Our first stop for the night after leaving Mazatalan, was at Laguna Santa Maria del Oro. A deep lake in a volcanic crater surrounded by lush forest. The scenery all day was so different from Baja California, we drove through fertile volcanic hills filled with sprawling vegetation. The drive down into the crater was a little tricky as the flourishing foliage overhung the twisty downhill road. It was fine for cars but difficult for a vehicle as high as ours. At our stop for the night: Koala Bungalows and Camp was right on the lakeside. We met a Mexican protestant congregation on their church retreat there, they were very welcoming and friendly. Their two pastors and families were Canadian and we were invited to join their team games and campfire. Our girls soon connected with the Canadian and other children and we were sad to leave in the morning.
We continued eastwards to the small town of Tequila, famed of course for the spirit. It was a very pretty bustling little town with tequila distilleries scattered throughout. A bit like Champagne, only the spirits made from the blue agave cactus and distilled in the area are allowed to be called “Tequila”. Although not really tequila drinkers, apart from the odd margarita, it seemed a shame not to find out how it was made on one of the distillery tours. We’d seen the blue-green fields full of cacti all around the area and the huge hearts or “pineapples” they make the spirit from being transported into town. Fortunately we’d stopped to ask directions at the first tourist information stand at the edge of town. They suggested we park our truck right outside their stand, where the road was reasonably wide while we took one of their tours. It turned out to be an excellent idea as the roads got progressively narrower the closer they were to the picturesque historic centre. We held back from the tastings during the tour, so we could enjoy the margarita at the end.
The “Fonda” were we had our lunch was still decorated for the day of the dead celebrations. There were folk dancers in the square outside and there were a whole range of Mexican dishes we hadn’t had a chance to try before on the menu. It made for a very pleasant afternoon.
We headed out into the countryside near Etzatlan to Delia’s RV park. The girls were thrilled with the newly hatched chicks, dogs and friendly owners. It was a delightful place to stay the night and yet again it seemed a shame to move on after just a night.
Roco Azul at Lake Chapala, was our stop for the next night and we arrived in time for lunch. It is a large “beach club” beside a lake with an RV park in the corner. Being a lovely Sunday afternoon it was full with families enjoying picnics, the pool, playing football and there was even a church service singing the same worship songs we have at our old church in Prague, apart from it been in Spanish of course. We met a lovely Mexican family who were interested in overlanding and spent an interesting afternoon chatting with them while all the kids played together in the pool. Our girls are still quite shy and occasionally resistant to playing with non-English speaking children, which is ridiculous as neither of them have ever lived in an English speaking country, so they are very used to playing with children from many other countries. Maybe it is because they are both so imaginative that their games are usually very language centred, it’s not like if you chuck a football at them and everyone can get involved even if they can’t understand each other, it just isn’t their thing. Hopefully that will change overtime and we were pleased to see them playing with the Mexican children with attempts from both sides to understand each other’s instructions.
The following day was a long drive to San Miguel de Allende, a town described by our Lonely Planet book as “Mexican Disneyland”. That aside, it is a stunning small city with colonial architecture, cobblestone streets and art galleries on every corner. However before we could explore its delights we first had to negotiate its narrow streets and enter the tiny gated RV park in the centre. In most of the towns we have stayed in, we’ve had to walk or bus in which is not always much fun with tired kids. Here, we were pleased to find the main campsite was just a few minutes stroll to town. We’d emailed the owner in advance who warned us it was going to be a tight squeeze for anything over 26 feet (we are just over 27 feet). Steve was still game though, after checking it out on foot. It was a stressful maneuver first backing it into the gate and then reversing down the narrow alley with tree branches and building roofs jutting out from both sides. However he did a sterling job and is now just having cold sweats about getting out tomorrow. The entrance is the red gate on the right.
Despite our slightly sniffy guidebook review San Miguel del Allende turned out to be delightful for wandering around and exploring, so we extended our stay here to 3 nights. I think that maybe Steve would just like to delay getting out of that tiny gate again…