Travel|: Mexico: lake Chapala

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The Independent Culture
THE BIGGEST lake in Mexico is in danger of losing one of its few claims to fame. Long and thin, it is pressed between parched, barren hills and baked by a blinding white sun. Few boats disturb the glassy surface of Lake Chapala and, at midday, the streets of Chapala town were sensibly empty. Fishing boats lay stranded in the goalmouth of the field where boys played football by the promenade. The jetty stopped a hundred yards from the reeds that now fringe the water's edge.

An hour from Guadalajara, the city's insatiable thirst and the demands of irrigation are draining the lake's lifeblood and it is shrinking. The plight of the Aral Sea aroused the wrath of nations, but here the locals have an even more powerful weapon to use in the fight against their vanishing lake. Six thousand retired Americans live around the lake, and the expat yacht clubs are battling against the vanishing of the waters.

Even the most famous expat wasn't exactly enamoured with the place. DH Lawrence lived in Chapala in 1923 and set The Plumed Serpent here. He wrote about the "hard, cruel hills", the strange atmosphere and the "sperm- coloured" waters of the lake. Lawrence must have had an unusual and unpleasant physiological condition, because the waters are now a dirty sludgy green and are getting smaller all the time.