The drive into the heart of Michoacan is hard to describe. You go from the tropical beaches surrounded by palm trees and limon (Mexican limes) farms to desert landscape that resembled Baja within about 30 minutes of driving east. I was confused by the desert because I kept reading that Michoacan was where Mexico grew a huge portion of their fruit, nuts, coffee and avocados. As we gained altitude, we came out of the desert and were suddenly driving through stunning green valleys that were filled with avocado, coffee and macadamia nut trees. The mountains all looked like former volcanos and the area was lush and green, it was even prettier than I imagined it would be.
We were headed to the town of Uruapan, which is not often visited by tourists, but I wanted to go because I read that they had a small national park within the city limits that is the source of Cupatitzio river that gives life to the region. Uruapan means “eternal spring” in the Purepecha language, and we saw the Purepecha fill the town square on market day dressed in their traditional clothes that were beautifully made works of art (we did not take pictures because we were the only tourist around and I just did not want to make the women feel awkward, so I stole one off Google).
The first day we visited the colonial center which is a small town square with some churches. It was not the most beautiful town square, but it was full of balloon vendors, shoe shine stalls and ice cream carts that make all Mexican town squares come alive. Also, near the town square is the “mercado de antojitos” which is basically a bunch of food stalls selling regional snacks. It was pretty awesome.
We also had our favorite restaurant experience so far in Mexico in Uruapan which is known for its carnitas. Our waitress (pictured below) was just a wonderful person and made us feel like we were her family. As we ate, even though we had a huge basket of tortillas, she would watch us closely, and run over with fresh tortillas that were made minutes earlier hot off the grill every time we reached for the basket. She would keep bringing us huge plates of the most beautiful sliced avocados I have ever seen, and just gave us a wonderful dining experience with her delicious food and generous spirit. The carnitas was really good in Uruapan.
In Uruapan we also had a really fun encounter with a new “friend”. We had over 50 pounds (yes 50!) of laundry to drop off to get washed and we had to park the XP in a fairly shady part of town. Across the street from where we parked, I saw what looked like an open garage with couches in it and a bunch of guys that looked like they came from central casting for Mexican gang members. One of the guys covered in tats came out and introduced himself as Julio. He spoke great English and we chatted for a while. He told us he had lived in LA, and when I asked him where he lived in LA he said LA County jail! That is where Julio learned English, apparently he also learned that selling drugs in CA has some crappy outcomes. He told us “Don’t worry, I will make sure no one F@#* with your truck”. He was at a Catholic half way house for reformed drug dealers. We parked there for two days under Julio’s watchful eyes and indeed, nobody F@#* with our truck! Thanks Julio!
In Uruapan we stayed at a great hotel over town that had a beautiful pool and an RV park (where we were alone again…) and we had the internet for the first time in 10 days. We also visited the lovely Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatitzio which was just as I imagined it would be.