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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Great Pyramid Of Cholula….Part Two.

The last steep climb up to the church at this altitude, was almost my undoing,but I took comfort in the fact that several young people were resting more than me.Maybe those 40 minute daily fast walks have paid off.If I could just get back to my weights for a few workouts,since I’ve been dragging my Ironmasters around with me all this way.Oh well maybe a New Years resolution.

Below one pooped old Willy leaning on the church.


Its a beautiful church recently restored after earthquake damage a few years ago.

Two different sides below.

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And a really nice interior like all the churches I’ve seen here in Mexico.


The city has grown around the pyramid and it seems to be centered giving some nice views of the city from the high vantage point of 217 feet.

Below the city looking north.


Even a soccer game to watch..Les!….And a hazy look to the east and the city of Puebla,Mexico’s 4th largest at one and a half million people.

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Time to climb back down and go around the base.I made the mistake(don't I always?)of missing the entrance to the grounds below and ended up walking several city blocks around the pyramid looking for an entrance.A bit of extra exercise I really didn't need today.

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Just some of the restored excavations above.This is a huge area.Just think,the base of this pyramid is over 4 football fields long on each side.

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The photo on the right above is of a sacrificial altar.This whole area on the southern grounds is a collection of alters and courtyards.A sad thing is the fact that they sacrificed children when times were bad and they needed things like water during a drought.


Below is the west side where the largest excavation and restoration has been done.Most of the pyramid has not been excavated unlike some of the others in Mexico.There are 5 miles of tunnels inside,and unfortunately I had to miss this because it was closed for repairs.


Below is a drawing of what it should look like if totally excavated.

Capture chu 2

I thought it strange that this pyramid was only rediscovered in 1910 when they were excavating the base of the hill to build an insane asylum.

And the Spaniards conquered the town in the 1500’s and destroyed the church on the hill,not knowing that it was a pyramid.

Having not been to the middle east,and standing on something that was started in biblical times,I found this to be an experience not soon forgotten.To think this was started in the 2nd century BC or earlier.

For anyone interested in really digging into the history of this structure,a Google search brings up many interesting articles.

For me it was a tiring 3 1/2 hours of walking and climbing,finalized by a walk through a different part of downtown Cholula, this pretty,almost suburb of Mexico’s 4th largest city,Puebla.

Welcome aboard new reader Jeff….And a Happy New Year to all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Great Pyramid Of Cholula….Part one

WOW!…. In fact DOUBLE WOW!….Does that grab you?…Well it was only a 30 minute walk from the RV park so I had to trot on down the cobblestone/paving stone street for a look see.

It took a 30 minute walk on this street.

068 About half way I could see the church on top of the hill.


Only thing was the fact that its not really just a hill….Its the largest man made structure in the world,covered in dirt and trees,over time,making it look like a hill.Better still,if interested,just read this clipping of the very interesting history of this pyramid that is larger than the great pyramid of Giza in Egypt…….Below is very interesting read.

cholula pyr


This is a shot taken from the back side.

I climbed the long path to the top first,while I still had energy on this perfect, sunny, low 60’s day.It was full of tourists and locals using it for exercise.


This is half way up the path looking back down to the west side of the city of Cholula.(note the guy in the red hoody)He was doing his “Rocky”in training routine.Punching the air as he went.


There is a nice grassy area at this half way point in the climb,which gives an excellent view of 2 of Mexico’s famous mountains…..Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl.



And here is a close-up as you can see the smoke coming out.I was so glad and was hoping for a cloudless morning to see this 17800 ft volcano.

As an added point of interest,Popo made its largest display in 1200 years in December of 2000,just 10 years ago.There were many evacuations ordered by the government.


And a close up of Iztaccihuatl below with a glacier on top.It has an elevation of 17159 ft.A couple of biggies.


Hey! were forgetting the pyramid,well I’m half way up and huffing and puffing like a steam engine with this 7000 ft rarefied air,but more to come.The church on top of the pyramid is getting closer.


More tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cholula Puebla…Trailer Park Las Americas…Elevation 7100 ft

009 The motorhome is an empty rental.

Well! That was an interesting day and a half’s drive.I only managed to get myself in trouble once,and that was a bit of a doozy.

I left Hacienda Contreras Sunday around 8 am on a frosty, black ice morning,determined not to hit any topes(speed bumps) at normal speed this day,but that didn't last too long as I hit my first one within the first hour.This is where I really miss Marlene,she had an eagle eye and could spot them and warn me all the time.Its the ones that sit unpainted in the shade that get you.

It took just over 2 hours to travel the 60 miles to the Guadalajara/Mexico City Quota,(freeway),then it was off to the races to coin an old expression.


Just me and a triple decker load of pigs heading east.Then the traffic really started to pick up.I never thought that half of Mexico City would be using this day to return home after Xmas.

By mid afternoon the traffic was really heavy,and at the final toll booth before getting off at Atlacomulco,east of Morelia,the traffic was backed up to a 1 mile crawl, loaded with people either selling something or begging for money.

After passing through the toll booth the highway was blocked ahead with pylons directing everyone into Atlacomulco,just what I didn't want,but because of the construction of a new interchange for the also new ARCO-NORTE(Mexico City Bypass)I had no choice,jeeze! I even Google Earthed this spot so that I would know what to do,but all had changed since the satellite shot was taken.  As usual the signage was poor and again I was lost in a strange city,Sigh….

After ending up out of town in another direction and just about out of gas,I walked into someone's front yard and talked with a nice man and his wife who drew a map on my map, showing me where I was and how to get back to highway 55 going north,which was where I wanted to be in the first place.

Coming back to the autopista exit where all my problems began,I made another split decision that was wrong,taking an on ramp back onto the freeway heading back to the toll booth…Realizing my mistake,made a U turn,a but by this time didn't care and I knew the police directing the heavy traffic back where I turned,would spot me coming out against a heavy flow, going the wrong way.They waved me into the median between the off and on ramps where they were standing.I quickly got out and with my map in hand told them in Spanish that I was very lost.They were great guys showing me my mistake and pointing out where to go.Then I asked them if they would stop traffic and allow me to make a U turn and they did,I guess just to get rid of me.Great guys.

20 minutes later I was gassed up and heading up the 2 lane road north looking for a place to stay for the night, when I came across a big Pemex station with a convenience store and restaurant.

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I tucked myself away in this back corner(pic above).Soon after nightfall, I had the company of a big rig one one side and a Mexican family in a beat-up old pickup on the other.This is at an altitude of 8000 ft and the temperature went down to 30 degrees overnight.It must have been cold for the family sleeping in the pickup box with just a cap.I had on my Buddy Heater(propane catalytic)which isn't supposed to even work at this altitude.It wasn't as effective as at lower altitudes,but did the job.

For those readers heading this way,its Pemex # 4421 just south of Acambay and north of Atlaculmoco on Highway 55,which links the Guadalajara/Mexico city quota with the Queretaro/Mexico city quota.


Next morning after scraping the windshield,I climbed from my 8000 ft level at Acambay up to 9400ft where I took this shot.That little bump up there must be 11000ft at least.From here I took the cutoff over to the Queretaro/Mexico city highway which is a beautiful 6 lane’s for awhile.Then I arrived at the start of…. BELOW…THE NEW ARCO_NORTE.

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This is just a gorgeous new highway that bypasses Mexico City in a big arc over the north and down the east side, ending just west of Mexico’s 4th largest city Puebla,where I am now.

008 The whole drive on the Arco-Norte,(Mex.40D,not on most maps yet) is 170 K’s long(105 miles) and tolls cost me 484 pesos,$40.CDN.Well worth it.For a car…half that.

Most of this highway is like you see in the photos above,all at slightly changing altitudes between 7000 and 9000 ft with wide sweeping valleys and high mountains dotted with small towns.

The area really is heavily populated but they cut this highway through just enough unpopulated area that it closely misses many large cities,giving you the impression that its maybe some where in Nevada.

Finally at noon I arrived in the city of Cholula and quickly found the RV park,thanks to directions in Churches book.(The Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping,4th Edition)

I will stay here for a few days as there is lots to see.Below is the back part of the park reserved for caravans,I guess.

There are only 2 of use here.The other a couple from California that I met at Villas Onac. Its only 2 blocks to a large shopping mall with a Sam’s Club on one side and a Bodega Aurrera(Mexico’s Wal-Mart) on the other end.Many stores, and a bank,and even a McDonalds.I walked over to get groceries.That way I don't buy so much.

010  MY NEW LOCATION on Google

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Eleven Interesting Days…Now Its Time To Leave.

This past 11 days here at Hacienda Contreras RV Park in Valle de Juarez Mexico has been an interesting one,filled with adventure,frustration,wounds and great friendly people.But its time to leave and find new areas to explore.

But first I must thank our gracious hosts,Sal and Barb Contreras,who are always there for you,making one feel welcome and checking on you each day to see that all is ok and if there is anything I need…..SO,MANY THANKS GUYS..I shall return.


By the time this is being read,I’ll be on the road again heading east,and for the first time this trip,searching out a Pemex station for an overnight.It means little sleep and plenty of (“Jake Brake Lullaby's".) But its an adventure,and the weather is great and I have Miss Garmin (GPS) constantly yammering in my ear,saying recalculating…recalculating….. as I try to find the real truth in where I’m going.Actually she’s quite good on the main highways.

And thanks to Church’s Mexico Travel Guide,(a must have)they put the GPS co-ordinances of every campground in Mexico in their book, making it so easy to locate one in a busy city.


Last Sunday I took an early morning drive over to the city of Sahuayo de Morelos,about 30 miles away.I will be passing through again today as I leave.I wanted to find the latest edition of the “Guia Roji” a great road map book that most travelers use down here.I’ve been using my 2002 version too long and Mexico Is building new roads at a tremendous pace.I was able to find one at an OXXO Convenience store.(Mexico’s version of 7-11)

Next, I was off to find a supermarket,and that didn't take long as I found a Soriana down the street.


Not too often do you find a quiet parking lot,but it was early Sunday morning.Had to get the “Silver Bullet”in the shot.(My Tundra)

Two things I stock up on when I come to Mexico are milk and cookies.

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I think that the Tetra Pac’s of Milk are a great way to go.Your not always searching out fresh milk which is readily available of course,but its the convenience of having several on hand at all times not needing refrigeration until opened. And my favorite cookie,the Palmeras,are just a simple little low calorie cookie that goes well with a couple of slices of papaya.


But we also like to indulge in some of the more (Galleta’s rico) plus the nice orange loaf cake found in the bakery section….No photo….All eaten..

Before leaving the supermarket parking lot,a quick shot of the city’s suburb on the hillside.

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And a hillside field of Guava on the way back to camp.

And finally yesterday while wrapping up to leave,I wanted to get a shot of one of the many humming birds that are here in the RV park.

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This one was happy to oblige.Identification was the big problem as my “Birds of Mexico” book has about 60 varieties of hummer.The closest I could find was the “Violet Crowned”, It fit the size and location stats.Its quite large,twice the size of the little Ana’s back home.

See you down the road….Just have to find the new ARCO NORTE bypass around the BIG SMOKE,Ciudad Mexico.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Visit to the Paricutin Volcano.The Youngest in The World.


I thought I would use this on-line background explanation to familiarize,along with some other pic’s and info from web searches.

paricutin-night2 paricutin-church

This is an actual eruption and aftermath shot taken while it was still smoking back in the 1940’s.

Another little piece of info below about the movie,”Captain From Castile” filmed there while it was still erupting.I remember seeing this movie as a kid.It was one of the big ones of its day.

captain from Castile

The trip from the RV Park here at Valle de Juarez to Angahuan,the town that houses the visitor centre,is about 60 miles south east, over back roads.The town is located just north of the city of Uruapan Michoacan.The visitor centre has a nice viewing platform looking into the National Park of Mount Tancitaro.

I set out at 8:30 am to give myself enough time to make the round trip plus the hike into the edge of the lava flow where the village is buried.

Below is the town of Quitapan,glistening in the morning sun,just east of Valle de Juarez.So seldom I get a shot that's not looking directly into the sun.


These back road trips are slow and difficult as the signage is not the greatest and the maps are not detailed enough to find the right road when there are many roads going in all directions.

002 Getting behind slow moving trucks like this one loaded with sugarcane,is a common occurrence.(another in sun shot)Every time I try to pass,I would come to a speedbump,(topes)sometimes hitting them unexpectedly at a good clip.

Finally after 3 hours of potholed city bypass routes and small town gridlock,I made it to the town of Angahuan.The road into the town was signed, directing me to the tourist centre,but soon went from a wide paved street,to 3 small lanes,and no signage.I took the one least cluttered with rocks and potholes and soon got lost in the narrow maze of village streets.

After a few minutes of this,along came a young kid on horseback offering to guide me.He meant rent his horse but I just wanted to be guided to the visitor centre.So off we go as he gallops through the very rough cobblestone streets with me in pursuit,finally reaching this out of the way place on the far edge of town.I tipped him for the help and explained that I was too sore from too much caballo(horse) on Monday when I went to the waterfall,so preferred to walk.

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Two views of the volcano with a zoomed shot on the right.The higher mountain to the right is Mount Tancitaro at an elevation of (3860m) 12664ft.Paricutin,the volcano to the left of it is at an elevation of 2800m or 9186ft.And where I’m standing its just under 8000ft and a cool sunny temperature of 57 degrees.

The hike into the lava flow takes about 30 minutes on a rocky uneven trail that looks more like a dry rocky river bed than a path.I guess the constant use of horses has created this.

005 They are building a set of steps,but have a long way to go.It was all down hill through more beautiful pine forest with plenty of bird activity.013 I finally reached the edge of the lava bed,and after a few minutes more,came upon the concession area and above that, sticking out of the lava was the village church steeple.All that remained after the eruption.


I found climbing over this lava very difficult,but wanted to get to the other side because the sun was again in the wrong place for taking photos.

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As I carefully climbed to the other side along with a handful of Mexican tourists,and a family from France,we encountered at the top, a Mexican television crew doing interviews…Sheesh!

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I was asked to participate but when I asked what the 3 questions would be,I found them to be a little too political for my liking.I watched the young Mexican in the picture being interviewed and it seemed long and drawn out.And the Frenchman was chomping at the bit to be next,so I made a hasty retreat out of there because I didn't want to be stuck there all day.

I was taking my last step down to the flat of the concession area when  I pulled my right calf muscle from all that walking and climbing and thought,oh oh! I’m in trouble now,and its uphill all the way back to the visitor centre.

I found a nice stick near a concession stand woodpile,to use as a walking stick,and hobbled off.I might add I could have rented a horse at that point,but no way, as I guess I like to punish myself.It took over an hour to get back to the truck,arriving tired,sore and hungry.There was a restaurant there,but I realized if I stop to eat that I would be driving part way back after dark and wasn’t very fussy about that.Granola bars and water were my main staple for the day.


Above is an example of one of the many traffic holdups I encountered on the return trip.This line up got worse after I took the shot as I was surrounded by other vehicles all impatient and crowding in ahead of me.

It turned out to be a police road block,and for what reason I don't know,but everyone eventually just peeled off into the small city streets to skirt around it,so I followed,quickly getting lost as all streets run in different directions.No nice parallel grid.

This was just one of the many frustrations of the return run as I decided to take what I thought was a better route back albeit further.NOT.It was worse with dozens of small towns,each with many topes to crawl over.In fact in the small city of Jiquilpan,I pulled up behind a car at a red light only to find that the car was abandoned.Getting around it when the light turned green,almost caused me to get into an accident as a fast moving taxi came out of nowhere from behind me as I was darting out.Well,with that and a couple of near miss sideswipes on the highway that day,OH! And a truck going 25mph on a curvy highway with traffic backed up 2 miles behind him and everyone trying to pass everyone else,well you get the picture.I finally got back to camp just as it was getting dark,thinking to myself that maybe I should just go home before something really bad happens driving in this country.

A good nights sleep solved many of my ills as I realized that maybe the Xmas season was one of the reasons for the bad traffic.One thing I learned many years ago in Mexico.The people are very warm and friendly and will give you the shirt off their backs,but be very careful when they get behind the wheel of a car or behind a shopping cart in a supermarket.

Tomorrow I’m on the road again, this time with the trailer in tow as I attempt to get around the largest city in the world,Mexico City,with over 20 million people.I’ve planned and planned but know that more frustration awaits me.Hey! Its all called experience.

I don't know when I’ll get my next blog post done as tomorrow nights stop will probably be in the back of a Pemex station,and I usually don't set up the internet dish under those circumstances.So hopefully my next post will be from the city of Cholula,a suburb of Mexico’s 4th largest city,Puebla.