Mazatlan and the road to Guadalajara

Mazatlan is my favorite tourist type destination in Mexico because it's an actual city that happens to have great beaches stretching north for many miles. It was established as a city hundreds of years ago by the Spanish to take avantage of its superb natural deep sea port. The Spanish used it to ship the gold they were pillaging back to Spain.

My daughter Michelle and i spent our days walking the beaches of course but we also toured the cathedral, shopped and grazed through the mercado every day and met lots of interesting people. In addition to the normal tourist haunts we also took the bus a few times into the deeper barrio parts of the city as a venue for opening up discussions of poverty and inequality, we both learned lots. That was another benfit to being there years ago as by today the violence engendered by poverty and inequality makes such walking tours very dangerous and i certainly wouldn't be casually trying that now.

We stayed at an old style hotel along the beach. It's probably long since been replaced by another huge ugly skyscraper but we loved it as was then. One day my daughter left her camera down at the beach in front of the hotel, we went back to look for it but had no luck. She was very sad as she had taken many shots and now they were lost. As we walked through the little lobby on the way back to our room the fellow at the desk called us over and asked if we'd lost a camera. We were astonished. He told us that an indian lady, one of the ones selling chicklets along the beach, had brought it in. These dimutive native women have nothing, they are the poorest of the poor in Mexico. The chicklets they sell along the beach for a few centavos are a substitute for begging. The camera was worth a fortune in relation to her poverty yet she returned it immediately. We tried to find her but it was impossible as there were many impoverished native chicklet ladies along the beaches back then so instead we bought package after package and always paid at least 100 times what they were asking in the hopes of doing some small good. I've never been into chewng gum so the little packages rolled around in the panel truck for years. Such were the lessons of old Mexico.

Barry chose to camp in a little campground a little ways up the beach. We saw him most every day and did a few dinners together. He of course was the center of attention at the campground and adjoining beach, everybody knew him and listened to him play. The day we pulled out and headed south towards Guadalajara the whole place turned out to say goodbye to him.

We spent a few days getting to Guadalajara first staying at a tiny fihing village just south of the wildlife refuge along the coast then in a field up in the mountains. The field stop wasn't exactly planned or camping. Unknown to us the hwy. to Guadalajara passes through Mexico's lagest tequila producing area. There were little stores selling it amoungst row after row of agaves. Of course we stopped, our spanish was getting marginally better but really the only Mexicans we could talk with were ones who were willing to put out the effort to try. Barry and i tried to negotiate a better deal with the guy at the tequilera. He barely understood. But what he thought we were after was pulpe. This was a byproduct of the refining process that only the locals knew about. It cost a fraction of the final product and kicked like mule. We each started sipping from our gallon jug as soon as we got back to the truck, a first it tasted terrible, but it grew on you. Soon we were singing our way along the highway de la mucha curvas peligrosas. We stopped for a pee at the first flat stretch, took another couple of swigs, and the next hing i remember it was morning, we had both passed out in the truck in the field and even the cows knew we were in bad shape. It was the worst hangover i ever had. Good thing there was still some left in the jug for breakfast.

We stayed that night beside Lake Chapala a few miles west of Guadalajara. Today the lake is surrounded by 'upscale' gated homes and populated by richos. Back then it was a little town by a beautiful lake. We swam and bathed in the lake, had our little campfire for cooking and ambiance and swore we'd never touch pulpe again. Next day we rolled east to Guadalajara, more adventures awaited...