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Hiking / Fernwandern
Mexico: Hiking the Pilgrimage Trail of the Virgin of Talpa

Connect Guadalajara with the Pacific Ocean on the pilgrimage route of the Virgin of Talpa, through the Sierra de Quila, Sierra Verde and as a highlight the Sierra Cacoma. Demanding hiking trip in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

Hiking time
Spring 2003
11 days
65 hours approx.
360 km approx.

  Jotted down on the Pilgrimage Trail...


Guadalajara Plaza Degollado

Day 1: Getting started around Guadalajara
- Cofradia de la Luz: small but enlightened village not far from Guadalajara as starting point
- trail mostly between huge corn fields
- passed small villages full of proud vaqueros (cowboys) high up on their horses
- track was lined by mighty trees providing the much desired shade
- easy day with only 20 km to get used to the walking again

Day 2: Lost and detour
- crossed shanty town in the outer sections of San Martin Hidalgo
- rather difficult task to find correct route, applied Mexican formula: only if at least three locals say the same , it's trustworthy
- got lost anyway, didn't quite end up where planned, over the hills at Mesa del Cobre
- consequently I was forced to walk around the mentioned hills, a half-day detour


Agave field for Tequila production



Day 3: Hiking through Sierra de Quila
- El Sabino: crossing of 2 roads with several shops
- up and around the Mesa de Ramos and Mesa del Cobre hills
- nice view down to the plain of Ameca and a small lake with the best drinking water and fish far and wide as Rafael, a local teacher, assured
- nature was suffering from the long dry period, only one particular tree was blossoming in a curious purple color
- Quila: the village I should have reached yesterday, long-stretched, along the main thoroughfare, with many abandoned houses it resembled a ghost town
- again depended on explanation of locals in order to find the best possible way
- was told to cross a river and keep to my right at the first fork, cross another river and stay in the middle of three tracks and than all straight, all straight
- well, more or less, the rivers were more modest streamlets and all straight happened to be all curvy around loads of hills
- luckily there were plenty of farmers busy repairing the fences along the way who helped my undertakings
- after the tiny settlement of El Zarco the route descended steeply into a lovely valley with a small gorge
- after 2.5 hours I mastered the remaining part out of the Sierra de Quila
- came to a major road and I travel to the small provincial city of Tenamaxtlán
- spent the night in a dubious establishment that rented out rooms per hour too, the thin walls allowed all the guests to imagine the neighbors art of lovemaking and guess the degree of diarrhea the guests opposite had. It reminde me somehow of a similar situation I experienced when I was traveling in Argentina


Sierra de Quila


Day 4: The first Pilgrims
- after only a few kilometer I was approached by a guy called Jorge who offered me to buy his ranch, a big territory - including a small bull fight stadium, fish pond, river, restaurant, bar and rooms for rent, a real bargain as he promised
- proudly he showed me around, but for the moment I preferred to invest only in some burritos for breakfast, several bananas and a Mango Gatorade for the next stage
- the road I followed this morning couldn't have been more straight and therefore it was rather unexciting
- Juanacatlan: impressive cemetery with many white miniature churches as gravestones
- met some pilgrims accompanied by a truck with provisions and all the other things considered to be necessary
- I cursed my heavy backpack... and the backpack seemed to have cursed me
- all of a sudden I felt a stinging pain in my hip that forced me several times to lay down to regain strength
- under considerable pain I limped the remaining 5 km to the next village of Ayutla
- sometimes I wish I could do the whole trip biking
- although it was only around four in the afternoon I had to call it a day, hoping the pain would go away and wouldn't jeopardize the mission



Cementerio Sierra de Quila



Day 5: Sierra Verde Trail
- quite worried I took a few steps to check the state of my hip
- seemed to be much better, only a minor reminder of yesterday
- carefully I hiked on, fortunately distracted by the attractive surroundings
- a small path wound upwards into the Sierra Verde
- in Cuautla I spotted some more pilgrims but as soon as I left the village I was on my own again
- gradually a conifer trees took over
- El Membrillo: there would be a adventurous route through no man's land more directly into the Sierra Cacoma but I was told it was very difficult to pass without a guide, few possibilities of getting water in the dry season and with big differences of altitude

Day 6: The Virgin of Talpa de Allende
- thus I opted for the alternative route passing Los Volcanes and Talpa, where the temple of the Virgin is located anyway and thereby I could complete the pilgrimage
- an eventless day of intensive hiking
- thoughts lost in the past few days and the planning and guessing of the days to come
- a strenuous ascend and then 500 m down into the valley of Talpa de Allende with the Sierra Cacoma looming in the background and waiting to be conquered



Snake in Sierra Cacoma


Day 7: Mountain Trekking in the Sierra Cacoma
- Talpa de Allende: acquired provisions and water for 2 days
- now the ultimate challenge of the Sierra Cacoma was about to begin
- firstly through wide plain passing many cattle ranches
- 3 hours on dusty track straight ahead
- mountain ranges closed in and forced the road uphill
- brushwood changed to forest
- as night fell around 8 p.m. I became concerned about camp
- steep slopes and jungle-like, seemingly impenetrable vegetation thwarted the setting-up of a tent
- cleared out a camp site in semi-darkness on highest point of mountain crossing
- stunning evening glow accompanied improvised dinner
- freezing cold night woke me up on a regular basis
- what a beautiful day in Mexico lindo y querido!


Sea of Fog in Sierra Cacoma



Day 8: Freezing cold to burning hot
- couldn't stand cold anymore
- set off in the same semi-darkness
- very steep downhill
- immersed in a sea of mist
- road was lined with tiny altars, built by pilgrims
- La Cuesta: 3 mini shops sold exactly the same: water, dry and tasteless buns and bananas
- locals told me about the desperate situation of this remote area, although blessed with rich soil which is good for coffee plantations, the fruits were falling off overripe because supposedly the prices were too low to make the harvest profitable
- landscape became more or less flat again
- in mid-afternoon the heat became unbearable and I retreated under a Mango tree
- sleep overcame me within the blink of an eye
- chose Rio Alpisahua "Beach" as the place to stay for the night



Sierra Madre Camp



Day 9: Llana Song
- hold out for 2 hours until I reached the village of Llano Grande
- very shabby place for scrambled eggs - close your eyes and enjoy
- composed song and lyrics in honor of "Llana, the beauty of the Sierra"
- sun burned with relentless intensity, hardly ever can you find bushes that provide shade
- suffered from a lack of water, all the brooks were dried out
- Los Terreros: family offers sodas and prepares some Tacos, even invited me to stay for the night but I decided to take advantage of the cooler evening hours to advance some more
- camped at the foot of a hill under the protection of some trees



Camino Rojo Sierra Madre



Day 10: Encounter with the Law
- some birds followed me for quite a while
- trail twisted around hills
- blisters developed on the left foot and hindered a faster pace
- heavily armed police officers startled my siesta in dry river bed
- barely believed my story about hiking in this remote area
- Puentecillas: waited for the sun to have mercy
- according to the locals there were 15 km missing to the next village
- promised myself to reach it
- after this most strenuous day of the tour I made it to Tomatlán

Day 11: The Pacific Coast of La Cumbre
- feet hurt quite badly and I had a late start
- the only way to the coast was to follow the main road
- gone was the silence of the wilderness, cars were prevailing
- finally I reached the coast at La Cumbre
- as this lost place offered little fun for a decent celebration, I decided to head to Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco to chill out for a couple of days



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