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Subject: From Ed and Edith Part VI
Part VI What is life like in Chapala
You probably have been wondering why and the heck did we come to Chapala? Well years ago I used to listen to a fellow on the radio from Chapala who had moved down there from IL. And he talked about all the Americans and Canadians that lived there and how there was an English newspaper, Walmart, etc and things were cheap and the climate was good. As I approached retirement I did some searching on the Internet and found that Chapala was rated as having the second best climate in the world by National Geographic and that there are more U.S. and Canadian citizens living here than any place in the world outside their countries. It is the largest lake in Mexico and central America. I then found a web page by George XE1/N9VIU and he had a lot of information on it. Since our Spanish is not very good I though it would be a place we could get along pretty well and still get a good taste of Mexico. I thought the Walmart, etc was right in Chapala but actually they are north in Guadalajara which is about 26 miles north.
We have found out a lot about the area from George. One of the big things we have done have been to the open markets which are once a week but they are on different days in different places. We will go to another on Sunday afternoon and another on Monday. We also have found out a lot talking to people in the RV park and at the radio club meeting and then noon dinner with them. They ALL live here the year around. The couple next to us are from Quebec and speak French, English and Spanish and his sister and brother in law live here. They have flown here several years but now drove a Class A down. We learned a lot from them. The fellow on the other side is about my age and he has traveled for years. I don't know how he retired so early but he has been everyplace! I absolutely filled pages of notes on my maps. He has batteries, solar panels and we have great conversations about that sort of thing. There are many snowbirds here and especially a lot from Canada! Another big thing is people go to the west coast around Puerto Vallarta and spend the winter on the beach. Mainly north of Puerto Vallarta as it is expensive there but real reasonable to the north. Some like to fish. When March comes it gets hot and the beaches fill up with the locals for Easter. Easter in Mexico is a 4 week thing. People go out 2 weeks early to beat the rush and stay for 2 weeks longer after Easter. With 2.5 million people in Guadalajara not that far away the coast really fills up. There are some of the spring break people that show up as well but it is mainly due to Easter which is by far the biggest holiday in Mexico. They come from there to Pal Trailer park and then head north. Some up the west coast but most to Lerado or McAllen Tx. They stay away from the fly in crowd along the coast and go to other places but there are a lot of snowbirds at these places. All we have talked to and it has been a lot have been coming down for many years. I think the least is the couple next to us from Quebec as there fourth time and first time in an RV. The RV BIBLE is Mexican Camping by Church and Church and the map all RV ers that have been here before use is Guia Roji. I am told the Rand McNally and AAA are not that good! The rest is by word of mouth!
The radio license has been great! Edith and I got our HEX beam up the first day and we talked to our friends in the USA on a daily basis and our son Curt in AZ on a daily basis. We have set and gotten many E-mails each day. We were able to get and send E-mail on the trip down with absolutely no problem. It has been a lot easier than from northern Canada and Alaska for several reasons. First it is closer, second there is not the Aurora and thirdly we are using what is called Pactor II rather than Pactor I and it definitely works better, but the unit did cost a lot more but is worth every penny of it.
We are told on the way north we are very likely to have a military search for guns and drugs. They have machine guns and will stop you at a check point, give you a sheet in English and Spanish and look through your rig. We are also told if you are a Gringo RV you often will get waved on or the search will not be very intense. Also north of Sinaloa there are lots of checks because of the corrupt nature of there state government but under the new administration in Mexico they have forced that state to clean up its act a great deal. It is a very prosperous looking state with a great deal of agriculture with a lot of mechanization but of course they make use of hand labor!
The other thing we have learned it the east coast is tougher to RV, worse roads, less and poorer RV parks and in the Yucatan area there is a lot of petty theft. Not break ins or armed robbery just grabbing of things that are not locked up or tied down. It does get pretty hot in the Yucatan. The dangerous area I told you about is in south Mexico and even in the winter it is hot down there. I have only talked to one couple who have been through there and they were with an RV tour. We also have gotten lots of information on the Copper Canyon and have a couple of good ways to tour it. They best one which is not advertised at all is to drive into Mexico from west of Big Bend and you can drive right down to the very best part of the canyon and view it and take day trips or tours out of there and there are a couple of good RV parks there. The second best way is to take the train ride from west of Los Mouches.
We have asked a lot of people if they were just going to one inland city in Mexico what one would they recommend. To a person they have said Guanajuato and then San Miguel. They are west of Leon which is west of Guadalajara. The other thing I did not know is there are interesting ruins south of Mexico City and also a different type of ancient culture down in Oaxaca but this is one of the three states where there is some danger and you want to do some real checking before you head down there. The crazy part is that buses are much more subject to problems than vehicles. I suppose robbers get a lot more in one hold up. The new administration has really helped to pretty much stop these robberies. The other problem is political unrest but from all the reading I have done there has been no injury to American or Canadians.
At this point I am convinced Mexico is very safe, if you use common sense on what you eat and drink you will have no problems as really people are healthy down here and diseases are not a problem. Driving in Mexico with just a car or pickup is not bad but due to the narrow roads and trucks many roads are tough with an RV. A smaller 24 foot 5th wheel or a smaller Class A or C would be a lot better. Most of the RV parks are very tight! Fuel and tolls are expensive but other things are reasonable. They are no longer cheap like they used to be but at times there are still great values and one can look around a little and eat quite reasonably. RV parks and motels cost less. This is a good park and it is $99 a week, actually we got 8 days rather than 7 for the weekly rate. If you go to a month a lot are cheaper yet. They main thing is stay away from the fly in towns along the coast. In regards to getting a lot of vehicles fixed I don't think it would be bad but with the computer stuff I could be concerned but other stuff I think it might take awhile but would get done. Most items on a RV you could forget but likely the essential things you could be patched up. With all the diesel trucks I think you could get an diesel engine fixed and even an automatic you likely could get fixed enough to get back stateside. Getting off the road in case of trouble with an RV would be a REAL PROBLEM in lots of areas!
If you are going to get off the major roads you could really have a problem if you don't speak Spanish. I would say be sure and have plenty of phrase books, dictionaries and a laptop to hear is pronounced. One thing that really works well is to write things out and have a written answer. A lot of times you can figure it out and you can look the words up in your Spanish dictionary! We could not always understand the price in the open market but have them write the price on your hand, etc and you got it. The Peso bills and coins are marked with numbers so that is no problem. The signs are pretty much universal and a lot you can pretty much figure out. The entrance and exits are a little puzzeling at first. If you want to be positive on having the best Insurance get Sanborns. Tepeciatic (not spelled correctly, AAA and GE are decent.. It can be a problem sometime knowing if you can legally park somewhere as often the locals park illegally just as they don't pay any attention to the speed limits and passing zones. In the old days and still a little today it could give an opportunity for the police to try and make some personal money of you. They put there badge away so you can not get a number. Again it is pretty rare nowdays as there are telephone numbers to call, and processes to report these sort of things and they are aggresively looked into as they want the Gringo money. Crime is very low and violent crime is even lower yet. There are lots of Internet cafes so one can get at the Internet. Some RV parks have a computer for Internet access such as PAL here. A lot of those along the west coast also have Internet access.
I find the road down the Baha is not as bad as common knowledge has it but there is usually always a stretch that is really bad. The fellow next to me has been down and back 8 times and was just down this year. He said this time was the first time he did not hit any bad stretches any place. We have talked to several others who have done it. A couple this noon at the amateur dinner said they went down for 8 years in a row back a few years with a RV. She said it continually got better over the years.
[MID: 1316_W0SD Sent Via: KA6IQA Date: 2002/03/26 02:35:25]