictures all have round child
like faces and look very modern. 
There’s a second museum in town, 10 pesos (50p) with really interesting
gardens.  Driving back through the town
we can see how it got it’s name as the white village as this is the colour of
all the houses.  The local drink
“ponche” comes from here and after sampling a few variants we settle on the
cappuccino flavour, a kind of alcoholic milk shake.  Alfa drops Steve at their home so he can watch the Liverpool
match on TV and I go to the school. 
Lupita bought up an old orchard and on the land has built a complete
school for students 14 – 18 years.  It’s
a private multi lingual school with very impressive facilities and a really
nice atmosphere.  Adjoining it is an old
people home that Lupita often visits. 
She takes me round to meet many of the residents who enjoy the chunks of
cheese she has taken for them.  After
lunch I learn how to wash up Mexican style, you pile the dirty dishes in an
empty sink, fill a small container with diluted washing up liquid, and dip a
scouring sponge into this to clean each item individually.  These are then put into a second sink to
drain some of the suds off before being rinsed under a running tap.  In the evening we are invited to join them
at the opening night of a Brazilian theatre mask exhibition.  The masks are made of a kind of papier-mache
and enhance the image of the actor.  As
the opening night it is followed by a talk from the people involved, a couple
of songs from a local band and then wine and nibbles.  We are introduced to Jair the maker of the masks and although he
speaks Portuguese we manage to chat using Alfa as interpreter.  He’s a very interesting and funny guy and
invites Steve & I to visit him in Brazil. 
In fact we are all getting along so well he goes in search of more wine,
but it’s run out.  Alfa and Lupita
invite him back to their place and he agrees to come along with Miriam, a
member of the cast and also his girlfriend. 
The evening ends after much entertainment with us all attempting to sing
a traditional song, we do Ilkley Moore Bah’ tat.



SUNDAY 9 MARCH – The day’s plans, to go to the
beach, have been changed many times before Tom gives us a knock after 9am.  We’ve already had breakfast but accept an
invite for a second one.  Alfa chops
tortilla into small squares and fries them in a pan.  Next she adds beaten eggs followed by tomato sauce.  Once it has all mixed together she puts
strips of soft white cheese on top to melt, very tasty served with a hot
sauce.  Lupita is cooking a chicken
dinner for the nursing home but the rest of us are free to go to the University
theatre to see “El Asno” – The Donkey – play performed by Jair & Miriam’s
theatre group.  It’s supposed to start
at 12.00 but we arrive after that and people are still queuing to buy tickets,
60 pesos (£3). It’s a type of street theatre mixed with pantomime but all in
Portuguese. Luckily much of it is slapstick comedy.  Miriam plays a gypsy girl and also a character on stilts.  We get to see a number of the mask that Jair
has made and enjoy the opportunity to do something very different.  Back at home the family have decided to take
Lupita’s Mum and Auntie to the beach and they are short on space so having been
at the beach for most of the last 3 months we are happy to stay in the motorhome
and catch up on Internet. 



MONDAY 10 MARCH – Well we haven’t seen the
pyramid temple or much of the centre of Colima as we had intended but what we
have done has been far more interesting to us. 
Yet again our hosts have excelled themselves and we now feel we know a
little more of the Mexican lifestyle. 
Heading north we opt for the toll road to avoid the twisty mountain
roads, Pesos 136 (£6.80).  Leaving
Colima we are lucky to see the volcano begin belching out smoke.  The new road takes us over many large
bridges often with fine views.  In
Ciudad Guzman we meet up with our next host a young man called Fernando.  He has offered a place for us to park on his
fathers ranch and leads us there in his car. 
There are 11 horses stabled there but plenty of room for us in the
yard.  Fernando takes us off in the car
to explore the city.  His English is
very good having just returned from a few months working in a restaurant in
Norfolk.  In contrast to Colima this is
about half the size and much quieter. 
Also prone to earthquakes they decided not to replace the clock tower on
the church after it fell a second time in the 1985 tremble. In the main square
there is an earthquake warning board with green light to signal all is well,
amber for alert (this is on today) and red for danger.  Fernando says he has never seen it on green
in his lifetime!  There are 3 famous
artists from this area, including Orozco, and much of their work is in the form
of murals in the public buildings.  The
town hall has an amazing one along 2 walls and a most unusual moulding over the
staircase depicting a 3 faceted face of the artist.  It looks like the entrance to a Disney ghost ride.  In another public building there is an art
exhibition with pictures of the famous “gay ghost” and a statue of the same
with a protrusion under his robe!  Pause
for a drink and opt for the “Jamaica water” that Alfa introduced us to.  Fernando drives us up the hill to the local
park, 2 pesos – 10p, where we walk up for fine views over the city.  After an afternoon rest at home Fernando
calls to pick us up in the evening.  A
horse and rider come down the road towards us, Fernando’s father Antonio.  Steve is highly amused to see him trotting
along drinking a can of beer.  We have a
brief chat before continuing to Fernando’s home.  His Mum & Dad are separated and he lives with his Mum who has
invited us for dinner.  Eloisa is the
local GP and a lovely lady.  She has
cooked us a traditional Mexican meal with fried tortillas stuffed with chicken
and other tasty treats.  After we have
eaten Eloisa heads off for an early night whilst Fernando drives us back to the
main square for a parade.  We miss the
fireworks but see one of the saints being paraded through the town.  People letting of rockets, dancers and a
band precede the statue and behind it pilgrims carry rucksacks with camping
gear for their long trek to Tapalpa. 
Next to the church a group of Aztec people are performing a traditional
dance to the beat of a drum.  Someone
comes round dispensing free drinks of a very alcoholic ponche.  They have at least 3 x 19 litres containers
of the stuff so there are going to be a few merry people by the end of the



TUESDAY 11 MARCH – Fernando picks us up early
to rendezvous with a guide for an 8am walk. 
Alejandro and his dog Tequila walk into the mountains every 3 days to
water the newly planted trees.  The
project has been going for a couple of years and 3 other people come to join
the group.  We take water in bottles and
Alejandro in a large container on his back. 
After a steep climb we reach the area where the plants are.  To maximise the effect you invert the bottle
and push it into the soil close to the plant enabling to water to seep out over
a few days.  These trees are needed to
stop the hill eroding and all the mud sliding down into the town.  We continue the walk after the watering and
reach an interesting shrine with seats enabling us to enjoy a panoramic view
over the city.  Higher up is a tree
swing then beyond that a cross and shrine on a tree.  Alejandro leads us along the ridge then invites us to climb up to
the highest point on the top of a rock. 
Now we have even better views, the city, the volcano and the lake.  The gate to the ranch is locked so to fill
in time we get to visit the local lake. 
People are just cleaning a large rowing boat to store, apparently the
Pan Am boat races will be held here in 2 years and the locals are a strong
team.  Steve has found out that he can
watch this afternoons Liverpool match on his satellite TV whilst I use the
Internet.  We are amazed when Fernando’s
friend arrives to drop off some lunch. 
Along with tostadas and tortillas he has brought a carton of goat meat
that he brought from Monterrey airport, as goat is a speciality of that
area.  Once again it’s very tasty food
for Steve washed down with the obligatory football watching beers.  We return home with Steve a very happy bunny
after Liverpool won.



WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH – Again Fernando picks us
up early for a trek into the mountains. 
He has borrowed his Dad’s truck to get us up to the “ Parque National
Nevado de Colima” so that we can do a hike to the top of the Nevado de Colima
(4335m).  You can drive about 17km to
the park entrance and it’s a long steady ascent.  It was 19C when we started but at the top it is down to 8C.   Fernando tells us that in the past he has
cycled the whole way up in 4 hours – crazy man!  Park admission is 20 pesos (£1), a ranger from America give us a
quick briefing about the volcanoes.  You
can drive a further 5km before parking and walking the last leg.  The earth is like very fine powder and it’s
easy to slip when you get to the steep parts. 
We are soon rewarded with stunning views and rounding a bend find we are
higher than and looking over to “The Volcan de Colima” 3900m, the most active
volcano in Mexico.  Today there are just
faint puffs of smoke coming out but the surrounding views are outstanding.  We’ve climbed to over 4000m but Fernando
decides to join a couple of young lads for the last stretch whilst we walk down
slowly.  It’s around 3pm when we get
back to the city so we head home and I cook us all a pasta and salad meal.  There are 4 Mexicans working at the ranch
and I send a plateful over so they can try our kind of food and it seems to go
down well as the plates come back empty!



THURSDAY 13 MARCH – Leaving the ranch is fun
as it was a tight squeeze to get in so they decide to cut some branches
back.  Everyone is so kind and
accommodating here and nothing seems too much trouble.  Fernando leads us to the local tyre garage
for us to check the air before leaving. 
Getting out of the city is a long job as the main road is closed with
roadworks.  There are very few main
roads around so we are lucky to have Fernando guide us on a circuitous route
along narrow one way streets, alone I think we would still be either driving
round or stuck!  Take the toll road, 136
pesos (£6.80), towards Guadalajara and pass a couple of huge dried up lakes,
both with lots of sand blowing around and a few twisters.  Turn off towards Lake Chapala, the largest
natural lake in Mexico.  There are a
number of large and small towns along the lakeside and it’s a popular spot for
Americans and Canadians to live due to the perfect climate.  In fact Ajijic has the largest ex-pat
community in the world at over 10,000. 
Getting to the waters edge is nigh on impossible as wall to wall houses
prevent access and the few streets that lead there are narrow and twisting.  At Ajijic we follow directions to our hosts house
and have to put our confidence in the fact that she understands the size of our
vehicle, as the narrow cobblestone streets could be quite intimidating.   HTuWe
find a spot in the private street behind her house and wait for her to return
from work.  The moment we meet Linda we
know we are going to get on well.  She
designed the Italian style villa that she lives in and it is superb.  In place of a garden she has a central swimming
pool with steps leading up to the lounge. 
There’s a nice restaurant nearby on the lakeshore within walking
distance.  La Tasca has live music and
it’s loud so we sit outside so that we can talk.  We share a large Mexican style steak platter and for the first
time eat cactus topped with cheese, very little taste but good to try.  Linda is put out when the bill arrives with
30 pesos (£1.50) pp cover charge.  She
has been there many times before and not paid it and bearing in mind we sat
outside to able to chat rather than dance it does not go down well.  A chat with the owner’s son sorts things



FRIDAY 14 MARCH – Linda works at a the real
estate agency that she started up but has now handed over the reins and only
puts in a few hours a week.  Whilst she
is out we are invited to make use of the Internet connection and telephone with
free calls to UK and USA.  Before we
know it Linda has arrived back to pick me up for the ladies lunch.  Further along the waterfront “Roberto’s” is
the choice for this week.  You used to
be able to drive to the front of the restaurant to park but it has now been
cordoned off, the area cleared of rubbish and imported sand due to arrive to
create a man made beach.  The other
ladies are all Canadian and Americans Carol, Barbara, Jane, Pat and Cece.  After an initial curiosity about me the conversation
reverts to the normal topic of wealth, men and health.  It seems that many women here are married to
much older men who are now ill!  Whilst
Linda is out in the afternoon we take a walk around the rather charming village
of Ajijic then return to enjoy the swimming pool.  Although kidney shaped it is around 10m long so great for
swimming, it even has a deep end so you can dive in off the balcony.  She returns from work to suggest a ride out
to the next large town of Chapala. 
There’s a wedding taking place so we check out the local church.  This is the beginning of “Semana Santa” and
it is absolutely full of heavenly scented flowers.  We stroll along the waterfront and admire the new promenade and
man-made beach.  This area has fewer ex
pats so has a totally different feel and consequently does not have a bar
behind the beach for us to stop and have a drink! 



SATURDAY 15 MARCH – Linda wants to build a
pagoda on the roof so we pick up her handyman Clemente before visiting the
ironmongers.  It’s interesting to learn
the different building techniques used in other countries.  We are impressed that they are going to
deliver the goods within a couple of hours so drop Clemente back at the house.  Linda wants to take us to an area of
Guadalajara known as Tlaquepaque. It’s a really interesting place with old
mansions converted into showrooms for local artwork.  Much of it is huge and over the top but would be perfect for a
hotel or bank.  After stopping for a
beer we return to the square in Ajijic for a more reasonably priced lunch.  Time for a siesta before heading out to
visit Linda’s friend Barbara who has a house up in the hills.  Her sister in law Leah is staying and we
find lots to talk about as she is in the travel industry.  Sit out on the terrace to watch the sunset
over the lake.





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