RV Adventures in Mexico
with Reta & Dick
by Reta & Dick Bray
Published: January 2001
On, January 4, 2001 we took off from our home on Mexicos Lake Chapala, for a 3 month trip. We have a '97 Dodge V-10 pickup with an extended cab (our dogs have to ride somewhere) and a '98 Hitchiker 5th wheel trailer. Is a 29 1/2ft fifth wheel (with slide-out) an ideal RV for Mexico? Probably not, but we already had it from our previous extended travels in the U.S. & Canada, so decided to go for it and see what happens. We rented our house out, loaded up the trailer, and drove off with our 2 active dogs (one well-traveled, one a rescue wed only had 2 months).
The RV/campground we found (thanks to the Churches book, Travelers Guide to Mexican Camping) is actually a boat storage facility with a large, grassy area right on the lake. No hook-ups, but restrooms and showers are available for 100 pesos a night. We had a wonderful, unobstructed view of the lake and surrounding pine-covered mountains. Augustin, the owner, was most helpful, and offered to drive Dick through the town to show him an alternate way out with the trailer. His advice was much appreciated - we were able to leave town on a different road, not back-tracking, and avoid the high pass near Toluca.
The lake at Valle de Bravo has only been there about 50 years (theres a dam somewhere), but the effect is of an alpine lake nestled in a valley with wooded mountains all around. The town, much older, is quite attractive, hilly, with
After consulting with Augustin and his son (who trailers boats to Acapulco for clients) about the quality of the various roads, we left this lovely spot heading east on a secondary road, then north to the outskirts of Toluca, before heading south, around the volcano, and then turning north to Cuernavaca. We were warned about the roads which looked inviting on the map (much shorter distance); apparently they are in poor repair (lots of potholes), and/or are steep and very curvy.
As we approached Cuernavaca, we took a wrong turn and ended up driving straight into the busy city streets. With a rig our size, it is not always a simple matter to reverse direction. Fortunately a Pemex gas station appeared on the left, and though disobeying a no left turn sign, we were able to get turned around.
Not too much later we arrived at Trailer Park Diamonte (130 pesos a night), an unusual place since it is mostly filled with permanents -- many types of RVs are used as weekend and vacation homes for the Mexico City crowd. The permanent area is very well tended and nicely landscaped; the temporary area however is not at all attractive and is just off a major highway (95). Sites for our size rig were quite tight, though manageable.
That evening two fifth wheels came in, both considerably larger than we are; instead of backing into a space, which wouldnt have been possible given their length, they simply parked horizontally in the road, hooking up to adjacent electrical outlets. Fortunately the temporary area was practically empty. There is a good tennis court, and swimming pools. We were looking forward to playing some tennis, but unfortunately I came down with some kind of upper respiratory bug, so that was out. We would not stay at this RV park again, but rather would choose one of the campgrounds further out of town.
The next day Dick took a taxi into the centro of Cuernavaca, and spent some time wandering around, visiting a museum, and taking a few photos with our new digital camera. I was resting in the trailer all day, so did not see anything of the city. Dick reported that he was disappointed in the city, and did not find it as attractive as many other places weve been. One of his taxi drivers, an older man who has lived here all his life, told him that back in the 60s the town had about 25,000 people; now its nearing half a million. Growth has been very rapid, particularly after the 1985 Mexico City earthquake when apparently many people relocated to Cuernavaca.
One morning at dawn I was out with the dogs, and a Canadian man told me it was an exceptionally clear morning and that Popo was visible by walking up the hill. Indeed it was, with smoke coming out; its recent activity had quieted down during the previous two weeks. The Canadian, who had been here 2 months taking a language course, said the views had been spectacular and there was a considerable amount of ash falling during the eruption. During the day, at least while we were here, the air pollution completely blocked out a view of the volcano. After leaving Cuernavaca we also got good views of the volcano further south.
From Cuernavaca, we headed towards Oaxaca. rather than taking the cuota, however, we opted for the libre (Mexico 190). Between Cuernavaca and Izucar de Matamoros the driving was very slow, with at least 65 topes (speed bumps) in about 75 miles. It took us over 3 hours for that section. After that though, the libre road was great, little traffic, towns far apart, clear, clean air and good views.
There is a huge and quite deep pool (plus a smaller, shallow pool) fed by water bubbling up from a spring. The camping accommodations consist of a big field, and they apparently dont get too many travelers stopping here (most travelers are on the faster cuota). The facility is completely fenced. Once it closed at 6:00 p.m., we were there by ourselves with the night watchman. The dogs had a wonderful time in this many acre field, where it was fine for them to run. The cost (including use of the pool) was 40 pesos, a deal, complete with friendly people.
We met some people with a travel trailer who had driven the entire distance in one day - Cuernavaca to Oaxaca - and it took them over 11 hours. This balneario in the town of Tamazulapan made the perfect stop with about 3 hours left the next day to reach Oaxaca.
Thats it for our travels up until January 14. Our next post will include Oaxaca, where weve had a wonderful time. If anyone has any suggestions for our future travels or comments, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The general itinerary from here is San Cristobal de las Casas, Palenque, Campeche, Merida, the Caribbean coast, Villahermosa, Veracruz, Pachuca, Queretaro, then back to Chapala.