Posted by: lianadevine | 2 December 2007

The “Side Trip” not to be missed

Our Grand Plan is to be in Bacalar, Quintana Roo (near the Belize border) in time for the start of the Christmas Season, December 15.  Our adopted Mexican family is there, and we have never spent a Christmas with them in the ten years we’ve known them.  Now November 26, we have less than three weeks to get there.  The driving itself won’t take too long, but we had planned several stops along the way.

When we left Ojocaliente, which was a side trip we did not expect, we needed to make up for the time spent there, in order to keep to our tentative schedule. We decided to skip the city of San Luis Potosi, which we had passed through on our last trip in 2000.  Instead we headed for Queretaro, skirting Aguascalientes, going centrally through Ocampo, Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende.  We had also visited these cities on our previous trip, so felt we could give them a miss this time.

We got to the campground on the outskirts of Queretaro (altitude 6100 ft) in time to set up before dark.  The campground’s lawn was so well-watered our heavily-laden bus was sinking while we planned our escape to firmer ground.  Calvin was convinced we’d need a tow out of the ruts he created while rocking back and forth, smoking the clutch.  Instead, we strategically placed some rocks, I held down the cupboard doors, and with a few more billows of black smoke he backed the bus out onto the pavement.

I had a vertigo attack the next day, so while Spike and I stayed in bed, Calvin went on a cleaning frenzy.  It was actually a good place to take a breather, in a campground with power, water and sewer.  Calvin also went out exploring in the Thing in the immediate neighbourhood of this city of 600,000.  In the end, we never did get into Queretaro proper, but it’s just another Big City to us.

The destination on November 28 was San Juan del Rio, a city mentioned briefly in my travel diary from 2000, so we had obviously passed through there.  But the attraction this trip was to meet some family of a Mexican friend of ours that we had since met.

Noe came to Canada in 2004 to run the Ironman Triathlon in Penticton. Noe and Dawn at Penticton Ironman We had known his British girlfriend Dawn since our first trip to Mexico in 1997, and we were really pleased to visit with them both so close to our home at that time.  They have moved since to England, but when they knew we were travelling Mexico, Noe suggested we visit his family in Queretaro state.  He gave us their contact information, and let them know we were on the way.

It was just a short trip from Queretaro to San Juan.  We parked at a hotel at the edge of town, found a free wireless connection and called Uncle Raymundo from our computer at his shoe repair shop.  Very soon, he arrived at our bus, and assured us there was space to park it on his street.  He drove us to his home, where we met Aunt Chelo
and their daughters Anel and Mayra.  We  agreed there was space, so after Chelo fed us a nice lunch, which was totally
unexpected, we brought the bus over.   Then we all went for a drive to Tequisquiapan With Raymundo Chelo and Anel at Tequisquiapanand a hotsprings to see if
bus parking there was possible.  On our return, Anel accompanied Calvin and me for a pasear to El Centro.  W e parked our Thing inside their garage for the night.

Raymundo had arranged for Noe’s mother Noemi to come to San Juan the next morning.   When we got up and came into the house, the women were preparing a nice breakfast, which we sat down to eat when Noemi arrived.  A cousin, Raymundo III, had come and it was his birthday – so it was quite festive.  Then everyone came into the bus for a tour, and of course the ladies were quite impressed with our bus house. The grandkids, Alesandra and Jose, were impressed with Spike.Alesandra, Jose and Spike

Anel and Noemi climbed into the Thing and we drove to Noemi’s home in nearby Amealco, a town of about 7,000 with  a cooler climate due to its higher altitude.  We went straight to her café and had a tour of her nice, homey place.  Noemi and Gregorio at Cafe 40y20Uncle Gregorio was there and we were made to feel very comfortable.  Noemi took Anel and us to El Centro, and fortunately, the lady from the tourism booth was there and gave us a little talk about Amealco and some reading material. We walked around the plaza, then back to the café.  We chatted for awhile, then Gregorio and Anel
got into the Thing with us and we went for a drive to see his property in the hills above Amealco.  What a pretty setting – nice view, a little spring, lots of great rocks for building with.

When we got back to the café, Noemi had lunch ready.  It was quite a nice spread, though she was considerate of my upset stomach and gave me only broth with some vegetables and chicken, instead of the whole meal.  But Calvin really enjoyed all that was put before him.Lunch at Cafe 40y20 in Amealco

Then it was time to leave for San Juan, and we felt like we were saying goodbye to old friends.  I thanked Noemi for looking after me like a mother would.

That evening, about 9 pm, when Calvin and I would normally be thinking about winding down for the evening, we all piled into the family van and went to Raymundo III’s birthday party.  There were about 20 friends and family there.Raymundo’s 21st Birthday Party  I had thought it would just be for cake, but we were plied with hotdogs, then  mini-hamburgers and THEN the cake.  We sang “Las Mananitas”, a traditional Mexican birthday song, and Ray gamely attempted the “mordida” with the expected results. Mordida! It was about 11 pm when we returned, and even the little grandkids were still chatting on the way home.  Alesandra had school the next morning!

But all were again up and at ’em before 8 AM the next day, and though we tried to get an early start on our day’s drive, Chelo and daughters had prepared enchiladas verde for breakfast.  We were still full from the late meal the night before, but valiantly sampled the authentic Mexican fare.

I was hesitant about navigating through San Juan, an unfamiliar city of 150,000, so the whole family – including daughter Aida and grandsons Jose and Hugo – loaded into the van and accompanied us to the main road out of town.  We stopped and said our goodbyes, again like old friends.

So thanks to Noe, we visited San Juan del Rio.  His family extended genuine and generous Mexican hospitality to three unknown Canadians and we are so grateful to have gotten to know them.  What a shame it would have been to have passed over that destination for sake of time.

However, we decided to bypass Toluca, where we had stayed last trip and push on to Cuernavaca, which we had only seen from the Autopista before.  Getting here was another story for another time…

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  1. ¡Saludos, aventureros!

    The time you spent in and around San Juan del Río sounds just wonderful—and is yet another example of past connections rejoining in new and very pleasant ways.

    I used to be very interested in Querétaro, Qto. When I lived in Oregon and worked for a Ma href=”well-known ESL/EFL author, one project I was involved in was a video-based textbook for American Spanish. The majority of the video clips that formed the basis of the communicative elements in the series were shot in Querétaro, and of course they focused on the quaint and exotic—like the famous aqueduct and many of the colonial-era buildings; I’d still like to go there some day. There’s also a fairly well-known computer-involved ESL/EFL person based in Qto. His name is Erlyn Baack, and he’s lived and worked in Qto. for a long time. His main website is called “ESLbee”:

    By the way, I didn’t know about the custom of “la mordida”; when I read that, I was actually confused at first, because “the bite” is also a slang term referring to bribes / “graft” / “greasing an official’s palm.”

    So at the time of the above post, you were on your way to Cuernavaca. Have you reached it yet? Where will you go from there?

    Muchos abrazos—

    Dennis in Phoenix

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