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Scene from the Hammock
Owen Neill

Starting out on an excursion in Mexico can be a real crapshoot. You may have a route planned and you may even have a destination to go to but around every corner there is an incredible adventure.

We started out with a wild crew in an old red Safari jeep heading down or up the Mexican 200 Hwy. Our plan was to leave PV heading north with our destination being Guadalajara. We had planned on seeing a few archaeological zones along the way but had no idea of their exact locations. We thought we would figure it out as we went.

The countryside through the Sierra Madre mountains is a lush green growth thick through the valleys and cresting the sides of the mountains. Beauty, amongst beauty.

The road brought us through many historical pueblitos. We had driven for three hours to a village called Ixlan del Rio. We were told some ruins were there (archeological zones). There may have been but apparently someone had stolen the artifacts and the location was closed due to the thievery. So the good people said it would be fun to go up the hill.

We were uncertain what they meant until it was pointed out that we had driven right around a volcano called Cebaruco. In the valley we did not realize its shape or girth but from 30 km up the road it was as plain as the nose on your face. We decided it was a must to see the crater. So we turned our red bumpy chariot around and headed for Jala, a village at the base of the mountain "hill."

We were admiring the lushness of the valley with 100 ft. palms stretching out of the jungle and towering arbutus entangled with parota trees with a canopy as big as two houses. We were truly in a tropical paradise and having a great time touring Mexico.

The good people of Jala were very friendly and gladly pointed out the road to the top. The rocky road was steep in spots and curvy in others but at all points offered an incredible view. You could see for miles and miles as we ascended, the view always changing. Our vantage was circling the mountain.

We reached the top after 1 hour and 15 minutes, passing a beautiful campground 5 min. from the top. The road ended but to our left was a more bumpy, rocky road that leads right up to the mouth. Well, we should have walked.

The old red jeep was pushed a little too hard and our fan clipped the bottom of our rad... oh oh! Water pouring from the front, we decided to vamanos right away.

We got so close to looking in the mouth; it was just another 5 min. walk but we had to go right now. So my main man, Mr. A., sat down behind the wheel and putting on a real show, it took only 15 min. to descend.

What a hair-raising experience flying down the mountain with sheer cliffs sometimes 5000 ft. straight down. We hit the bottom white knuckling it, wow!, were we moving. I got directions to the mechanic. He put a gum patch on the hole, gave us several jugs of water and said, "buenas suertes."

We headed out of Jala, unfortunately, up hill on the toll hwy. We were trying for Compostella but only made it 20 min. before the old jeep had to rest. To our luck there was a roadside pull-in. It was a viewpoint that even had water. At this hour of the day we had only one or two hours of light left.

Once again to our luck, I saw a Pacifico bus coming up the hill, a perfect opportunity to get our female companions off the side of the highway and in a bus heading to Tepic, then home. I arranged with the driver to show the ladies the way to make the transfer at the bus station and they were off. Great.

That left the three of us still with a long way home and a broken down jeep. After 1/2 hour we gave it another shot of cool water and started up the hill hoping to crest it and coast down the other side. We did very well until the end of the toll highway where it was a must to stop.

Very hurriedly we explained the problem with the jeep, asked how much and paid. The turn off was in sight and as we expected, it was all down hill to a village named Chapellea. We arrived at the Pemex and boiled over. We asked the gas jockey where a mechanical shop was, he pointed across the street, it was that easy.

We went over to explain our vehicle problem. He came right over to have a look and said it would take until tomorrow as he was closing for the night. He also added that we could park in his lot to keep the jeep safe. We exchanged names and numbers and arranged for him to call the rental agency about the jeep.

Unfortunately, the busses do not stop in the village of Chapallea but he would give us a ride to Compestella to get home. We started out and with more good luck, noticed a Premira Plus bus parked at the taco stand beside the Pemex. Thank God the driver was hungry. He allowed us on with a decent price for our return home. Wow!

We were now riding in style, movies and all, from being broken down to a first class bus, just like that. We arrived home by 11 p.m., very happy that we did not have to sleep in the jeep for the night, but we had a problem; the ladies were not home. Just as panic was setting in they walked through the door.

All was well, everyone was home safe and sound, with the memory of a fantastic adventure for all as just another day in paradise.

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