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6074 kms: Laguna Santa Maria del Oro

Written on: Wednesday March 12th, 2008

A journal entry from: North America in our Camper Van!

{Well, I should start off by explaining that Rob and I just slipped out of the time warp that we suddenly found ourselves in. I can hardly believe that two weeks have gone by since I last wrote a travel blog. Many interesting things have happened with stories and photos and I?m going to do my best today to try and narrate it all over several new blog entries. Be sure to notice that I am only sending out one notifying email (for this particular entry) and to see the rest of our stories you have to navigate forward using the buttons at the top of the footstops page. Alright, enough explanation, time for catch-up?}

While Rob started to packed up our things at the Mazatlan Campground (he was feeling significantly better) I spent some time looking through the travel book trying to plan out our route. We had just under one week to travel into mid-land Mexico to our first major destination of the trip: Tepotzlan. Near this small town we were going to spend four weeks volunteering on a permaculture farm, learning about organic gardening and permaculture techniques. The most direct route was to leave the coast and head towards Tepic (elevation- 915 m), Guadalajara (1550 m), Morelia (1946 m), Toluca (2675 m) and then arrive at Tepotzlan (1500 m), about a 1200 km trip. From sea level at Mazatlan, we were heading into a mountain pass, with Toluca having the highest altitude of any major city in Mexico. Considering that the overheating light and needle were indicating concern back in the baja, with considerable smaller climbs, we decided it would be wise to try and find a mechanic. We found a fancy VW dealership on the main highway leaving town who recommended to us a small diesel mechanic who could work on older VW?s (they told us that the van was too old for them to work on and that they would not have the required tools and parts). With the hand sketch the manager drew us we easily found the place to Lamarque Auomotriz. The shop owner/mechanic was named Victor, he was very friendly and spoke excellent English. They bled the system but then found that they did not have the necessary part to perform a pressure test. After several hours of putsing they had installed some additional paneling to improve the air flow through the radiator. By four oclock they sent us on our way. We were shocked when the mechanic indicated that he wasn?t going to charge us, but we insisted on leaving 200 pesos (20$) for the three hours of work. ?You?ll know if you still have a problem by the time you hit Guadalajara?, he told us. We found a campsite just south of Mazatlan and spent the night.

Wednesday the 12th we hit the road, the toll road that is. Mexico is covered in toll roads. The toll roads are usually double divided, smooth and as good (if not better) than roads we?ve travelled back home. Paying a toll is not something that we are used to, but upon reflecting, we decided that this isn?t that bad of an idea. First off, the government promises to provide a free alternative route for every toll road. Therefore, if you do not want to pay, take the free road. However, the free routes are often poor, potholed, slow, full of speedbumps, overcrowded and single lane traffic. Therefore, taking the free road means more time, more fuel, more wear and tear, and higher chance of mechanical problems. We weighed the two options and opted to pay.

We rolled into Tepic by late afternoon and decided to camp just outside the city at the Laguna Santa Maria del Oro. This lake fills a volcano crater 2 km around and is thought to be over 100 meters deep. Only one other couple was camped at the small campground that night and we accepted their invitation to join them for margaritas. Mark and Nancy were from Colorado and were travelling through Mexico considering buying some property for their retirement. We turned out to have a lot of similar interests and enjoyed a lovely evening of good conversation, company and margaritas.