Up, up and away into the mountains of Michoacán

Packing up camp at the house of waves.

On our trip we inevitably must leave the cool places we have found, to set out for an unknown destination up the road. It’s always a little stressful to leave the comfort of a good camp, good company, and a good wave. On Sunday morning, we packed up, purchased our costeña provisiónes (local papaya and mangos), and headed west to catch the toll road to Morelia. The thermometer read about 84º F on the coastal plane.

As we caught the toll road north, we left behind the monte (scrub brush/small trees) of the coast. The road snaked between large canyon walls and then the landscape turned into a scorching desert, el Infiernillo. The road followed a large reservoir, Lago Infiernillo (the one that powers the hydroelectrica of Lázaro Cárdenas and cools the petroelectrica). The white chalky walls of the reservoir signified (hopefully) the end of the dry season. Only the large organ cactus could make good use out of this landscape. It was so hot that our thermometer read 138º F when we stopped for gas. On the road it consistently read 99º F.

Somewhere near the south end of the reservoir.

The white chalky walls leftbehind from the low water level during the dry season.

In the distance is one of the salmon-colored bridges of the toll road.

At the top of the reservoir, the farmers had recently planted their corn and bean crops. The bright green stood out dramatically against the tan-colored, dry/scorched mountain walls. Exiting the valley of the reservoir we watched the landscape change from cactus to mango orchards and lime groves. The thermometer read 95ºF.

The river surrounded by a sea of green; corn and beans.

The pine-covered mountains near Pátzcuaro.

We climbed higher towards Uruapan, where avocado orchards dominate the landscape. Many farmers left behind pine trees while planting their orchard, which resulted in a beautiful mixed canopy. Lots of coffee is also grown around the Uruapan area but we didn’t stay very long this time; I’m almost sure my work will return me to this rich agricultural area. At this altitude the thermometer read 85ºF.

Our first perception of the altiplano of Michoacán was of the apparent level of affluence of the region. The wooden beach shacks and half-finished, abandoned buildings of Guerrero seemed like they belonged in an entirely separate country compared to the large brick buildings and centuries-old stone work of Michoacán. So this is where all of the government spending goes: wide guard rails, well-maintained and paved roads, sufficient road signals, elaborate landscaping, beautifully maintained government buildings and public places… Our friends in Guerrero had confided in us that the Mexican government taxes all states but only puts the revenue back into the richer states, the ones where the officials and upper-classes spend their time. I believe them now.

We pushed on through the orchards and the pines, up to the mountain town of Pátzcuaro. Many fellow travelers had recommended we visit this quaint artist town, which conveniently lie on our route to Morelia. When we arrived in the afternoon, the thermometer read 75ºF. The air was much drier than the coast, which made the climate just about perfect for us. The next post will be on Pátzcuaro.

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