So we have been in Mexico about a week now and I have had some time to reflect on being here. Mexico isn’t truly part of Central America. From a geographical stand point, the Yucatan Peninsula is but in reality Mexico is it’s own region. It is a blend between the first world and the third world, second world if you will. You can still find Walmarts and Starbucks coffee here next to Spanish Colonial cathedrals. And as far as finding a place for us to stay goes, we have been told there are over 400 RV Parks in Mexico.
So far we’ve stayed in two RV parks. The first was after we left the Monterrey region. When we left there our goal was the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende in the Central Highland region. However the bus goes slow and distances in Mexico are far so we don’t always make it to our goal in one day. We stopped half way in Matehuala where we stayed at Las Palmas Midway Inn . This was a hotel along the highway with a gravel parking lot in back for RVs. It had all the facilities- water, electric hookups, bathrooms with hot showers, there even was a pool, playground and mini golf area. The location was less than ideal but it wasn’t bad for a night. It wasn’t so different from some of the RV parks we saw in the states- across the street from a Walmart just on the outskirts of town. Even with everyone speaking Spanish it felt more like Texas than what we think of Mexico. We took advantage of the hotel showers and the restaurant with waiters in tuxedos and headed out in the morning.
So in Mexico you have your choice of two types of roads- cuota and libre. The cuota are toll highways and the libre are free. We have been sticking to the cuota because we are driving the bus- it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I think if we were in a smaller vehicle without Aurora we probably would take the more adventurous route. As of now other than the altitude it has been smooth going. The roads are actually better than the roads in Louisiana. Trevor was bit concerned about the drive to San Miguel. To get to Matehula we had climbed some serious mountains- we had gotten up to 7,000 feet and the grades are pretty steep. But we didn’t have any problems and arrived earlier than we had been expecting.
San Miguel de Allende is an old Spanish Colonial city with narrow cobble stone streets that twist and turn. Historically the city was on the silver route between Mexico City and Zacatecas, where the silver was being mined. The architecture here is stunning and has attracted artists from all over the world, creating a vibrant cosmopolitan city. It is definitely a tourist town with local Mexicans as well as foreigners traveling to here.
While old cities are beautiful, they certainly weren’t designed to accommodate 40 foot buses. Three kilometers from town is Hotel San Ramon which has rooms for rent and a couple areas for RVs to park. They also have a swimming pool, filled with water from the local hot springs. When we arrived we were directed to their upper lot, which was essentially a large grassy lawn with water and electric hook ups. There were two other vehicles parked there when we arrived, a smallish camper from Alaska and a larger 5th wheel that belongs to a local ex-pat from Austin who owns a bar/restaurant in town. The views were stunning- fields on one side and out over the city and mountains on another.
We arrived on Friday and the plan was to spend a couple days and celebrate Trevor’s birthday on Monday here and we were pleased to find such a quiet, relaxing spot. Shortly after we settled in our neighbor Shane from Texas came back and we quickly discovered we were kindred spirits, as is generally the case when we meet ex-pats from our generation. Saturday morning some of the folk from the lower lot came by to check out the bus. They were a nice retired Canadian couple, traveling in an Airstream trailer. They, like many older Canadians, winter in Mexico where it is warmer and cheaper than Canada.
After siesta time we headed into town to explore the city. And we weren’t disappointed with what we found. Everywhere you looked the was another stunning building or view. Restaurants and shops with artiseanal handicrafts abounded. It was difficult to even know where to look next. We wandered the center for a bit and stopped into a small restaurant for lunch. Yum Mexican food- even bad Mexican food is good, and I got some amazing tostadas. Eventually we made our way to the principal market where we were able to buy some lovely fresh fruit and veg for next to nothing. I had forgotten how much I love the markets down here. The food is all so fresh and so cheap! I saw the tortillas I bought coming out of a tortilla machine still warm when the woman wrapped them in paper and handed them to me.
Stocked up with supplies we headed back to our place thinking we would have a relaxing dinner with our fresh food. Before we had left Shane had said something about thirteen RVs arriving so we had tidied up our stuff a little but we really didn’t give it much credit. Little did we know. While we were gone an entire caravan of RVs had arrived and our quiet spot had been invaded by Quebecois retirees. Before we even got to the bus we were besieged by folk with cameras and questions. Trevor said he felt like an animal in zoo on display. I’d say the average age of our new neighbors was 65-70 and they we packed around us so close you could barely walk between the vehicles. So much for a quiet spot with nice views- now everywhere you looked all you saw were campers.
The Canadian invasion really highlighted for us that it is a different type of traveler here than we are used to. We cater to the young backpacking crowd on Ometepe and our previous travel through Central America followed that same route- “the gringo trail.” This was an entirely different generation of travelers, folk who have been driving into Mexico and along the Baja since before Mexico was considered dangerous. These are the people who keep the 400+ RV parks here in business. It was the same in the city. The ex pats here tend to be in there 60s. We have yet to see a hostel in town, though I’m sure there is a least one and there isn’t a crowd of college age backpackers wandering the streets. Despite the great welcome we got from our neighbor from Austin, we still aren’t quite among our kind.
Aurora is loving Mexico and Mexico is loving Aurora. While we wander the city streets people stop and point and say “Que hermosa” and “muy preciosa” which “how beautiful” and “so precious.” We’ve learned Aurora is a very common name here, one old woman in the park told us it was both her sister’s and her aunt’s name and then sang us a song in Spanish about Aurora. The waiters in the restaurants bring her treats and the waitress take her off into the kitchen. Luckily for us avocado and beans appear to be among her favorite foods. All the attention makes her smile and giggle which in turn makes everyone else smile. We are blessed that our daughter has such beautiful disposition and has taken to travel so well.
After an amazing Thai dinner for Trevor’s birthday we decided to spend one more day here. The Canadians all left this morning and it is quiet again. We want to do some more shopping so we can decorate our place in Nica with mementos from our travels. One of my biggest regrets from traveling last time was not buying enough souvenirs, think I would pick them up later or find something better. Plus, when you have to carry everything on your back you tend to be discriminating.
Tomorrow we begin our true journey to the coast. It will probably take a couple of days to get there and couple more to actually find a beach we like. Fortunately, the winter up North is ending and all the snow birds should be starting to clear out. Hopefully my next post will be about the sound of waves on the deserted beach, while we lay about in hammocks. Stay tuned to find out.