Having seen Guadalajara in the night glow, we spent the morning, retracting our steps and visited the gorgeous 4 plazas around the cathedral, with their manicured gardens, elaborate fountains and impressive masonry convention. We had breakfast on a cafe's balcony facing the cathedral. Perfect start. The cathedral inside isn't anything to write home about, but it's exterior makes up for it. We went on the GDL open top bus tour (departs outside the cathedral) around the city to learn about the history. The English audio guide on it was poorly recorded, but for a cheap 100 pesos, we can't complain too much. Would still recommend to do.
We then pottered about the markets and took a horse ride around the plazas. Bargain hard ;-).
In the afternoon, we arrived at Lago de Patzcuaro, stopping at towns such as Tzintzuntzan (very pretty by the way) and Patzcuaro. The lake was nice enough, but nothing special. We didn't bother going to the island in the middle as it didn't seem like much. It was a good place to munch and relax, but there wasn't a big enough draw for us to stay.
We arrived in Morelia in the evening and parked near the Jardin Azteca (free and convenient to walk around). The Av Acueducto had a row of arches lit up and most of the major monuments throughout the city also had some colour projected onto it. The fountains and Cathedral were definitely the city's winners and I'd recommend the postcard picture-perfect Callejon de Romance, for quaint bars and chic restaurants. We spent the rest of the night sat at Cafe Catedral watching the 'hit and miss' performers - the best of which included a funny mime act and an impressive male choir.
When in Rome...
Today,had to be on the tequila trail. We decided to sack off the tours and to pick the distilleries ourselves. We went to Mundo Cuerva (seeing as it's so popular in the UK); Sauza (which had pretty gardens, but the tour guide rushed us around and seemed bored - in fairness, she probably does the same speech 10 times a day); and La Cofradia (by far the most interesting, informative and you got to see the whole process from start to finish). All tours included plenty of different tequila tasting and happy ending Margaritas. Again, La Confadia, being the least commercial won hands down for the quality award. Although, at that point, they could've given us fuel and we would've drank it. We actually spent 4 hours in the place, including dinner in the restaurant, where we tried amongst other dishes, the local speciality torta ahogada (literally 'drowned sandwich), a chili sauce-soaked pork roll. We both decided to taste the extra hot sauce before we drowned it even more. OMG - I actually lost the power of speech at one point. Not sure, how I'll cope with the hottest chili in the world tasting in a few weeks...
Oh, good purchase alert - buy a tequila barrel. They're really cheap (abut 100 pesos), and funky souvenir to display at home (we think anyway).
We arrived in the Mexican equivalent of Havana, Cuba. Our visit there included Parroquia de la Purisima Concepcion, El Mirador, and a guided tour of the homes around town. On recommendation of the tour guide we went to look around the Hacienda hotel near the church. We paid 30 pesos (£1.50) to walk around a hotel. It was actually stunning and you could see the appeal for weddings and special events which are held here. We had afternoon tea, but with Magaritas. When in Rome...
In the afternoon, we attempted to make the trip to Creel by going along the eastern road. It was a pointless 1.5 hour trip, which left us blocked at farmers gate, so we could not continue. Well done Satnav. We had to go back on ourselves, through Alamos and up Mex15D. We ended up in a town called Ciudad Obregon. Police told us to move on or we would be killed. The game of charades (they spoke no english whatsoever) included them doing 'slitting the neck' and 'bullet to the head' actions. Eurgh - s**ting it. We drove around for a bit before finding a busy petrol station to crash by. Bright lights and lots of people has got to be better than somewhere quiet surely?!
I decided to test the diving out for myself, so joined Gwyn in the morning (as it's better visibility then). I was lucky enough to be able to dive Land's End, as it's not always possible to do with the strong current. It was an ok dive - ridiculously strong current though. I was also sick in my regulator 5 minutes into the dive, which was gross, but also meant I had loads of fish around me. Silver lining. The dive had the usual reef fish with huge box fish. I also got to snorkel around Pelican's Rock for free, whilst Gwyn dived again. That was really cool as there was massive schools of fish with pelicans diving into the water to feast. I also got to practice some free diving and managed to get to 8 metres most times and explore at that depth.
In the afternoon, I tracked down a cheap launderette and did our 2 weeks of washing, whilst Gwyn finished his course. I didn't have to drive far, before the police pulled me over and asked for my documents. When Gwyn drives, they don't flinch.
I got speaking to local people again, hearing their stories. I've found that Mexicans generally are really funny people and don't take themselves seriously. I like them already...apart from the police.
Driving day to get down to San Cabo Lucas in time for tomorrow's prebooked diving.
We went via Loreta and La Paz for amazing milkshakes and stopping to look around and shop. A slight mishap in the morning with a flat tyre meant we wasted about an hour. Dougal has issues every day it seems...
San Cabo Lucas is huge and so Americanised. Nothing like the Mexico we imagined. It's full of timeshares, touts with their comical phrases to entice the gullible, and the usual fast food chains. Think Costa Del Sol for the Brits. It was also has a complete hassle to park anywhere and there was a very confusing one way system with no signs (how practical). In the end we opted for the free dusty car park near Hard Rock Cafe. Needs are must.
Today we visited Mision San Ignacio de Kadakaaman and surrounding town square, which is worth the stop if you're in the area.
We then headed to Mulege and went to the recommended Mision Santa Rosalia de Mulege, which was surrounded by a palm trees and a river, so makes for good pics. This is also where Gwyn realised that we had lost one the solar showers. It must have flew off somewhere. That's a waste of $15USD. Seems be a common theme in our trips.
We then went beaching hopping along the Bahia Concepcion, including Playa Santispac, Playa Perla and had the 'famous' burgers at Bueneventura. It have been the fact we were starving, but they were nothing short of amazing. Just a mile up the coast we made camp at Playa Recesion. It wasn't mentioned in any tour books, but the locals recommended it. Essentially you drive onto a strip of sand when the tide is down, so when the tide rises, you were marooned on the island until the tide goes out again. It was quiet and even though the sand wasn't the best we've seen, it was an awesome spot to relax in our hammock, sun bathe and snorkel in the milky green-blue waters, with the mountains in the background. Much needed relaxation time.
Gwyn made makeshift spears so we could catch our dinner. We couldn't work out why our spears were failing (we'll blame our tools), until we realised we used driftwood to make them, so they flew back at us as soon as we threw them at fish. City slicker fail.
Gwyn made a fire that evening and we toasted marshmallows whilst watching the sun set.
Wicked place for stargazing - some of the best we've ever seen. The sky was the completely littered with bright stars and you could make out the Milky Way.
We woke up to a perfect surprise over the bay and whilst having breakfast, watched seals frolic about.
Ensenda is dusty and surprisingly mountainous in it's surroundings. You constantly have to stop every 10 metres; stop signs conveniently placed outside shops. It's a bit annoying, especially as Dougal is also not a fan of 'city driving' either. He doesn't like much to be honest.
We drove down highway 1 to San Ignacio which jumped between small towns, with their fish taco and flower pot stalls, and thousands of hectares covered with billions of cacti in all shapes and sizes. Some were skinny, tall and curly, others were fat and looked almost fluffy-like. Never seen anything like it. There was such variety. Very cool to see. After messing about with stop/starts all day, we didn't make San Ignacio for nightfall and had to endure an awful last hour journey in almost complete darkness. Gwyn almost crashed into another vehicle, which obviously left us the edge of our seats for the remainder of the journey.
Bonus though, when we got to the RV park, we didn't have to pay :-).
Finally, border crossing day. We crossed near Ticate as opposed to the original planned Tijuna, due to playing catch-up across America and not going San Diego. It was quiet and really quick to pick up a tourist and vehicle permit. The immigration room was essentially a one man operation (who was watching Hannibal on his mini TV at the time, whilst stamping away at our passports). I was expecting a more thorough search through a van, but as soon as he saw those burgundy passports it was a 'take your word for it' and on we went to Ensenda.
In contrast to those flat American roads, we quickly found out Dougal has a dislike for hills (don't we all?!) and tends to overheat (who doesn't in a desert?!). The bikinis have become standard driving attire and the camera is a little more snappy (two unlinked events ;-) ).
Ensenda FYI is nothing to write home about. It's fairly well developed, especially after the moonscape, vineyards and dolomite landscape you inevitably pass if coming from the USA. We went to the recommended San Miguel beach, famous for it's surfing and where the late Jim Morrison used to hang out (apparently). It was a good base for us to properly clean Dougal, get things in their place, watch the amazing deep red sunset, whilst enjoying fajitas and red wine.