The Start of Our Cyling – Morelia to Patzcuaro

Sunday, January 11– Wecnesday, January 14

We cycled out of Morelia around 10 a.m. on Sunday, bound for Quiroga. Manuel, one of the desk people at Hostel Allende, arranged to store our bike boxes in an unused room until we return. The ride was fairly unpleasant – many kilometers in the industrial outskirts of Morelia, lots of traffic throughout, and smoggy air. The ride also involved a good deal of climbing, though it wasn't steep. We gained about 1500 feet before a long descent to Quiroga. Barbara had a bad time with it, almost certainly because she isn't breathing well with her cold.

Right: Somewhere outside Morelia we stopped at a gas station rest room, and a nice man in the parking lot had this antique wheelchair, powered by hand cranks. He offered to let Barbara try it. We hope this isn't a sign of things to come.

On the way to Quiroga we stopped for a while in Capula, noted for pottery, and the little town was jammed with people at the Sunday market.

Cycling into Capula

Capula market, noted for pottery

We reached Quiroga a little before 3 p.m. Quiroga turned out to be MUCH bigger and much busier than we'd dreamed. The main streets were jammed with people cruising the innumerable shops and sidewalk stands. The plaza was packed, and the sidewalks were impassable where people were crowded around stands selling roast pork – that looked really good.

Musicians accompanied child dancers in the little park next to hour hotel in Quiroga. These costumes, and this dance, are known all over this part of Mexico. As we understand it, the children represent the Three Kings on their way home from visiting the Baby Jesus.

Monday, January 12, we aimed to set out fairly early from Quiroga, headed toward Patzcuaro, going the long way along the western shore of the lake, and possibly stopping at Erongacuaro, if there were a good place to stay. (We didn't stop there.)

Along the shore of Lake Patzcuaro, between Quiroga and Erongacuaro

Our strongest impression so far has been the friendliness and graciousness of the Mexican people we have met. We've already lost count of the number of folks who stopped to talk with us and wish us well. We're also impressed by the vitality of community life here. So much goes on in the plazas and parks, so many activities that bring people out of their homes and into connection with one another.

The ride from Quiroga to Patzcuaro was certainly nicer than that from Morelia to Quiroga. There was less traffic, and after a while there were views of the lake, which sprawls through mountain valleys, with low peaks all around. It wasn't ideal, however. There has been a strange haze in the air. We don't think it's pollution because we're up high, nearly 7,000 feet much of the time, and quite far from major centers of industry. Whatever it is, colors are muted, the lake looks brownish rather than blue, and distant views are faded at best. Also, I am having trouble getting used to the litter – but I have done so before and probably will again.



       Right: Church in San Jeronimo Purenchecuaro, one of the many small indian towns that line the shores of Lago Patzcuaro.

In Patzcuaro we lucked out with wonderful accommodation. The Hotel de los Angeles, which we simply picked out from Lonely Planet, is a low-budget treasure. It's on a very narrow, winding, cobbled street. As we walked along, we wondered if this could possibly the the right address. The entrance, when we found it, apeared to be little more than a hole in the wall.


Below, left to right: The entrance to Hotel de los Angeles; in the entryway, a hint that there may be pleasant surprises in store; part of the inner patio.


Inside Hotel de los Angeles, there were beautiful enclosed gardens, and every room had a small patio. The rooms were clean and carpeted, with cable TV (and we admit with some embarrassment to having watched a couple of movies in the evening.) The staff seemed great. The only thing that was a little sad was that we seemed to be the only guests. This may say volumes about the impact of the economic downturn on tourism here, because this place is such a bargain (at about $23 U.S. per night) and Lonely Planet says such good things about it, that it should have been packed.


Left: the patio outside our room


We didn't feel in a rush to leave Patzcuaro, especially because Barbara's cold seems to be hanging on, and I seem forever on the edge of coming down with it too. And Patzcuaro is a particularly delightful town, with a pretty plaza and some very old buildings. On our first full day, we wandered around the town, visiting La Casa de las Once Patios, a crafts extravaganza in an old convent, that we've seen before.

Right: In La Casa de las Once Patios

Below, Plaza Grande in Patzcuaro


We also cycled and then walked up a hill called El Escribo, a major undertaking. The climb began with steep, cobbled streets that eventually became too rough for cycling. That was followed by half an hour or more of uphill walking to a gazebo with spectacular views of the city, countryside, and lake below. Of course they would have been even more spectacular were the air not so hazy. From the gazebo there was a giant stairway climbing into the distance. We went up, of course, 416 steps to the very top of the hill. Actually the views from the top were no better than from the gazebo, though in a couple different directions. The steps were like Mount Everest, we climbed them just because they were there.


Left: Resting part way up the steps at El Escribo.
We climbed them because they were there.

Below: View from El Escribo, only partially spoiled by the haze

On Wednesday, our second full day based in Patzcuaro, we went for an all-day ride. We headed first for Santa Clara del Cobre, a fair-sized town noted for copper crafts. We'd been there before, but this time we visited the copper museum, and also a place that sold remarkable furniture made entirely of copper — a complete dining room set; a copper bed and other bedroom furniture; sinks, tubs — and much of it was handsome.

From Santa Clara we rode the brick and cobble road to Lago Zirahuen, a smaller, cleaner lake than Patzcuaro. I'd had fantasies about stopping there for a while, perhaps even swimming, but we didn't have that much time, and it wasn't obvious how one might access the lake for swimming. There was a bigger community at Zirahuen than we remembered from passing through a few years ago. From there we headed back to Patzcuaro, arriving there before 5 p.m. It was a 60 kilometer loop, not that long, but with plenty of moderate hills and altitudes approaching 8,000 feet, it was a fair challenge, especially for Barb, who still has her cold.

When we unloaded the bikes back in Patzcuaro, Barbara realized that her good Keen sandals were gone. They'd been under the bungees on her seat-back bag, and we're fairly sure they bounced out on the rough road from Santa Clara to Zirahuen. Shame. She'll try to find something else.

Above: the cobbled road from Santa Clara del Cobre to
Lago Zirahuen — whre Barbara's great sandals were lost.

Right: Entering Santa Clara del Cobre. If it can be made of
copper, they'll try it here.

Lago Zirahuen


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