Monday, January 9, 2012

Road Babe Dispatch From Lake Chapala

Recently ventured to Lake Chapala in Jalisco Mexico. I had an image in my mind of a small lake lined with restaurants and vendors. However, people kept asking me, “Have you actually seen Lake Chapala?” Not sure what all the fuss was about, I assumed it must be some hidden secret. So, with a few shots of tequila down the hatch, I was ready and willing to find out.

Chapala is a town as well as a lake. Plus, it's a place with a lot of amazing dulcerias or sweet-shops, where handmade candies abound in a myriad of colors and flavors. Narrow streets, sporting brightly-painted shops and houses, vanish into mountainsides. I strolled down to the waterfront, finding the town cute and quaint (assuming that word doesn't make you vomit in your mouth) but nothing awe-inspiring. Right about then, I saw it: Lake Chapala. Enormous is understatement. This is a lake that looks like an ocean. It's a lake dotted with islands plus mountains for a horizon. Lake Chapala is Mexico's largest body of water overlapping two states: Jalisco and Michoacán.

After photographing birds flying over the water and Scorpion island, I realized that sunset was soon approaching, thus tequila was clearly in order. So, I headed to a small town called Ajijic to eat in the carefully manicured gardens of Nueva Posada, a hotel and restaurant on the lake shore. I enjoyed a few caballitos of tequila, accompanied by mineral water mixed with fresh lime juice - a personal favorite. Watched the sunset over an immense body of water and laughed at myself for previous ignorance of this wonder.

I later learned that Lake Chapala is changing. Providing the primary water source for booming Guadalajara and absorbing pollution from a confluence of contaminated rivers, its fish population is being devastated. With the lake shrinking in size (hard to imagine after seeing it) and invasive Water Hyacinth feeding off the pollution, it'll take a lot of awareness and responsiveness to make meaningful improvement. Consciousness of the hazardous situation has focused some attention, and purification efforts have increased water quality. Isn't it good when we value our effect on the environment? I'll raise my caballito to that!

Mittie Babette Roger is from Louisiana but lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University and authored the book It's Better to Visit the Shaman Without Questions to Ask. She travels the world volunteering to help disadvantaged children and promoting Blue Iguana Tequila to empower serious drinkers.

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