Saturday, January 12, 2008

Uruapan and the Volcano

11/8/07: I arrived at the bus station around 4:45, and took a taxi to the hotel, arriving at 5:30 am. I had a moment of panic, as it looked closed. However the taxi driver gestured to a doorbell and an old fellow came to answer the door, and set me up with a room. My goal for that day was to find someone that could help me set up the cabin in Angahuan, a visit to the ruins and the National Park of Enrique Diaz, which is located right on the edge of town. A good tip when traveling through non-english speaking countries, visit any of the upscale hotels in town, if you happen to be in a place that has them. The concierge will speak English 9 times out of 10.

After wandering around town square I used this strategy and met Enrique, who took me right to the park, and offered to help show me some of the other sights. I gave him $5 for his time. The park was outstanding, as water permeated the entire park. Inside the park there is a trout hatchery where you can purchase farm raised trout and salmon, and locals jumping from great heights to impress tourists (and ask for money). At one point a pack of local school kids swarmed me asking for money, I quickly turned the request back at them (in spanish) and one little show off was actually reaching into his pocket to give me some pesos. I told him to keep it, though I normally never refuse money. At this point I realized I would need more time here, and it's such a great feeling to know that there is absolutely nothing to stop me.

One of the main waterfalls in the park

One thing I begin to realize on this part of my journey is a greater appreciation for what the States has to offer for travling. It's making me excited to explore when I return. I am aslo realizing greater appreciation for Mexican food: The Mexican Hawaiian Hamburger: Hamburger, cheese, lettuce, onion, avacado, hotdog (sliced in half down the middle), hot sauce, mayo, wow. I normally don't go for burgers but the street cart was surrounded by 12 people, and I had to try one of these. For $1.50 how can you go wrong?

I want to say here that when I left El Tamarindo I left english behind as well. As bad as my Spanish is, I can't imagine trying to get by in a country where I have none of the language. I guess we'll find out. Things I was currently excited for; the ruins, the volcano, Mexico City.

11/9/07: "It all adds to the flavor." I was still unable to book the cabana in Angahuan for the trek to Paracutin. I plan to take a bus the next day and sort it out onsite. Sleep in, breakfast, bus to the volcano. Today Enrique took me to the ruins at Tingambato, and to the falls at Tzaráracua. The ruins were small, but as they were the first set I had seen, I found them quite interesting. The most unique aspect to these ruins was the ball field (

A side view of the pyramid

On the way out of town we stopped to see the "miracle child." Apparently this grotesque porcelain statue of a small child is associated with some sort of child rescue miracle. Thousands of people make pilgrimages to see the thing from all around the world. There are gifts and pictures with requests for miracles all over the room. Imagine if they spent their time, energy and money on improving thier lives rather than on some hopeless quest. Do they really believe some inanimate statue has special power? Come on. The 'caretaker' for the child (it changes once a year) offered to let me hold the thing, to which I declined as politely as I could, but he was still offended that I didn't want to. I lied and said I didn't want to be the one to break it.

Look at it dressed up in the Dr. outfit on the right. It was all I could do to keep from laughing in the guys face.

After the ruins, we visited the Tzaráracua falls. The walk down 600+ stairs reminded me greatly of California, and these mountains are part of the same Sierra range.

A view of the falls

We ascended the stairs and called it a day. That night I wandered around, bought some food, had a few beers and went to bed.

Downtown Angahuan

11/10/07: I took a bus to Angahuan, met a guide for Paracutin, and found the cabins, for $15.00 a night. Once I reached the cabanas, I started negotiating with the guide on price. He was quoting me around $80 for 2 horses and a guide. I had read that the trip could be done for $20, but that was about 5 years ago. I got him to agree to $35, and that ever present question of Mexico was on my mind, "am I getting gringoed?" After that I went into town to get food for the hike. What a place this was! Less then 1/4 of the people had cars. Everyone got around by horseback. The women still wore traditional Mexican garb. All around were the sites and sounds of rural Mexico. Before dinner I was having beers in the restaurant, when I local by the name of Juan insisted that I sit with him and his amigo. In America he would be someone you instantly fear. Instead we toasted to Mexico and North America. At one point I said salude to Mexico and he insisted we salude North America, so both Mexico and the States would be included. He also bought me 4 rounds despite my objections. I was writing this entry hudled by my fire in the cabana. My arrival in Angahuan had left me excited. It's as authentic Mexico as you are going to get. On the western side of the of the Sierres low mountains dominate the backround. There were no modern stores, no internet, no taxis or TV. I was feeling glad that the gamble to come here paid off, but it's in places like this that traveling alone can be tough. I consider getting here an achievement, and it's more fun to to share that with friends, however if I wasn't alone, I probably wouldn't have made it here. Everything is a trade off.

My cabana

"Alone? What do you fear? A cage, to stay behind bars of my own creation until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is beyond recall or desire." It's amazing that some things, obtained in youth, accompany you always, for good or ill based on your own choosing.

11/11/07: Off to the Volcano at 7am. The story of Paricutin( is that one day a farmer discovere a 3 foot mound in his fields. 30 days later it was 1,000 feet high, and the nearby village had to be evacuated. Paricutin erupted several times, leaving fresh lava fields and no more farm. It was a 7 hour trip for my guide, 'Huaricin,' and I. The countryside was picturesque, the horses sufficient and the approach to the volcano impressive. Once we reached the cone we had to dismount and go on foot, where the new rock is extrememly loose, and the footing terrible. It was about 3,000 feet to the top of the cone, but you had to make 3 steps for every 1 on flat ground because your feet simply slide back down the mountain as you push upwards.. Paricutin is still active and vents release gas into the atmosphere, and steam rises through fissures in the rock. If you dig about 1/2 foot into the ground it is to hot to touch the stones that you find.
Part of the cinder cone

After a walk around the cinder cone we head back down and head towards the old church that was swamped by the lava flow. That evening I was back in Uruapan at a gorgeous hotel called Mi Solar.

The church flooded by lava

11/12/07: Leaving Uruapan. I'll describe my guide for a day and a half, Enrique. I met him at the hotel Mi Solar, he works there, and it's a really fantastic posada. He helped me find the park, he got me about $50 off my stay at Mi Solar, told me about the falls, the ruins, and Janitzio. I gave him some money for his time. Not much, like $25. But here is the catch, he came to me and asked for 200 pesos ($20) because - wait for it - his account was frozen and he needed the money for his grandmother's medicine. I couldn't make this shit up. But he was supposed to take me out to Patzcuaro on Monday, so I gave him the $20 in advance. Of course he didn't show up. I didn't think he would, and it didn't really bother me, I still feel like I got a lot of good info from him, but I wanted to see if would make good on his word. Had he been there in Patzcuaro like he said I would have given him more money for his effort. Alas it was not to be. Never burn a bridge for $20. Especially when you are trying to get back to the states and back to San Jose. I might have been able to help him in some way that would be worth more than $20.

Off to Patzcuaro!

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