Our main activity from 1st Jan until our road trip to the Copper Canyons on the 6th was preparing to leave Jamala for a week. That meant washing the outside, cleaning the inside, and flushing the toilets with fresh water to avoid pipes smelling like rotting eggs on return. Nobody wants that.
But we managed to squeeze in some entertainment: Dave and Belinda came over for a day at the pool with offerings of canned goods for which we traded our unwanted cans of pears; we went out for a takeaway, coming back with pizza that was hard on the outside and floppy on the inside, and, although it’s a bizarre take on entertainment, we glued some more foam to more upholstery.
On 4th Jan, bees enveloped the marina after the staff disturbed a nest in one of the marina pile covers. They were everywhere. Drawing the short straw, one of the marina staff donned a fireman’s suit and, in the sweltering heat, set about getting rid of the bees. The bees weren’t happy with him – they were bouncing off him everywhere he went. Some other dock workers sealed the covers with Sikaflex the next day to prevent another best forming. But maybe it would have been best to leave well alone.
On 6th January, we made our final preparations to leave Jamala. That meant switching off one of the fridges, all the other electrics and making sure the batteries were fully charged. We tried plugging into shore power at the marina, but the electricity supply in Mexico runs hotter than the midday sun. The 110v supply at the dock is 135v. And because Jamala takes that through a transformer, we were getting 270v through the boat. That’s a bit much for my liking – and the appliances. So, we quickly unplugged the power lead. And like at anchor, we are reliant on solar power.
Getting something posted on our website and getting a taxi to Mazatlan airport are activities worth celebrating. I’ve been dogged with connectivity issues preventing me from posting things to untilthebuttermelts.
And getting an Uber is pure luck here: three drivers cancelled before one turned up. But 350 pesos and 30 minutes later we arrived at the airport. Boarding the plane was slick – the queue for Carls Jr burger place was longer. Formalities were straightforward, the half-full flight left on time, we had the luxury of extra legroom in the emergency exit seats, and we landed soon after take off. That was an excellent end to the evening.
After paying for a taxi at the counter in the airport, we headed out into the chilly and dry Chihuahua night.
The driver dropped us off as near to the front of the hotel as he could – about 200 metres away – but could we find it?
The sign to the Central Hotel Boutique isn’t as obvious as the nearby Quality Inn with its less quality and more quantity sign. But eventually, we stumbled across the back of the hotel, where I had to explain to the security guard what we were doing before he let us in.
After check-in, the receptionist showed us to our room, walking us through the courtyard to a door that we thought would be a corridor. It wasn’t. It opened straight into our room.
We chose this hotel because of its location in the old part of the city. It’s within clanging distance of the cathedral bells.
The next day we paid a visit to the cathedral and hunted down some of the sights listed in our Lonely Planet guide.
The top sight to visit, according to Lonely Planet, is the Casa Chihuahua. It’s been a mint, a monastery, a military hospital and a post office. It also contains the Calabozo de Hidalgo, where Miguel Hidalgo was held before his execution. But, unfortunately, the building was closed.
So, following the lead from other tourists, we joined the queue for photos with Angel wings. Don’t we look angelic?
Across the road from Casa Chihuahua is the Palacio de Gobierno. That was open. The guide, who charged just 100 pesos, explained the murals on the walls depicting the history of Mexico over the centuries.
There’s far too much to cover here. Besides, Mexican history merits further reading. But here’s a couple of bright highlights probably not found in popular history books: The first one blows the myth of Western movies showing Apache Indians scalping the white man.
The guide explained a drive to rid the area of Apache Indians who had been murdering anything in sight, including local families. The government offered a bounty of 200 pesos for a man, 150 for a woman and 100 pesos for a child. That was big cash back in the day. And only a scalp was required for proof of a kill. So it was the Indians, not the “white man”, getting a severe haircut.
The second was a bleak time in colonial history. Forced alcoholism (drink this – good for you and the baby) kept the locals compliant. Babies were born alcoholics, with all that entails.
Most of the murals depict the history of the Mexican revolution. And many paintings and sculptures tell the story of the imprisonment and subsequent execution of Miguel Hildago. But there’s also a shrine to the man in a room near the middle of the building where he was shot.
On a more cheerful note, the city is full of street art and touristy things too:
Hookers Buses and Hanky
We asked the hotel where the bus station is for transport to Creel. That led to a quote from one of the hotel’s preferred drivers for private transportation to Creel. That came in at 7000 pesos (£250), so we went swiftly out the door. After turning left then right – down what transpired to be Chihuahua’s red-light district – we arrived at the bus station where tickets for two added up to just 287 pesos, that’s approximately £10.
Google maps is wildly inaccurate here. Some places shown on the map do not exist, and many are closed. After being presented with several phantom restaurants courtesy of Google, we ate lunch at the hotel.
It’s as dry as the desert here. Perhaps that’s no surprise, given that it is part of a desert region. So we decided to get hydrated at the Hanky Bar that night. That, too, was not where Google said it was. As we paid the bill, the server said she liked Maria’s accent because it sounds like the tapes they use at school during English lessons. So, sorry American friends, Mexico is going British English.
Coach to Creel
After breakfast at the hotel, we checked out on the 8th of Jan and headed to the bus station using a different route to avoid the action. Just across the hotel is a market selling most things – especially boots. The local guys seem to like the cowboy look, and this is THE place to buy Stetson hats and cowboy boots.
We walked past a stall selling wallets, so I bought a “genuine” Mont Blanc one for just 100 pesos.
The bus station arrangement isn’t clear to us non-local types. And even though we asked the man with a clipboard if the bus standing at the station was going to Creel, we ended up on the wrong bus.
The right bus was a lively one. Forget about seat allocation; nobody takes any notice of that. Mexican food sellers and drinks sellers join the bus at every stop. Flautas, burritos, crisps, sandwiches were just a few things offered. And at one of our stops, a guitarist stepped aboard to give the passengers more entertainment in return for a few pesos collected in his hat.
I don’t know if it’s a product of all the entertainment and food vending, but we arrived in Creel one and a half hours later than expected. It’s a strange place, Creel. Although it’s one of México’s Magic Towns, I think it’s fair to say that the true magic lies outside the immediate vicinity. Stepping off the bus late Saturday afternoon was like stepping onto a Wild West movie set.
Finding this hotel was also a challenge, especially since no one seemed to know it. But we did find a restaurant called Tio Molcas. I went inside and found it to be their hotel, behind the restaurant. There are no signs for the Hotel Maria del Tio Molcas, but in fairness, the place is new. Our room was warm and clean, and that’s good enough in a place where JW Marriott would never set up shop.