A 91-day adventure by Ladyandtramp
  • Background Info About Our Winter Trips

    April 7 in Canada ⋅ ☀️ 7 °C

    Each of our travel blogs have included an introduction similar to the one below with a new add-on at the bottom regarding new plans. This introduction has been growing and growing but I like to keep this going as a summary of our life’s major adventures. This year's winter trip is number 16.

    Here's how we caught the travel bug...

    In 1999, after taking a one year leave of absence from our teaching jobs, selling our house and purging most of what we owned, Chris and I packed our bags into a van and headed to Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico, to teach English to Mexican students. Our youngest daughter Caitlin had already left home to perform for a year with a traveling group called Up With People. Our other daughter, Amy had studied Spanish at school, so she traveled to Mexico with us, helping us navigate our way to Zamora. Shortly after we got to our destination, she flew home and started her 3rd year of university. She lived in a townhouse, with two other students, that we had purchased to store 1 roomful of our valuables and to have a place to 'come home to' when we returned. During that year that we taught in Mexico, we fell in love with its daily blue skies and sun, and the latino lifestyle. We promised ourselves, that in our retirement we would return.

    Four years later, after retiring from teaching, we went back to Mexico. We spent four months on the shores of Lake Chapala in Mexico, in a beautiful house where we made lots of wonderful friends.

    The second year we backpacked through Central America from Guatemala to Panama taking a puppet theatre and puppets with us.

    The third year we focused on learning more about the Mayan culture by spending a month in the Yucatan Peninsula, a month in Guatemala, a month backpacking from San Cristobal, in the Chiapas, up the Pacific coast of Mexico to Puerto Vallarta. Along the way, we had several visits with friends. Finally, we ended up once more in Ajijic on Lake Chapala, where we stayed for a month.

    The fifth year, we felt that we wanted to venture a little further south so we did something a little different. We headed to South America following a three week layover in Guatemala where we spent Christmas and New Year's eve with our daughters and one of our future son-in-laws. We took and distributed 300 pairs of reading glasses, continued to learn Spanish and volunteered for two organizations in needy communities in both Guatemala and Ecuador. We helped to paint a huge mural on the side of a coliseum with artist, Susan Shanley. The highlight of our trip was the creation of a Grand Circus of Puppets which was performed by all the children in a Biblioteca (library), as well as 25 volunteers, in Banos, Ecuador.

    Year Six was a favourite of ours. We spent a month in Peru, three months in Bolivia and then returned to Peru to see Machu Picchu. Because we had enjoyed volunteering in the Arte del Mundo library in Ecuador the previous year, we looked for another library to help out in Bolivia. We were able to find another wonderful, non-profit organization called Biblioworks, based in the capital city of Sucre.

    <a href="http://biblioworks.org/&quot; target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://biblioworks.org/</a&gt;

    The North Carolina group who runs this project provides disadvantaged Bolivian communities, in the vicinity of Sucre, with access to books and learning materials. Since 2005, they have been able to build 12 community libraries, support teachers and students, and put countless books in the hands of adults in both North and South America. The eighth library opened when we were there and we took part in an exciting inauguration with our amazing 'boss' from South Carolina, Matt Lynn. What a wonderful organization.

    Our very good friends, Pat and Gail, who we met in Mexico in 1999/2000, joined us in February and March. Due to the generosity of many of our good Ontario friends, we took down 6 puppets which were used in a puppet show, puppet-making workshop materials (so that 200 children can make simple rod puppets), an educational parachute for games, and 200 pairs of
    reading glasses. Four classes at Greensville Public School, near Dundas, Ontario, prepared artwork which we took to Bolivia as part of an art exchange. Fun!

    The next three years were spent back in Mexico. Year Seven was in Ajijic, helping at the Tepehua Community Centre. A fantastic lady, Moonyeen King, was trying to help out the extremely poor people in this part of Chapala by forming a centre where people could eat a hot meal and have a shower once a week, get medical aid and feel that they were part of a community. We helped out by distributing food, playing with the kids, performed a Xmas puppet show and organized the painting of a huge mural on the side of the building, once again led by artist, Susan Shanley. We also travelled to the beautiful Sierra Gorda where we met two very special people, Margarita and Juan, as well as a traveling group of puppeteers. Two hundred pairs of reading glasses were also distributed.

    Year Eight saw us in Queretaro, Mexico - a beautiful old city, just on the west side of Mexico City. There we studied more Spanish and helped out a young puppeteer, Diego Ugalde. Once again we traveled into the amazing Sierra Gorda and then went north to ride the El Chepe train in the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.

    Year Nine. Back to Mexico, but this time in a city south of Mexico City, Cuernavaca. We stayed in a lovely house with beautiful gardens, hidden behind high walls. We started this trip by flying to Manzanillo and spending a week on the ocean with our friends, Pat and Gail. Then off to Cuernavaca where they joined us for a week. We flew to Puerto Escondido for Chris' birthday and saw our friend from Panama, Scott, as well as cottage neighbours, Dale and Michelle. We helped out a young artist who was setting up a business in Cuernavaca. From him we learned how to make traditional Papel Piedra dolls. In March, we flew to Los Angeles and did something that we have never done before. We rented an ESCAPE campervan for a month and camped through South California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Fabulous!

    Year Ten had a big change... Where did we go, and why? Well, I happened to read a blog entry entitled, "Ten Reasons You Should visit Namibia" by fellow Canadian travelers, Kevin and Ruth, and I was hooked.

    http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/ladyandtra…

    I easily convinced Chris, and without much effort, in the way of coaxing, enticed our friends, Pat and Gail, to join us in Windhoek, Namibia? We went off on a camping safari trip extraordinaire in Namibia and Botswana! Of course, we took puppets for a travelling puppet show, ukuleles and a parachute to give away to a needy community. Pat and Gail flew home in February and we had a few weeks to kill so flew to Capetown, South Africa, where we rented a car and drove a couple of thousand kilometers along the beautiful Indian Ocean coast staying in guesthouses along the way.

    After that amazing trip, we had to rethink where we would like to spend a winter and we came up with a crazy plan.

    When we were in Ecuador, we heard stories from travellers about the thrill of sailing through the San Blas Islands in Panama and the rugged beauty of Colombia.

    So Year Eleven in 2015, was the year that we saw for ourselves what others have been talking about. But Colombia wasn't the only place we visited. The Yucatan and Cuba were also in the picture!

    President Obama recently made the decision to allow Americans to legally visit Cuba and we know that major changes will take place. We wanted to see the real Cuba before those changes took place. It was an eye-opener.

    So, as we ask ourselves every summer, "Where will we spend our winter this year?".

    We are in good shape, physically, and are still up for some adventure so for Year Twelve in 2016, we decided to go back to Colombia and see some of the beautiful areas that we did not get a chance to see on last year's trip. The difference will be that we will meet up with our good friends Pat and Gail and do some parts of this trip together. Ahhh, more Colombian coffee, birds plus the Amazon and good times with our travelling friends.

    Year Thirteen, 2017. We have missed visiting Mexico but still want to continue heading south in South America. So this year, we will spend a month in Uruguay (and a few days in Buenos Aires) and then fly to Mexico City. We have rented a beautiful house for 3 months in Patzcuaro, Mexico. Dear Texan friends live there. We haven’t seen them for at least ten years. It will be a wonderful reunion. Pat and Gail may also come down for a visit and we hope our daughters will have the time to come down too. (These plans sadly didn’t happen.)

    Year Fourteen, 2018/19. A big change in plans this year. We are heading to Portugal! Not just the mainland, but also to the lovely islands of Madeira and several of the Azore Islands. In fact, our daughters and their families have already bought their plane tickets to Sao Miguel in the Azores and will be joining us during the March Break. What fun we will have!

    Year Fifteen, 2019/20. Back to Mexico where we will spend Christmas and New Years close to Puerto Vallarta, in the tiny mountain village of Mascota, then three weeks with our travelling buddies from Bellingham, Washington, Pat and Gail, in the Pacific beach village of Chacala. But that’s not all. At the end of January, we will fly to New Zealand for an action-packed, two month road trip. A great place to travel for Chris’ 70th!

    Well, that trip was cut short by 2 weeks, when the Canadian government told travellers to return home due to the spread of the Corona Virus. In 2021, we did not go on a winter trip. It was the first winter that we stayed home since 2004.

    Year Sixteen, 2022. In October 2021, we took a wonderful weeklong trip to Vancouver Island with our two older grandkids, Audrey (9) and Cal (8) to visit Great Grandma Peg for her 99th birthday. We rented a motorhome in Victoria and drove to Courtenay where she lives. Totem poles, whale watching, hiking through tall trees, oh my!

    Year Seventeen, 2022. We felt that we needed to get back into the saddle and spend the winter in a warm and sunny place. Our longtime friend Jeremy Ament said that he was building a house in Majahua, Guerrero, Mexico on the Pacific Ocean. If we wanted to rent it, we could. We jumped on his offer and glamped in his beautiful house with a pool in the jungle, far from Covid sicknesses. A little paradise for Connie’s upcoming 70th birthday!

    P.S. We are still contemplating trips to Egypt, Mongolia, the Azores, ....

    NOTE: The blog will be written and left in draft form. The way that you see it, is the way it was written.
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  • Postscript

    April 6 in Canada ⋅ ☀️ 6 °C

    We came home on a Tuesday and felt that we had the usual list of things to do to reintegrate back into life in pretty Fergus - unpack, laundry, food shop and best of all - a hot shower!! The first HOT shower in 3 months. Ahhhh.

    We pretty well spent the week getting caught up. On Friday, it was my 70th birthday. Seventy! Wow, and I am happy to say that I am healthy and happy. Gee, we have a good life. We are not afraid to have new experiences and acknowledge the best in the places that we have visited. Chris got me a lovely white gold bracelet for my birthday and it is just perfect. It’s not coming off!

    On Saturday, we went to Caitlin’s house to see everyone and exchange gifts. We sat outside and sat from apart as Covid is rising and it was a sunny day. Matt wasn’t feeling well so he sat far away from everyone. His birthday is on Sunday. It was a sweet reunion celebrated with Portuguese natas and Nathan’s homemade muffins.

    Matt went to the clinic and tested positive for Covid. 57 Guelph General Hospital staff have tested positive and 27 are still awaiting results. So he is sick. On Monday, Amy tested positive and on Tuesday Nathan saw a doctor as he has it too. He has a big cold sore on his lip from the virus. Audrey seemed to be okay but on Wednesday, she went to school for the morning and was sent home with a sore throat! Oh oh.

    Chris went to the pharmacy and picked up some free rapid Covid tests. Expect the unexpected mantra continues…

    While I have been finishing the blog, Chris has opened the cottage. The water and heat are on and he is cleaning the cottage, to get it ready for me. Haha. Maybe our family will be over Covid and will be able to get together on the Easter weekend.
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    OMG! Just finding this now. Welcome home! Yes, covid seems to be getting closer to all of us one way or another. Jeff and I still well, but it has been in the family! Be well and stay well! [Franki Robinson]

    5/2/22Reply

    And now you are on a wonderful adventure! Have fun! [Connie]

    5/13/22Reply
     
  • Day88

    Trip Home

    March 29 in Canada ⋅ ☀️ 0 °C

    Here is a timeline of our trip home.

    7:00 a.m. We woke and saw a mess that a badger had made while digging for tasty lizards.
    7:30 a.m. The power went out, no water and no internet. Oh, I guess that that had to happen one more time. Luckily we had some yogurt and granola left and a tangerine. Coffee was made at 7 a.m. so we already had our caffeine fix.
    8:30 a.m. Sara, the housekeeper arrived. Hard to do laundry with no electricity. The pool guys were on their way to vacuum but that wouldn’t be possible.
    8:45 a.m. We left the house. Chris had already washed the rental car and we had to stop to fill up before returning it.
    9:00 We picked up 2 salami and mozzarella sandwiches for the flight that we had preordered at Delizia, the Italian deli in Troncones.
    9:15 Chris topped up the gas in the car.
    9:30 Oh, oh. The highway was blocked with teacher protesters. They were protesting having 120 kids and only 4 teachers. Thank heavens the road was blocked for 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off. There is no other road to the airport.
    10:00 Chris dropped me and luggage off at the airport while he returned the car to Johnie Cash
    10:15 We got our boarding passes and a coffee and settled in to wait a bit. We had filled out all the necessary paperwork beforehand and only had our carryon so we were in good shape.
    12: 30 Right on time, we boarded the plane
    12:50 We took off in a little 100 seater United plane and flew to Houston. The flight lasted 2 hr 30 minutes

    4:29 Houston (1 hour ahead) We had a long walk from where we arrived and to the gate that we were leaving from! For some reason, everyone had to get a new boarding pass because the passes had to say ‘Travel Ready’ on them. We had that done before a long line of people arrived to get new passes.
    6 pm We boarded plane with our bags. No issues. The plane was full.
    6:23 We took off, right on time? The flight lasted 3 hr 14 minutes
    10:37 p.m. Arrived in Toronto, about 10 minutes early (another hour ahead).

    We zipped through immigration and were lucky not to have a random Covid test done. Red Car was waiting for us. We were the only people in the van and had a great conversation with the driver who lived in Elora.

    We were at the condo shortly after midnight, safe and sound. A neighbour had bought us a few things for breakfast and had put the heat and water on. We are so spoiled…
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  • Day87

    The Process of Returning to Canada

    March 28 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    We got the following message -

    “Starting April 1, 2022, pre-entry tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada by land, air or water.

    Until then, (we return on March 29), follow the pre-entry test requirements.

    Proof of a professionally administered or observed negative antigen test taken outside of Canada no more than 1 day before your scheduled flight or entry to Canada by land or water. The one day window does not depend on the time of day the test was taken or the time of your flight or entry. For example, if your flight is scheduled to leave or you enter by land any time on Friday, you could provide proof of a negative result from an antigen test taken any time on Thursday, or on Friday

    It must be administered or observed by a pharmacy, laboratory, healthcare entity or telehealth service. (The Troncones pharmacy will do it for 800 pesos or $50 Cdn each).
    The test must be authorized for sale or distribution in Canada or in the jurisdiction in which it was obtained.

    The test must be performed outside of Canada.

    Doesn’t make sense to pay for and take the test two days before it is formally over. Just give us the paper!

    But, on Monday morning we went to the Troncones pharmacy where the pharmacist immediately did the tests and in no time we got the results. We were both negative. We paid the 1600 pesos, got the certificates and left. Easy peasy.

    She told us that during the whole month of March, she never got a positive test result.
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  • Day84

    Mexican Goats

    March 25 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    The goats. The goats. The goats. Where do I start talking about our visits from the goats?

    We have been here for three months and the one constant and daily issue that we have had has been trying to deal with several herds of goats that enter the property to eat the plants that our landlord planted before we came. I must say that for a period of time we felt that we were winning the battle to protect the garden from the goats. But ultimately the goats have won.

    The other day, we came home from a 1 hour trip into Troncones, saw goat prints all around the house and then saw that all the plants that we watered and cared for every day, had been eaten! The goats even had the nerve to go onto the veranda and eat the house plants. It was a big disappointment.

    Neighbours own the goats, but for years before the house was built, cows and then goats were allowed to roam the jungle and that property for food and possibly water. The owners would open their pens and let them roam. No damage to anyones property. But now someone owns the property that the goats always foraged in. There is a new house with landscaping and a swimming pool - easy food and water.

    We went for a drive to see where the goats lived and felt a little sorry for them. They were jammed in what looked like a chicken coop. Hardly any room to move. We understood how they would love their freedom roaming around, munching the freshly watered green plants at this house.

    The owner of the house has realized, after daily goat reports, that he needs to put up a fence around his big property. But not any fence. It has to be a goat proof fence. It is going to cost a lot but it has to be done. In the meantime, a lovely man and his wife, were hired to fix a barbed wire fence that was in bad shape around the perimeter of the property, and to look out for goats so we could have a little freedom in order to get ready to go home.

    So what have we learned about naughty goats?

    Spanish colonists brought Spanish goats, also known as brush or scrub goats, to the Caribbean and Mexican shores during the 1500s. In time, these hardy goats adapted to the local landscapes and conditions as they browsed free range. Note free range…

    Goats were a good choice of animal for settlers as they provided milk, meat, hair, and hides. They were also used to clear brush. Some of the goats though became feral. Due to tough outdoor living, these goats became totally suited to the hot and unforgiving climates where they lived.

    The good thing for goat owners is that these goats required little medical attention and they are parasite-resistant. They also tolerate harsh climatic conditions and can survive on low-quality pastures, like the jungle vegetation here. We have seen goats stand tall on their hind legs and reach for a green leaf on a tree. That’s the way that they broken several new trees that were planted around the house. Goat owners don’t have to spend very much on pricey feeds!

    Some owners even claim they never have to trim their goats’ hooves. For this reason, the Spanish goat breed is very inexpensive to groom and to maintain. For poor people, there are a lot of pluses to owning goats, but …
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  • Day82

    Noisy Early Morning Birds

    March 23 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Mornings are noisy here. The early morning ocean waves are loud. Roosters are loud. Barking dogs are loud and so are the vehicles bouncing along the bumpy road as people head to work. But, from within the jungle, noisy tropical birds make their presence known too.

    By far, the noisiest early morning birds are Chachalacas. They scream - a very loud and shrill scream-type of call, that sounds like their name, chachalaca, as they repeat it over and over. If one bird starts, others chime in, and the squawking will drown out any other noise in the forest. It has been said that they sound like a worn out, old motor trying to start. This chorus usually occurs early in the morning or the evening.

    Almost always heard before it is seen (just a large dark movement in the brush) the Chachalaca is sort of a long-tailed, tropical chicken that lives in the treetops in the jungle. These sandy brown and gray birds with a red patch on their throats, walk along tree branches in the brushy, thorny area around the house to eat flowers, buds, fruits, and seeds. Chachalacas give their loud calls in the early morning and early evening but apparently they also call when a storm is approaching or there is some other change in the weather.

    Also early in the morning, yellow headed parrots leave their roosts that are inland and head to feeding sites near the ocean. Parrots usually fly in pairs and they don’t fly quietly. They scream and yell, calling to their buddies that it is time to come and eat. Their diets vary and are based on what is available in the environment in which they live. On the whole, however, a wild parrot will eat seeds, nut, fruits, vegetables, leafy vegetation, grasses and occasionally insects, fish and seafood.

    We noticed that many stores and a few restaurants in Troncones have parrot watchdogs. If a customer enters the store, the parrots sound the alarm and the shopkeeper comes running. I think that there is a law regarding keeping parrots, but who is around to enforce laws in a little, sleepy, off the beaten track village?

    Another loud and noisy bird is the long-tailed grackle or Mexican Grackle. One birder described their calls as: “Varied loud shrieks, clacks, whistles, and chatters, including a bright, piercing, ascending whistle, wheeeeu' or s-weeeeerk!, bright piping to shrieking series in various combinations, wee kee-ee-kee-keek or shreeih dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee, etc, a burry note.... ". We have heard most of those sounds and maybe more!

    These birds have a lot of character though and aren’t very afraid of people. In fact, they seem curious about people. In one restaurant we went to in Troncones, a dog water bowl with water was set out near the outdoor tables and a grackle was bust drinking from it, just a few feet away from the customers. We had one guy regularly visit us and actually would hop right into the house. Probably searching for crumbs. They are known to steal someone’s lunch right off the table, when that person isn’t watching. Noisy and gregarious!

    A Mexican legend has grown up about the noisy bird's call. According to the legend, Zanate, the Great-Tailed Grackle, stole the seven notes of its call from the sea turtle, leaving the poor turtles without a voice. The notes stand for Love, Hate, Fear, Courage, Joy, Sadness and Anger: the passions of life.

    We both like this friendly, noisy and funny tropical bird. In fact, we even got Audrey a T-shirt with a grackle on it. We will have to tell her stories about why we chose that shirt for her.

    When we go home, it will seem very quiet in the mornings. I wonder how long it will take for us to get used to that…
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  • Day81

    Nono’s

    March 22 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    “ Nono’s has the best hamburgers and chicken wings in Mexico!’, or so we have been told by several people. So of course, when something is touted as ‘the best’, our curiosity becomes piqued. But curiosity also killed the cat … so will it be? We went for it.

    Nono’s tiny little restaurant is found on the main road in Lagunillas, our favourite market town. A funny altered MacDonald’s sign marks the spot. The owner and chief cook and probably bottle washer, Carlos, is a handsome man who formerly acted in a few Mexican movies. One movie was called El Guero.

    His little bar/restaurant is basically made up of a tiny cooking area, an equally tiny eating area, a bathroom out the back and a rustic wash up area. But the eating area was interesting. Twinkly lights and Mexican banners on the ceiling. A wall that had a collage of photos of famous Mexican actors as well as photos of Carlos. In the corner was hung a TV that either played music, showed soccer games or old time movies, like Treasure Island in Spanish. Dogs come and go and various people come in for a beer or something quick to eat.

    We have been there three times and would go every week if we were staying longer. Every time we have eaten his fantastic wings! He has a choice of three sauces - bbq, mango habanero, Or pineapple habanero. The two habanero ones are pretty spicy but wow, are they ever tasty. We haven’t even tried the hamburgers yet. Well, we still have 5 more days. I’m sure we can fit it in.

    Next door, his brother runs a mechanic shop. We met him too and his souped up Ford truck.
    We also got a tour of a newly renovated apartment that we, or anyone that we know, might want to rent. What a fun visit and such delicious chicken wings! Also the price was right. Last night’s wings for 2 people, French fries, 2 beers and tip cost us a total of $12.

    To miss eating there would have been a No-no. We are so happy we made the trip over the mountain to this cool little restaurant. Definitely a thumbs up!
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  • Day80

    Benito Juarez Day

    March 21 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Today is a public holiday in Mexico as it commemorates the birthday of Benito Juarez, the only indigenous president of Mexico from January 19, 1858 to July 18, 1872. Juarez is famous for his anti-clerical views and for fighting hard to remove the prejudices against the indigenous people of Mexico, a problem which plagued the country in the 19th century.

    He introduced reforms that would give the indigenous a better education and health care and improve their living conditions. He worked hard to modernize Mexico’s economy despite a very bad political environment.

    The people of Mexico consider Juarez a national hero and the most loved among the country’s presidents. When we were in the state of Oaxaca several years ago, we visited the humble place where he lived.

    The 20 peso bill features his face on it. As a security measure, the bill contains a famous Benito Juarez quote written in microscopic letters that can only be read through a magnifying glass:

    “May the people and the government respect the rights of all. Between individuals, as between nations, peace means respect for the rights of others.”

    His words are especially meaningful today. The war between Russia and Ukraine is horrifying as there is no respect. It’s very sad.

    Perhaps, Juarez’ bravest efforts apart from his incredible resistance against foreign rule were his anti-clerical acts which effectively limited the powers and influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico stating that the church power hindered national development and the improvement of lives of the poor.

    Because of his important contributions, his birthday, March 21, was dedicated as a national celebration.

    During the holiday, speeches are given and big cohetes (booming fireworks) are heard all day from early in the morning until late at night in most places in Mexico. We didn’t hear any here.
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  • Day78

    La Union

    March 19 in Mexico ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    We keep hearing about the nearby town of La Union, so we figured that it was time to visit it.

    Apparently there is a big market on Tuesdays, but since we are avoiding large groups of people due to the possibility of Covid, we went on a Saturday. It was about a 45 minute drive away.

    We turned off the highway and drove through a big arched entrance welcoming us to La Union. We figured that we would see the town fairly soon but we didn’t, just a new hospital. Hmmmn. We continued down the windy road and were ready to give up finding a town, when we spotted a church spire in the distance. We took a bridge over a river, and voila! There was the town of La Union.

    Actually the town is a good size with a big church, a cancha (basketball/volleyball court), police department, lots of stores, a Central Park, and agricultural equipment and feed stores. I did a Google search to find out more about this town but didn’t find much information about it.

    It is an authentic Mexican town though and we were the only gringos around which is what we like. Everyone was super nice to us so we had a pleasant visit and took a few photos.
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