Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tingambato Ruins, Isla Junitzio, and Patzcuaro

After enjoying our horse ride to the Volcano, we packed up the car and drove toward Patzcuaro. On the way, we stopped at the Tingambato village and enjoyed their ruins dating back to the Tarascan Empire (supposedly AD 450 to 900).We then drove to Patzcuaro, only 30km away, and checked into Hotel Estrella, a small hotel right down the street from the lake's pier. It had a beautiful garden "lobby," and we enjoyed the hot shower! Our room was on the right hand side, overhanging the gardens.
We imimmediately walked down the street to the pier, and jumped on some boats going to the Isla Janitzio, an island in Patcuaro Lake (Lago de Patzcuaro). It was a Mexican holiday weekend (Revolution day was coming up, but as is the tradition here, if a holiday falls mid-week, the school moves the holiday break to a Friday or Monday). There were many wealthy Mexican tourists visiting (as made evident by their clothing, cameras, etc), and we were the only Americanos in sight. The boat was a party in and of itself:

The island is also well-known for its fisherman with a very interesting fishing style (long skinny boats, big wing-like nets, etc). When our boat got close to the island, it stopped for a quick "show" by the local fisherman. It didn't seem like they caught any fish (or intended to), but after their short production, one fisherman rowed towards us and collected tips (probably a big portion of their limited income). My camera handily died before we arrived on the island, so here are some photos I've "borrowed" from others.At the top of the cone-shaped island is a giant 40m high statue of the independence hero Jose Maria Moreles y Pavon. It is large enough that you can actually climb stairs inside of it, and take photos from the wrist (we didn't). The fun part is that the streets zigzag up the side of the island, so you get a good workout while walking up the streets of vendors and shops. We also enjoyed a fabulous dinner at the top of the island for only $85 pesos total ($6.37 USD). By the time we got back on the boats to head back to our hotel, it was dark!

The next morning we went downtown in Patzcuaro, investigated the 3 different markets, and even saw the Basilica De Nuestra Senora De La Salud (a church that is famous for people crawling on their knees to receive the blessings of their revered Virgin/Lady of Health). Also pictured are my well-priced (and prized) fruit cups that we purchased for $25 pesos total. Holy cow! 2 heaping cups of fresh strawberries, kiwi, melon, etc, for less than $2 USD! try getting THAT in the US (since I am a big lover of fresh fruit, I can attest to the fact that a cup 1/3 the size of one of these would likely cost you $4-$5)!!!Lastly, we went to a water park 2 hours from Patzcuaro. It was definitely not up to US Water park standards, but Ella loved it just the same. Jared managed to lose his glasses within the first 10 minutes (at the end of the toboggan run), and the wave pool was closed (bummer)! After a few hours we had had enough, and went to go check out the local hotel scene.
An attached water park hotel was a whopping $850 pesos (a LOT for hotels around here!), so we went to the nearest downtown to search for a different one. As we were unsuccessfully searching the narrow streets, Jared was driving down a tiny cobblestone road that seemed to arch down, out of view. This often happens in come over a ridge, and you can't really see what lies ahead on the road...but you just keep driving. In this instance, I managed to shout for Jared to slow down, and low and behold, a few feet forward, it became clear to us that this road turned into STEEP STAIRS leading to the road below. HELLO?!! A street that, without warning, turned into stairs? Whew...we managed to back the car up and turn around. Jared says our van could have made it...just like in the movies! Hahaha...

So, after not being able to find a suitable hotel (1 was too expensive, 1 was too questionable, and the other didn't have hot water, a toilet seat, or toilet paper), we decided to go ahead drive home in the dark for 4 hours. It's typically not safe to drive in the dark here, but there was plenty of steady traffic on the nicely-paved toll roads, so we took our chances.

And that was the end of our first big road-trip in Mexico. Whew. That took FOREVER. Hope you enjoyed it :-) Now we are off to Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, and whatever other treasures may await us on the coast this weekend!

Oh yeah, and enjoy your snow ;-)


Greg and Lara said...

So did Jared find his glasses?

Stina said...

Well, looks gorgeous and warm! Good luck on your many many adventures!!