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 Highway 37 to Zihuatanejo

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PostSubject: Highway 37 to Zihuatanejo   Tue 01 Mar 2011, 15:29

We took this drive a few weeks ago from Ajijic on Lake Chapala and, based upon Peter´s recommendation, drove from the lake to the Ecuandureo-La Piedad exit from the Guadalajara-DF Autopista heading south and skirting Zamora and then on to Carapan, Paracho and Uruápan and east to the toll portion of Highway 37 through Nueva Italia and the desolate but scenic route passing the Presa Infiernillo to the Guerrero Coast southeast of Lazaro Cardenas where we joined Coastal Highway 200 and drove to Playa Troncones where we had rented a casita on the beach for three nights driving during the next day there to Zihuatanejo after a quick pass at Ixtapa (don´t bother visiting the sterile Iztapa mimicking the worst of Nueva Vallarta in Nayarit). Total time from Ajijic to Troncones was about eight hours which is a bit longer than it should be because of the terrible conditions imposed by ongoing highway construction on the Atequiza-Ocotlan stretch of Highway 35 one needs to negotiate to get from Chapala to the access ramp to Autopista 15 at Ocotlan. I would guess this drive will be cut to about seven hours once they finish the road work on Highwy 35 if they ever do (they have been working on improving this dreadful highway for over ten years with a notable lack of success). As an aside, because of the dreadful condition of Highway 35 between Atequiza and Ocotlan and with the completion of the new toll bypass to Zapotlanejo through El Salto from the Chapala-Guadalajara Carretera, it might be better to simply drive up to Zapotlanejo and pick up Autopista 15 there skipping the Highway 35 nightmare altogether.

This was a fun drive after we joined Highway 37 at Ecuandureo even though we were at the time a wee bit apprehensive about driving south of Zamora after some of the violence associated with the drug wars we had read about in the weeks preceding our journey. I am pleased to say the drive both ways was uneventful except for the large numbers of army and federal personnel we saw armed to the teeth and adorned with masks and bullet proof vests both on the Guerrero Coast and in Nueva Italia when we took a detour into that farm town out of curiosity (don´t bother as far as we could tell).

Playa Troncones turned out to be a fun place to stay if a bit rustic and we found a nice casita on the beach. that accepted our three dogs. The surf is pretty wild there and, even though it was the high season, the hotels were mostly empty and the beach mostly deserted which was nice for runniing the dogs. We were surprised that Troncones was so deserted during the January high season when hotels are somewhat arrogantly requiring a three night minimum stay and payment in full in advance. We found out after we got there that we could have found any number of places to stay with dogs in tow at a discount just by looking around a little. If you are planning to visit Zihuatanejo, which is a fun but very crowded place, Troncones, which is about 30 minutes out of and on the way to Zihuatanejo heading south, is a nice place to stay if you value tranquility and a largely deserted beach. There are a few decent places to eat there and most rentals seem to offer simple kitchens if you wish to cook in your unit.

I won´t go into any details on Zihuatanejo as that is a subject unto itself and we mostly hung around Troncones playing with the perritos but we drove around the city and had a very nice lunch on La Ropa Beach. We are more "deserted beach" people than party town sailing enthusiasts so I´ll leave it to others to delineate the virtues of Zihuatanejo.

The drive down Highway 37 was quite interesting and we were struck by the contrast of the high-mountain scenery around Paracho, the stunningly attractive and steep drive from Paracho down into the lush valley of Uruápan and the continued descent down to the coast through the fertile and widely irrigated farmlands around Nueva Italia which, in turn, gave way to a rugged desert as we traversed the western edge of the aptly named Presa Infiernillo and farther on into the tierra caliente as we approached sea level.

We were curious as to how the farm town of Nueva Italia got its name and were fortunate to have a Blue Guide to Mexico in our possession for reading at Troncones which I, unfortunately left in Ajijic when we later came down to Chiapas. The author of that section of the Blue Guide wrote of an Italian immigrant, Dante Cusi who with his family and the help of local workers, transformed an arid and unhealthful land he had acquired in 1903 in the Tierra Calienta into a vast irrigated ranchland with (I believe) two large haciendas produciing cattle and hogs, cotton, melons, rice and huge lime orchards. As best I remember, I read these lands were expropriated by the Mexican government in 1938 and subsequently became the largest ejido in Mexico with 22,000 hectares. Today, when one drives up toward Uruápan from the coast, one leaves largely uncultivated desert near Nueva Italia to enter an area under intense cultivation and the change is dramatic. Of couse, all of this is old hat to you Michoacan folks but it´s all new to me. Perhaps those of you more familiar with that area can enlighten me on specifics I have gotten wrong or missed here.

Anyway, it was a fun trip and one I recommend to those of you who have yet to drive Highway 37 to the coast. My thanks to Peter for the lead.

Incidentally, we were going to drive back to Lake Chapala by heading up Highway 200 to Tecoman and then inland through Colima but that looked like a rather arduous drive and we weren´t sure where we could break up the drive on the coast and find lodgings (hopefully beach lodgings) for the night with our three dogs. This did not appear to be an area where one would want to spend the night parked along the highway but maybe some of you can give us a hint as the whether this long drive is worth the effort and where we might spend the night if trying to get from Zihuatanejo to Chapala going up the Michoacan coast and heading to the lake via Colima. Maybe next summer when we return to Lake Chapala we´ll try it if it seems worth the effort.

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PostSubject: Re: Highway 37 to Zihuatanejo   Wed 02 Mar 2011, 19:19

Hi Dawg, nice trip along that highway by Paracho. Not sure where you got off for Nueva Italia, on the Lombardia side or further down at Cuatro Caminos, the road into Apatzingán and Tepalcatepec. In La Comida forum I wrote about the chivo restaurant that I always stop at by the glorietta at Cuatro Caminos as you enter town, that is one of my priority stops on each trip and the reason for leaving out early in the morning as they are generally sold-out by sometime shortly after noon.

Our reason for making the trip to Zihuatenejo the first week of December was to see my mother whose cruise ship was docking there for several hours. We hung-out quite a bit by the wharf while there, having made a trip and looking around the day before so that we would know where, how, and why when mom arrived. Zihua is much larger and busier than I had expected and kind of an interesting place but since we weren't there as tourists or for the Mexican experience we took a hotel in Ixtapa. I can tell you, by comparison Ixtapa was a ghost town but it gave us quiet and private access to the beach and our room was nowhere near what I would describe as rustic.

Our Hotel in Ixtapa had a nice restaurant at the beach with somewhat open walls covered only with netting letting the air and sunlight in but providing a comfortable spot in the shade. After meeting with mom at the embarcadero we had a brief look around and took her back to the hotel in Ixtapa. After a time she suggested walking out to the beach and perhaps getting some lunch so I motioned us over to the restaurant where we ended up spending most of our time enjoying botanas and bebidas at the shoreline. I'm rather glad we took that route staying at a hotel in Ixtapa with our activities planned in Zihua as it was much more comfortable and relaxing that way. Ixtapa also had some interesting restaurants including the chain of Señor Frogs. This is not the kind of activity I tell people to come to Mexico for, but for living in Mexico several years now it worked well for us and fit our plans well. Sometimes us Mexicans just like to go gringo for a change.
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PostSubject: Re: Highway 37 to Zihuatanejo   Thu 03 Mar 2011, 10:57

Peter wrote:
Hi Dawg, nice trip along that highway by Paracho. Not sure where you got off for Nueva Italia, on the Lombardia side or further down at Cuatro Caminos, the road into Apatzingán and Tepalcatepec. In La Comida forum I wrote about the chivo restaurant that I always stop at by the glorietta at Cuatro Caminos as you enter town, that is one of my priority stops on each trip and the reason for leaving out early in the morning as they are generally sold-out by sometime shortly after noon.
.

Thanks for the hint on the chivo restaurant. That is the way we entered Nueva Italia so we´ll give it a try on our next trip to Playa Troncones/Zihuatanejo which should occur this summer upon our return to Lake Chapala from Chiapas. That way we can leave Troncones early enough to pig out in Nueva Italia before the locals grab all the food. Give me a hint as to what you like to order there. Perhaps goat I presume.

I am not sure the stop before noon is feasible coming from Lake Chapala through Paracho and Uruápan even if one leaves around daybreak and one would be foolhardy to drive Highway 35 from Chapala to Ocotlan in the dark. That is one dangerous road even in broad daylight.

Here is the way I see a Pacific coastal drive from San Cristóbal to Lake Chapala through Zihuatanejo and Nueva Italia. San Cristóbal, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Arriaga, Juchitan, Puerto Escondido, Acapulco, Zihuataejo, Playa Troncones (three day break), Nueva Italia.
God, what a fat Alabama boy won´t do for some barbequed goat with a cold cerveza.
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