Mexico, El Interior

Leaving the coast we drove inland on route 80 towards Guadalajara.  The road climbed for three or four hours through hills covered in thin deciduous forest. To our surprise, even at this higher elevation, stretching above the trees were tall branching cacti looking almost like trees themselves. Finally leveling out we traveled over a large flat mesa, quilted with fields of sugarcane, corn, and agave.

Our first stop was a water park and campground in the small town of Villa Corona. The park was full of Mexican families enjoying the water and barbecuing  at the picnic tables. There were two large thermal water pools, a massage spa, water slides and several fun splash areas for kids. Since our camping fee included the park, we spent quite a bit of time floating in the warm pools. 

Temazcalli Indigenous style sauna

We tried out an interesting indigenous style sauna called a Temazcalli. We talked to the fire tender who told us that about 8 a.m. he started a fire of mesquite wood, on top of some volcanic rocks. About 1 pm, he placed the hot rocks into the center of a small round brick hut. There was a little blue entrance door and inside, the seats encircled the hot rocks. It was still very hot when we sat in at about 4:30 p.m.  

One afternoon we could hear live music and followed the sound into town. This took us down a dusty street to a tall white cement wall. Horses and people were entering through a narrow gate in the wall. The entrance fee was only $4 so we paid and went in. It turned out to be a small rodeo with an audience dressed in jeans and cowboy boots. The brass band  belted out the tunes on a platform overlooking the bleachers. It was bull riding, Mexican style, the rider having both hands free. He stayed on until the bull gave up. It was an enthusiastic crowd and we were equally happy to have stumbled upon this local event.

Rodeo, Villa Corona

For a day trip we drove to nearby Tequila, the location of five different tequila factories. Using the iOverlander app, we lucked into a free shaded parking space, and walked a few blocks towards the center where we found a young man selling tours. Actually he found us. We purchased tickets for a two hour tour of the Sauza factory and fields.  We learned about agave production and harvesting, and viewed the different steps in distilling processes. Along the way we were provided with samples of product and after the first one my lips buzzed for quite awhile. Almost all of the other people on the tour were Mexican, enjoying the long weekend.  Our guide would talk at length in Spanish and then give a short English version which was sufficient enough. It was quite interesting and we learned that although there are different types of agave, only the Weber’s Blue Agave is authorized for use in making tequila.  Also that it has to be 35% alcohol or above to be called tequila. The tour was followed up with a complimentary pineapple margarita, which was quite enough tequila for one day, thank you.

Agave fields

Leaving there we bypassed Guadalajara, moving east towards Mexico City. This area is flat fertile land with large vegetable fields, and small dairy herds grazing at the roadside. Some cows were tended and some not, so that again Bob had to watch for cows crossing the road at will. We saw a few combines, but many fields were being harvested by hand.

Between Guadalajara and Mexico City

Our next stop was a small grassy campground right inside the town of Pátzcuaro. The town borders a large shallow lake that contains five islands. One morning we walked about 45 minutes to find the pier and took a water taxi across to Isla Janitzio. On top of the island is a gigantic statue of José Maria Morelos, who was a revolutionary leader during the Mexican War of Independence in the 1800’s.   From the boat landing, red and white painted stairs wind their way up to the statue. Lining the sides of the stairway are shops selling colorfully embroidered clothing, blankets, clay pots and trinkets. As well there are restaurants and all sorts of foods being fried up right in front of your nose. We climbed up the stairs for about 30 minutes and then at the top we decided to climb the circular staircase inside the statue to the top.

Fishermen in front of Isla Janitzo and statue on top

Coming down we could not resist the food. We ate corn on the cob grilled over charcoal, drizzled with lime and seasoning salt. Very yummy. Then we stopped at a restaurant for a jarra loco. We were served by a young girl who looked to be about 8 years old. In Spanish, she told us a long list of ingredients that were in the drink, so long that we finally had no clue what we were getting. But it was a delicious mix of fresh juices and floating pineapple chunks, in a large glass rimmed with red sugar and salt. The to top that off, Bob had a hankering for the the tiny fishes ( I say minnows ) that were being deep fried in wide pans, by various vendors. They were covered with hot sauce and he delightfully chowed down. I was quite repulsed. Bob says they were ok but the plate was piled high like a load of fries, so half was enough for him. I was sure he would throw up for days, but he didn’t.

Bob eating the little fishes

This morning was a beautiful sunny day and we reached the parking lot at the  Mariposa Butterfly Reserve, a world heritage site, at about 9 AM. High in the mountains, the monarchs winter here from November to March, after their arduous flight from Canada and the USA. With a local guide we walked up the mountain trail, through the aromatic pine forest.  Halfway up we started to see the monarchs flitting about.   They feed on the undergrowth flora that includes purples sage and a tiny scarlet trumpet flower as well as milkweed.  We finally reached the mountain top after a one and a half hour climb. The monarchs sleep in the pines at the top of the mountain, and masses were clinging to the trees, still warming up for the day.   All around us were clouds of butterflies, so many that you could hear the papery sound of their beating wings.  It was a very magical and worthwhile adventure.

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

The Plan This afternoon drive 4 hours on the toll road to Mexico City and camp near the ruins of Teotihuacan, an ancient mesoamerican city.

8 Replies to “Mexico, El Interior”

  1. Let us know what you think of Teotihuacan. I thought it was amazing. At that time it was a ways out of Mexico City. Now it may be part of the city! Are you finding the higher altitude makes breathing more difficult? Are you going into Mexico City? Your blob is great. Joyce you are such a good writer.

    1. Cec- Teotihuacan is still a ways from Mexico City but a bus from here takes you to the Metro, about 26 miles,for $3 Cdn. As for altitude occasionally we have a bit of shortness of breath but it seems to occur randomly for a few minutes.

  2. You’ve done so much since the last post! The sauna, the butterflies, the rodeo and the tequila tour all sound amazing!! Although I’m with you Mom, I’d pass on the fries minnows. Chris thinks they sound pretty good though, especially with the hot sauce haha.

    Eagerly awaiting the next update!!

  3. Enjoying your interesting stories happy you are having a good time
    Erich was having fun using the snowblower for the first time.
    Winter is here.

  4. Wonderful adventures you’re experiencing and so nice you’ve gotten to see all those monarchs! They’re so beautiful.

    I’m with Bob on the fried fish and sauce! Woulda chowed down with some tequila/lime as a chaser. 🙂 Hey, Bob – love your safari hat!!

    Can’t wait for your next ‘report’…

    Have fun and be safe.

  5. Fantastic Blog. A pleasure to read. I believe we climbed those stairs on that tiny island the day after Joyce and Bob. I can assure you they are down playing the number of stairs it took to reach, well more stairs to enter the statue head. A pleasure to meet you both. Certainly hope our paths cross again soon.

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