04 May, 2009

El sotano de la influenza

Last long weekend I went to San Luis Potosi to see the "Cellar of Swallows" (Sótano de las Golondrinas) with my friend Pancho. It was supposed we were going to see the birds coming at dusk and leaving the place in the morning, but it was a failed mission.

All started Friday May 1st at 6 am when I left home with my dog Camus. I was headed to the Pet Shop so that they could take care of him. I registered my dog at the Pet Shop a few minutes before 8 am, although he was a little bit afraid of being in a strange place. Joyfully, I didn't have problems leaving him there because he liked the veterinary at first sight!

I met Pancho at the Condesa zone at 8:30 am, then I followed his car up to his parent's home. I left my car there and we had breakfast with his family. We had some fruit, beans and a banana milkshake. We leave his parent's home at 10 am, we were finally headed toward the Sotano.

We supposedly traced a route to Sotano, we got some maps in the internet but the fucking Pancho didn't printed them, so the only directions we had were the highway numbers we had to take in the right order... but those were directions departing from the Condesa Zone, not from his parent's home. The intersection point between both ways supposedly was the Jorobas toll booth, from there we should have turned right the next intersection after 5 kms., but there was none!! We took to side ways to ask local people if we were in the right direction but they only recommended us to go toward Queretaro, so we had to follow their directions...

We took the long, loooong way to Queretaro and then we took the San Luis Potosi highway. Again, we asked in a toll booth which way we should take. It was loooooong and sloooow. We took a two lanes highway for more than 3 hours! following garies and trucks at no more than 30 kms/hr. It was a mess...

It was 4 pm when I saw the deviation to Tanchanchin. A small town I saw in a map that was close to the biggest waterfall of the area, no less than 100 mt :D. We took it and asked local people how to go to the falls. We had to take a gravel road to go to Tanchanchin, we arrived in less than 15 minutes tough. At the entrance of the town we asked and old man to give us some directions, he told us that the waterfalls were closed but there was a possibility that a boatman could take us there.

We followed the gravel road until we saw the boatman ('Nayo' Leonardo Briceño, like a Colombian friend of mine :D) ... he was sleeping... seeing how the life goes on... doing nothing. It was a trend in all our way... It was interesting, a place with no main activity, a hundred percent rural people, calm and quiet. The radio was tuned in a Nahuatl station, which in fact was a combination of Spanish and Nahuatl.

We had to wake him up! He was friendly and told us that he was not permitted to take people to the Timul waterfalls. It was a pity, he told us that the way to go is driving to the parking lot, going by boat for an hour up to a non-accesible-by-boat place and then walk to the waterfalls. In that place is possible to camp and see the lights and colors in the morning. What a mess, he was inflexible, almost foolish. Even tough he told us he was not advised about not taking people to the waterfalls, he didn't want to take us. People were wrongly informed about swine flu pandemic, therefore they think they will fall dead just because of being in contact with a sick. We tried to convince him but he didn't change his mind so we decided to continue our way to the Sotano.

Around 6 pm we had left the mountains when we saw a retention point. A police man asked me where we came from and, immediately after I told him we came from Mexico City, he asked us to stop beside the sidewalk. I was afraid they could check our health status because of the swine flu's pandemic. Fortunately nothing happened, a woman approach us, gave us a paper with information about swine flu and told us some information about the illness. Pancho took advantage of the stop and asked about where to go. He had been driving for about 8 hours and our destiny seemed to be still far. They told him about a waterfall that was open to public only to sightseeing, not to camp or swim, we followed their directions tough.

Fifteen minutes after, we arrived in the place. It was the Mico's waterfall, named after the spider monkeys (micos) who used to live there. Pancho asked if we could go down, whereas I was enjoying the water fall over the road :D. We walked down... gorgeous!!! it was an amazingly awesome landscape. It was a twin waterfall, with a small lake in the middle, light green water, backed by some rocks and the forest. Beautiful. It was only four people more who were swimming. They occupied the only space where it was possible to camp! I wish we could stay there more time, but the gloaming was close. We should continue.

It was 8 pm when we were back on track. I reserved in a small hotel in the town Aquismón, where some people take you to the Sotano. Pancho drove a couple of hours more. We haven't eaten!! So the first thing we did after checking in at the hotel was looking for a place to have dinner. It was 10:30 pm, almost everything was closed and there was a smell to skunk because someone hit one at the edge of the town. We had dinner at a street food place. We had "Tacos Rojos" which are very small tacos with a Potosi typical red sauce, lettuce, chicken and cheese ranch. It was good enough, maybe because I was starved!!

To finalize the day... the receptionist told us the Sotano was closed because of the swine flu!!! Damn!!!

End of an exahusting DAY-1.

Next day we were thinking in a way to go to the Sotano. We thought some possibilities, from going by bike to bribe authorities to permit us to go and camp there, but they are incorruptibles!!!

We looked for a place to have breakfast. In the meantime, we asked to every person who appeared to have a truck if they could take us to the Sotano. EVERYBODY told us it was impossible because it was closed, and health authorities gave them an advise not to take anyone there. We had to use our time properly, so even though we were denied to go to Sotano we should visit nice places.

We had breakfast in the main square of Aquismon, again at a street food place. We both had Enchiladas Potosinas. I had oats atole and home made sweet bread. Again, it was good enough, nothing gorgeous.

After that, we went to Tambaque, again Pancho drove trough a gravel road. It was a nice place. At the entrance there was a creek. I joyfully went down to refresh myself and be in contact with nature. All the area was hot like the hell so finding a place with fresh water and shade from trees is great :D. We stayed there for a while, but we saw at the entrance a waterfall picture so we wanted to move there.

There was no waterfall but the birth of a river. It was also great! there is a kind of sidewalk beside the creek until the birth. There, you can see clear water and some stacked rocks. The trees shade all over the place so it is a beautiful, calm and peaceful place to be in.

Whereas we were fooling around, a man approach Pancho and told him he could find a friend that could take us to Sotano. He also told us that all the rocks that were stacked are covered by water in the rain season... wonderful!

After that, we waited for a while to see him again after he had talked his friend. We had to meet him at a bridge. We saw him and told his friend about us. We talked with his friend and again told us that it was forbidden to take people to Sotano. We told him that we wanted only to go up and see the birds, nothing else, although we would try to bribe the guards to enter... we were gone too far to not to go to Sotano, but if that was impossible there was no problem for us.

He accepted so we drove toward the parking lot to park Pancho's car. But destiny was playing with us... when we were entering the parking lot a Health Department truck was leaving. While we were parking the car the parking lot owner approach us and told us a Health officer gave him a letter forcing him to close the place. Pancho and I discussed for some minutes to decide to go or not to go to the Sotano. We decided not to spend our money going there... the forest is deep and you cannot see the birds from the entrance... so we had the risk to pay the man to take us there and see nothing. We told the man what we decided, greet him and gave him a tip just for wait us. We were highly disappointed, but it was simply a wrong day to visit San Luis Potosi, which is the second State with more swine flu cases in Mexico.

We started the way back to Mexico City at 5 pm, we took the Mexico-Nuevo Laredo highway. Although it is considered a highway, in fact is a two lanes road through the hills in which you cannot drive more than 60 kms/hr. It was a long way through the hills.

We stopped to have lunch at 6 pm. I wanted to have some chicken, but a
the girl who served us told me they were forbidden to serve chicken because of the swine flu!!!! what???!!! I couldn't believe my ears! It seems that the information in so-far-away towns is not as accurate as it could be. I somehow managed to stay calm and asked for fish and a quesadilla's order.

After lunch (almost diner) we retook the way to Mexico. Although it was a pretty boring road, we stopped twice to see the awesome landscape of the hills with rivers, forest, etc. We even saw some vultures in a sharp bend. We stopped to take pictures, I thought the birds were going to fly when they saw us but they stayed there. After I got my picture, we speed up the car but I had the chance to be closer to the animals, it smelled to burned plastic, and I saw some smoke. I hope what I imagined is wrong... I hope those birds were not waiting to have dinner...

After that, there is no more to add, Pancho drove all the way to his parent's home. We arrived there at 2 am. Then we sleep.

End of an exhausting DAY-2.

The last day in this long weekend I stayed at Pancho's parent's home. That was the "Dia de la Cruz" (day of the cross). I don't know the meaning of the celebration, I only know that construction workers celebrate that day. Pancho's family offered a meal to some close friends and relatives. It was great food and friendly environment.

After lunch I had to go to pick my dog up from the pet shop. I went and I went back home with my dog.

I didn't visit Sotano, I didn't camp but I still think I didn't waste my time. Those places I visited with Pancho were great, we stayed in touch with nature and with the real Mexico, country side Mexico. I hope I can soon return and meet all those places I couldn't go because of the swine flu... and I hope the fucking swine flu go away.


Francisco said...

are you bored??

Hjuarez said...

I'm writing the trip's log... just as you suggested. You were supposed to write it in your notebook... but if you didn't bring a pen...