Leaving San Miguel brought about a mixture of sadness about leaving such a beautiful city and excitement about what lies ahead. We have travelled for 9 days now and are finally in the heat ... and hot it is ... for us ... not for Mexicans. While we find the temperature of 30C, with high humidity to be stifling, they are still wearing long pants and sweaters. After all, it hits the high 30s in a few months.
I am going to depart a bit from the style I've used for most of this journal. I've mostly skipped mileage, costs and highway information. But, we know that some folks who are reading this are planning a similar trip, so we are going to add some of that into the mix.
For those of you who don't want the long version, skip the first paragraph for each section. We've driven over 1700 kilometres since leaving San Miguel de Allende. Now in the Yucatan, we've finally hit the heat and humidity. We are also no longer as pristine campsites. Unfortunately, many campsites have closed in the last few years as US and Canadian travellers are scared away by alarmist news reports about Mexico. Our experience has been full of stories about helpful locals, friendly police and ease of travel. Tourism from Europe is still strong, but not enough RVers to keep many campsites open.
San Miguel de Allende to Cholula - 374 km (9 am to 2:30 pm); Quota costs: 448 MX (36 CAD)
We were planning to leave earlier, but "stuff" needed to be done that took longer than we planned and then we decided to stop for propane as filling fixed tanks can be a challenge. Just past the roundabout (called glorietas here) that is near the Mega, the road heads to Celaya ... half a km along there is a BIG propane station ... 85 pesos later and we are on our way (about 7 CAD that we used in 7 weeks!!!). Roads were very busy and tons of traffic as we headed toward Mexico City. We took Hwy 87 south and then Arco Norte around Mexico City; it was great. Getting to the camground, Trailer Park Las Americas was easy with Dave and his GPS leading the way. The campground was ok ... grassy area with lots of mosquitos and bathrooms that were in need of some work. I didn't shower in them ... why, when we have a wee shower that I can use in the rig??? Wifi didn't work at all even though they kept trying to reset it. For 250 pesos per night, it was ok.
Cholula is a sweet little city with a population of about 120K. It is home to the widest pyramid ever built and is the largest in the world by mass. Of course, when the Spanish arrived, Cortez built a church on top of the pyramid mound (now a grassy hill) and, in typical Spanish style, used rocks from the pyramid for his church. We walked up and down the steep steps to the top and were rewarded with a great view of the surrounding area. The next day, we took a 20 minute ride in a very small colectivo (a van holding a dozen passengers all squished in...for 50 cents each) into Puebla. Like all visitors, we headed straight for the cathedral, got lost and found another treasure ... the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe which is located beside a lovely lush park. Puebla is a huge city and rightly deserves at least 3 or 4 days to explore ... maybe on the way back!
Cholula to Catemaco - 439 km (8:30 am to 5:00 pm); Quota costs: 463 MX (38 CAD)
Sometimes, when you look at the maps of Mexico, there are lots of options on how to get to a place. Dave and I have become the planners and we both knew that we should take the main highway (150) toward Cordoba. A while past Cordoba, the road splits. One road goes up to Veracruz and along the Gulf Coast. The other looks like a great straight line with a few smaller highways (175 and 179) to get us up to Catemaco. Near Cordoba, we called the owner of the RV Park, and spoke with Gene. He said that both of the highways we had chosen were nightmares. Glad we called ... so headed toward Veracruz and took the lovely 180 along the Gulf. The road took us through loads of small towns, and over many, many speedbumps (called topes here). Factoring in the traffic to get past Puebla and it was more hours on the road that we had planned.
Catemaco is a small village (population of 28,000) on Lake Catemaco. Since we arrived so late, we decided to stay another night and explore this sleepy town and have a down day. We awoke to an overcast sky and threat of rain. The campground, Villas Tepetepan and RV Park, was also in a large grassy field ... hello mosquitos. The grass had not been mowed for many weeks and was almost mid-calf high. We are getting used to dowsing ourselves with DEET. The walk into "town" didn't take long, but we were impressed with the major work being done on the malecon along the lake. By summer, it will be quite impressive. Lunch at a lakeside restaurant was lovely and while the others had empenadas and tacos, I, in my fashion, tried the lake snails in a tomato salsa (bit chewy like clams) and small fried fish which were great with a garlic aioli.