The People's Guide To Mexico
Carl's Mexico Notebook

Archive Issue for 17 July 2001

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Mexico RV Saga

Bill and Dorothy Bell, along with their two children, Dylan and Adam, are spending the summer traveling throughout Mexico in a 28 foot motorhome. Read their travel reports and enjoy their photos at Mexico 2001 Dispatches.

Bill is a long time North Vancouver City councilor, while Dorothy is a school trustee. Their dispatches are from various locations along the route. Keeping them company is a two year old Bearded Collie, Crash. They can reached at

Tortillas a mano

Tortillas a mano -- One cook's quest for fresh tortillas leads her to learn the art of making them at home by Janet Fletcher, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

The link above was suggested by David Eidell. It will take you to an article on making corn tortillas at home, along with some tasty recipes for salsa. The instructions given look good, but for sure-fire results, I don't think you can beat the tortilla-making tips published on our website some time ago by our compadre Steve Rogers.

Puerto Vallarta Side Trips, Talpa and San Sebastian

by Stephanie Delong

Talpa de Allende

Carl's comment: Stephanie Delong first wrote to us asking for information on bus travel from Texas into the Copper Canyon region of Chihuahua. We passed her question on to our friend Desert Dweller, who replied in detail in an article published here a couple of days ago. At that time I sent a message to Stephanie that said:

You realize, of course, that there's a price for all of this valuable information, right?

We hope that you'll return the favor by sending us your own trip report -- it doesn't have to be fancy, but we'd really appreciate it. The more detail about prices, schedules, hotels, routes, and general impressions... the better!

To our great delight, Stephanie immediately returned the favor with the article that follows. I've also added a few small photos borrowed from Mexican tourism sites. If you're interested in more detail, do a search at Google using these terms: Talpa de Allende, and San Sebastian, Jalisco. There's some good stuff out there, both English pages and several in Spanish, so keep a dictionary handy.

Here's Stephanie's article:

Since you asked about travel experiences, I thought that I would tell you about an interesting side trip my husband, Rondel and I took when in Puerto Vallarta last summer (August 2000). We went to PV on a very cheap package deal purchased before the Presidential Election. $430 per person plus tax from St. Louis, MO including air and a deluxe ocean view room at the Westin Regina. This is normally not our style of travel, but what a deal with Fun Jet Vacations.

This was a first trip to Mexico for both of us, not counting forays into Tijuana which according to our Mexican friends, "IS NOT MEXICO!". I had traveled in Honduras and Guatemala with Heifer Project International (a faith based organization which gives farm animals and encourages sustainable development). My husband had been in Panama with the Marines and wanted to see a Spanish speaking country from a different perspective.


Anyway, after a few days of the high class tourist life we were ready to hit the road. First we took a bus to Mismaloya to see the famous Night of the Iguana film site and take photos for a friend. We had a good time hanging out at the palapas chatting with the Mexican tourists. Feeling comfortable about the roads etc. We decided to rent a jeep and drive up to some mountain villages described in the Puerto Vallarta Handbook by Bruce Whipperman.

I wanted to see Talpa de Allende, Jalisco. I had read the story of the Virgin of Talpa in high school Spanish class. The story takes place in the 1600's, when the bishop of Mascota wanted to stop people from traveling to Talpa to pray to the Virgin. He moved the Virgin to Mascota, but mysteriously the Virgin kept walking back at night to Talpa. Eventually the bishop gave up and let the Virgin stay in Talpa. Bruce Whipperman does a good job retelling the story in his book. The result of this legend is that a million visitors come to this small town of 7,000 each year.

After consulting with the very helpful young woman at the rental car desk in the hotel who gave us advice on viewing the three villages of Talpa, Mascota and San Sebastian. We decided to rent a jeep for two days and visit the villages. We were given a jeep with no doors, no problem for tourists who plan to tool around the PV area beaches. Up in the mountains we would need doors. So... a quick stop at the main Thrifty Rental office in PV. We were given two doors to put on later. We then picked up a good Guia Roja map.

Taking the advice of the rental company rep and our guidebook, we decided to take the long way around to Talpa via paved roads. It was rainy season, and we had been warned that the dirt road up into the mountains from PV was rough. The long way around took us close to Guadalajara and took a long time. We did get to pass through a lava field left over from a volcanic eruption a few years ago, which was cool.

Leaving Mexico 15 to travel to Talpa on Mexico 70, the weather began to get cooler and started to rain. We pulled off the highway to put on our doors. Guess what, we had been given two right-side doors! Oh well, poor Rondel got wet and cold driving in the mountains.

The road all the way to Talpa was nicely paved and there were several towns with Pemex gas stations. In Talpa we got a pleasant and very clean double room with a toilet and shower at the Hotel Plaza for $US 15. We had a street front room with a wonderful view, but it was noisy. The activities at the Cathedral never stop!

We ate dinner at the Taqueria next door. The owner lived in California and speaks English with no accent. He came and sat with us while we ate, and his wife prepared our food. The next morning we had breakfast at a stall in the market. Good food and atmosphere in both places.

Outside of the Cathedral, we purchased a small flower made from a gummy like substance known as chicle (as in chiclets). Our Thrifty rep said that this craft is only made in these mountain villages. We went into the Cathedral to see the Virgin. The devout behavior of the pilgrims was moving. I left a flower in a niche with other gifts, after saying a prayer. One of the gift shop workers saw me do this. After I finished praying, she began talking to me and telling me about her town. I learned that the original Virgin is kept in a secure place and only taken out on festival days. Also that Pope John Paul had blessed the Virgin on his trip to Guadalajara. The gift shop has pictures of this and other events. I bought a bottle opener with a picture of the Virgin on it.

We walked around the town visiting the museum and walking the Loma Cristo Rey. It was a very enjoyable experience. There appeared to be only a handful of gringos in town, less than a dozen including ourselves. The other tourists seemed to be Mexicans on pilgrimage. Many chose to walk the final miles into town from the pilgrims' well at the top of the valley.

I would recommend a visit to Talpa but with a word of caution. Since Talpa is a holy place to many people, visitors should be very respectful.

San Sebastian

We drove on toward Mascota and San Sebastian. The scenery is fantastic! At Mascota the paved road ends. Public Works crews were putting in better roads, and that caused some delays. The road between Mascota and San Sebastian was muddy and a bit narrow at times which is a factor when driving through mountains! Rondel grew up in the eastern Kentucky/West Virginia region and had driven worse roads, so we had no problem in our jeep. Some people would find this a bit difficult to negotiate in the rainy season. RV's might be a problem. The Corona truck seemed to get through OK!

San Sebastian (del Oeste) is a "forgotten" mining town. It is very pretty. Since it was raining heavily, we didn't walk around too much. We did have an excellent mid-afternoon meal at a palapa type restaurant on the road coming into town. The Camarones al Diablo and the fish in butter were great!

We needed to get back to PV so we took the short road which our guide book said not to do without a high clearance vehicle and not at all during the rainy season. My husband said he could do it in a Jeep and did. The high clearance was necessary! We never needed the four wheel drive, but that had to do with Rondel's driving skills more than road conditions. Believe it or not this route is a private toll road and may be a bit tricky to find on the PV side. It is not as scary as the muddy mountain roads, but it is rough. Those in RV's may wish to go back the long way!

We enjoyed our foray into the mountains around Puerto Vallarta. We felt that it was one of the highlights of our trip. It has inspired us to visit Mexico again seeking out the small towns and lesser known sites.

I hope that this is the sort of travel information that you are wanting. I didn't see anything on Talpa on your website, but I may have overlooked an article in the Puerto Vallarta section. Buen Viaje!



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