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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.


  1. What great photos - love the one with the steeple sticking up out of the rubble. The traffic reminds me of when I was in El Salvador, and they too become terrorists when behind the wheel of any vehicle. You seem to take it all in stride though. Just stay off horses and you'll be right as rain in a few weeks!

  2. I did the whole trip to the volcano on horseback last year so know some of what you are talking about but take comfort in that you experienced one of the 7 natural wonders of the world!! Not many people get that chance, pity you missed coming to San Miguel de Allende,,,,,safe travels Les

  3. Great pictures Willy and thanks for the tour and information. Driving down there sure doesn't sound like much fun at all. Good luck in Mexico City!

  4. Best of luck navigating around Mexico City with all those Mexican suicidal stock car drivers out there. Think we'll just take our chances with the Arizona locals.

  5. Hey Willy what a great post... Loved the pictures and especially the church... I can only imagine the traffic and I am thinking Mexico City should be a nightmare... But like you say and adventure... Have fun and I am looking forward to your next post.
    Travel Safe
    Happy New Year