Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Tapalpa Waterfall Expedition, Part 2

El Salto del Nogal (Walnut Falls). Hiking into this magnificent waterfall was one of our prime objectives during our Tapalpa Waterfall Expedition. El Salto drops 105 meters (344 ft.) from the top of the cliff to the large pool at the bottom. It breaks into a small pool set in the cliff a little more than 1/2 way down before tumbling almost vertically to the bottom. This is the highest waterfall I have yet encountered in Mexico and it was spectacular. In Part 1 of this 2-part series, I told of our adventures in Tapalpa itself and our misadventures in trying to reach El Salto de Comala, a series of falls in a deep canyon near Chiquilstlan. The next day we set off for El Salto del Nogal and met with complete success and even more adventures than we had anticipated.

But first, breakfast at the Tapalpa Country Club. We stopped at the hotel which is the centerpiece of this wealthy development outside Tapalpa. The hotel's restaurant has gained some well-deserved fame for its ambiance and view, as well as its  delicious food. Above, you see the central courtyard of the hotel. The wooden columns, flagstone patio, and obligatory fountain gave it a warmly welcoming aspect.

The terrace of the Tapalpa Country Club Hotel is sunny with a spectacular view. A short hallway led from the courtyard out to this sunny terrace. Since we were still a bit chilled from the cold morning air, we basked like lizards. We tried to persuade the restaurant staff to serve us out here but, alas, they declined.

The view from the terrace was breathtaking. The warm, slanting morning sun lit up the countryside. The view stretches across the Tapalpa plateau to a set of lakes and then on to the mountains in the distance. Below are some of the homes of the upper-crust folks who live at (or at least visit periodically) the Country Club.

Gabriel, the velador (watchman) at the El Salto trailhead parking area. When we pulled up, he kindly directed us over to the shadiest parking spot. The trailhead is a bit difficult to find. El Salto is marked on local tourist maps, but the winding dirt roads that lead out of town fork and split with few signs to point toward the correct direction. Fortunately, there were several people in our group who had visited before and we managed to arrive about 20 minutes after we left town. I asked our velador if I might photograph him and, with a simple nod, he graciously agreed. Gabriel was a man of few words.

Gabriel's burro shared the dappled shade with us. While we unloaded gear and suited-up for the hike, the burro looked on with interest. He turned out to be very friendly as, in my experience, burros almost invariably are. Like Gabriel, he too agreed, in a mute sort of way, to pose for a photograph. He also did not object to having his neck stroked and his ears scratched. I asked Gabriel for the name of his long-eared companion. Laconically, he answered "Burro."

Setting off for the canyon. Above, (left to right) Dave an American, Duncan a Canadian, Sven an American by way of Norway, Mike an American, and Gerry, a Canadian. This is typical of the international flavor of the hikers who join together to explore Mexico's back trails.

The canyon containing El Salto is rugged and deep with cliffs rimming the top. The environment at the top and most of the way down is high desert, one of the many ecosystems within the overall Tapalpa plateau. Cactus plants such as Nopal, and Mexican Fencepost are abundant, as well as many other high desert plants. The morning was rapidly warming up; the sky a deep, cloudless blue; the sun intensely bright.

Part way down the trail, a warning. The sign says "El Salto del Nogal. Danger below. Leaving the trail could be mortal. Careful with your life. God bless you. In memory of Juan Federico Urzua Arechicga, 2nd of January of 2000." Apparently, Juan didn't make it back out of the canyon. The canyon walls got steadily steeper and more sheer.

We picked our way carefully down the rocky trail. Above (left to right), Lori, Sally, and Mike. Lori is an American by way of Cambodia. Sally and Mike are also Americans and are married. Lori is carrying a trekking pole in her right hand. Hiking sticks are very important in the kind of rough country we regularly hike, particularly when coming down a steep track like the one above. Unfortunately, while taking photos on this hike, I set down my favorite stick and accidentally left it behind.

Mexican Fencepost cactus grows out of a vertical cliff. I took a telephoto shot of the sheer face of the cliff opposite us on the bluffs across the canyon. Growing out of the cracks and crevices of the cliff are a variety of hardy high desert plants.

The leader of the pack. Gerry Green organized this expedition. A Canadian, he has hiked all over Western Mexico for many years. There is probably no one among the expats in the Lake Chapala area who knows the trails better than Gerry. He authored a book which is somewhat of a local "hikers' bible" called Walks and Trails Around Ajijic. If you are a hiker who lives in the area, or are planning a visit, Gerry's book can be obtained from a variety of local shops or from the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic.

Paxtle drapes the trees as you descend lower into the canyon. Paxtle is related to the "Spanish Moss" found in the deep south of the US. Its technical name is Tillandsia usneoides. It has been used in indigenous ceremonies for centuries. The word Paxtle comes from the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs.

Mike readies himself for a photo of the double falls. At this point we had reached the bottom of the canyon. The ecosystem changed dramatically into lush forest. Everything was cool and green and shady.

The double falls dropped into a deep pool. These falls appear just as you near the bottom of the canyon. By mid-December, there had been little rain for a couple of months. In the mountains around Lake Chapala, waterfalls like this have been dry for many weeks, but this is a year-round stream. These falls are about 9 meters (30 ft) high.

The "other Mike" boulder-hops down in the rapids. This is the other Mike, our intrepid driver, seen in Part 1. He has gotten himself out in the middle of the stream to have his picture taken, and is studying the best way to get back in a reasonably dry condition.

Between the double falls and El Salto del Nogal lies a quiet, dreamy stretch of water. The green forest shimmers with beams of yellow light. The quiet water mirrors the forest above.

El Salto del Nogal, seen to scale. When approaching El Salto, you hear the roar long before actually viewing the falls. Then, suddenly, the forest opens and you are faced with this awesome spectacle. Sven took this shot of me clambering over boulders as I crossed the stream in search of better photo angles. This photo provides a sense of the real size of El Salto. (Photo by Sven Nilsen)

El Salto from another angle. The place where the water has carved a pool into the cliff face can be seen a little better in this shot. I was told people have climbed to the upper pool. It looks more than a little risky to me.

Sven tries his luck with a log bridge. Sven, a former gymnast, is one of the more agile of the hikers I know. He is 70. I hope I am in half as good shape when I reach his age.

Bromeliad grows from the side of a cliff. My friend Ron Parsons, an expert on the plants of Western Mexico, came through for me once again by identifying this intrepid plant. Believe it or not it is in the same genus as the paxtle seen earlier. It is also related to the pineapple. Bromeliads in the form of pineapples were introduced to Western Civilization by Christopher Colombus  who found the Carib Indians cultivating them in the West Indies. Within 50 years, bromeliads were growing in places as remote as India.

Duncan heads back up the trail. Duncan is a "snow bird", one of the part-timer Canadians who come down to sunny Mexico for several months each year as a respite from the cold and snowy north. At this point, the day was getting on and we still had several hours' drive back to Ajijic.

A track across a bleak expanse. On the way back to Ajijic, on the #54 cuota, I remembered Gerry telling me about a dirt track across the wide expanse of the wide dry lake that fills most of the space between the Tapalpa Plateau and the mountains (above, dead ahead) which rim the south shore of Lake Chapala. Everyone immediately agreed that we should try it. We finally found the track, heading arrow-straight for miles across the lake bed to a tiny farming village called San Marcos. This photo was taken about 1/2 way across the lake bed. The road, if you could call it that, is only a few inches above the lake bed and disappears when the rainy season comes.

The dry lake bed, looking south. I was reminded of a line from the poem Ozymandius by Percy Bysshe Shelley: "boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away."

Taking a break. We stopped so I could take photos and the others could stretch their legs. The only marks on the "boundless and bare" sand were a few car tracks just off the dirt road. Everything else was perfectly level and even, except for the little ripples left by the evaporating water. During the late winter and spring, fierce winds blow across the level waste, raising huge dust storms that occasionally cause accidents along the cuota. The dust sometimes rises high enough to surmount the high ridges and cascade down the other side to create a haze over Lake Chapala.

Road guard. While passing through the outskirts of San Marcos, we ran head on into a cattle drive. The brahmans are a fairly docile breed and the herd parted, then passed closely on either side of our cars. On the narrow country lane, bounded on both sides with old stone walls, it was like walking against a crowd coming out of a packed football stadium. Finally, confronted by this huge bull, we were forced to come to a dead stop. He stood across the road and ignored us as if we were a line of ants crawling toward him, instead of an eight-passenger Chevy Suburban. I got out and after considerable hooting and otherwise making a fool of myself, finally managed to get him to turn his head toward us so I could get a shot. He considered us disdainfully for a moment before he turned back toward his waiting harem. A timid group, the cows finally edged around him and tiptoed past our vehicles. Slowly then, with great dignity, the bull turned and and ambled past our car, not deigning to give us so much as a glance. Truly a class act!

Getting it to market the old-fashioned way. As we ascended the mountains overlooking San Marcos and the dry lakes, we passed these two women. They were carrying bundles of some unknown product on their burros. This was a scene, like those so often encountered in rural Mexico, that seemed right out of the 16th Century.

Hooray for the home team. Not far behind the women with the burros, we were confronted by this pickup truck, packed with masked young men. Uh oh! Bandits? Guerillas? A drug cartel hit squad? No, just a high-spirited group of young guys coming back to San Marcos from working in the fields around Lake Chapala. The masks were to protect against the clouds of dust kicked up by passing vehicles. They spotted me photographing the burro line and called out cheerfully for a photo. I obliged and they saluted us with raised fists and cries of "¡buenas tardes!" as they passed. This was the last of our series of colorful adventures on the Tapalpa Waterfall Expedition. Not long after, we crossed the ridge and dropped down the hills to Lake Chapala.

This concludes Part 2 of my 2-part series on Tapalpa and the waterfall hike. We had great fun on this trip and I hope you had fun seeing it second hand. If you would like to leave a comment, please do so in the Comments section below, or email me directly. If you would like to leave a question, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Tapalpa Waterfall Expedition, Part 1

Tapalpa, Magic Pueblo in the mountains. Above, you see some of the wonderful old architecture of the town. Since pine forests are close, wood is plentiful for overhanging balconies, columns, and carved window frames and doors.  Always up for an adventure, I immediately volunteered when I got an email from my Canadian friend Gerry about an overnight expedition to explore some of the canyons with large waterfalls around Tapalpa. Eleven of us traveled there in 3 vehicles, which is why I call it an "expedition." The municipality (roughly analogous to a US county) of Tapalpa contains about 16,000 people and is located on a large plateau about 90 kilometers (56 mi.) southwest of Guadalajara. That's about a 2 hour drive. In 2002, Tapalpa achieved Mexico's coveted Magic Pueblo status and thoroughly deserves it. The Tapalpa plateau is reached by taking the #54 cuota (toll road) due south from Guadalajara past the dry lake beds to the Tapalpa exit, then climbing up a winding and extremely scenic two-lane blacktop road. After many hairpin turns on the way up a huge escarpment, you reach the rolling pine-forested ranch country that tops the 1950 meter (6300+ ft.) plateau. The escarpment is so high and precipitous that hang-gliders regularly take off near the point where you finally reach the plateau. For a Google map of the area, click here.

Tepalpa's Jardin Principal

Tapalpa's Jardin Principal, the "jewel in the crown." The foreground structure is part of long row of tiny restaurants that stretches a considerable distance off to the left out of the frame. Each restaurant can seat perhaps 4-5 people at its counter. Although the restaurants are closed in the scene above, they open up to a lively business later in the evening. Directly in front of the restaurants, Calle Matamoros runs the length of the Jardin (pronounced har-deen). Behind the restaurant is a statue of Don Cipriano Gonzalez Jimenez (1899-1990) a long-lived priest who not only built a new church when the old one, seen in the background, was threatened by earthquake damage, but also founded a local seminary and a college. The new church, which we will see in a moment, is just to the left, out of the frame.

The bell tower of the "Old Church," known as the Parrochia San Antonio de Padua. The first Franciscan friars, Fray Martin de Jesús and Fray Juan de Pedilla arrived in 1531. In 1650, the Franciscans completed their neo-classical style church and dedicated it to San Antonio de Padua Although lovely on the exterior, it stood virtually empty of decoration or funishings on the inside when we visited. The old bell is still suspended from a huge old wooden beam by an ancient chain. Tapalpa's known history goes back well before the arrival of the Spanish. In the centuries before Cortez, the area was inhabited by Otomi Indians, whose náhuatl name for their home was Tlapalpan, which means "land of colors." The Otomi were conquered by the Aztecs in the 7th Century AD, as that society of warriors passed through on their great trek to their ultimate home in Valley of Mexico. In the late 15th Century, just a few decades before the Spanish arrived, the Tapalpa area was within the territory of the Lord of Tzaollan, who appointed a man called Cuantoma as governor. At that time, the Tarascan Empire of present-day Michoacan attempted to seize the valuable salt deposits in the dry lakes we passed on our way to the Tapalpa escarpment. Seeking to resist, Cuantoma allied himself with the Teco Kingdom which occupied the area of present-day Colima. The Tecos brought up a large army and defeated the Tarascans in the famous Salt War. However, the Tecos then turned on Cuantoma and his people and subjugated them in turn. As they say, "be careful of what you wish for..."

Old pals. There was nothing special about this rather dusty looking character and his scrawny dog, except for their very obvious affection for each other. As the man bent over to ruffle his ears, the little dog happily leaped and danced in play. Cuantoma, the leader of the Tapalpa people, never seemed to learn about trusting strangers. When the Spanish conquistador Alonso de Avalos marched through the area in 1523, he convinced Cuantoma that the Spanish would liberate the Tapalpans from the Tecos. The Spanish did indeed conquer the people of that Colima kingdom, but Tapalpa wound up not independent, but part of Nueva España (New Spain). "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!"

The new Parrochia, built by Don Cipriano. This church is separated from the Old church by a small plaza. In fact, the Jardin Principal was built as a series of step-stone plazas separated by broad staircases down the side of a hill to Calle Matamoros, that runs along the side of the Jardin. The new church appears to be of the Italianate style popular in the later 19th Century. At the lower left are the small restaurants seen in picture #2.

Interior of the new church. The entire church is built of brick, and the inside walls and columns are unplastered, giving them a warmer feeling than one usually gets in these large buildings. There is little of the ornate decoration found in the churches of earlier centuries. Still, the feeling of open, uncrowded space was pleasing to me. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, the Tapalpa area figured in the War of Independence and the Revolution. The mother of Revolutionary War hero Emiliano Zapata was born here. Following the Revolution, the Cristero War (1926-1929) broke out between reactionary Catholics and the new Revolutionary government. The Tapalpa area was the scene of some of those struggles, and some local caves are still called the "Cristero Caves" after the fighters who hid in them during that war.

Awaiting the big event. After we arrived and got settled, we ate lunch on the upper balcony of the lovely restaurant in the center of this photo. From our tables, we could view the entire Jardin Principal. The food was excellent and I paid 22 pesos ($1.79 USD) for a large plate of scrambled eggs with bacon and refried beans, very inexpensive even by Mexican standards. Below us, workers were busy setting up hundreds of chairs and constructing a stage. They told us a political gathering was scheduled where local public officials would pat themselves on the back for all the improvements made since the election a year ago. I have organized many rallies in my time and thought a high turnout was unlikely on what promised to be a frosty Tuesday night. To my surprise, every chair was filled with people bundled to their eyebrows against the cold, with many other people standing.

All in good fun. As I wandered about the Jardin, I encountered these three. At first they played skip rope, a game I remembered from my younger days in the US. Then it devolved into an hilarious match of tug-of-war, two against one on the rope. The more I see of Mexico's kids, the more I understand that the world of kids is universal. I believe you could drop an American kid into this scene, and even not knowing the language, she would immediately know how to respond.

A café at the Jardin. This small restaurant occupies a corner facing the Jardin, just across the street from Palacio Municipal (City Hall)l. It was an inviting little place under the sidewalk portales (arches), with a very friendly and attentive waiter. I killed some time sipping café de olla and observing the color and movement all around me. I could easily become a café de olla addict. It is a wonderful hot drink made from water, ground coffee, cinnamon sticks, and piloncillo (brown sugar). Boiled in a clay pot, it is an ideal drink for a lazy afternoon or a frosty morning. I checked the menu and found the prices low, confirming my impression of the area.

Our hotel, Casa de Maty

Casa de Maty directly faces the Jardin Principal across Calle Matamoros. Above, hanging baskets act as light shades above the cobbled entranceway of our hotel, the delightful Casa de Maty. It was once an old hacienda, now remodeled into a gracious and comfortable hotel in the heart of town. We looked at another reasonably priced, but somewhat more rustic place before we stopped at Casa de Maty. With a bit of negotiation, the hotel management saw the wisdom of giving a discount to the 11 gringos who had suddenly appeared, since the hotel was virtually empty at the time. My single room was reduced from 750 pesos ($61 USD) to 600 pesos ($49 USD), a real bargain.

My room looked rustic and cozy on the outside, but was roomy and modern inside. The room was unexpectedly large, with a gigantic king bed, and the most modern bathroom I've encountered in Mexico. Everything worked perfectly, which is a bit unusual for Mexico. One gets used to something being a little off kilter, which usually adds to the charm and humor of the situation. Everyone in our group who had stayed here previously spoke with admiration about the fireplaces. Sure enough, my room had one built into the corner. I was dubious about its efficiency and possible smokiness, but it too worked perfectly. Most of Western Mexico is without any sort of central heating, since the weather is usually quite mild. However, in December at over 6300 feet in the mountains, I anticipated a chilly night in my room. Once I got the fire stoked up, my initial impression of coziness proved accurate. In fact, the fire warmed up the room so much I had to remove the bed comforter that Casa Maty thoughtfully supplies to guests. There is nothing quite like a bright, warm, crackling fire on a cold night. If you have a chance to stay overnight in Tapalpa, I would strongly recommend this hotel. Even had I paid full price, it would have been a good deal.

Mike "kicks back" with a stiff drink after a long day of driving. The hotel has a very nice lounge area that opens directly onto the lush central patio. Like the rest of the hotel, it is beautifully decorated with carved wood furniture and artwork and graced with live poinsettas. Mike, who is from Alabama, is one of our veteran hikers. He was also one of the drivers, wheeling his 8 passenger Chevy Suburban with aplomb around mountain curves and through ancient and narrow pueblo streets. Although all that driving had to be exhausting, he says he loves it, so he became the perfect chauffeur. He was also the negotiator who, with his somewhat fractured Spanish, cheerily persuaded the management to reduce our rates.

Las Piedrotas

Las Piedrotas are huge rocks strewn about in piles on a grassy prairie. Located about 4 kilometers (2.45 miles) outside of Tapalpa on the road to Chiquilistlan, some of the rocks are as big as houses. After getting settled into Casa Maty and lunching at the balcony restaurant on the plaza, we headed out for the waterfalls of Chiquilistlan gorge, our first day's hike. Since Las Piedrotas are on the way, we decided to stop and roam around a bit. Aside from simply enjoying the rocks' elephantine presence, visitors can sometimes ride the zip lines you can see suspended at the top of the photo. Some of my fellow hikers stand at the center left of the photo, enabling a sense of relative size.

Rocky path leads up between the huge stones. There are various theories about the origin of these piles of immense boulders. Were aliens possibly responsible? Perhaps they were some sort of local Stonehenge? More likely, they are the remains of a huge volcanic eruption. All other traces of the volcano have been worn away through the millenia. I don't know, I kind of enjoy the aliens theory myself...

Triangulating the Valley of Enigmas. Las Piedrotas are located on  a broad grassy area fringed by pine forests known as the Valley of Enigmas. It would be a gorgeous location even without the big rocks. The boulders lean against each other in a way that creates tunnels and caves of all shapes. As I walked through this tunnel, I noticed that the exit formed a rough triangle of blackness outlining the warm winter colors of the Valley of Enigmas.

Chiquilistlan adventures

More unusual rocks on the way to Chiquilistlan. These huge cliffs, pitted with caves, popped in and out of our view as we bumped along the dusty mountain roads toward Chiquilistlan. The photo above also shows the rugged and heavily-forested mountain that cut across the Tapalpa plateau. Although our map indicated a relatively straight road between Tapalpa and Chiquilistlan, it turned out to be serpentine with numerous switchbacks. It was also mostly dirt, with a deep layer of dust on top, and many bumps and potholes. The afternoon began to wane on as we crawled along. It was beautiful, but slow.

Adobe housefront in Chiquilistlan. We passed through Chiquilistlan and got within 2 kilometers of our trailhead when, suddenly, the brakes on Mike's Chevy Suburban began to seize up. We were stymied. A brief roadside inspection, aided by a friendly Mexican who happened by, convinced us that we had to turn back to Chiquilistlan and look for a mechanic. A quick look at our watches showed us that we had lost our opportunity to visit the first set of waterfalls we had come to see. It was just too late in the day. Even if we could find a mechanic, and he could quickly fix the problem, the time lost would preclude the hike if we didn't want to negotiate the return trip in pitch blackness. Most assuredly, we didn't. For a look at what we missed, click here. The adobe structure above is the front of the home and workshop of the young mechanic we finally located in Chiquilistlan. The structure looked as if it hadn't seen any changes since the Revolution 100 years ago, or maybe the War of Independence 100 years before that!

Despite his rustic accomodations, our mechanic was competent and efficient. He quickly dismantled Mike's brake system and, after a considerable period of tinkering, put it together so that it worked perfectly from then on. When he finished, he didn't seem to know quite what to ask for a fee. When Mike finally offered him 100 pesos ($8 USD), he seemed quite happy.

Creative disorganization. The mechanic's workshop reminded me of my old desk at work. I knew where everything was, even if no one else had a clue. While the work proceeded, I decided to treat this experience as just another aspect of our adventure. Taking out my camera I began to poke around.

A picture of regal majesty. This magnificent rooster strutted about, inspecting his kingdom. The rear area of the workshop was a warren of passageways that revealed that the mechanic was also a farmer of sorts. No doubt many farmers in this area have multiple occupations. The rootser was the proud ruler of a considerable harem, which he shepherded about with impatient squawks and pecks. When he observed me observing him, he quickly shooed them through a fence into an adjoining field and  and stood guard like Horatio at the bridge.

A calabasa ripens in the sun. I found a number of vegetables around the back area, including this calabasa (squash). There was also pile of smaller green calabasas, framed by a set of spurs and a bridle. Nearby was a piece of canvas, part of feed sack, covered by multi-colored partially shucked corn. In another corner was a 55 gallon drum, full to the brim with stale tortillas. If I included all the wonderful photos I took at the mechanic's shop, I would have room for nothing else. It was literally a cornucopia of photographic opportunities.

"So, get on with it!" Other inhabitants of the yard include a variety of mutts. This one was very skittish at his first encounter with nearly a dozen decidedly strange-looking gringos. He may not have seen anything like this invasion in his life. He finally figured out that all we wanted to do was give him a friendly pet. At this he promptly plopped down, showed his tummy and asked for a rub. We were happy to oblige and he became our best friend while we remained.

This sticker has made a long journey. Someone among our group, aware of my union background, pointed out the Union Yes sticker on the back of this pickup parked in the mechanic's shop. The pickup carried expired Washington State license plates. Looking closely at the Union Yes sticker,  I could just make out the insignia of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA). A number of years ago, I organized community support for a difficult strike waged by LIUNA, and made many friends among them in the process. Now, suddenly, thousands of miles away in a remote Mexican town, and many years later, here was a reminder. A small world indeed.

Caught in the act. After inspecting the workshop area, I decided to go in search of a soft drink. While wandering back from a local tienda (shop) with my coke, I spotted two young boys who looked around furtively, and then hopped a fence into an orchard filled with lemon trees. The boy shown above would jump up and grab a lemon and quickly pitch it to his compañero below. Not long ago, I tried some of this variety of lemons and found them astonishingly sweet and succulent. I could see why they hankered for the treat. They didn't take many, just 3 or 4, then turned to hop the fence again. At that moment, they spotted me taking their picture. Laughing impishly, this Mexican Huck Finn and his friend quickly trotted away with their prizes.

Fabrica Papel

Fabrica Papel, remains of a 19th Century British enterprise. Above, the ruins of Fabrica Papel (Paper Factory), built by a British company in 1840. This was the first paper mill built in all of Latin America, and the 160-year-old ruins were complex and mysterious. We had first noticed them on our way to Chiquilistlan. I extracted a promise from the group that we would stop for photographs on the way back. The ruins were so enticing that it wasn't that a hard sell.

An aqueduct leads down from a large water source somewhere above. Since electricity wasn't developed as a usable power source until the late 19th Century, this factory was no doubt powered by water, hence the aqueduct. Even after steam power was introduced, water was still the vital element. I was fascinated by the tall, elegant arches.

A window into the past. I always find old windows photographically appealing. They are especially evocative when they stand empty and windswept in an old ruin like this, staring out like the eye sockets of an ancient skull. I like the way the architect has used the ruddy brick in the arched window, setting off the blue-green rock of the wall around it. Much as I wanted, I could not find a way to actually enter the ruin. The only path up to it was heavily blocked by new barbed wire, with a warning against trespassers posted nearby. Whoever had put these up was serious, and I had to content myself with photos from afar. After visiting the ruin, we returned to Tapalpa for the evening to rest up and prepare for our big hike the next day. Like the first day, our next would be full of unexpected adventures, including a visit to the highest waterfall I have yet seen in Mexico.

This completes Part 1 of my two-part series about our adventures during the Tapalpa Waterfall Expedition. I always enjoy hearing from people, so if you would like to leave a comment, you can do so in the Comments section below, or email me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim