[Isla de Janitzio, on Lake Pátzcuaro, Michoacán; March 25, 2006]
The highlight of our tour from Morelia to Lake Pátzcuaro was taking a boat out to the island of Janitzio. About 25 people - our group of eight plus some families enjoying their Saturday tiempo libre - loaded up in the low, covered boat for the 20-minute trip. Once out on the lake, a fresh breeze blew in through the open sides, dispersing the heat and diesel fumes that had built up inside while we waited for everyone to board. The water, rather muddy brown and probably polluted, smelled fine. Approaching the island, the most striking feature is the huge (130-foot) statue of War of Independence hero José María Morelos raising his fist from the top of the island.
[José María Morelos statue over Janitzio]
On the way up the steep, narrow alleyways to the top of the island, 365 steps we were told, you're ambushed on both sides by a continuous onslaught of food stalls and vendors of all kinds of artesenias and odd stuff. The food stalls were gorgeous - overflowing in fruits and vegetables, fresh charales (small lake fish) and chilis frying in flat frying pans or set out in bowls, full-grown white fish laid out on ice, soup in giant tureens, and the ever-present fresh corn tortillas.
[Frying charales and chilis along an alleyway to the top of Janitzio]
Our guide was apparently friends with the people at one of the restaurants near the top of the island, and he led us there. We placed our orders, then had 30-40 minutes to go up and explore the top of the island before returning for our comida, the mid-day meal. We snacked on fried charales (a bit fishy for my taste) and salsa, then most of us had fried white fish filets, beans and tortillas along with a cerveza to wash it down.
[Cooks fry tortillas and charales at our restaurant near the top of the island]
The top of the island, which you pay a few pesos to enter, is relatively open after the nearly claustrophobic alleys on the way up, but there are a few vendors up there as well as a park and, of course, the base of the Morelos statue. You can enter the statue and climb to the top, but I prefered to enjoy the view and the fresh breezes from off the lake.
[View from the base of the Morelos statue on Janitzio]