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 Arco Norte Update - October 2011

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Hound Dog
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PostSubject: Arco Norte Update - October 2011   Sat 08 Oct 2011, 10:39

On our recent drive from Lake Chapala to San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, a quarterly recurring trip we drive between residences that used to require a drive through the heart of Mexico City and then the Arco Norte via it´s then terminus near San Juan Del Rio, Queretaro, we were able to take the Arco Norte from it´s new terminus at Atlacomulco to it´s eastern terminus about 30 kilometers west of Puebla on the Puebla-Mexico Autopista. We are pleased to report that:
* The drive between Chapala and Puebla has been shortened from the old routes through Mexico City or Queretaro by about 1 1/2 hours from more or less 9 hours to about 7 1/2 hours.
* The Arco Norte terminus points are well marked whether one is traveling east or west and one will experience no problems accessing the new autopista whether at Atlamoculco traversing Highway 15 East or at Puebla heading west.
* This is a splendid highway of the latest design easily driven non-stop at the high speed of your choice (if you tend to drive autopistas at about 130KPH as do I, most other drivers will leave you in their dust) and, while it carries a lot of truck traffic avoiding Mexico City like the plague, it is uncrowded and, since one is stopped to pay tolls only at one´s chosen terminus point, there is no reason to stop anywhere along the route until one exits.
* The drive is scenic and often spectacular, since October is wildflower time, the colors were great with carpets of wildflowers often providing a beautiful display or various colors, In addition, since we stopped at Tula, Hidalgo for a planned visit to the Tula ruins, we approached Puebla from Tula during the early morning hours the next day and were, thus, treated to the most magnificent, crystal clear views of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl we have ever experienced frrom a car despite having driven by those magnificent volcanos many times since the early 2000s. It happens that on this particular trip we were diverting north from Puebla City to Cuetzalán, Puebla and did not head directly to Veracruz State but had we taken our usual route from Puebla through the Orizaba-Córdoba corridor, we would have been able to enjoy the splendor of Pico Orizaba, Mexico´s tallest mountain, within less that two hours of having enjoyed the first two volcanos so this has to be one of the most spectacular drives in North America.

We have some nice pictures of the scenery aloong the Arco Norte which I will post later when I get a chance.

With the opening of the Arco Norte all the way to Atlacomulco, one now can drive to Chiapas from Lake Chapala with autopistas all the way except for the initial drive from Chapala to Ocotlan which you Michoacan folks needn´t concern yourselves with so the drive is now a breeze when compared with the times when we originally started driving this route. In fact, one will soon be able to drive from Jalisco ot Michoacan to Chiapas via Oaxaca State over almost solid and splendid autopistas except for the drive through Oaxaca City. We´ll be returning to Lake Chapala via Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca City and the Arco Norte and will report on that trip at that time. New roads are making this once arduous drive much easier.

As an aside, the drive from Chapala to San Cristóbal de Las Casas will now take about 16 1/2 hours vs. the old 18 hours via Mexico City (assuming no traffic problems and DF mordida time - a big assumption in the megalopolis), Puebla, Orizaba and Minatitlan, Veracruz at Dawg´s speeds and the Arco Norte opens up the beautiful and, shall we say, exotic, state of Chiapas to many who would have avoided the journey in the past. As we used to say in South Alabama, "Yáll come on down y´heah!" but don´t plan on staying.

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Don Cuevas
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PostSubject: Re: Arco Norte Update - October 2011   Sat 08 Oct 2011, 17:01

The Arco Norte also opens up a faster route to Ixquimilpan, Hidalgo and not far beyond, the spectacular canyon of Tolantongo, its caves, thermal waters and hotel-resort.
The Road to Tolantongo Part 1

The Road to Tolantongo Part 2

I would love to spend a few days there during the grip of winter in Michoacán,
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PostSubject: Re: Arco Norte Update - October 2011   Sun 09 Oct 2011, 09:31

Thanks for the hint Don Cuevas. Can you recommend a good hotel and/or places to eat in or near Ixquimilpan? We know nothing about that area.

The Arco Norte also made it more convenient for us to get to our en-route destinations in the mountains northeast of Puebla City and we found Cuetzalán and Hueyapan, Puebla both worth the difficult roads once one leaves the autopistas out of Puebla. Both towns are not only picturesque but famous for certain artisanal products and, in the case of Cuetzalán, great regional cooking. Some of the best regional cooking we have had in ten years of traveling Mexico.
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PostSubject: Re: Arco Norte Update - October 2011   Sun 09 Oct 2011, 14:53

Quick question Dawg, how was the Ocotlan road? I had sworn off it after a hair raising trip with some Mexican friends to a distillery near Totolan last year. Several near death experiences and the temptation to wedge myself in the fetal position between the front seat and the back, made any idea of a repeat transit out of the question. I was clenching my teeth so badly that eating was quite difficult for almost 2 weeks.

Had I known, I might have taken more advantage of the free tequila and spent my time passed out and completely unaware of the horrendous road conditions and the cavalier attitude of our driver, Ricky.

BTW our drive over to Morelia was totally uneventful. Great road conditions and the wildflowers were particularly beautiful.
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PostSubject: Re: Arco Norte Update - October 2011   Sun 09 Oct 2011, 21:40

Raqueteer:

I presume you mean Ocotlan, Jalisco since that is the town I mentioned when talking about the drive from Chapala to Chiapas. You kind of threw me off with the remark about Totolan but if, indeed, you are referring to Ocotlan, Jalisco, I must say that, while it is getting better after over ten years of maddening road construction, it is still a crappy highway and one of the segments of the 1,500 kilometer drive between Lake Chapala and San Cristóbal de Las Casas we most dread. Much of it is now four lane separated highway but there are still segments that are dangerous and still under construction. For those of you unfamiliar with driving from Michoacan to Chapala, Ocotlan is where you would normally exit the Guadalajara-DF Autopista to cut down to Chapala. It´s about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Highway 15 to Ajijic. The alternative is to drive on to Guadalajara before heading south to Chapala but that´s a bit out of the way.

While the 70 kilometers or so from Chapala to Ocotlan is the most dreaded part of the drive, other bad sections include:
* Driving through Puebla City over, perhaps, the most poorly designed urban freeway bypass system in Mexico. Before we were able to bypass Mexico City on the Arco Norte, we preferred to drive in chaotic Mexico City with its crooked cops over much smaller Puebla over that lousy Puebla freeway.
* The La Tinaja-Tuxtla Gutierrez Autopista which covers some 300 kilometers from just east of Minatitlan to just west of Tuxtla remains a scandal in many places with myriad dangerous potholes and much road reconstruction. This road has been in bad shape in many places almost since it first opened about six years ago and is a disgrace as it is the primary access autupista to Chiapas from the east coast. There is no way to avoid this headache unless you drive to Chiapas via Oaxaca State so, unless you are driving through Oaxaca, just grit your teeth and go - rather cautiously. Don´t worry about the maniacs passing you with Chiapas plates. They cannot drive down there. After five years of driving down there, I can no longer drive either once I get south of Minatitlan so it doesn´t bother me.
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