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Colonial Towns of the Mexican Interior

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Storefronts in Patzcuaro

Efrain was one of the waiters at the beach restaurant where we camped in Bucerias. A Mexican raised in San Diego, he spoke perfect English with Southern Californian slang. “Where are you guys goin’ next?” he asked. I told him that we were heading for Patzcuaro, a colonial city located in the state of Michoacan.

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We were originally going to zoom to Patzcuaro on toll roads so that we could save some driving time and arrive in two days. Mexican toll roads are a lot like American Interstate highways – fast and efficient, but costly and not always scenic.

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Typical toll road

Efrain was quick to share his insider travel knowledge: “If you’d like a better driving experience, I recommend you take the secondary roads through the mountains.”

I pulled out a map so that Efrain could point out the route. As he traced the roads with his finger, he told us about the little towns that we could visit along the way. We ended up following his advice and expanded our timeline from two days to five.

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Mascota, Jalisco

Efrain recommended that we visit Mascota in the state of Jalisco. “It’s a quaint town with cobble streets and a nice central square,” he said, “You won’t see many Americans or Canadians there.”

Both Gregor and I liked the idea of getting away from the gringo tourist traps. We had been camping at RV parks lately just because it was convenient for working, but we felt out of place. The RV parks tended to attract a lot of retired snowbirds in very big motorhomes who parked in one spot for months at a time. Many of them were quite talkative, telling us about the sites we shouldn’t miss or the dangers we should watch out for while in Mexico. While this was very helpful, it started to get a little overwhelming.

Efrain was right about Mascota – we didn’t see any other gringos while we were there.

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Cobble street leading to the church in the town square

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Many town squares in Mexico advertise free WiFi. Unfortunately it has never worked for us.

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We arrived during afternoon siesta, so it was pretty quiet.

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Church ruins

The best beef tacos we’ve had in Mexico so far were from a cart in Mascota – lots of flavour with very little grease. The guy who made them was a rascal, constantly joking with patrons and co-workers.

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Happy taco chef

Getting brave with the hot sauce
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Getting brave with the hot sauce

We found a ranch-side hotel outside of Mascota and asked the guy at the desk if we could park on the grass for the night. We offered some money in exchange for use of the washrooms. He didn’t want to take our money so we camped for free. It was one of the most peaceful sleeps we have had in Mexico – and one of the coldest. We woke up to a temperature of 5 degrees C.

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View of Mascota from our campsite.

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Talpa de Allende, Jalisco

Efrain said that we should stop at Talpa de Allende. “It’s a pilgrimage site,” he explained. “People come from all over Mexico to see the Lady of Talpa in the central basilica.”

The idea of visiting a pilgrimage site was interesting to me, since I was raised Catholic. I’m no longer a practising Catholic, but you know what they say: ”Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” It’s kind of like Facebook – you can remove your Profile but Big Brother still knows your Preferences.

The entrance to Talpa de Allende
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The entrance to Talpa de Allende

 

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A mass was taking place in the central basilica so I couldn’t see Our Lady of Talpa.

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You can get a certificate for completing your pilgrimage

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Souvenirs in Talpa de Allende are quite different from the ones you find at the beach resort towns

Colonial buildings...and a big pickup truck
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Colonial buildings…and a big pickup truck

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We watched indigenous dancers in the town’s central square.

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Jocotepec, Jalisco

Jocotepec is located on Lake Chaparal, Mexico’s largest lake. We camped at an RV park called Club Roca Azul and worked there for a few days.

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The view of Lake Chaparal from the campground

We found out that the towns around Lake Chaparal are full of expats, so prices are inflated to American and Canadian proportions. In the end, we didn’t explore much of the lakeside.

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Patzcuaro, Michoacan

Our favourite colonial city in the Mexican interior so far is Patzcuaro. The downtown is unique because the buildings are quite uniform. All of them have clay roofs, white and red storefronts, and signage painted in the same red and black font.

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Mural painted by Juan O’Gorman in the Gertrudis Bocanega Library

Patzcuaro is full of beautiful churches
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Patzcuaro is full of old churches

We camped at a really nice campsite called Hotel Patzcuaro and RV Park. There, we met Gorm and Eli. They shipped their distinctively blue VW bus from Germany to Canada and are driving it to Ushuaia (their Facebook page is Bee-individual). They were the first VW van owners we met since we left Baja – it felt like we were back with kin.

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With Gorm, Eli, and the vans.

In Patzcuaro, Gregor saw that one of Lucky’s wheel rims was accumulating what looked like brake fluid. He did some diagnostics just to be safe.

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Gregor taking the tire off – again!

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Gregor consulting the Bentley VW Vanagon maintenance manual

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Inspecting the brake pad.

Ultimately, Gregor couldn’t find the source of the leak, so he decided to put everything back together and just “wait and see”.

During the inspection, Gregor had to borrow a wrench from another camper because our wrenches were too fat to access the brake calipers. He didn’t want to get caught in this situation again without the right wrench, so we searched the little hardware stores in downtown Patzcuaro. Failing to find what we needed, we went to the Auto Zone on the way out of town. (Naturally!)

Gregor walking out with a new 17-mm wrench
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Gregor walking out with a new 17-mm wrench

Our time in the charming towns of interior Mexico ended with a trip to a big box auto parts store. This is life in a VW Westy.

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2 thoughts on “Colonial Towns of the Mexican Interior

    1. Janice Post author

      Mark, I can just see you shaking your head every time you see a picture of Gregor doing something to the van 🙂 For every adventure, there is a misadventure!