Published: January 19th 2011January 17th 2011
Yesterday was always going to be a long day. I was leaving the lovely Morelia for a trip to Patzcuaro (an hour away) and then on to Guadalajara. The first problem with that plan was that there are no buses from Patzcuaro to Guadalajara so I had to go back via Morelia, so another hour and then 3 and half hours to “Guada”. I spoke to the guy from the Morelia hostel about going to Patzcuaro and he reckoned I needed 2 hours to see the village, but that then I absolutely had to go to Janitzio (which would take another hour), a little island on Patzcuaro's lake, apparently one of the must do if you're around the area. That meant I had to get an early start, but I also wanted my breakfast so I was packed and ready by the time breakfast started and left before 8.30. I was planning on taking the collectivo back to the coach station but there were 2 French blokes leaving at the same time as I was and getting a taxi, so we agreed to share (cost me 12 pesos instead of 6 but took a lot less time!)
I then dropped my
bag at the left luggage counter (28 pesos for up to 12 hours) and got on the 8.40 “normal service” bus (that's half way between the luxury and the chicken bus) for 35 pesos each way. It was supposed to take an hour but ended up being more like one and a half. I think if there is one thing I am going to learn on this trip, it is to be patient. When I got to Patzcuaro station, I asked how far from the centre we were and I was advised I needed to take the collectivo (still 6 pesos). There was one just waiting for me outside and the driver was very nice. Having learnt my lesson from the arrival in Morelia the day before, I asked him to tell me when to jump off to be in the centre, which he did.
I had done research on the location a few months back whilst planning the trip, but I couldn't remember much, other than the fact it was a village and apparently, its original name (it's been shortened) means “door to heaven”. Well, I think it's probably more a town than a village, so with my map
in hand, I set out to explore the narrow streets. The market was on and bustling. I love all the colours and the life markets brings. I found the town charming. It looked dated and unkempt, as if nobody had bothered painting the front of their house for a long time. But in many ways, this was what gave it its character, a little as if the place had been stuck in time (other than the new-ish cars everywhere!). All the buildings were painted white and a sort of burgundy-brown and there were many covered arcades around the town's squares. Also, it seems like everywhere in Mexico, the place has a lot of churches!
In 2 hours, I did manage to get around and see all the sights on my tourist map, as well as have a stroll through the market, where I bought some delicious strawberries. There were also tons of fruit and vegetables I had never seen before and I promised myself I need to buy some of those and try them. I am particularly interested in trying out the cactus!
After I'd had a good look around, I started walking towards the lake, in order to get
The main square
the boat to Janitzo. Although there were some lovely looking properties along the way, it wasn't such a good idea and I really should have got a collectivo as the walk down probably took about 30-40 minutes and I was starting to stress about how long I was taking and what time I was going to make it to Guadalajara.
Once there, I got the boat (45 pesos return) to the island. I knew nothing about it but it quickly became apparent that it was dominated by a massive (in comparison with the size of the island) statue of Jose Maria Morelos, a hero of the Mexican revolution, born in Morelia (I had visited his house the previous day). The boat trip took about half an hour, with an accordionist and a guitarist singing songs for a few pesos along the way. As we approached the island, there was a group of fishermen who did a little “spectacle” for us. They weren't really fishing because they only threw their big nets (I'm sure they have a name but you can see from the pictures) when one of the boats was going past. After their little show, they came to the
boat to ask us for money.
I was running late by the time I got on Isla Janitzio. So I would say I jogged to the top of the island, but that would be a lie... Let's just say I stopped as infrequently as my lungs allowed! When I got to the top, they wanted another 6 pesos to go right next to the statue and I thought they were just pushing their luck a bit and there wasn't really any more to see, so I didn't go. It seemed the statue and the views were the only 2 things to do on the island, with shops selling crafts all along the path to the top. So after the climb, I quickly got back down and on the boat back to solid land where I caught the collectivo taking me back to the coach.
I was back in Morelia for 3.45, but the 4pm to Guada was full so I went on the 4.45, arriving at 8.15. Once again, that was the luxury bus (280 pesos), just because I didn't want to get there in the middle of the night. While I was waiting for the coach, I managed to
La casa de los once patios
get an internet connection. I was getting worried because I hadn't booked anywhere to stay and didn't know how to get to the city centre when I arrived. A bit of internet surfing showed me that the 2 hostels I had been considering were both full, that getting to one of the hostels with space would require 2 collectivos and that a taxi there should set me back 60 pesos. So I decided to get a taxi rather than to walk the streets of an unknown city after dark.
When I arrived at the station, it turned out that the taxi was 145 pesos, not 60, so I decided that the collectivos were the way forward after all. I went outside to where I thought I had to be (there are no bus stops, just people stood around waving at buses) and asked a girl if I was in the right place. She asked where I was going and I replied I was headed for the historic centre, so she told me to get on the same bus as her and she would point me in the right direction. We had a nice chat on the bus and discussed where
La casa de los once patios
I was going and in the end she said she would take me to one of the hostels I mentioned as she knew where it was. We had to stop at her house first because she wanted to drop off her suitcase (she had been to Morelia for the week-end) but then we jumped back onto a collectivo into town and then had a good walk to the hostel (my back was hurting a bit by the end). It probably took about 45 minutes to go from her house to the hostel and I couldn't find the words in Spanish to say how grateful I was. She totally made my day and once again confirmed that the Mexican people are really amazing. Now, it is going to take some work to even out the karma! Especially as I think I would have struggled to get there without her, so I promised myself that if I ever find myself in the reversed situation, I would do the same...
It was gone 9.30 by the time I arrived and it really had been a long day, but I learnt a few things from it:
Always pre-book the hostel
Always get good directions
La casa de los 11 patios
and instructions on how to get there
Don't try to squeeze too much into the day
I would have probably enjoyed it a lot more if I'd done the day trip and gone back to Morelia for an extra night, as I wouldn't have been stressing about the evening's events. I will remember that for next time.
There are more photos below