Uruapan and the Michoacan Coast

Thursday and Friday, January 15-16

On Thursday, January 15, we left Patzcuaro, cycling to Uruapan, another 60 kilometers or so. Some of it was backtracking our return from Zirahuen Wednesday. There was some climbing, but overall it was an easy ride because Uruapan is so much lower than Patzcuaro.

Uruapan is the second biggest city in the state of Michoacan, after Morelia, the capital. We stayed two nights, Friday and Saturday, at Posada Morelos, a not-bad place near the center of town. My first reaction was not to like Uruapan at all. It seemed bigger and grungier than I remembered it from five years ago, and the main plaza (right), though attractive in itself, is in a commercial district that is distinctly lacking in charm. Also, it was raining on and off when we arrived, and rather chilly, for me at least. Barbara likes it cooler.

On Friday, our one full day in Uruapan, we walked to the riverine national park that runs through much of the city. We'd seen it before and loved it, and we loved it just as much again. It's really extraordinary, the finest park of its kind we've seen anywhere. (Come to think of it, it's the only park of its kind we've seen anywhere.) There are beautifully planned walks and bridges along a small river, with waterfalls and springs and flowing water everywhere. It really should be world famous. The weather was fine while we were in the park as well, and afterward, in early afternoon, we went to a very good and inexpensive restaurant, so the day was going well. Uruapan was redeemed.

In the national park, Uruapan

Above: A 'wall of water" in the park.

Left: One of many quiet spots to sit along the river

Then we walked to the Fabricante San Pedro, an antique mill that turns out beautiful cloth made into tablecloths and all sorts of things, but unfortunately we got there too late for the tour, which is supposed to be excellent. It started to rain. We made it back to the hotel, slipping from one overhang to another.

In the evening we had a rather disappointing take-out dinner from a tacqueria near the hotel, and the next morning — eager to burn away our colds and shed our pasty-white skins — we loaded our bikes and gear onto a bus and left for the Miochoacan coast.

Right: the inner courtyard of Posada
Morelos, basic but secure and well-run

The Michoacan Coast

January 17 - 24

Late Saturday morning we took a bus from Uruapan to Lazaro Cardenas, an industrial city on the coast. Our goal was the beach towns of Playa Azul and Caleta de Campos, but there wasn't quite enough time remaining in the afternoon to make the trip by bike. We checked into a decent but somewhat overpriced hotel In Lazaro. After walking all over the place, we had dinner at a bright, clean pozole restaurant, and it was pretty good.

Sunday morning we left before 8 a.m., cycling to Playa Azul and arriving there around 10 a.m. We could have done it more quickly, but we lost some time searching for a route that follows the shore. We ended up on the main highway, which wasn't too bad.

In Playa Azul, we landed at the same little hotel we stayed in five years ago, on our first trip. Maria, the nice young woman who manages the place, remembered us (because of the bikes, surely) and we got a good room immediately. We stayed two nights in Playa Azul, but amazingly I did not take a single photo! Perhaps it was because we have many photos from our first visit there. Perhaps it was sheer laziness. And perhaps it was the fact that Barbaraa doesn't like Playa Azul very much, so she didn't remind me as she usually does. Anyway, we baked in the sun for a couple of days and rode our bikes a little in the early evenings when it was cool.

One noteworthy thing happened at Playa Azul that would have made a great photo if only I'd had the camera. There was a huge whale just offshore who breached repeatedly, once leaping higher than I've ever seen a whale do, except in photos. Also, the beach was littered that day with intact sand dollars, one perfect one after another, and Barbara wanted so much to bring them home for Conner. Unfortunately they don't travel well.

On Tuesday morning we left Play Azul quite early, not long after 7 a.m. when the sun had not yet risen, to start our ride to Caleta de Campos while it was still cool. The first twenty kilometers or so were easy, and the temperature was still comfortable, but as we continued, the terrain grew hillier – as it does along the Michoacan coast – just as the morning grew warmer.

Morning, along the coast road to Caleta de Campos

We arrived on the outskirts of Caleta sometime before 11 a.m. (Photo, right.) It was January 20, inauguration day. It was a shame that we didn't rush directly to Hotel Yuritizi. We had stayed there before and liked it, but we decided to check out one other place first. We rejected it, and when we finally reached the Hotel Yuritzi, Barack Obama's inauguration speech was in progress. We got our room and the clerk found English language CNN for us, but just as the speech was ending. We kept CNN on for many hours, feeling certain they would rebroadcast the speech. But of course they gave more coverage to Michelle's dresses than to reviewing the speech itself, and we saw only a couple of brief highlights.

Caleta de Campos has a fairly nice beach that we hadn't taken time to visit last time we were here. We walked down there late Tuesday afternoon, and again on Wednesday the 21st, we went down again for a couple of hours in the morning. We stayed at the pool for the hottest hours of the day. This Hotel Yuritizi is a very pleasant place with one of the nicest pools we've seen in Mexico. We decided to stay yet another day.

Hotel Yuritzi, clean basic rooms with cable TV, well run, and with a stunning view from the pool
one of the tourist bargains of Mexico,at about $23 per night!

On Thursday the 22nd, still at Caleta de Campos, we didn't do much. I think we spent more time at the pool, in the shade a good deal of the time, since we were finally feeling baked from the sun. We had good tortas by the pool and went to the beach in mid afternoon. Returning from the beach before sunset, we met a couple from California who moved into the room next door.

The beach at Caleta de Campos

Local men fishing in early evening

We left Caleta de Campos early on Friday morning, the 23rd. We decided to go only as far as Playa Azul, then head for Lazaro and continue directly by bus to Uruapan on Saturday. At Playa Azul, Maria at the hotel shouted “Amigos” when she saw us riding up the cobble lane. We were settled in before noon, had a late breakfast at a good comedor, and then spent the afternoon on the beach. Barb rested a while in the room while I went alone; a lifeguard chased me out of the water when I was barely waist deep – just like Playa Zicatela.

Friday evening we met a couple of American men at Hotel Andrea, one of whom lives in the winter at La Manzanilla, up the coast. The other was running away from his wife for a few weeks. Tom and Steve, I forget which was which. They invited us to join them for dinner at a taqueria. They were U-Us!

Cycling from Playa Azul back to Lazaro — in the industrial outskirts of the city —
we see astonishing numbers of spoonbills and other birds.

We started early on Saturday for Lazaro, riding on the coast road that we'd been unable to find on the way down here. It was certainly a nicer way to go, though it was still necessary to wind through lots of industrial outskirts to reach the bus terminal. We were on our way to Uruapan on a 9:30 bus, arriving sometime after 1:00 and checking into the same hotel – Posada Morelos – by early afternoon. We spent a fair bit of time on the internet and Skype, talking to Patrick and eventually Lisa and Josh, also emailing Jeremy and Courtney and a few other folks. There was a young American guy from Kansas at the hotel with whom we went to dinner at the mercado. (I had probably the best meal of the trip so far, enchiladas with pollo and a whole lot more, absolutely delicious and only 35 pesos! Uruapan redeemed itself again.) The young man worked for GE on wind energy development – nice to know they're doing that sort of thing.

One thing happened in Uruapan this time that was upsetting. While Barbara was in a drugstore shopping for sunscreen and other stuff, I fell into conversation with the store security guard – who basically makes sure that people check parcels when they enter. He was not a young man, perhaps 50, and he spoke fairly good English because he lived for 22 years in the states. He has a wife and four US-born children. The upsetting part was that he was deported as an illegal, but the children are still in California, and so is his wife – though she is illegal also. She has been allowed to stay in order to care for the children, who are citizens. But the father has not seen his family for two years now and cannot visit them for seven years altogether. (The four children, as US citizens, could visit him here in Mexico and then return, but of course they can't afford it.) He told me that he worked in his last job in the U.S. for 13 years, had never been in any kind of trouble at all, and honestly doesn't understand why it was necessary to throw him out of the country, away from his wife and children and unable to suppport them.


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