Sunday, 18 March 2007, Pátzcuaro, Michoacán
We finally left San Miguel at about 1.30 last Sunday, after spending all morning packing up. Everyone in the campground seemed to waiting around for us to leave, but when they realised how slow we were, they came and said goodbye, wishing us well for our journey, and went off to do whatever they had planned for their Sunday. We also went shopping at Mega one last time - we always seem to have the feeling that we don't know when we will next find a big supermarket in Mexico, but the more we drive, the more we realise that there are big shopping centres popping up in every major city that we pass by or through.
The drive to Guanajuato was relatively easy and the landscape was more of the same - dry hilly country with lots of cactuses! We did notice though that there was a proliferation of yellow in the landscape, as many plants were flowering much more than when we had driven into San Miguel 3 weeks before. We arrived at the Bugamville campground, which is about 9 km outside the city, at around 4.00, and were surprised to find it totally deserted. Not only were there no other campers, but there was also no Mexican owner/caretaker to be found. We opened the gate and drove in anyway and found a site that suited us. It was very quiet out in the countryside after the traffic, church bells and roosters of San Miguel. I think we both slept more soundly than we had for some time.
On Monday we caught a local bus into the city of Guanajuato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We thought we had seen colourful Mexican houses, and then we came to Guanajuato!!! Take a look at our photos and you will see what I mean. Guanajuato, the capital of the state of Guanajuato, is built in a narrow gorge with relatively steep sides, which limits the size of the city and also provides some incredible panoramas, with colourful buildings on the hillsides and rugged terrain above them. We found this city the most beautiful we have seen since being in Mexico. It also has a very pleasant feel to it. Somehow the colour gives it a very vibrant feel and, since it is a university town, it is full of students which adds to that lively feeling.
We spent the day just wandering the streets, which go up and down and even underground in an amazing system of tunnels. Walking in the city was made even more pleasant by the fact that there are many small plazas scattered around with benches and shade trees, ideal for a refreshing rest before moving on. The central plaza, Jardin Union (Garden of the Union), is a small but beautiful place with many well-groomed trees providing a "roof" of shade, under which people have their shoes cleaned, or sit at an outdoor restaurant to eat and drink, or just sit on a bench and watch the world go by. There is a funicular which leaves from just behind the Juarez Theatre, directly opposite Jardin Union, and goes straight up to the Monumento al Pipila. The monument itself was covered in scaffolding so we couldn't really see it, but it was the panoramic view that we came for, and thoroughly enjoyed.
We arrived back at the campground, just ahead of an afternoon storm which brought some rain and a beautiful rainbow. Another camper had joined us sometime that day, but we didn't see the occupants until the next morning. After another restful night, and a long chat to the Californian couple who were the occupants of the other camper, we left the Bugamville to make a round trip via Dolores Hidalgo to Guanajuato and the in-town-campground.
To reach Dolores Hidalgo we drove back towards San Miguel and then turned off to the north to reach the town. We made the trip to this town to see the Talavera pottery and tiles for which it is famous. Arriving in the town you find shop after shop selling the ceramic work. Some of it is amazingly beautiful, some of it is perfectly kitschy, and some of it wouldn't even make it into the kitsch shop I kept threatening to open (there were plenty of candidates for inclusion...). We left the town after a couple of hours of wandering in and out of the shops, just before the afternoon storm hit. As we drove out of Dolores Hidalgo towards Guanajuato, the rain came. But it didn't really last.
The road from Dolores Hidalgo directly to Guanajuato was one of the most scenic roads we had driven so far. It was quite a winding road through almost mountainous terrain, with some great views of rugged mountains all around. And it was fairly green, which is always welcome to the eyes after the brown and dry terrain that we have been seeing.
Continuation on > Page 2 > !