Seven Days in Mexico, part 4

1 February 2010:

It’s rent day for me here in Jocotepec, Jalisco, Mexico.  What that means is that I’ve got to drive over to Ajijic to get money to deposit into my landlords’ account here in Joco.  Up until a few months ago, I could get money from the ATM at the Banamex bank here in Joco, but they got a new ATM and it requires that the hologram on my card be on the opposite side of where it is.

You might think that the easiest thing to do would be to get a new ATM card from my credit union in California, but noooo!  There is every likelihood that the credit union would cancel my one and only ATM card immediately while the new one was en route.  Now if I knew I could get another card in a few days, I could deal with that.  But, since I use a mail forwarding service in Laredo, Texas, to get my mail [as do many expats down here], it might take up to six weeks for the new card to arrive.  Let’s put it this way:  on Valentine’s Day this year, I got the Christmas card my landlords mailed me.  Although admittedly that was to my house in Joco, not to the mail forwarding service.

But since transactions of all kinds here around Lake Chapala are cash-based, I would be totally lost and broke without my ATM card.  So I can’t afford [literally] to wait six weeks for another card to arrive.  So for the time being, I’m forced to travel to Ajijic to get my hands on cash.

Not that Ajijic is a long way from me.  Maybe 10 miles or so.  At any rate, way closer than any ATMs when I lived and worked in the National Parks in the US.  For instance, at my last job in Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, it was 25 miles one way to the closest town.  So I really shouldn’t be complaining about driving 10 miles.

The drive is nice and the traffic, while much heavier in the winter months when the snowbirds arrive here, is still comparatively light if you’re used to driving in any city in the US.  And the scenery is SO much better!

The highway to Ajijic from Joco parallels Lake Chapala, so a lot of the time I can see the lake as I drive.  But better than the views of the lake are the other things I see on the road. For example, lots of guys around here [both young and old] ride horses or burros.  And lots of women and children, particularly here in Jocotepec, ride motos or three/four wheelers.  So it’s not unusual to come to a stoplight and see cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, horses, burros, motos, ATVs, buses, and pedestrians all moving or awaiting their turn to move.

And have I ever told you about the topes [TOE pays] here?  Topes are speed bumps of various kinds.  They can range from what one of my friends calls “pimples” and which Mexicans call “turtles” like this:

to something wide with a pretty low angle, like this:

to something not so tall, but with a steep angle, like this:

And there are lots and lots of topes here around the shores of Lake Chapala, which may or may not be marked for a motorist.  Many of them are located in the shade of a tree and, being the exact color of the road, are pretty invisible to the foreign [i.e. not local] traveler.  For the most part, immediately in the area of these types of topes are the shops of mechanics who specialize in muffler replacement.  “You see a problem.  I see a business opportunity.”

Topes are the Mexican way of slowing down the traffic.  Instead of cops keeping an eye on areas near schools or pedestrian crossings, Mexicans put down a tope or five.  And the Jocotepec municipality [read: county] might be the king of the municipalities when it comes to topes. They’re everywhere, although Chapala municipality is no slouch in the tope department either!

What that means is for me to get from my house in Joco to the ATM in Ajijic requires slowing down for maybe 20 topes.  No matter how slowly you are going, some of the topes put a lot of wear on your vehicle’s suspension and tires.  And they can literally spring up overnight, so even though you’ve driven the road plenty of times, there might be a new one or two in a new locale at any time.

I also try to combine any trip to Ajijic with visits to other places in the area.  In other words, I pretty much make a morning of it.  Visit the ATM, do a little shopping, maybe have lunch with a friend, and then scurry back to Joco to get to the bank to deposit the rent.

Certainly not the worst way to spend a day, but a day spent it pretty much is….and was. And you know I always like to include an appropriate song link if I can.   This one is not really apropos, but a great song anyway!  Just think about the “you” as being the ATM machine!


About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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4 Responses to Seven Days in Mexico, part 4

  1. Jim Gordon says:

    Hi Barbara, am enjoying your blogs very much! My wife, Laura, and I spent last Jan/Feb in Merida and got to experience the topes there, some teeth-jarring! We’re looking at wintering in your neck of the woods for a couple of months in the Jan-Mar timeframe next year. Chapala looks interesting, not inclined to Ajijic, and am also curious about Joco. The trick, of course, is to find someplace to rent for a couple of months, or maybe even better, a place to rent for a couple of weeks so we can check out what’s available locally by walking around, looking at bulletin boards, talking to the locals (ex-pats included) etc. I’d be interested in your sense of how easy/difficult it would be to do this. Is there a clean little hostel or small hotel in Joco that would be a possibility for a week or so? Thanks for any info you can share. Best to you from beautiful Asheville, NC
    Jim and Laura

  2. Barb says:

    Hola, Jim and Laura! Glad you like the blog. There are a couple of nice places to stay in Joco.

    My friend Phyllis Rauch owns and operates the Los Dos B&B in the hills above Joco. Here’s a link to her website:

    Friends who have stayed there also recommend this place:

    I will email you with some additional links and information about this area!

  3. Kahi says:

    We’ve driven in several states here in Mexico and Jalisco, OUR state, is the King of Topes.
    Guess we have the craziest, speediest drivers in all of Mexico.
    Topes are the economical subsitute for traffic lights. Topes are ALWAYS there, not like traffic lights which don’t work very often and cause accidents.

    • Barbara says:

      But, Kath, you gotta love the cooperation that comes during the replacement of light bulbs in the traffic lights! I once saw a road worker standing on the top of a beer truck so he could replace a bulb! Now THAT’s the true meaning of cooperation!

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