Friday, February 15, 2013

Two To Tolantongo, Part Two

On the evening before our departure, we walked along the upper canyon trail to the head of Tolantongo Canyon. This is the spectacular source of the Río Tolantongo. There are actually several sources; the warm river, thundering out of La Gruta, a small stream emerging from el Túnel, a natural sauna; cool cascades falling lacily over the escarpment, and the springs at the adjoining park, La Gloria. La Gloria is owned by a neighboring ejido and has a its own features. We have not yet visited there.

Upper trail to head of Tolantongo Canyon
I was surprised by the amount of development that had been done in the five years since we'd last been there.

New service structures near head of canyon
But the main, natural attractions have not been significantly altered.

La Gruta straight ahead. Túnel up stairs to left

La Gruta holds many bathers. There's a powerful, warm waterfall inside to the left.
After our evening walk, we went to dinner at Restaurante Las Palomas.

Sra. Cuevas had Alambres Tolantongo
I had Camarones Empanizados
I'd had some doubts about eating seafood that far inland, but the shrimp (and the alambres) were excellent  Later I learned that the Ejidal Society has its own aquaculture facility!

We slept one last night in the park, and in the morning ate the last of the food in the ice chest, packed, and were headed up the road towards Ixmiquilpan by 9:15

We stopped for some quick photos while en route.

Maguey in bloom
Iglesia de San Isidro Labrador
Mission Ixmiquilpan:
We needed to get to an ATM, get the van washed, have my shoes shined, check email, and have some lunch/late breakfast.

We successfully arrived in Ixmi along a crowded market street, located a parking lot and informal carwash next to Posada Centenario. We got over 2 hours' parking, car wash and rest room use for $50 pesos through our skillful negotiation, charm and general good will.

I went to a cyber cafe, but was unable to send email, so I gave up on that. The ATM part was successful, and the shoe shine, under the portales, was an amazingly low $12 pesos. (It's $20 now in Pátzcuaro.) I gave the guy $15 pesos.

We wanted to see the Mercado Municipal, very conveniently close by. First we stopped at an herbs and hats seller, where we bought an unusual type of orégano. A big sardine can's worth was $25 pesos. A small can, $10.

Orégano, Ixmiquilpan Type
Pepitas, chiles chipotles, orégano
Just beyond the herb seller were two young women cooking antojitos on a comal. This was irresistible. And we hadn't even gotten into the mercado yet. 

We were first struck by a pile of the local version of pambazos. Usually, these filled bread rolls are dipped in a thin chile salsa and fried, but these are not.

Ixmi Pambazos
We were drawn more towards eating smaller items, preferably without lettuce. There were tlacoyos de frijoles ready to eat. Our first choice.

There were also attractive, but lettuce bearing sopes, de huevo and other variants. What are the green shreds? Chicken?

Sopes Ixmi
One of the women started patting out masa and putting a small handful of crumbled chicharrón on it; flattening it and cooking it on the comal. We couldn't resist these, and they were better than the slightly dry tlacoyos. We were told that they were pupusas, which I've associated more with Central America.

Forming a pupusa de chicharrón
L-R: Flautas, sopes de huevo, pupusas
We had snacked well but lightly, so we headed into the mercado to find solid fare.

After entering by medicinal dried herbs fresh herbs for tea, frying chicharrón, bicycles and shoes, we found Desayunos Lily's.

Solid breakfast fare served at Lily's
There are no menus, of course. The regulars, who pack the counter stools, know what's available. The cooks will tell you what's available. We decided on chilaquiles verde con huevo for me and a tamal de carne for the Señora.

In a moment appeared a bowl of the soupiest, slurping good chilaquiles, dressed with chopped radishes, onions and cilantro. It wasn't as picante as they warned.

Chilaquiles verde, Ixmi Mercado. The roll was too much to eat.
Several types of atoles are available. I chose avena, a very rich whole milk drink, thickened slightly with oats.

Desayunos Lily's is open from 7:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. Seating is limited at the counter, but there's a shared seating area across the aisle.

Food: ****
Service: Fast counter service ****
Price: -$  Bargain!
Hygiene: **** Appears spotless.

As we wandered deeper into the mercado, we suddenly popped out into a sort of food court flanked by fondas. There was a vocalist with portable amp serenading the diners. The offerings appeared much more extensive than those at Lily's, running more toward moles and caldos and comida than to breakfast. Alas, we'd reached our limit, and have to save these for another trip. I recall from ny previous visit to the Mercado Municipal that there's quite a lot more to it than we saw on this visit. Where's the slabs of carnitas de res? The barbacoa? We just didn't have time nor capacity to cover it all.

We have to make another trip. Besides food, there are other attractions in the area.

Getting There and Back

Our route home retraced our earlier route: Ixmiquilpan to Huichapan, Huichapan to Carretera Federal 57, near San Juan del Río, then onto Carretera 55 towards Atlacomulco, then west on the Mexico City to Guadalajara cuota. We found this faster (far fewer urbanized areas and dreaded topes) and cheaper than the supposedly shorter route using Arco Norte. We did get onto Arco Norte just after Acambay, for which we were charged $22 pesos for about a kilometer of tollway. If we'd known, it can be avoided. We stopped for the night in Zinapécuaro, at the pleasant and charming economic Hotel Posada Real D' Mendoza, Calle Dahlia at Calle Camelinas. $380 for a king bed in a small room for two. Inside parking, cookies and coffee included.

Hotel Real D' Mendoza, Zinapécuaro, Michoacán

The Google Map route, using Arco Norte is below. Grutas de Tolantongo is about 35 or 40 miles northeast of Ixmi, beyond Cardonal. Note that the G Map also routes you through Morelia Centro, a poor idea if there ever was one. This route also gets two urban areas in Hidalgo, with plentiful topes thrown in.

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Here's the modified route we took to Zinapécuaro and home.

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