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Published: March 14th 2010
Tapalpa is a town with a population of 16,000 at an elevation of 2100 meters in the Sierra Tapalpa mountains southwest of Guadalajara. We had to take a bus from Chapala back to Guadalajara, then a different bus from Guadalajara to Tapalpa. I ran back and forth from one little shack to another at the station in Guadalajara trying to find out which bus to take, and all the buses are different companies, and nobody speaks English, and they point from one to the other……argh! Steve’s arthritis had flared up that morning too, so poor Steve was limping around trying to follow me with a big pack on his back. Anyway, we finally found the right bus, and got tickets, and were on our way. It took us all day to get there because the bus was a second class bus that stopped at every little town along the way, and rattled along the highway so slowly that it had to pull over for other traffic every once in a while. But, the buses in Mexico are another story altogether, and we eventually chugged into the little mountain town of Tapalpa.
Tapalpa looks like an Alpine village in the middle
of Mexico. All the buildings are whitewashed, with red tile roofs and the streets are all paved with stone - not rounded cobblestone like other places either, but rough stone pieces of black volcanic rock. The streets are all hills - up and down all through the town. The town square contains two 16th century churches, and like other Mexican towns, the square is alive with families, vendors and music on weekends. We arrived Sunday, so were able to watch the action on Sunday night, and sample some of the local specialties. Tapalpa is known for tamales with various fillings - we had some with chard in them (tamales de acelga), topped with sour cream and cheese. Folks in Regina - these tasted like giant perogies - really delicious. Families also make various home made alcoholic drinks. Rompope is eggnog that is slightly fermented and can be found in various flavours. The texture and sweetness is similar to Baily’s Irish Cream. We bought a pecan flavoured one that contained a generous amount of real pecans, so you had to shake it up before pouring, and chew with each mouthful. Ponche is a wine made from pomegranate -granada in Spanish. Finally,
barranca is a kind of tequila made from wild agave. We found a family that made both ponche and barranca, and they let us taste it before we decided to buy. One of the daughters had a store across the street, and she made and sold rompope. These folks were friendly, and luckily one of the daughters spoke English, so they were more than happy to help us to try all the local specialties. We went on our way with three bottles - more than we had planned! We also tried grilled lamb that is cooked on big sticks over an open wood fire. The chunks of meat are served along with a rib or two, fresh tortillas, refried beans, and a couple of salsas - hot and hotter. It was surprisingly good, and very filling.
Our hotel was on one side of the square, but also contained a garden area that allowed it to be quieter than the square. Because of the elevation, it got cold at night, and our room had a fireplace in the corner. Firewood was stacked up outside, and the hotel sent someone into our room to light our fire for us in the
two evenings we were there. At this elevation, the air was clear and cool, and the smell of pine and woodsmoke was in the air.
The two main sights to see around the town are Las Piedrotas which are big stones standing in the middle of cow pastures north of town, and El Salto, a huge waterfall south of town. We saw both of them. The rocks are huge - probably left by glaciers, and they are pretty amazing to see. Families pack food and wood, and make fires and cook their food right on the sight, sometimes right on these rocks. The Mexican government still has a long way to go to protect some of their natural wonders. See the El Salto blog entry for more about the waterfall.
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