On the Way to Lake Chapala Ajijic:Round and Round in Zacatecus

June 18, 2010

Having studied Sid’s recommended travel route to Chapala which we’d found on the Chapala Club website, we set out from the superb Hotel Plazo the next morning and headed to Zacatecus. We took Sid’s preferred route which took us through the scenic mountains along the curving mostly two lane roads that meandered through many little picturesque villages along the 198 mile stretch of what seemed like endless mountains separated by short stretches of flat roads.  It took a little extra time, but the scenery was well worth the little extra just like he said it would be. Sid also recommended that if at all possible we should try to spend at least one extra day seeing the beautiful, historical city of Zacatecus.  In our case, that wasn’t possible, but I at least wanted to drive down into the historical district of the city.  Ted was less enthusiastic about that than I was, but agreed to do it “just for me.” What an experience!  The word lost doesn’t even begin to describe what we were.  After finally fighting our way through even crazier traffic than we experienced in Saltillo, we finally gave up on seeing the historic district and started looking for a sign that said Guadalajara, which we knew would lead us to the small town, Jerez, ten miles outside of Zacatecas.  “If you don’t stay overnight in Zacatecas, Sid said in his article, “another option is to continue on to Jarez to spend the night there.” “There the Guadalajara sign!” I cried pointing toward the sign that I caught a brief glimpse of as we flew by.  “Guadalajara!” “Which way?” Ted frantically asked. “That way!” I said.  He took a quick look at the direction my finger was still pointing and drove like a madman through the intersection. “Wait a minute!  Where did the street go?” It had simply disappeared right before our eyes and before we knew it, we were wandering around in a Mexican neighborhood where faces peered curiously out windows at the van from Texas slowly moving down their street. We decided we should try and find our way back to the intersection with the Guadalajara sign and start over. Every street we took was narrower than the one before. We wound our way down one tiny cobblestone street after another having absolutely no idea where we were.  Just about the time we thought things were looking promising, we came to an abrupt stop. The street was completely blocked by a car parked right in the middle of the street.  We sat there, trying to figure out how we were going to get out of this mess when a lady emerged from out of nowhere and waved to us as she headed for the offending car and drove it up on the sidewalk to make room for us to pass. Just ahead we saw a glorious sight—an opening between the buildings and houses—not very wide, but big enough for us to maneuver a turn around. Thank you, Lord.  Now, all we had to do was find another Guadalajara sign. Zacatecas Zacatecas (pictured above) appears to be a giant gringo maize at first. Back we went, in hopes that this time we’d triumph over the maze of intersecting streets. Before we knew it, we were back in the very same neighborhood where we’d just been with the same curious faces peeping out the same little windows.  We were going in circles! There was no other choice but to return from whence we’d come. This time, we made it back to the daunting intersection without getting lost. There we were again, sitting at the very same stoplight looking for the elusive Guadalajara sign. As we sat at the stoplight, I happened to turn around in my seat and looked behind us.  “Oh, my gosh! There’s the sign—it’s behind us!” I don’t remember how we managed to do it, but miraculously we found ourselves headed in the opposite direction, which we felt confident was the highway to Guadalajara. The traffic sped past us as we tried to keep from getting run over and prayed to see another sign. “HOOOOONK!   One car careened past us on one side.  HOOOONK! Another car did the same on the other side. Man, that was close—very close. We’d better get ourselves off this highway to who-knows-where and hope we can find someone to help us, we thought. Thankfully, the next exit wasn’t far.  We pulled into a Pemex  (One of the government gas stations).  While Ted calmed his nerves with a much needed cigarette, I went inside to see if I could find anyone who spoke English.  I smiled at the lady behind the counter and asked my standard question,”Hable usted Ingles?” She relied with the standard answer, “No.” I scanned the store for a friendly face and saw two college-aged students.  Maybe they could speak English.  The girl was a negative, but she pointed to the young man.  I asked him the same question and he said, “Si—poquito.” Praise, God!  I told him we were lost and pointed to the freeway just outside the widow, and asked, “Is that the right way to Guadalajara?” “Oh, no, Senora,” he said, “It is the other way.” (…the way we’d just come!)  He made a valiant effort to explain how we should get back on the same highway, go under the next overpass (or was it over) and then exit before the next overpass (or was it the one after that?) “I did the best I could,” I told Ted as we got back in the car and hoped I’d understood enough to get us out of this labyrinth of a city. I don’t know how we did it, but we did.  We were finally on the right road to Jerez, which was only 10 miles away. The rest should be a piece of cake, we thought. Sid had recommended the Hotel Leon, an excellent hotel in Jerez with a first-rate restaurant.  Even better, he said it would be easy to see from the highway.  With hope in our hearts and hunger pains in our tummies, we headed to home base.

  • http://www.bbstamps.blogspot.com Betty Benton

    When does the second installment come out? Next week? Same bat time? Same bat channel?

  • http://www.chapalaclub.com Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Betty, Thanks for your comment. Not sure just yet when the next installment will be published. Probably in early July. So please stray tuned. Siempre tu amigo, Sid

  • Dan

    I’ve gotten so dependent on my Garmin GPS unit to keep me out of trouble — are there GPS maps for Mexico that would help avoid the situation above?

  • http://www.chapalaclub.com Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Dan, Thanks for the very good question. Yes, there are, but from what I’ve heard they’re not as reliable in Mexico, but still would likely be a big help.

    They tested several for getting around in Guadalajara and found that sometime the device would say turn left at the next street, but there was a median preventing the turn. So, there are some glitches like this, but the overall evaluation was that they would get you very close to where you were trying to go.

    Not sure if any have been tested for cross country driving in Mexico. That would make a good article.

    HOpe this helps some. Sid http://www.chapalaclub.com/wp-admin/edit-comments.php#comments-form

  • Hansje

    We bought Garmin maps in 2010 and had troubles around the Lake, where it once would have had us driving IN the Lake if we had listened.
    In 2011 we again had lots of troubles visiting Guanajuato and San Miguel. Got hopelessly lost for 1 1/2 hours on the drive back to US via Matehuala (at the Lagos de Moreno area).
    The only thing that got us around the Panoramico of Guanajuato and home to Chapala later was the Google maps my son had downloaded onto his cell before leaving the US to visit us. It wasn’t cheap since he then went over his data allowance (whatever that means), but he could follow our progress on the maps and choose what he thought the best options, and guide us through it each time.
    Requires nerves of steel!

  • http://www.chapalaclub.com Sid Grosvenor

    HI Hansje,

    Thanks for your comment. The best maps I’ve found for all of Mexico is the Gui Roji maps. I’ve used them for many years. The easiest to read and most up to date.

    Here’s the link to their website: http://tienda.guiaroji.com.mx/

    Hope this helps everyone find their way to happiness. Tu amigo, Sid

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