Lake Chapala-Roca Azul Hiking, biking, and a big Party, Oh my! Week Three - 2/8-2/14/21
Updated: May 1, 2021
We started this week off with an early morning bird-watching adventure. We were super excited about meeting new folks that knew about all the birds at Lake Chapala. We were supposed to meet the Lake Chapala birders at 8:15 in Ajijic, the town closest to Jocotepec, where we are staying. Our directions were: How to Get There: From Ajijic go about 2 mi. (3 km) west from the light at Colon, turn downhill at the sign for El Bajio. Park immediately on the lateral. Note, if you reach a bus stop in front of a vivero with signs for H. La Cristina, you have gone a block too far. We tried finding the meeting spot going in 2 different directions but never found our group. We decided to just walk around looking for birds on our own. There was a huge Ficus tree that had lots of birds but they are like the ones we have seen at Roca Azul already. We walked down the cobblestone street toward the lake to see if we had better luck there. I enjoy just walking around looking at all the beautiful plants and vines. We saw a few folks out sweeping the fronts of their homes and said, “Hola, Buenos Dias!”
When we got to the lake, we saw lots of sea birds...the usual. Some folks were in a small boat fishing and the pelicans were hanging out with them so I guess they were successful.
I heard a familiar sound of parrots next. We looked to the sky just as a group was flying from one tree to another in the distance. We both had our cameras out to zoom in on them if we could see them before they flew again. Luckily for us, they flew 20 feet in front of us in a tree near the beach. We had 30 minutes with these beauties. It was a group of 8 that would fly in and out of the tree. A pair flew to the beach and were fighting over some sea plants. That was interesting to watch. We were able to identify them as Monk Parakeets. We haven’t seen these ones yet. Yeah! A new bird. We also saw an orchard oriole but I didn’t get a good shot. We spent 2 hours around on the beach looking at birds. It was quiet and relaxing.
Larry wanted to stop up the road at Donna's Donuts….to see if they knew how to make a good donut here. It was a cute place right on Highway 23. Easy to get to and park. Yeah. We each got one donut and we finished the coffee that we had brought with us. We sat at a small table outside when a man came up to it, where he had left his dogs. I guess they were holding his table for him. We said he could sit with us. His name was Sal and he was from Minnesota. He’d come down here with a friend back in November. We had a superficial conversation until he went all religious on us. He had some very interesting ideas about the pandemic and the end of the world plus he threw in a unique alien twist. We finished our donuts and took off as quickly as we could. Neither one of us was wanting to continue this conversation. We said goodbye and wished him well.
We headed up the little street to the hills. It looked like we would be at the foothills in just 3 blocks. I was hoping to get a good view of the lake. Well that didn’t happen but we saw some very pretty homes, lovely flowers, and an authentic Chinese Food Restaurant, at least we thought so. Our neighbor Max, from Wuhan China, says he hasn’t found any good Chinese food here. So I took a picture to let him know about it. When we got to the top of the street, we discovered a hiking trail...with signs and milage and everything. Legit! El Tepalo. It's a 9 KM trail so we decided to come back another day. It looks good! Hikes around the area you can view on youtube.
We play at the pools at least every other day. I walk or jog around the park every day if we aren’t hiking. Larry is getting so good with his new camera. He’s obsessed with the hummingbirds right now.
You will see by the hundreds of amazing pics of these fabulous creatures, Then one night he saw bats swooping into the feeder for the nectar. He made a special point to get up early to photograph the bats. He only ended up with 2 blurry pics. It’s hard in the low light and the speed of the little buggers. There is so much to do here that we can have fun without leaving. One afternoon we had the trailer washed by 4 young men that Manuel, (from the front gate) recommended. It took them 2 hours and they charged us 600 pesos ($30 US). While this was happening, Larry walked over to a group practicing baseball and asked to play. He offered to catch but they let him play all positions but pitcher. I tried so hard to get pictures of him making some amazing catches but missed all 5 opportunities! Sad face. He even got to take a turn at bat. He’s a softball player so it took him a bit to get it. They chanted Larry! Larry! Larry! He did well and they invited him to play again next week. This was a definite highlight for both of us!
We had a hiking day planned for Tuesday and Deb wanted to try to get to the cross this time. Larry had marked the trail that we missed last week, so we could easily find it again. We left at 8:30 am because it was going to get warm in the afternoon. We all had water and snacks and we were ready for success. It was a long trail up to the top which took us 2 hours and 50 minutes. Larry blazed ahead and Deb and I chatted the whole way up.
Deb is a super interesting woman. I learned a lot about her adventurous lifestyle and how she ended up here at Roca Azul. Deb is in her late 60’s. She’s in fantastic shape probably because she walks her 2 dogs, Max and Buddy at least 3 times a day. I found out that she’s an avid hiker. A few years ago she hiked part of the Pacific Crest Trail with her daughter Sara. They spent 10 days traveling from the Columbia River in Oregon to Mount Adams Washington. It was a 50-mile trek that they enjoyed immensely. I was pretty impressed too. I read Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild some years ago and was intrigued by the potential. It’s on My List of things to do...someday. Deb told me when they finished hiking they hitchhiked back to her home in Spokane!
Deb retired in August and knew she wanted to spend the winter in warmer temperatures. She has traveled all over including Mexico. She sold her house and bought a travel trailer. Her boyfriend still works so she enlisted the best girlfriend to travel to Mexico with her. She signed up for a caravan to Roca Azul which included 2 months at the resort for a very reasonable price. Her friend’s family was concerned about traveling amidst Covid and talked her into staying to get the vaccines first. Deb still wanted to go... with or without her best friend. Deb and her boyfriend Matt, drove from Spokane to Tucson to get her close to the border. Deb did all the driving to get comfortable with the trailer. She dropped Matt off at the airport and got ready to cross the border. She met up with the caravan leader Teo from Roca Azul at kilometer 21(immigration) in Nogales, Mexico. It took them 5 days of driving to get to the resort. Teo had all the stops lined up along the way. This is a great way to travel in Mexico especially if it’s your first time. I have a lot of respect for Deb for doing this on her own!
At the top of the hill, we sat at the cross and had our lunch. We took some pictures and enjoyed the view. We knew it would take just about as long to get down as it took to get up.
There is a bunch of loose gravel and the trail is steep...even the easy trail. The day was hotter than expected and both Larry and Deb ran out of water...close to the end. I was able to share. Larry is faster than us hiking so he was down and returned to the trail with the truck and the air conditioning blasting! It was a tough, long hike but we felt great for accomplishing it. The first stop back at the resort were the pools with our much-earned beer! The pools helped my achy hips or maybe the beer did.
Larry made our appointments to get messages on Wednesday. We haven’t had a massage since Canada back in August. We were way overdue. Plus with all of our hiking, we needed it. He found a place near the Malecon in Ajijic called Total Body Care. The receptionist spoke good English and the place was very nice. I’d say our massages were better than average but the price was fantastic….only $22 US for an hour. I think we will be getting more massages when we are here. We also walked down the really cute street by the Malecon and stopped in a bar before our appointment. I had a shot of tequila and Larry had a beer. What a nice way to start a massage.
We go out on our bikes at least once a week. Thursday was the day we decided to ride from our park into town. It’s only about 2 miles but on cobblestone and dirt roads it’s a bumpy slow ride. We stopped along the way to take pictures of the murals in front of the hospital.
My new friend Chile de Joca has the one on this wall. We continued to drive into town and I was turning the corner to see people painting a wall. Next, I heard, “Rhonda” with a big wave. It was Chile working on a new mural. He was covering up a political ad with his art. I let him know I was always available to help paint if he needed it. We said ‘Adios’ and peddled away. I felt so cool to be recognized in town by a local artist! I’m Special! Lol
We got a little lost trying to find el Centro but eventually stumbled onto the big Mercado. It was closing as we came up but there were deals to be made. I got a quart of huge blueberries for $1.25 US and we found some more yummy seasoned peanuts. I also got fresh warm corn tortillas...20 for 12 pesos (60 cents US). We enjoy buying at the local markets. We have found such good produce here and that makes me so happy. We stopped by a tienda for some chips. Larry has started making us our own salsa here with all the fresh ingredients that are easily found. We packed all of our goodies in our backpacks and biked ‘home’.
Friday Larry and I decided to hike to the cross again. Deb said once was enough so it was only Me and Larry. I brought more food and water this time. We decided we would like to beat our previous time up and down. We knew exactly where to go and how to pace ourselves. We made fewer stops and just kept on truckin’. We shaved 1 hour and 10 minutes off the hike up and we made it down in one hour less! We were winners! We beat our time. We texted our friend Robin to look for us in a few places along the trail with his binoculars. He said he never saw us. I had a bright pink shirt on too. After the hike, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch at a nearby restaurant. There is a Tourista Zona with many choices so we went there. It’s right on the lake with beautiful views. We ate at Mariscos El Carnal. It was bright and colorful and that’s what attracted me. When we walked in we were sad that it was so freakin windy. It was a warm day but after a sweaty hike, the wind was too cold. We moved to a table more inside but needed to wear our sweatshirts. I had a pretty drink with tequila but it seemed they forgot to add it. We had a very good appetizer of ceviche with octopus, shrimp, and other fish. Larry and I both got a shrimp dish. He loved his but mine was too sweet with coconut and cream cheese. We brought it home for Larry for his dinner. Overall, the food was ok. Easier than me cooking! Lol...
Our friend Max, the other hiker, asked me to coordinate a get-together on Sunday. He said he was spending Saturday with his wife Jan, but we could do it on Sunday. He said he would order Chinese food from the restaurant I found in Ajijic that looked like authentic Chinese. I just had to get everything else together. Carol and Marvin have a corn hole set and they said we should have a tournament. Their son John and his girlfriend, Stephanie know the rules and could be in charge of it. Sounds good. Larry and I do well at that. Deb would come and bring an extra table. Max did walk around and invite some other folks too. He did more than order the food. He’s cute! I like him. Robin, our next-door neighbor, helped us collect some rocks and firewood on the beach Saturday. We tried out the campfire on Saturday night with him to make sure it would work. Robin brought his guitar and played for us for almost 2 hours. Campfire and live music! Life doesn’t get much better than that.
Sunday morning, I felt like things would unfold well so Larry and I took a walk toward the beach. The lighthouse was unlocked and some young people were up inside. It was our chance to go up! We waited till they came down and we took our turn. So many stairs! Hahaha.
We got a great view of the lake, the beach and of the campground. It was fun! When we got back, Max was waiting for us. He wanted to make sure when people were coming over and tell me he invited more folks. Then he worried if we would have enough food. We decided for free food, it would be first come, first served. I reconstructed the fire pit in the shape of a heart...it’s Valentine’s day. Everyone should bring their own drinks too. Our friends started coming around 1. I brought out a foamy nerf football and softball to toss around. Then Max challenged me to badminton. I’m pretty good at this so I was ready. I scored easily and fast till it was 5-0….We were playing to 7. Well, then Max made his comeback and beat me 7-6. I had a blast even though I lost... I think Max is really good and was playing with me! We were instructed when Carol dropped off the corn hole that we couldn’t practice beforehand. She was like a Mindreader...cuz that’s what I was thinking right when she said it. We waited until Marvin and she came back and then started to play. We played all afternoon. Winners playing the next challengers. It’s kinda a blur….so much fun, socializing, and drinking. Larry says we played at least 6 games. We were teamed together and we ended up undefeated. I guess we were the champs! I remember getting 2 in a row and most folks were impressed until Larry got 3 and almost the fourth in the hole.
I got to spend more time with Jorge, his wife Amanda, and their daughter Astrid. I immediately loved Astrid, she was wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt!
Then Memo came over solo as his girlfriend was in Guadalajara visiting her brothers. He brought the best ceviche too! They are usually here during the weekends as they have a home in Guadalajara. The same is true for Jorge and his family. They have another home but they stay here more now since they can work from home.
As the sun went down, we had the delicious cake. We had enough food and cake for everyone and it was such a great day. As the last games of corn hole were being played in the fading light, Robin started the fire. We sat around the fire into the wee hours of the night….well, maybe only 9:30 pm but that’s late for us! Lol,
Each week this place seems to be getting better. More adventures and more new friends. We are feeling like we have found a new home. I believe this happens when we relax and spend more time at the places we stop.
We begin to feel like part of a community. Even Gypsy has friends stopping by to see her and to hang out with her. Our campsite is all paid up until February, 28th. We are not exactly sure where we will head next, however, I do know that we are heading west to the beach but that’s it. For more information on caravans to Lake Chapala check out the flyer below.