After our usual leisurely breakfast, we broke camp and were on the road to Álamos at 9:30 on Monday morning. In Guaymas we stopped off at Walmart to stock up on a few groceries although we didn’t need much. Took the bypass route around Guaymas, via the road to the airport, and ended up in Empalme. The drive after Empalme was through primarily farmland. We’d go through a stretch that smelled like rotting vegetation, then a stretch that smelled like burning garbage and then a stretch that smelled like a cattle feed lot. Would have been in heaven if I’d been a dog. It was warm and we had all the vents open in the cab. The road was mostly good although there were some stretches with some very nasty potholes. Pretty easy to avoid, though. Paid 2 tolls along the way at $110 (about $8US) each. I’ve heard that Mexico has the most expensive toll roads in the world and I suspect that may be true. There is always a free alternative road but they can be very slow-going due to poor maintenance.
Ran into a weird thing in Vicam, a little over halfway between Empalme and Cd. Obregon. As we approached the town, the entire southbound lane was plugged with stopped semi trucks. A guy whose only claim to officialdom was having an orange flag, waved us down and then told us to follow the semi in front of us. It was going to change to the northbound lanes. OK. With the semi running interference, we did, indeed cross over to the northbound lanes where we turned the normally northbound lanes into one northbound and one southbound lane. I was glad to have the semi in front of me. At the other end of town, we crossed back over to our own side of the road as we passed the end of the stopped trucks. We could then see that the northbound lanes were also blocked with 2 lanes of stopped semis. I have no idea what was going on and my Spanish isn’t good enough to understand the answer if I asked. No biggie for us but those trucks looked like they had been there a long time and were probably going to be there a lot longer. No one appeared upset though.
We were able to skirt around the edge of Obregon without getting too much into the thick of things and then pushed on the Navajoa. Driving through Navajoa was an exercise in patience as it seems we got a red light at every single intersection. Soon, though, we reached the place where we turned left off of Mex 15 and on to SON 13 to head up to Álamos. Why Álamos? Well, the Church book (Traveler’s Guide To Mexican Camping) had indicated that there really wasn’t much of anywhere to stay in Navajoa except maybe the Pemex gas station. They went on to say that Álamos and Huatabampito were both fairly close to Navajoa and both had good RV parks and reasons to visit. We figured we’d stay in one place for a couple days and then the other for a couple more. Álamos sounded the more interesting of the two so there we went.
We ended up staying at the Dolisa Motel and Trailer Park on the way into town because the Rancho Acosta B&B, RV Park, and Guest Ranch managed to elude us. We made the mistake of following Dora instead of the Church’s instructions and, although we got fairly close to Rancho Acosta, we didn’t actually know it. However, trying to find it, we were once again glad to be traveling in a Dolphin instead of a larger motorhome. Some of these streets are only 1 vehicle wide and that vehicle better not be a big ol’ Monarch or something or it’s going to get stuck for sure.
After we got settled in at Dolisa, where we were surprised to find ourselves the only RV there, we took ourselves a walking tour of the town.
We had a good time walking around but we decided that the next day we’d see about getting in on a tour so we could learn a little more about the town. Didn’t find any taco stands open during our walk (too early for the evening crowd, too late for the lunch crowd) so we ended up having fried potatoes with chorizo topped with fried eggs for dinner. Spent a pleasant evening watching the X-Files and Nurse Jackie. It was warm enough last night that we went to bed with the windows and vents open. That was fine until the wee hours when the neighborhood dogs started barking. The open windows only made them seem louder. I know you’re crying the blues for us.
Today, Wednesday, we headed out on foot around 9:30 or so. The nice thing about the Dolisa Hotel is that it’s easy walking into the heart of town from there. We walked through the Plaza Alameda and then on to the Plaza Armas which is near where the tourist office is located. As we passed through the park a little Mexican gentleman engaged us in conversation. Turns out he was rounding up tourists for his walking tour of Álamos which he was planning to start in just a few minutes. I’d read about the walking tour and was really pleased to find out the guy who does it is fluent in English. Seems the season is getting a slow start this year, as shown by the empty RV park, and we were the only ones on the tour.
The tour started at a table in the Tourist Office where Emiliano gave us a brief but fairly through history of Álamos. Established in 1684, first city in Sonora, original seat of government in Sonora, supported by silver mines for nearly 300 years, etc. He told us numerous times that Álamos is where Sonora started. He was born here and is very proud of his town. However, he said that by the 1930s, with the mines shut down due to the rising cost of quicksilver (mercury: used in extracting silver somehow), the town was pretty much dead. Many of the fine old mansions had fallen into disuse and decay. Even the large central church was being used to house horses.
But then something happened. Some gringos found the town and bought up some of the old places. During the heyday of the mines, Álamos was a very wealthy town, or at least it had a lot of very wealthy people in it. Many of the mansions filled an entire city block. The first gringos, what Emiliano referred to as “the pioneers”, bought up some of these old mansions and set about restoring them to their former glory. Some were to be used as mansions again, some as hotels, restaurants, etc. There have been about 4 generations of these “pioneers” since then. The original 6 gringos has now turned into about 300 North American snowbirds who own property here. It’s a quiet, peaceful, safe town with a lot of ambiance. Since it’s been designated a Pueblo Mágico by the Mexican government and is 20th on the waiting list to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there’s a good chance the town will remain pretty much as it is for a very long time to come.
We hiked up to El Mirador for a bird’s eye view of the town.
The church in the center of town is simply a church, not a cathedral. Emiliano tells us that a cathedral must have a bishop. There was a bishop here at one time and he was building his cathedral, with 2 towers to identify it as such, when he died of pneumonia at age 58. Since then, another bishop has never been assigned and so, the second tower never got built.
An example of an old mansion that took up nearly an entire city block:
The tour was a little on the pricy side ($200 each, about $14.50US) but Emiliano was a wealth of information, pointing out many architectural features in the church as well as the surrounding buildings and getting us into a couple of buildings that we may not have been able to enter on our own. When it was all over and we had left Emiliano back at his office and come down from our hike up to El Mirador, we sat in the cool, shady veranda at Reyna’s for some much-deserved and very reasonably-priced lunch.
On our way home we stopped by a bar and had a couple cervezas and then stopped in at a place we’d seen on our walk in earlier. It was a shop that sold only a few things, one of which was carnitas. We love carnitas. Bought a kilo to go. For $200 we got 2.2 lbs. of carnitas, a stack of corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, salsa verde, limes, and jalapenos to make our own tacos. Now that’s a pretty good deal.
San Carlos to Álamos: 170 miles
Total to-date: 6,434 miles.