THURSDAY, July 7 (Xilitla) — Part 2
To catch you up from our departure from San Miguel de Allende to Xilitla:
The drive from San Miguel de Allende to Jalpan de Serra took about 6 hours. And what a drive it was. We missed the turn off to the toll road twice, which meant we saw more of the city of Queretaro than we wanted to. The awesome part of the drive started at Bernal with the striking rock known as Peña de Bernal. After Bernal we climbed seemingly forever. The high point was at 2,300 mts. We gave back most of the altitude on the descent into Jalpan which is at about 760 mts. We’re back to a sub-tropical climate, bugs and all.
Once in Jalpan the first order of business was finding a place to camp. In our research into the Sierra Gorda we found the English language website for Sierra Gordo Eco Tours. Imagine our surprise when we walked into the office and nobody spoke a word of English. In due time an English speaking staff person appeared. She told us we could camp at the nearby Mundo Aquatico, another balneario (water park).
Finding the right person at the balneario took a while but we were given permission to park at the edge of the lawn area for one night (about $5) only. The park is full on the weekends so we will have to vacate on Saturday morning.
Spent the morning exploring Jalpan de Serra centro – the church, the museum (quite nice though totally in Spanish) and the riverwalk. Made a reservation for a trip to a waterfall on Sunday.
Having been evicted from the balneario, we looked for an informal campground listed in iOverlander. We never could find it, even though we went to the GPS coordinates mentioned in the review.
We did, however, find a nearby taco & carnitas restaurant. Though there was no carnitas, and only one of the two choices of tacos. But the bisteck tacos (2 each) were delicious. 4 tacos and 2 cans of (alleged) apple juice set us back a whopping $3.
After we finished with the town, we returned to La Presa, the reservoir where the balneario is located. We investigated possible spots for boondocking later in the day. As it turned out, because we couldn’t find the informal campground mentioned in iOverlander we returned to La Presa and spent the night.
The Chuveje Cascada was beautiful. Getting stung by a bee in the face on the drive back to Jalpan was not.
We met our driver, Eddy, at the plaza. He was a pleasant young guy who spoke less English than we do Spanish. The access road to the fall was 4 km, steep and mostly paved. We probably could have driven it with the camper but it would have taken a long time. Along there road we had views of the nearly vertical mountains across a narrow valley.
The walk from the parking lot to the fall took about half an hour and was mostly level. The fall is not visible until you’re just about directly in front of it. It’s 30 mts high and there was plenty of water coming over the edge.
A few minutes into the drive back I felt something wet on my face.As I brushed it off the left side of my face exploded in pain. Somehow a bee came through the window and landed on my face. Eddy stopped at the nearest restaurant to get ice, but there was none. By that evening my right eye was swelled shut, and the right side of my face felt like I had a Novocain injection.
I was stung on the opposite side of my face while photographing flowers in Greece in 2007. What are the odds?
The road out of Jalpan was filled with butterflies. Not Monarchs or especially colorful butterflies, but millions of them. Chris was in mariposa heaven.
Back in San Miguel de Allende, we thought the climate in the Sierra Gorda mountains would be pleasantly cool. Unfortunately it seems that all of the towns are in river valleys at low altitudes. It was so hot and humid on Sunday that after visiting the Franciscan-built church we checked into the Misión Concá hotel.
Strangely, Mexicans do not celebrate our Independence Day.
The swelling in my eye dissipated last night so we hit the road to Tamasopo, known for waterfalls and clear rivers. It sits in a river valley at 1,200’ – lower than Jalpan. The road into town crests a hill with a killer view of the valley. The only way to describe the view is lush, with more shades of green than we knew existed.
Our first order of business was filling our nearly empty water tank. We headed for the town’s water purification plant. Luckily the plant manager was accommodating. He had a few of his employees fill our tank for us from (heavy) 20 liter bottles known as garrafones. Approximately 25 gallons of purified water cost us just under $5.
We checked into the “El Texano Hotel and Camping” a few km north of Tamasopo.
The restaurant there, La Sirenite, serves excellent fish (catfish and tilapia) which are aqua-cultured just steps away in the adjacent river. For lunch Chris and I both had grilled large tilapia filets that were cooked en papillote. Chris’ fish had a chipotle sauce, mine la Veracruzana. The “amuse bouche” was a small plate of nopalitos, diced cactus with small pieces of fish in a red sauce. With a big pitcher of lemonada, the bill came to to a whopping $15.
When we originally sat down (camped out more accurately) in the restaurant, there was nobody but us. An hour or so later a couple of large tour buses arrived. Eventually four ladies joined us at our table. I asked one if the day was a holiday; the restaurant was nearly full in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday. It’s no holiday, she said, most of the people were vacationers.
The two chickens that have the run of the place roosted for the night in a
tree next our camper. Shortly after 5 am one of them decided to wake us up.
Temperature in the camper was nearly 80 degrees when we got going, around 7:30. The Cascadas de Tamasopa were impressive. We spent about an hour there. The only thing that marred the experience was trash left everywhere by a party the previous evening.
We drove into Tamasopa for breakfast and to find an electric fan for the camper; we need a second one. We found breakfast, but couldn’t find the fan. All of the fans for sale were floor fans, too large for the camper.
On the way back we stopped at Cascada El Trampolin – not really a waterfall but a series of ledges. It’s across the river from our campground.
Back at the campground I worked on photos, then jumped into the river. The water was the perfect temperature – on the comfortable side of cold. Later I rented a kayak and paddled to the edge of the Cascada El Trampolin.