Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Valle de Juarez and Mazamitla

Valle de Juarez

While Mazamitla is more well-known and draws most of the tourists we found that we liked Valle de Juarez better. It's a small town, extremely clean and well cared for, and very welcoming to visitors. Many of the people have lived and worked in the Chicago area and have either retired to Valle de Juarez or continue to go back and forth. It's obvious that they love and take pride in their home. Brian thought that they had the most beautiful town square or jardin that he had seen anywhere that we've been.
While visiting these towns we stayed at Hacienda Contreras, a very nice RV Park owned by Sal and Barbara Contreras. Sal is a native of Valle de Juarez who lived, worked and raised a family with Barb in the Chicago area. They have returned to VdeJ to retire, although they stay so busy with the RV park that I don't know as I'd use that term. They have an outstanding park and we have to agree with so many others who have been here – it’s one of the best RV parks in Mexico. The facilities are first rate and Barb and Sal are incredible hosts.
Sal and Barb have a love and knowledge of this area and share it with their campers. In our short time there we went to a horse festival known as the Blessing of the Horse, two very picturesque hikes, and an easy hike to a unique restaurant being built at Rancho Tres Aguilas. Each experience was both fun and informative.
The Blessing of the Horse began with a parade of the horses coming in from another town in the area. The parade circled through town and ended up near the lake where everyone was invited to share a wonderful meal and plenty of tequila.
These three amigos were having a great time singing and talking on their cell phones while sharing a bottle of tequila.
On our first long hike we went up the mountain to our south which overlooked the lake and town.
Our intrepid band of hikers stopped for a rest in 'The Badlands' before continuing on to town where we had an amazing lunch - more free appetizers were served than I could count. Evidently this is the norm here but I'm sure being with Sal and Barb, second and third from the left, didn't hurt any.

The second hike was a long one going up a mountain to our north. Along the way we had a great view of the Colima volcano which still has snow on the top. Not unusual considering it's over 14,000 feet. We had a rest and bite to eat at the top while we enjoyed the view.

On the way down Sal and I were bringing up the rear and heard a very different kind of bird noise. After stopping and looking around we were lucky enough to see a Northern Pygmy-Owl in one of the trees. It was well camouflaged and only about 6 inches tall. I wasn't able to get a good picture but won't forget the memory. Once back to where the cars were parked our hosts treated us to some tequila before we wound our way back to the RV park. Great day!
Rancho Tres Aguilas, Ranch of Three Eagles, is a very unique place near the campground. Sal and Barb arranged for us to hike there and take a tour. It's really difficult to describe this place. Everywhere we looked we saw something unusual. On the grounds we saw everything from life-size elephants and buffaloes to John Deere tractors to fossilized rocks to an old wagon train and on and on.

The owners have obviously put a lot of money into this place. They are planning to open it as a restaurant and we look forward to giving it a try some day. They are catering to the many wealthy tourists in the Mazamitla area and will probably pull people from Guadalajara as well. The tables are all huge slabs of stone with fossils in them. Everywhere we looked we saw murals, statues, stained glass windows, incredible metalwork and more. Too much to describe so here are a few pictures.....


Mazamitla is a unique resort town that looks as though it belongs in the Swiss Alps. Many tourists come there from Mexico, the U.S. and Europe and the town is pretty much geared toward them. We saw some very expensive, nice resorts and homes. The first day we went in was on a weekend and it was so crowded there was nowhere to walk or park so we left. We decided to go back during the week and give it another try. There were lots of hotels, restaurants, bars and tourist shops. It was interesting to see but a bit touristy for us.

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