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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Eight Day Adventure

Traveling Around Lake Chapala, Mexico
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Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Eight Days??!!

The Gringos we speak with all say the same thing to us. Sure, physically, one can drive around Lake Chapala in a single day, and it's what most Expats prefer doing. But as you know, that's not our style. We travel slowly, finding the devil in the details, or more accurately, stumbling across a local nunnery and asking about a room to their wide-eyed surprise. We also searched for what Lonely Planet calls 'taco enlightenment' at a modest taco stall in Mazamitla named Rica Birria. There was an unexpected evening wedding complete with fireworks and dazzling Latinas at Zamora's stunning Catedral Inconclusa, a free colorful regional Mexican dance concert at Teatro Obrero, an impromptu tour of  El Presidente's office in Zamora, and a fascinating stop at the world-known hat factory in Sahuayo.

How can all of that be done in only a few hours?

Anxious to hit the road, we took the 9:00 am bus out of the Chapala Central bus station heading East. Our first stop, was a small lakeside Pueblo named Mezcala with close to nothing going on.

Our itinerary was to overnight in Poncitlan, catch a bus the next morning to go through Ocotlan, through La Barca then stay in Zamora a couple of nights. From Zamora, we'd go through Jiquilpan and on to Sahuayo for another 2 nights' stay.

Then from Sahuayo it's off to the mountain chalet town of Mazamitla for two nights, then on back through the tiny towns lining the lake and returning into Chapala once again.

Our bus to Poncitlan didn't leave until 2:30 pm, so we had plenty of time to walk around Mezcala, meet some locals and eat lunch.


Here's Mezcala's plaza and church. We spent most of the early morning on wrought iron benches sitting in the shade, listening to the assortment of music offered by the local CD salesmen. The wide variety spanned The Beach Boys, The Doors, and local Mexican romantic ballads.


Thirsty? Some fresh jugo de naranja squeezed to order by a native Mezcalan.


Yes, it's a stress-filled life as you can see. We are 'guarding' the luggage as the boys walk around town, then it will be our turn to discover Mezcala's charms. Meanwhile, I am practicing my Spanish con mi Maestra y amiga, Martha.


A couple of blocks down from our seats on the Plaza, is peaceful Lake Chapala. Lago de Chapala is Mexico's largest natural lake and lies 28 miles south of Guadalajara, surrounded by mountains. It is approximately 12 miles wide and 50 miles long.

Chapala became a well-known resort destination after president Porfirio Diaz vacationed in the town every year from 1904 to 1909. The water levels of the lake itself fluctuate due to Guadalajara and Mexico City's water needs and the off-again, on-again droughts. But, the climate in the area is nearly perfect.





Isla de Mezcala (in the center of the photo) is one of the draws of the area. Here in Mezcala, we cannot think of another. There is a defunct prison on the island itself, which rumor has it, is being turned into a bed and breakfast. Of course, we don't know which year or which decade the project will be finished.


A quick snack and we are off to Poncitlan. Tacos and Quesadillas are mainstays of Mexican cuisine and you will see taco stands everywhere throughout the country. There really is nothing quite like the flavor of fresh corn tortillas side-by-side with melted queso or warmed meat filling.


After spending five hours in uncomplicated Mezcala, we would have been happy to ride donkeys to get out of the small town, so this transport was more than adequate.

This was probably a 3rd class bus, at least one level up from what's known as a 'chicken bus.'


Hanging out the bus window along a bumpy, unpaved road, this photo captures Lake Chapala. Isla de Mezcal is in the center and the mountains on the southern shore can also be seen.



Our roof-top balcony at the Hotel Plaza Poncitlan provided a reasonable view of their Plaza. Apparently we stayed in the only hotel in Poncitlan. It's hard for us to imagine that a town of this size has only one place to stay, but that information was verified by many locals.

We arrived here in the early afternoon, and there was a teacher's convention scheduled in town. Of the 5 rooms available to guests, we took the last two. Several others were still under construction. 140 Pesos bought us very clean rooms with cable TV and a shared bathroom and shower down the hall.


Here's a map of Poncitlan showing The Rio Santiago, which feeds Lake Chapala, running through the town. We asked ourselves... 'there's only one hotel?' Amazing, but true. Of course, maybe Poncitlan just isn't your thriving tourist town.


One exciting night in Poncitlan wore Akaisha out, and here she is snoozing in comfort on our way to Ocotlan where we will transfer to La Barca, then make our way to Zamora, our next stop. Reclining seats with pleasant views make for an easy way to travel in Mexico.


Zamora's Hotel Ana Isabel, located a couple of blocks off the main Plaza, was a great find. 300 Pesos for a double room, hot showers, with Wifi internet included as well as Hector the Protector at the front desk. The colorful poster tacked onto the desk is advertising an Italian Opera at the Teatro Obrero.

But we didn't come here to surf the web or hang out in the hotel.


We didn't come here for the food, although eating at the Pink Panther was enjoyable.

Here this woman is preparing fresh corn tortillas from the masa in the blue bowl. Making a ball with the cornmeal dough, she places it in the center of the press and voila! A perfectly round tortilla for the grill.


And we didn't come to hang out on the Plaza...

Zamora had the feel of a 'mini Oaxaca'. Classic buildings constructed with the pink colored stone from the local quarry surrounded the square.


And we didn't come to supplement our income.

Here Billy is making a few Pesos shining Dennis' shoes...


Nor did we come for the private tour of Zamora's Mayor's office.

But Billy took the opportunity to catch up on some business.





Surprisingly, we didn't even come to Zamora for the lovely Latinas.

On the way to the free dance concert at Teatro Obrero, we stumbled upon this astonishing dream-fantasy night wedding which was quite the Gala. There were fireworks in the area in front of the Cathedral and friendly, upscale, decked-out ladies who traveled from all parts of Mexico to see their friend get married.


We came here to see this exquisite Cathedral built over 100 years ago.

Actually it was started a century ago and is still not finished, hence the name Catedral Inconclusa.

It took a few moments to light up the entire Cathedral, one section and layer at a time. Most impressive. As you can see, the area in front of Catedral Inconclusa is expansive. This is where the fireworks were going off, making splashes of color in the sky. Visually, everything was quite impressive.

We were able to enter the Cathedral both before the wedding that evening and again the next day to see the remarkable construction from the inside.


With our souls cleansed from such an inspiring experience, we are off to Sahuayo the next morning passing picturesque countryside with the wild flowers in bloom.


During a leisurely walk through Sahuayo, we heard singing and loud music coming from across the street.  Discovering this Cantina, we are back in the Devil's playground, where a six piece Mariachi Band was playing. What a terrific discovery!

Notice that there are no women inside. Akaisha and Martha opted for having an ice cream on the plaza, while Dennis and Billy joined the men for some local male camaraderie.


Akaisha is modeling a hat in Sahuayo's world-known hat factory, La Providencia. This factory can churn out hundreds, even thousands of sombreros in a day to fill orders coming from all over the world!



This is Sahuayo's peaceful plaza with the church in the background. This church is also made from the local pink stone. In person, the building has a cherubic elegance.

Chapala Living Guide is based on our first hand eperience of living in Chapala, Mexico


We're always in search of the perfect taco, and these were amazingly flavorful. The street food of Mexico is a culinary adventure worth indulging. Let's eat!


After two nights in Sahuayo, we were off to the mountain town of Mazamitla.

The weather channel showed that Hurricane Rick was due to slam into parts of Mexico, so we weren't sure what kind of weather to expect, being hundreds of miles from the coast.


At 7200 feet elevation we arrived in Mazamitla where it was cold, damp, foggy and sometimes rainy. What a switch in the weather! We'd had perfect days and nights up until this time, so there was only one thing to do to warm ourselves up.


Go to one of the local restaurants and order the molcajete.

Bubbling right from the oven, this type of Mexican stew filled the molcajete (a mortar made from the volcanic stone in the area) to the brim with beef, pork and cheese. On the side were frijoles, of course, and lots of tortillas. At 95 Pesos, we were told this was a portion for one, but it easily fed two of us.


Surprisingly, the sun broke out of the heavy weather the next morning.

Here you see that the church on the plaza has an alpine look, something straight out of Germany or Austria. Mazamitla is a unique town in Mexico where the use of wood for construction is visible.


Mazamitla is also known for its fruit preserves, it's candies, caramel sauces and creamy eggnog-like drinks called rompope. What a different take on Mexico! You could easily think that you were in northern Europe!


The town itself is clean and organized, with cobblestone streets and lots of wood accents to the buildings.


Did we tell you that we were looking for the perfect taco?

These were filled to the brim with steaming chunks of beef brisket that just melted in your mouth!

Normally we pay 5 Pesos for a taco, and these were 8! Still they were worth the 'steep' price.


Back on the road towards Chapala, we are now in San Luis Soyatlan directly across from the cities of Chapala and Ajijic.

The last little bump of a hill on the right with the flat ground coming out of it is Chapala proper. The next  grouping of houses in the middle of the photo is San Antonio with Ajijic off to the left. All of this as seen from across the lake.


Our trip is done! And what a trip it was!

Here we take a photo break, wearing our hats from Sahuayo, sitting in a lakeside park in San Luis Soyatlan. Chapala is about an hour and a half away by bus. We tried to hire a boat and driver to take us across the lake to Chapala for a different view and experience, but all of the fisherman were out working. This side of the lake is not set up for tourists the way Chapala is. Perhaps our questions got them thinking!

For the eight days we traveled, all hotels, busses and food cost us an average of $43 USD per day per couple.

About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

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