Well we made it to our destination at Las Grutas de Cacahuamilpa, but not by taking the route we had planned. I think we did 180 kms (110 miles) today, and it took us almost 7 hours.
We planned on leaving Santiago’s place around 6:00am in order to beat any traffic in the town of Valle de Bravo. But it’s still dark at that hour, so we didn’t get up until 6:15am and then by the time we actually left it was about 6:45am and there was starting to be a bit of light in the eastern sky.
Made it through town with no problem, and then onto the road that takes us back into the mountains. There is a fairly major route that goes from the Pacific coast up to Toluca (a suburb of Mexico City) , but it’s still not a great road. And when we get to the coast we want it to be at Acapulco, not Zihuatanejo. We will be seeing Zihuatanejo on our way back through in late February. So really the only other choice is to skirt by Toluca, and everything we have read says that it’s not an easy thing to do, and that the traffic police in that area like to pick on tourists…and someone in an RV must be a tourist!
There was a third alternative though…a road south of the Toluca volcano (which rises to over 15,000 feet). This seemed like a viable alternative, but as soon as we entered the first town that you have to drive through to get to this road, I pulled over and decided to walk through town first. Many small Mexican towns are simply not designed for a motorhome, even a relatively small 28 foot one like Sherman! I found the road we would have to take, and it would have been tough to take a pickup truck up the first hill, let alone a motorhome.
So we decided to head for Toluca. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be easy. Our map was not very descriptive of the city and our GPS was even less so. We ended up in the outskirts, but on some roads that took us through the center of several small villages. The center area of these “pueblos” is NOT where you want to be with a motorhome. We stopped at least three times so that I could walk the route first and see if Sherman would even make it. There is very often nowhere to turn around, and some of the corners are very tight and only room for one vehicle. It’s not enjoyable. We ended up following a local bus, because most of the local buses are about the same size as Sherman so if they can go on a certain street then we can do so as well.
We finally made it to MEX highway 55 south, and then the toll road to Ixtapan de la Sal. At least we knew where we were, but the toll road was very slow going. It was in good condition, but the elevation drops from about 10,000 feet to 5,000 feet in about 60 kms (36 miles). We had a few big trucks in front of us and they were using the engines to break. So did Sherman, and between using 1st and 2nd gear I hardly touched the brake or the gas for almost an hour.
Stopped for a half an hour or so for a lunch break at about 1:00pm, and then it was only 45 minutes or so to our destination at the Cacahuamilpa Caves. Pulled in here at around 2:00pm, 7 hours after we left Valle de Bravo.
These types of driving days are not fun, but we made it through unscathed…and even though we saw the most transit police since we’ve been here this trip, none of them bothered with us.
So then we were thinking…we’re only about 300 kms (180 miles) from Acapulco if we use the toll road (Sherman insists we use the toll road after what we put him through today!) . The caves don’t open until 10:00am tomorrow morning, and they do the last tour at 5:00pm…so we decided to see the caves today, and made it onto the 4:00pm tour. This way, we can leave here at a decent hour in the morning, and probably be in Acapulco by mid afternoon. I asked a Federal Police officer standing guard if there was security for overnight, and if it was okay for us to park overnight. He nodded yes, and said that we would be fine. (GPS 18.66938,-99.50935)
We paid 65 pesos ($5.50) each for our tickets. The cave rooms are enormous, and so are the formations. We’ve been to quite a few cave systems now, and they’re all a little different. One of the rooms has a ceiling 80 meters (240 feet) high. Pictures don’t do it justice, so we’ll only include a few here. If you like caves, this one is well worth your visit. Even with the cheesy guide who’s only job is to point out funny looking formations. He wasn’t bad though, and even tried a few words in English for us even though we were the only ones out of our group of 15 people or so who didn’t speak fluent Spanish. We gave him a 40 pesos ($3.40) tip. Oh, and we had to pay 25 pesos ($2.10) for parking.
Don’t have any internet here, so what I’m writing now you won’t see until sometime Thursday morning! It’s already much warmer at this lower altitude…9:00pm at night, and it’s still a wonderful 25C (77F) inside Sherman.
(At time of posting this ...10:30am Thursday, we are now only 100 kms north of Acapulco. No time to post any pics, that will have to wait until later!)