So we got in a nice bus and headed out on one of the windiest roads known to man. Hours and hours of winding at rates of speed way too high for a giant coach...oh well.
We arrived first at the Archaeological ruins Las Ranas in San Joaquín. We spent about an hour exploring the hillside filled with these ancient pyramids.
The bus came to a stop on the side of the road and we got out. A man with a red pick up truck was waiting for us and we divided the group in two. I went with the first group in the back of the truck and took a beautiful (and bumpy!) 10 minute ride on a dirt road out to the Cascadas del Chuveje. (First of many waterfalls!)
We spent the night in Jalpan and got to see the Mission there. (The chain of Missions in the Sierra Gorda were founded by Fray Junipero Serra, the same man who later founded the CA mission chain!) The next morning we took off for Las Pozas de Edward James. He was an Englishman and surrealist artist that decided to build his "house" a.k.a. series of completely crazy structures in the forest. There were so many butterflies and the most luscious, green vegetation. There are countless waterfalls, places to swim, jump, climb, explore. SO cool.
Super legit tree house on the left and stairs that lead to absolutely nowhere on the right.... This man was crazy. (The structures were on top of what is already a 3 story building....so high and no railings! ¡Viva México!
Great story behind this next picture... I set my camera on a rock with the self-timer set. I ran to go take a picture with some people and as I tried to duck my head under the water that is coming down on Megann, I actually headbutted the rock instead. Haven't had my bell rung that hard in a while. The picture still took and caught the aftermath. Only a little blood and lucky I didn't pop it wide open....although I'm pretty sure I had at least a mild concussion. I had a headache for a week and a nice sized bump on the top of my head!
After an incredible lunch at a seafood restaurant (Camarones con crema chipotle...mmmmmm!) we went to visit the Sótano de las Golondrinas. It is "the largest known cave shaft in the world, the second deepest pit in Mexico and perhaps the 11th deepest in the world." The NY Chrysler building could fit completely inside of it! We took about a 30 minute hike up to the edge of the Sótano. Every night, the swallows circle in a giant formation above the cave and then dive at an incredibly high rate of speed down into the cave to sleep for the night. There are also pericos, or huahuas (parrots) that live nearby. This photo show the golondrinas circling above with the pericos in the foreground.
The next day we were told we were going to go row up a river for an hour and see a waterfall. Las Cascadas de Tamul. We did. It was pretty average. I mean...just look at the pictures...
Most of us jumped off that cliff...the water was moving pretty fast so once you hit the water you had to get yourself moving in order to make it back to the side! We got back in the boats for only about 300 yards. Our guide took us to a place to drink the "good" water...for some reason one of the little streams was a lot colder and more pure. With fingers crossed...mouth straight into the water. So good. We hopped in the river and floated the rest of the way down through rapids and all. Our last stop was a really sweet water cave filled with bats.
The beautiful hostal we stayed at for the last two nights is on the left and the last mission we visited, Concá, is on the right.
On the last night, we also had the opportunity to experience a Temazcal. It is basically a pre-hispanic sauna that they used for a ceremonial type of thing. Standing barely clothed outside in the rain, we were all handed a tea to drink before being crammed into the small hut made of clay. Hot rocks in the middle provided plenty of heat, and the man leading the ceremony began to toss a tea mixture over the rocks which created steam. We rubbed certain plants on our bodies and the leader explained the whole tradition. Songs are sung, prayers are said, and you break a sweat like nobody's business. Before exiting the hut we applied clay masks and relaxed for a little longer. Afterwards, a very refreshing (ok it was a little painful) dip in a river was in order to rinse our bodies. This was an incredible cultural experience to say the least.
We made cena back at the hostal for our last night in the Sierra. We went and bought a bunch of stuff to make quesadillas, guacamole, and other tasty snacks. The picture to the right is of Salvador, "el Rey de la Sangria". Sal is the husband of our art teacher and they, along with their son, were our "tour guides" for the whole trip. They are all wonderful and Sal is especially hilarious. He makes some excellent sangria, has a countless supply of jokes, and never fails to interject some witty comment. Jesus went with us everywhere in the bus and kept us very safe. To top it all off, I treated myself to some of my favorite Mexican junk food on the way home after such a tough weekend.