Trip Notes From Reader
Lagos de Montebello, Carretera Fronteriza, Yaxchilán, Bonampak, and Copper Canyon
The following e-mail message was received from readers Bob and Terry Bulwa. These folks travel in a vehicle that is smaller and more maneuverable than some, it lets them visit some interesting places. The trips described were driven during the spring of 2001. Be advised that we have not driven these routes so we have not confirmed the information.
Dear Mike and Terri,
We travel and live full time in a truck camper, 11 1/2' Caribou on a Dodge Ram 3500 dually diesel 4x4, approximate length 24'. When we are in the States in summer, or in Baja for fishing trips, we also tow a 17' Boston Whaler.
We traveled in Mexico last spring for nine weeks without the benefit of your book, but were able, on occasion, to sneak peeks into other people's copies. Next time we will have our own. Nice job! This was my wife's first trip, but I have traveled in Mexico on numerous occasions, including a previous 8 week driving trip all the way to Tikal in 1992 in a Ford Explorer.
This time we took a couple of routes that have not been well documented in Mexico travel publications, and wanted to let you know about them. We did hear from others that you were also in Mexico, but don't know whether you know about them. The first route is one where travel books have suggested 4x4 travel only, along rough dirt roads.
In fact, thanks to the Army and Guatemalan border action, the road had been paved, we were told, for about two years, all the way from Los Lagos de Montebello and Tziscao to Palenque. We initially stayed a night just past the Chincultic turnoff, where Dona Maria still operates her small inn and RV park ($5), with the help of a couple of expatriate Americans, one of whom seemed to be her current consort.
It seems her brother now has another place with space for RVs right next door. If you are headed for Dona Maria's, kids try to lure you into the adjoining driveway. Actually, though we didn't go into the brother's place, it may very well be more modern and better kept up.
The campsite down the dirt road just after the Lagos park entrance gate did not seem very secure for a single unit. It is more of a picnic site. But further on down this road right next to the one of the lakes is a small group of rented cabins, where there is space for parking RVs ($5) of a length similar to ours. There was supposed to be another similar place a little further down this road. There was a dock, and rowboats available. Fishing was possible but the main catch there seems to be carp.
Pushing on, we went to Tziscao. If you turn right into the town, you leave the pavement, but from the center of this village you can take a right turn down next to the lake, and then left a short distance to a hotel, the Albergue Turistico, where there is plenty of room to park ($5) and lots of friendly border security guys wandering around or riding in pickups. There is a nice walk from here along the lake to the Guatemalan border and another couple of small lakes. There are no border guards, just a couple of t-shirt sellers, some food stalls and lots of kids.
But the great part of this trip was yet to come. I seems that since the pavement had been completed, no one had seen a rig such as ours passing through. Of course, you had to put up with almost constant military checkpoints, there were about ten in all along the way. But the pavement was great, and we drove right into Frontera Echeveria, or as it is now called, Frontera Corozol. There is a hotel right next to the boat ticket office, where we were able to pull our RV, dump and even hook up an electrical line. The place has a nice restaurant.
Behind the ticket office is another area where it seems someone made a genuine attempt to create a real RV park, but it is not being used.
This was a great pushing off point for the boat trip to Yaxchilan, which was glorious. Don't let your boat man rush you into coming back before you spend four or five hours there, just increase the tip a little.
Continuing on to Bonampak is a breeze, again pavement all the way. The ruins are a disappointment after Yaxchilan, but there are lots of residents in the nearby Lacondon town of Lacanja who will offer a place to park for the night, an overprice meal, and guide service for the one hour hike to the nearby waterfall, which is worth the trip.
The next stop is Palenque, and Mayabel, of course.
The other area where we were surprised to find pavement was the approach to the Copper Canyon area from the south. Just west of Hidalgo Del Parral on horribly rutted route 24 is the turnoff North to San Pablo Balleza. The road is new and wonderful, and passes near Guachochi, Samachic and Cusarare on the way to Creel. There is a Pemex Station in San Pablo Balleza where we spent one night parked. I remember in 1992 I was unable to leave Creel in this direction because of the quality of the road in winter and a fear of a lack of gasoline availability. But there is no problem with gas availability here now and there is also gas in Guachochi.
Unfortunately, I, being of unsound mind, left this fine pavement and for some reason my wife will never understand, drove the 42 tortuous miles to Batopilas. Don't try this. But that is another story.
Hope you are well wherever you are traveling, and that you can use some of this info. Also, feel free to share it in some form on your web site if that is appropriate.
We plan to return to Mexico in mid-January, for a 4 1/2 month trip which will include Guatemala and Belize. If there is any research we can do for you along the way (or in Baja where we travel once or twice a year to fish and enjoy the Sea of Cortez) we would be happy to help out.
We keep a web site, which does not yet have our Mexico trip but does chronicle, with tales and photos, our seven months 2000 Europe trip in a VW van, at: http://www.bulwa.com/
Retirement is great. Hope to meet you one day.
Bob and Terry Bulwa
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