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RV Camping: Saltillo to Zinapecuaro

(Guadalajara & Ajijic, Lake Chapala)

Trip Report #2, part 3

By Char & Al Bennett

published: June, 2001
Lorena's Note: Char will be sending us Travel Reports as they travel through Mexico. Keep checking back for their latest adventures.


Jan. 15 - 17

Hacienda RV Park
140 pesos ($14 + tax)

We had an uneventful day driving to Guadalajara, taking Hwy. 54 south from Zacatecas. It was a beautiful drive as it wound through the mountains, but we wondered where all the trucks were. Well, we didn’t know it, but the major toll road through Aguascalientes is now open, although all the maps show it as still being under construction. So that road would have been much easier (although I think it’s quite expensive), but Hwy. 54 was still OK.

OK that is, until we got to the Periferico Road (Ring Road) that circles Guadalajara ... it is very poorly marked. The signs never mention the word “Periferico.” So, approaching the city from Zacatecas (north), watch for signs for the toll road to Nogales, and head for that. We circled almost half-way around the city, past the “Tabachines” and “Zapopan” exits, and eventually we came to the Nogales exit, which is Hwy. 15.

The Hacienda RV Park also exits there, except in the opposite direction, so carefully watch for the “Vallarta Ave”. exit. It will exit to the right off the Periferico and then cut back under it. Stay in the far right lane, which becomes a frontage road of Ave. Vallarta. Continue for about 1 mile, and turn right just past the Nissan dealer. Go .4 mile to a traffic circle, then go right and take the second road (the RV park is well marked with signs.) Go about 1/5 mile, and the Hacienda is on the right. The only sign is up high, and easy to miss, but the walls are peach-colored.

It’s a nice campground and obviously a lot of people stay for a long time. The management is very friendly. The pool is clean and there’s a large clubhouse with a big library. The restrooms and showers are quite good (the water is extremely hot!). Each site has a brick patio. There are lots of tropical trees everywhere... feels very comfortable and laid back. There’s a Bing’s Ice Cream Shop back on the traffic circle (good ice cream!), plus a small mini-market.

They have 20 amp electricity (watch it when you turn on microwaves or toaster ovens). They also offer internet and e-mail service, as well as 1-day laundry service. English is definitely spoken. Nice place.

We had previously arranged (through Mallorca Travel Service in Mexico City... that’s the agency affiliated with Pepe’s Trailer Park) for an 8-hour personal tour of the city. We were given a number to call when we arrived, which we did. At 9:00 one morning a full-sized tour bus, along with our own guide, arrived to pick us up,. They didn’t have a large enough car to send, so we had the whole bus all to ourselves... and we had a wonderful tour!

The company is called Kanga Tours (kangaroos are painted all over the jazzy-looking bus), and our guide Carlos couldn’t have been better! He took us on a walking tour throughout the historical part of the city, through all the plazas and major points of interest, ending with the huge covered Mercado Libertad. Then we climbed back on the bus and drove to the suburb of Tlaquepaque where we ate at the Patio Restaurant, with great atmosphere as well as food. Here we wandered through many of the charming shops, and ended up at El Parian where we all had margaritas and listened to a mariachi band. I understand this is the world’s largest bar (one square block)... it’s big! The cost of the tour was $30 U.S. for each of us, plus tips for Carlos and the driver. Definitely worth the money! It couldn’t have been a nicer day.

Bruce & Judy at the
Pal RV Park in Ajijic


One day we drove to Tequila, but instead of taking a tour of one of the distilleraries in Tequila itself, we were advised to tour the Hacienda del San Jose Refugio in Amatitan, a few km. east of Tequila. We were really glad we did. This distillery produces a tequila called Herradura. They claim it is the best in the world, which it may well be. It’s well signposted as you approach Amatitan on Hwy. 15. Turn right in the town immediately after a cemetery, and a rough cobblestone road leads to the entrance on the right. The entrance really isn’t marked, but there are several security guards posted at the gate. They lead you to the office where you request a tour. After just a short wait, we were assigned a good English-speaking guide. The total tour lasts approximately 1 hour 15 min., and costs 70 pesos per person.

We started out by touring the Hacienda itself. It originally employed and housed between 60 and 80 people, now 1800 work there. It is beautifully maintained, with some family members still living there at least part of the time....5th generation. Taking photos is allowed in the Hacienda area and museum, but not in the distillery itself.

So we saw exactly how tequila is made in the modern plant. We then visited the museum which is actually the old plant. After tasting as much as we wanted of all the various grades of tequila that they make, we finally watched a well-done film on the whole process. So all in all, it was an excellent tour.... probably better than those in the well known distilleries.

Continuing on through the town of Tequila, which isn’t very impressive, we had a great lunch at a lovely restaurant overlooking the large canyon nearby. It’s called El Mar II.... easy to miss it as you drive by since it sits off to the right of the highway, with its roof level with the road. Moderately priced, as are all our meals since we’re definitely on a budget. They do have a tourist menu if you ask for it... it’s just not offered.

We spent the late afternoon at a Walmart Super Store, loading up on stuff... lots of stuff!


Jan 18 - 19

Pal RV Park
180 pesos ($18 + tax)

Lorena with 50# of
Organic Popcorn
The Secret Recipe

We arrived in Ajijic, about 30 miles from Guadalajara. Considering that the population of Guadalajara is almost 5,000,000, the traffic isn’t bad at all. We just circled the city by the Periferico again, and headed south to Lake Chapala. It’s invaluable having CB’s in each of our motorhomes, so we can easily communicate with one another. We use Channel 13 which is supposed to be for caravans (ours is definitely a mini-caravan....)

After lunch we drove to Carl and Lorena’s home (this is their web site you’re reading) to deliver the 50 lbs. of organic popcorn we had brought them. We spent much of the afternoon and part of the evening comparing notes on our experiences in Mexico... past and present.

The reason we have gotten to know them, via e-mail, is that a year or so ago, before we had even heard of their book or web site, I had requested info on camping in Mexico via one of the internet message boards. The person who responded to my request said, “You should buy a copy of Carl Franz’s book, ‘The People’s Guide to Mexico.’ I have been to Mexico 34 times and I highly recommend this entertaining, informative book.... Years ago Carl put out a book called the ‘People’s Guide to Camping in Mexico.’ If you can find a copy in a used bookstore, buy it!.....”

So, after discovering this web site and buying the latest edition of their book, here we are.... bringing popcorn into a country whose main agricultural product is probably corn! Anyway, we had a most enjoyable time, and look forward to periodically sending them updates on our experiences here in Mexico.

By the way, both Ajijic and Chapala are delightful villages! It’s easy to see why so many gringos settle here. Ajijic is a little more artsy-craftsy, whereas Chapala is a little more grown-up. But we loved them both. We’re sorry that we’re not going to be able to spend a little longer here on this trip.... but there’s always another trip!

Continue with Patzcuaro
©1972-2001 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens