Thursday, October 25, 2007

Car Trip 10

With the car once again fully loaded, we left beautiful little Catemaco behind. Our final destination today, Saturday, April 16, was to be the city of Veracruz in the state of Veracruz. We had calculated that it was close to 105 miles that we needed to travel today. We had a few stops to make along the way though.

Our first stop was at just outside the town of San Andres Tuxtla. There was a waterfall there that we wanted to see. I had seen pictures of Salto de Eyipantla on the internet and was really looking forward to seeing it in person. The only problem was that to get to the bottom of the falls, you first had to descend 242 steps! Not being in our twenties anymore and full of vim and vigor, we found it just a little daunting. Knowing what to expect on a trip like this from his years of adventure backpacking, L had insisted that we try to get into better shape before we left the island. He knew from experience how much walking and climbing there was going to be. Since he is considerably younger than we, and in much better physical condition, none of us expected him to be as challenged by the trip as we would be. And we were correct. Despite all the walking that B and I had done prior to starting out on this adventure, we were to encounter many, many physically challenging experiences for us along the way. But we were going to give all of them a try, including these stairs.
We pulled into a typical Mexican (or anywhere for that matter) tourist trap parking lot. We were immediately surrounded by the swarm of kids offering nothing and wanting everything. We just ignored them and made our way to the entrance to the falls. I passed a sign on the way that pointed off to the right and said MIRADOR. I don’t know why it didn’t register with me but mirador means viewpoint. Or scenic lookout or place to get a view from overhead. I passed right by it and headed for the big sign that advertised the cascades, right this way, have your money ready! We paid our entrance fee and started the journey down. Down. Down. I was actually having quite a good time. At each flat walkway between stairs, one get a better and better view of the falls. And they looked to be stupendous. We finally made it to the bottom and followed the one and only tarmac path to our right. Amazingly, we had been deposited right at the base of this 163 foot high and 130 foot wide wall of tumbling water. The spray coming off it was intense and it took all of ten seconds to be soaked to the bone! I tried to take some pictures but was having a rough go of it since my glasses were now dripping water. I took them off and took some random shots but the lens was so covered with water, they look awful.
We followed the path around and away from the spray and made our way through yet another load of vendors set up down there. But the steps, oh those 242 steps, now loomed in front of us. Memories of my climbing up and out of a cave in the Yucatan last summer came flooding back. I could only hope that my legs and back would survive!

With B following behind, we started our ascent. It was horrible. We were still soaked to the bone and it didn’t take long for our legs to start burning. Fortunately every 15 steps ended in a flat walkway. There were 16 of them and we rested at each one! I counted every step, just to make sure that the advertised 242 steps was correct! And also to know how many more I had left since I was counting backwards as I ascended. I didn’t trust my math to have to stop and subtract from 242 all the time! We reached the top and again saw the Mirador sign. That’s when it hit me. We could have just done the birds’ eye view and not had to do all those stairs. So we decided to go have a look.

The pathway led us through the obligatory array of vendors and out onto a swinging bridge, which I fully enjoyed. My phobia is deep, shark infested water, B’s is falling from a height. I took the lead and was having quite the good time, raising my foot very high with each step so as to increase the momentum of the swing and sway. It was so wide that we had nothing to hang on to and it was quite a vertigo experience. Suddenly the child in me was jerked up short by somebody behind me yelling "STOP IT!" (or unprintable words to that effect!) I turned around to see B on the side of the bridge, clenching the rail for dear life. He was white as a ghost. I had totally forgotten his fear of heights in my own glee of the bridge. I apologized and stood very still until we stopped rocking and rolling. We gingerly made our way to the other side and headed to the scenic overlook. The view was indeed spectacular. The viewing platform went right out to the side of the river where it made its’ plunge down those 163 feet to the bottom. B decided to wait for the movie and did not lean over the edge. We made our way back to the parking lot and I was quite perturbed to see my windshield wipers in the upright position. I thought somebody had been messing with the car. In actuality, it was a sign to the guy who had washed my car that I had not yet paid him. Since he had washed the car with a dirty rag, and without permission, rather than paying him anything, I felt more like giving him a good swift kick in the ass but I refrained. I gave him ten pesos (about 90 cents) and told him he was lucky to get that. B was trying to duck down as low in the seat as he could during my "conversation" with this guy but it all ended well and we were on our way to our next destination.

Our next stop was at Santiago Tuxtla to see the Olmec head in the city park there. The Olmec people occupied this area from about 1200 to 900 BC. Their civilization created massive heads carved out of basalt rock. They are all squat, pug-nosed and wear a helmut. The faces combine the features of human babies and jaguars. We were here to see the only known Olmec head to exist that had its' eyes closed.
bad picture of closed eyes head
The town itself, although boasting 16,000 inhabitants, had a very small village feel to it. We found a place to park right across from the square and headed over to the park. We had no trouble locating the head. It was just sitting on the grass with a kind of open gazebo surrounding it. Sure enough, it had the typical features, including lips so big they looked like they had been injected with collagen. And the eyes were closed. We knew this was special, but since this was our first Olmec head on the trip, I don’t think we fully appreciated it. Besides, it was blazing hot standing there! Several pictures were taken and we found a little cafe right in front of where we parked the car. We ate enough cheap food to choke a horse and were again on our way.

normal Olmec heads


Anonymous said...

hi wayne,

i'm getting caught up reading about your travels. what a beautiful waterfall! very interesting head-i'd never heard of the olmec people before. i am learning a lot about mexico by reading your blog. we've only been on the coast and on one trip to guadalajara. since we are spending this winter in chacala, we will do some traveling. i can hardly wait to get there. thanks for all the interesting info.

just curious, how did your fear of water start? i almost drowned twice, once in the ocean and oncein a river, so i have a lot of respect for fast moving water. the waves in chacala are just perfect-i love swimming there.

glad you got your gas without having to wait till monday.

have a great week!


wayne said...

Teresa: glad to hear you like my blog and are actually learning something from it. It was not my intention to teach, merely entertain but glad I am doing both!

I think, corny as it may sound, that my fear of being in the water started with "Jaws" back in the 70's. I had nightmares for months after seeing it. I get it the water now and every shadow I see is a shark. And if I can't see into the water, forget it. I tried to overcome this fear last year by doing some snorkeling with people I trust. I thought I saw a shark (only seaweed of course) and panicked big time. I tried frantically to swim to shore, my snorkel mask dragging along under my chin. I was swallowing water and choking. I thought I was going to drown. It was very scary and I haven't snorkeled since.

Say hi to Andee for me in Chacala!

Anonymous said...

not corny at all! after seeing "jaws" it was years before i went into deep water again. i do snorkel and thank God i haven't had any bad experiences. however, once while snorkeling out of key west, someone in my group saw a hammerhead. when i heard that, i was out of the water in a flash, so i totally understand how you feel.

whitewater rafting is very popular up here in the northwest, but again, that fear of fast moving water and falling out and drowning keeps me from participating. there are plenty of other ways to have fun out in nature, so why stress oneself out doing something that scares us.

by the way, does L. advetise his backpacking trips on the internet or does he do this for private groups? i love going backpacking and hope to do some in mexico someday, but it will probably be a few years.

enough for now. i will say hi to andee when we get to chacala. just 2 months and 2 days till we get there-i am definitely in a mexico frame of mind.

keep up the great blogging-they are indeed both entertaining and educational ;-)