Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ajijic and our Life in Mexico

We have settled down for a year in Ajijic just north of the main road (the Carretera as it is called locally).  Its walking distance to just about everything we need.  In case you are wondering (our followers outside of Mexico) Ajijic is pronounced "a-hee-hic".
As of August 1, 2017 we are now living on the northwest side of Ajijic after having spent 5 weeks at the Felipe Angles location just above Oxxo.  The lake at the bottom is Lake Chapala. The green at the top is a reserve on the mountain where there are lots of hiking trails. 

Where Ajijic is located in Mexico
Our Apartment
Our new apartment (which is a spacious 1 bed/1 bath) is perfect for us and was worth the many hours spent walking the streets and looking online searching for a place that we would want to call home.  It has been recently renovated and has a wonderful clean, light airy feel about it - it is fully furnished with very tasteful decor, a huge furnished patio looking out at the lake and downstairs there is a very pretty garden and a laundry area which all three apartments share.  All utilities (as well as twice weekly cleaning service) is included in the price, which makes bill paying really easy with a one stop shop bill of the same amount each month.

Outdoors living space with a view.

Dining al-fresco has become the norm in spite of the fact that we have a big beautiful table in the dining room as well as another table in the huge kitchen.

Light bright kitchen with lots of cabinets and an awesome 6 burner range with large oven, makes cooking all that lovely fresh meat and veggies fun and a pleasure.

The 'sink with a view' changes the whole concept of dish washing.
Retirement life if beginning to look pretty much like this now.

Ajijic and Lake Chapala
As the time of this writing, we have been here in Ajijic just coming on two months.  The rainy season is well underway and we have had a few warm days (high 80s / 32 C) and with the typically dry (low humidity) climate it has been the perfect climate for us.  The best thing is that the rains usually come in the evening or night with bright sunny days with bright blue skies and partial clouds.

I can't say it any better, so a quote from Wikipedia
The Chapala Lake basin has a year-round average temperature of about 72 °F (22 °C). Due to Ajijic's tropical latitude, the sun is warm year-round; due to its relatively high elevation, it is seldom unpleasantly hot or humid. The rainy season begins in June and lasts until October with an average rainfall of approximately 34 inches (860 mm). Even during the rainy season, precipitation generally occurs during the evening or at night.
December and January are the coolest months and May is the hottest, just before the onset of the rainy season. Overall, there is very little temperature variation year round: daytime highs in January are around 75 °F (24 °C); daytime highs in May are around 80 °F (27 °C) to 90 °F (32 °C).
Lake Chapala is the largest lake in Mexico, with its shores defining the southern edge of Ajijic.  The lake is at 5000 feet (1,524 meters) above sea level and is roughly 50 x 8 miles (80 x 12.5 km) and covers an approximate area of  420 sq mi (1,100 km2 ). It is a shallow lake, with a mean depth of 15 ft (4.5 m) and a maximum of  34 ft (10.5 m).  For our Montana friends, its about double the size of Flathead lake but not near as deep!  A lake this size has a significant thermal effect creating an ideal micro climate.  Not too hot, not too cold and surprisingly not too humid.

Rosalind on the shore of Lake Chapala

Looking south west across the lake from Ajijic
Looking west.  Ajijic is right (out of frame) and you can see the mountain range behind Ajijic.
Hiking Trails
There are numerous hiking trails from the edge of town up into the mountains.   The Ajijic Hiking Group on Facebook has hikes on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Everything from beginning to expert level hiking.
The hikers/blog authors Gerald and Rosalind!

Overlooking Ajijic and Lake Chapala

Planting corn just before the rains on a ridge about half way up the mountain.

Rest break on the trail at one of the shrines.
Rosalind at one of the waterfalls.

What we love about Mexico
Before we left the USA for Mexico, we noticed a lot of comments of how dirty Mexico was.  Granted we have seen some poor areas of the country where there was a lot of trash alongside the roads but for the most part we think Mexico is just as clean if not cleaner than in the USA.  In our humble opinions, we have seen more trash in the streets in San Antonio TX than in similar sized cities (Saltillo, Durango etc) here in Mexico.  Now we are not talking about garbage collection sites as shown below.  FYI, in Ajijic garbage collection is 6 days a week!
Garbage waiting for the garbage truck.  Note the hooks on the light post to keep the smelly bags up away from the dogs.  Also note the cobble stone streets, all but the main road (which is asphalt paved) are like this.  You have to watch where you are walking!  But its great exercise for the ankles.
Garbage Truck on the streets of Ajijic.  Note the recycling bags hanging on the back.  They sort through the bags as they are loaded on the truck separating out the recyclables.  Mexico is the worlds largest recycler of  plastic bottles.  Must be because of all the plastic water bottles - a lot of bottled water is sold because tap water is not safe to drink.

A fruit vendor selling cups of berries (on the table).  No customers at the moment, so he was sweeping the grass and rocks after the rain.
Local Markets
On Wednesdays in Ajijic, they close off a street for the Wednesday Tianguis.  This is where vendors and artisans come from all around to sell their wares from jewelry to clothes to fruit/veggies to meat, to you name it.  The rainy season has started so the vendors have tarps up to keep out the rain.  The day this was taken was one of the unusual days where it was raining during the day.

Our shopping style has changed a lot since we arrived in Mexico - very few supermarket trips for us anymore and none of the big Super stores.  The larger cities have Costco and Sams club (i.e. in Guadalajara) etc. but we seldom shop there. The market is the place to go for 'harvested this morning' fruit and vegetables, the arborreta (corner store) is the place to go for bits and bobs, milk etc.  The panaderia (bakery) is the place for good fresh breads and amazing pastries.  The carneceria (butcher) for meat and the pescaderia (fish shop) for fish.  Yes, our shopping style has reverted to what it would have been back in 1950s or 1960s.  We go to the florist for beautiful fresh cut flowers where we requested a mixed bunch of flowers (order by price/value) for 50 pesos (less than $3 US) and we got an armful of beautiful flowers.  We walk to all the different stores, sometimes coming back to offload our purchases before making another trip into town, maybe buying a cup of coffee and visiting with friends or people watching.  We have our favorite little places where we buy fresh herbs and spices, the little red truck at the side of the road where we buy fresh ground locally grown coffee and the licor (liquor) store where we buy some good tequila at a fraction of what we used to pay for the Southern Comfort that we used to have for a nightcap in Texas.

Building Architecture and Life Behind Walls
Walls are just a part of the Mexican culture and life style.  From the street, you have no idea what lies behind the wall, usually is it a beautiful court yard...

Wall built around a tree.  Notice the trunk at curb level and branches coming out and going back into the wall.

Courtyard at Ajijic Suites where we stayed for a couple of days between our arrival in town and moving into a short term rental.

Courtyard at Ajijic Suites
"The jungle" at our friends Pat and Russ's casita.

Russ and their floral front door.

San Miguel and the Lake Chapala area are the only places in Mexico (so far) where we have seen the fine brick work ceilings (boveda ceilings).  The bricks are locally manufactured here in town mostly and we have seen that the bricks have different appearances according to who makes them.  Truck loads of bricks are seen most days on the carretera below our new apartment in Rancho del Oro - they are driven out from town to this location for sale directly off the trucks.
Bricked cupola at a friends house near us.

Ceiling herringbone brick pattern
Ceiling pattern in our rented house.
Similar to what we reported in Tulum, you just can't cut down a tree on the edge of the street or even in your yard. They are protected and if the tree is dying you get a permit for a few hundred pesos and the city removes the tree.  If on the street they usually will plant a new tree after removing the old one.
Tree in the way of that wall?  No problem!
We have gradually settled into some sort of routine of having coffee on the patio each morning and commenting on how amazing it is that we get to live here and see this constantly changing view of the lake all the time (the opposite end of the apartment where we have our computer desk, affords us an equally beautiful view of the mountains).

Each day we take long walks into town, often meeting up with friends for coffee or lunch, or just picking up some item that we need that particular day.  Sometimes we have breakfast at the French bakery on the carretera below where we live, we explore the organic tiengius nearby on Tuesdays and buy beautiful fresh fruit, vegetables and meat - sometimes some pieces of clothing which we have made to our personal requirements.  Other days our walk may be into town to have supper with friends, maybe at one of the hundreds of local restaurants or at their home (usually followed by a fun game of Mexican Train).  We do more entertaining here ourselves than we used to do back in the USA - it is always fun to have friends over, to cook for them and play games and there is usually a bottle of wine and/or some tequila involved as well.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

San Cristobal to San Miguel de Allende

On June 14, 2017 we left San Cristobal de las Casas for a drier and warmer climate.

San Cristobal is point A and San Miguel de Allende is point E on the map.  Point F is Ajijic on Lake Chapala.
Over 6,000 miles (10,000 km) driven in Mexico since April 1, 2017.

We headed out of San Cristobal on  the 190D toll road towards Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

Rugged peaks and looking down on the clouds between San Cristobal and Tuxtla.

Rugged peaks on Mex 145D just before crossing from the state of Chiapas into the state of Tabasco.

Stayed cable bridge across the Coatzacoalcos River on  Mex180D
Yes, we have been travelling around so much in Mexico that we ended up backtracking to almost into Coatzcoalcos again ;)

In all our travels around Mexico, we have seen roadside vendors selling pineapples, but this is the first time we have seen pineapple fields.  And there were thousands of acres of pineapple fields, as far as the eye could see, around the general center of Veracruz.
Pineapple fields near Juan Rodríguez Clara in the state of Veracruz.  The black in the distance is netting, apparently, to protect the crop.

Roadside vendors selling crates of mangoes for 50 pesos per crate.
We spent the night in Córdoba (Note the accent on the o!  Its pronounced cór-do-ba with the emphasis on the first syllable, not cor-doba.).  It had been a long day driving so we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the KFC a block down the road from the hotel and walked around a small square before retiring for the night.

The next morning (June 15) we headed out of Córdoba towards Puebla.

Leaving Cordoba, the closer to Puebla and Mexico City, the more interesting the architecture became.
 We stopped for gas and a latte at The Italian Coffee company near Esperanza.  From the back of the store, you have a great view of Pico de Orizaba, also known as Citlaltépetl, which is a stratovolcano, the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America (per Wikipedia)
Yes that is snow on Pico de Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico.  Photo was taken June 15, 2017.

As the valleys got larger, so did the fields and more of the fields were farmed with tractors.  Here is corn growing along side the road before Puebla.
A building in the shape of an eagle.  Sorry about the speed limit sign!  Most people on the road ignore them so you can too!

Closer view of the Eagle.

Not just a generic fly over, but a stayed cable one!

A colorful facade for a stadium?  We couldn't see what it was from the toll way. 

Trauma hospital with heli pad on the roof.

Entering the State of Puebla on Mex 150D
More farming, mainly corn.

As we get closer to Mexico City, we are seeing more industry.  This appears to be a particle board factory as we kept seeing truck loads of particle board sheets and shelving on the highway.  The plant superstructure was a strong reminder to Rosalind from her particleboard manufacturing experience days.

The hay was mowed with a tractor, but it's being raked by hand!

More farming, several places we saw them cultivating the corn with a horse drawn single row cultivator with the farmer walking behind it.  Up in the mountains they plant corn on steep hill sides that are even too steep for a horse.   

Shepherd tending some sheep.  Notice the corn to the right and cabbage to the left.

More interesting building architecture.  A seafood restaurant in the shape of a ship.

We skirted around Mexico City on the toll road.  We had heard that a few months ago some tourists accidentally missed a turn on the toll road and ended up lost in Mexico City.  Their GPS likely took them down a road that went into the city instead of on to their destination, we have had that happen a couple times with both Google Maps and Waze.  They ended up having to pay 6 local cops US $50 each (for some unknown misdemeanor) to get out of the mess.  Which brings up another very helpful tip for people wanting to drive in Mexico.  Facebook.  Rosalind has joined the FB group 'On the road in Mexico' which has been invaluable for us and she has been answering questions from others.  The Mexico City incident info came from that group.

San Miguel de Allende
We arrived in San Miguel about 4:30 pm and with the hotel address in Waze we were taken thru the city center.  It was an interesting drive since we had no idea that the streets were so steep west of the central church square.  Lucky we were going down and not up.  I'm not sure the Prius would have been able to pull up those steep streets with us two and everything we own!
Whoa, that's steep!

Almost at the bottom!

The church from our roof top hotel room

Our roof top hotel room.  It was really nice being on the roof since there was no air conditioning.  The cool evening breeze would cool us down.  And we could hear the church bells and fireworks all night!

Hand carved head board.
Breakfast on the rooftop mirador.  Notice the guy on the building across the street filling the propane tank, 3 stories up, no safety rope!  He leaned over the edge of the building threw down a rope that they attached the propane hose to and he hoisted it up. 

What you do when you want to sell your vehicle in Mexico.  You cannot sell your US car in Mexico unless it was made in a NAFTA country (even then it is really difficult).  All sorts of regulations that seem to change frequently!

View of San Miguel looking west from one of the highest points in the historic district.on Zacateros road.
The longest street in San Miguel.  Notice the cobble stones!
Parish church of San Miguel
Rosalind at the entrance to Parish church of San Miguel

Waiting for the car at the hotel, parking was 3 or 4 blocks away.  Remember the propane guy on the roof a few pics up?  That was the roof of the yellow building across the street behind me.