Thursday, March 26, 2009

March 25, 2009

I am writing this posting from Mazatlan on the Pacific Coast. Since it has been almost two weeks since I last made a post and we have to get up tomorrow at 6 am for our Drivers Meeting at 7:30, I will try to be short and won't have mcuh time to correct grammar and spelling. 

On March 13 we drove from Puebla to Teotehuacan near Mexico City. We stayed in that area for 3 nights. Our first campsite was on a grassy field/lawn not far from the main church. It was very picturesque but the river which ran beside the field smelt awful to us gringos. We moved to a small RV Park the next day - quite pretty with grass and trees and flowering bushes - but with the same smelly river nearby. While we were in Teotehuacan, we had a fabulous tour of the famous ruins - Sun and Moon temples and other buildings -  built by an unknown early civilization and then discovered by the Aztecs. The Aztecs were relative newcomers to Mexico and they apparently got very carried away with some of the grizzly rituals of the earlier civilizations. They made many human sacrifices of captured slaves - to ensure the sun came up each morning and that they were in good health. The people who the Aztecs enslaved were terrified of them.  But when Cortes came along, the enemies of the Aztecs  joined up with him and that was the end of the Aztecs. Of course, as with all natives of North America, the real killers were the European diseases (smallpox, measles) to which they had never been exposed and  to which, therefore, they had no immunity.  We also had a day-long tour of nearby Mexico City. The highlight was the magnificent Musem of Anthropology - which really helped us to understand the various historical periods in Pre-Columbian Mexico.  Put very simply, Mexico was first inhabited by wandering tribes who preyed on the large mammals that existed here 20,ooo years ago. When the climate changed and the mammals became extinct, the tribes had to turn to eating plants and roots. Eventually they learned to cultivate corn. With stability, they began to develop cultures around the things that were most significant to them - the corn, the sun and the rain. The earliest culture seems to have been the Olmecs, followed by Teotihuacan, then the Toltecs and finally the Aztecs. The Mayan culture started at the same time as the Olmecs and lasted throught to the Toltecs - but in the Yucatan area.  At least, that is how I understand it... The other highlight of Teotehuacan was the big weekend fiesta in the town. There was a pageant being played in the small square, some children's carnival rides set u, and people coming and going all the time. But the main thing was the fire works - loud bangs going off all day and night with a huge volley around 3 am. It was actully pretty neat and authentic - not just a tourist trap for gringos. 

On March 16, we drove from Teotehuacan to Guanajuato. On the way, one fo the trailers had a fairly major breakdown involving the shock absorber system on the dual tires. We stayed to help them while the rest of the caravan went on the next RV park. It was hot and dry and the traffic was very busy. Nearby there were vendors selling strawberries. Fortunately one of the Vagabundos happened to have the important broken spare parts and, with the help of various people including some wonderful Green Angels (who help tourists in trouble), we got back on the road before dark.  We were so glad to see the trailer park and wash off the grime of the road.

While we were in Guanajuato we toured both the City of Quanajuato and the City of San Miguel de Allende. These are both beautiful colonial mountain towns. One of the most striking things about them is the brilliant colours of the buildings - thousands of gold, orange, red, turquoise, blue, green yellow and white square buildings gleaming in the sunshine.  So picturesque. We actually had rain both afternoons, but the evenings were cool and a strong wind blew all night through the dusty yellow RV Park.  One of the highlights was the public library - rather beat-up and shabby with a large central courtyard - but doing all the things that public libraries seem to do  everywhere - being a place where people can safely spend time, use the internet and find books to read. 

March 19 was my birthday. We spent the day driving from Guanajuato to to Guadalejara. In the evening, the Vagabundoes had a social and everyone sang Happy Birthday.  The next day we had a very long and detalied tour of Guadalajara. One of the highlights was the amazing but disturbing murals by Orozco.  Another was the sunset on nearby Lake Chapella. Guadalajara, like the rest of Mexico, has experienced a huge population explosion going from 1 million 30 years ago to 5 million today. Everything is in a state of change, infrastucture is sorely lacking, and a lot of the buildings can't stand up to the weather - let alone the terrible earthquakes. I have read that Mexico's greatest problem is its population explosion - but I have also read that the number of births has dropped from and average of 7 not too many years ago - to an average of 2.4 per woman today. 

On March 21 we drove from Guadalajara to Meridor near San Blas. This is a mangrove swamp area with long brown sand beaches. The RV park was very nice, with grass and trees and pretty bushes plus swimming pools and a restaurant. There was no bad smell and the bugs were not too bad. One of the couples in the caravan celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary there. At the same time as the Vagabundos were drinking champagne and eating cake, there was also a huge, pretty high-end, wedding going on - with American 70s music and dancing and a noisy light show.  The wedding got progressively louder and louder - but we had slept though the all-night fireworks - so we went to bed and didn't even hear the party end. The next day we visited the old city of San Blas and the day after Mike decided to take out the inflatable kayak. The beach at the RV park was quite rocky and hiding among the rocks, there are sea urchins with long black spines. Poor Mike managed to get a spine in his toe. There was no way we could get it out with tweezers. He soaked in hydrogen peroxide to reduce the chance of infection. Ouch!

March 24, we drove from San Blas to Mazatlan. One of the big coaches had a mechanical failure on the way  and we had to go on without them. Fortunately they were able to get their problem repaired but they spent the night in a small town parked in front of the church. Meanwhile, we were in Mazatlan. Our health insurance covered the cost of a clinic to remove the spine from Mike's toe. The doctors at the clinic were very good - they even picked us up from the RV Park and brought us back again in an ambulance - with the lights flashing! Mike's toe is now on the mend. We had a fun "Pizza Party" with the Vagabundoes last night and played the gift exchange game - where when your number is drawn - you can take a gift from the unopened gifts or from someone who already has picked a gift and opened it. We gave a small bottle of Mescal that we had bought for 50 pesos from a "Moviestar Tiende" in Oaxaca and ended up with two "chicken pot holders" made by local craftswomen! Today we walked around the Centro Area at the south end of town and had a fabulous lunch next to a square where they were setting up for a celebration of Cuban Music. On the way back to the truck, we spied a "Unisex" barber and we both had our hair cut! He had a bit of English and we had a bit of Spanish. We think he did a great job.

Tomorrow we are on the road again.  

I'm going to put up another blog with a few pictures. I don't know when we will have wifi again.

By the way, our weather for this trip has been very good. It's always pretty hot in the daytime and cool at night. In fact today was typical - 13 C at night and 37 C during the day. I understand the dry season will end in May, and then it will start to rain most places in Mexico. We heard that the San Blas area gets 85 inches of rain every year - with most of it in the summer and some days as much as 7 inches of rain comes down. Everything floods! It's good for the mangroves and the wonderful orchards on the steep mountains behind San Blas.

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