Subject: Mexico Travelogue VIII Ed and Edith Gray

At Acapulco Edith and I put on a pancake breakfast for the whole RV caravan with blue berries and we had fresh Orange Juice from oranges. As things got rolling some people brought coffee, bacon and sausage and some extra syrup and butter in case we did not have enough. Our next stop was Cuernavaca which is the city of eternal spring. The temperature stays in the 70's pretty much the year around. It is about 6000 feet elevation. There is lots of agriculture here and flowers all over and they sell lots of fresh cut flowers. People come here out of Mexico City for the week end. It has one of the best Universities in Mexico and it seemed very prosperous and had lots of upscale stores. We enjoyed the Zocolo area. As else where the streets of these old towns are narrow and even having them one way streets the traffic is terrible! We took a tour to Taxco which is an old silver town and learned about making things out of silver. I never seen so many silver shops and silver in my life. One silver serving set I seen cost $10,000. The marcardo here was very unusual and there are hardly any like it in the world. It is down in narrow streets and seems like it is underground and goes for many many blocks and in most places the aisle is only 6 foot wide. Many of the shops run way back in. There is a huge beautiful church here built by the fellow who discovered the rich sliver vein here. We then went to the CACAHUAMILAPA caverns. This cave is a MUST SEE! The cave is about 1 mile long and it is huge. The width is 50 yards or more and the height many places is 100 feet and the types of formations are many and the lighting is excellent and it is an easy walk. It reminded us a lot of Carlsbad and would definitely say it is just as spectacular.

The roads are taking its toll. We had the seal on the windshield of one class A go and it was getting ready to fall out but they got the seal replaced by a crew that came to the RV park one day for about $250 so definitely a good deal. We now have another Class A with seal problems and it is cracked several places. It is duct taped and shattered in a couple of spots along with the cracks. He is going to try and get back to TX with it. We have a bent axle on the other 5th so he wore off the tire on the edge so he is on his spare and had the worn one turned around on the rim. I have a backup tire if he needs it since we travel together. The travel trailer had a flat tire.

In the Cuernavaca area we stated running into a lot of produce farming. I guess with 22 million people near by in Mexico City there are lots of food needs. We did see some irrigation and mechanization. We did see some decent size tractors, planters and combines. In fact these are only the second time we have seen combines. The other place was in Chiapas. Our next stop was Puebla which is the 4th largest town in Mexico. The big employer is the Volkswagon plant. Again this town looks prosperous and I though there were a lot of shops in Cuernavaca but there are so many in Puebla it is staggering. Many upscale shops and the narrow streets and traffic are bad. I have never been anyplace where so many people were on the streets. It looked like pictures I have seen of the streets in New York City. It was hard to walk as people were so thick, like the crowding to get out of a sports event or something! Most people take the bus. We found some great hand painted ceramic here, very tough clay and scratch resistant and very reasonably priced. We purchased some nice pieces. BTW the silver in Taxco was reasonable but not cheap. One other thing the climate in Taxco is even better than Cuernavaca and the pollution from smoke was not bad. We did not see so many American and European tourists but we seen a lot of Mexican's I think from Mexico City at Taxco. We seen more in Cuernavaca I think because of all the language schools.

Back to Puebla we seen some beautiful churches here! One on the inside is considered by many to be one the most beautiful in the world. It is beyond description but eventually there will be a picture on the web site. I had a good time at the CG using my Spanish with the young man who guarded the gate. A young lady pulled in and was waiting for some friends and she figured out that I was practicing Spanish so she came over as she was learning English so we had a great time until she had to leave when her friends showed up.

In Cholula by Puebla we seen the pyramid of Tepanampa which has a huge base, one of the biggest of the world and was several pyramids built over each. We went through tunnels to see the different levels. Cortez destroyed all the Aztec pyramids or at least part of each one and vowed to build a church on each one. If you study the history of Mexico and the conquest by Spain and the force they used to make people be Catholics it is very brutal and shameful but none the less it is the history. They more we are here the more we see what a melting pot this country is with all the Indian tribes and the people who came from Europe; especially Spain. The Mexican people vary a great deal in appearance with some having a lot of Indian blood and others are from parts of Spain where they are hard to distinguish from an American, very light skinned. There are some blacks so you get everything in-between. In Cuernavaca there were some Spanish women that were six feet tall. I was absolutely amazed as everywhere else both men and women are very short.

>From Puebla to Teotihaucan which is east of Mexico City there continued to be a lot of agriculture. From Puebla you can see 4 active volcano's we were told. We seen to the tower on the horizon. We then got into a drier area which would remind you very much of being on the edge of the black hills with the dry, brown grass and a few pine trees but off to the left were all these mountains covered with pine trees and these are high mountains. As we got closer there were farming cactus and prickly pear. The make a low grade tequila from the cactus and a spread from the prickly pear which isn't to bad. Of course you have to be sure to get all the spines out. You buy it with the spines removed.

A cement mixer most places in Mexico is a pile of screened rocks, sand and cement mixed in a mound on the ground, shoveled in wheel barrows and wheeled what ever distance necessary and poured. Many buildings the second floor is poured by hand, they do use some re bar and they hold it up with wooden posts until it cures. I seen exactly the same technique in Ghana. Mexico is making some progress with building roads and fixing the infrastructure and some housing developments. We also seen a couple of cattle feed lots on the way back into Cuernavaca area. As I mentioned before and it is still holding true in the bigger towns things seem to be much better and there are lots and lots of new cars being driven. In Cuernavaca English was found from time to time; probably because there are so many language schools in town.

It was here that the two holy weeks started. In Mexico Easter is a huge celebration everywhere. We seen parades, pilgrimages, fireworks all day and night, people out on holiday and many, many special church services. On the oceans the beaches fill for miles with people camping over night right on the beach. About 85% of the people are Catholics here in Mexico.

The logbook failed us again today coming into Teotihaucan but the GPS saved us. I now put the CG location into the Garmin Street Pilot. I only have a few of the main roads and they are often outdated but I can see where the CG is and have a direct line pointing to the CG from what ever location I am at so today I could tell we missed the turn off as we were going on beyond so we turned around and drove toward the CG. One thing though you still have to be careful about not getting down a street where you get in a jam and can't get through or turn around. The big problem here is there are not a lot of signs and they can be very confusing and you just don't have detail maps of most cities. The Mexican Camping book is the best bet for getting into a CG but for getting in and out of towns it is tough. Sometimes we have a city map but often they are outdated or just have the major details and most everything is at angles, one ways, etc.

Today we stopped at a town and had Sopes (Sounds that way anyway) which is a thick tortilla with carne and beans and what ever else you want on it. For carne (meat) we had goat meat (young) and it was fine. It looked fairly clean and things they were heated on a solid steel surface like a grill so that should kill any bacteria from handling, etc. You have to cringe a little down here if you have had as much food safety training as I have. It is a big joke with us here in the Caravan about how nobody on an Adventure Caravan ever get Montezuma's revenge we just get the flu. Our wagon master and tail gunner both got very, very sick along with a number of others. They say they had the 24 hour flu bugs as in all these years no one in Adventure Caravans have every gotten sick from the food and they eat in the restaurants all the time. Two gals travel together, Sandy and Patti and they have traveled all over the world and one is a nurse and she says she did not have the flu and is sure she had some food poisoning. In Mexico everybody that we see, local or not drinks bottled water and the ice is made from purified water so I do not see any reason not to use ice if you want to have a cold drink. I personally don't but I am convinced it is not a problem. No one has had any problem with the water or ice. I think the big thing is to wash your hands in soap and water thoroughly as often as you can. Don't use your hands to eat unless you have really washed them. That is hard to do as so much of the food is hard to eat without using your hands. Second try and eat things that do not have hand contact like banana's, pineapple, etc. Try and eat things that have been heated. After you have been here awhile and had some episodes you start to develop immunity but you still have to be careful as in Sandy's case she got some food poisoning so some good antibiotics along is essential. The food is pretty basic here and for meat about all you have is chicken, chicken, chicken or you can get some pork, lamb and goat and some beef but it is sliced very thin and is tough. If you see the cattle and it pretty much grass fed you can see why. It is mostly fruit, vegetables, corn tortilla's, rice and sauces and plants.

About 6 our of 38 got nailed on this last deal. They spend one miserable day where they said dying would of been easy.

However I will say we all eat the local food, we all go to restaurants, we all have the meals that are part of our tours, etc. and really nobody is having any problems but apparently these 6 people got into something that was "BAD" and as you know this happens in the USA or anyplace. Actually if you came down in an RV and bought food at the marcados and Wal-Mart, Sam's, Costco and Carrefours a big Mexican Super Market and a couple of others that food is very safe and then watch your preparation, wash things in clorox treated water you would have no problems. I thinks most good restaurants are pretty clean but again there is bacteria you are not used to so it can really nail you. That is why virtually 100% of the people early on had some real ban'o (bathroom) attacks. Of course we are told our stomachs just was not used to the new food but I can assure you that it was more than that. I am not complaining, if you are going to be here two months it is worth that so you can eat the local food. Actually I believe most of the street food would be fine but the trouble is some of it may not. However on the other side of the coin you can see what they are doing where in a restaurant it is in a back room and you can not so I am not so sure which is best. I know I seen some stands where I would not eat but others looked OK. The one thing you just don't see is people wearing plastic gloves. It is all bare hands. The exception was in Wal-Mart and Sam's where they wore plastic gloves and had masks over there mouths like you would see in a hospital. Certainly things are safer that are bought there but it is handled before it gets there but if you think about it the same is true of produce you buy in a store in the USA.

The trains have fell on hard times down here just like in the USA and it is pretty much all trucks. However buses are a major deal vs. a car so they are doing well with mass transportation. Anyway today we crossed some active railroad lines and at these crossing they have people hired who stand in the center of the road with a red flag and wave you on. Of course if a train were coming they would stop you. Just an example of how things are done with cheap labor rather than mechanization or other devices. However stop lights are very common in medium and large towns. There are PEMEX stations everywhere, this is the national petroleum stations and that is all there is in Mexico. There is propane all over the place and a lot of vehicles use this as a fuel source. It is reasonable as I got my 30# bottle filled for $10.00. Another thing that is reasonable is fixing a tire. It cost Bruce 20 peso's or less than $2 to have a tire fixed today. We could buy two medium sized pineapples today for 10 peso's or less than a $1 so produce is a bargain. Food in a restaurant is not cheap but not expensive, pop continues to be cheap at about 7 or 8 peso's for a 1 litter bottle. Actually bottled water costs more than pop. The pop is sweeter down here, at least that is what we all think! We did buy some walnuts and pecans today fairly reasonable but not cheap. They are good! We can not find our trail mix in Sam's or Wal-Mart down here so this is great. Peanuts are also readily available. One other thing the inland area here around Mexico City things seem cleaner, a lot less trash around.

As we left the ocean and the elevation has been from 6000 to 8000 feet the humidity is low and it gets to around 45 degrees at night and the low 80's in the day time so it is pleasant. In the Yucatan and along the coast by March 1st it is getting hot and humid.

Some new experiences with traffic. We have been in situations lately one narrow roads where you can not meet a vehicle with our rigs and get by each other and we have had the same experience with our tour buses meeting other buses or trucks. If you have heard the term Mexican Standoff well it is very accurate here. They sit there and honk there horns, yell at each other and some of course swear and the stand off continues with neither one backing off. The other day we were close to the CG so we just got off the bus and walked in. I have no idea who won out the 18 wheeler or the bus. They were not there the next day. It is wild! The other thing are the horns! I have heard sounds I have never heard in my life that these horns make. Some sound like a fire truck or ambulance but only last about 5 seconds and other disturbing sounds. They will get your attention! Another common sight is a road comes in and there is a large area where it enters the highway. You will have 6 or 8 vehicles side by side like they are lined up for drag racing waiting for a small crack in the traffic or the signal light to change and they all come charging onto the road helter skelter! The other characteristic is passing going up hills and on curves but with the small cars or pickups they just dart back in if someone is coming.

We have 9 days left in the Caravan. I am happy to say with 38 people each and everyone of them are nice, absolutely not a "TURKEY" in the bunch. Collectively the amount of experience in traveling and knowledge from their fields is amazing. I have learned a lot. Most people say it will be their last caravan, most only did this caravan because of there concerns about Mexico which they now all admit were unfounded. There are advantages with the tours as some would be difficult to manage unless your Spanish was very good and many places would be tough to get to unless you had a small tote. I think the bus would be the answer. Our average bus tour costs Adventure Caravan's about $400 to $600 including the driver. The CG are cheap from $2 dry camping to $18 for two or three of the best. The Wagon Master gets $200 a day and the tail gunner $100 a day but I think they have to pay their own tolls and fuel. They of course do not pay for the trip like we did. The other nice thing about a caravan is you meet a lot of nice people. The disadvantages are the crowding in the park and being structured.

The transmission has been working fine and no problems with the fifth wheel or the F-350 so things are going well!

Ed and Edith