Week 43: Tamasopo, Xilitla, Sótano de las Golondrinas, Tamul & Naranjo (Huasteca Potosina). Mexico

An excellent start to the week with me finishing work and making my way towards Huasteca Potosina.  This is in central Mexico and home to hundreds of stunning waterfalls, lakes and caves.  Bla bla car is really popular here where you basically hitch a ride with someone headed in the same direction and pay them for petrol. My first bla bla car experience was excellent I met the loveliest guy Carlos who wouldn’t let me pay because it was his birthday and he was feeling generous. Another Mexican legend.

Day 1 was spent at Tamasopo’s beautiful waterfalls and rivers.

Tamasopo’s waterfalls
Swimming here was paradise

I found a random woman’s house where she let me pitch my tent for 2 euro. She was a bit icy but it did the job.  Dinner that night was in Don Julias’ house. Her are her 84-year-old mother are producing some of the most delicious food I’ve had so far.

Don Julia and her legend mother

Next morning was back to Don Julia’s for breakie. She was a little eccentric and spent the morning screaming at the customers and visa versa. It was great entertainment. Next stop was Puente de Dios a stunning natural water pool.

Puente de Dios
I had this place completely to myself
Huasteca has the most stunning colours

Next stop was Xilitila a subtropical rain forest in the middle of the mountains. This is home to the garden of Edward James. He was an eccentric character from the UK who built this crazy garden in the middle of the jungle. I spent hours here and it is a photographers dream. I had a delicious lunch in the town and to my amazement when I asked for the bill the waitress told me that a man had paid for me but was gone. I don’t think I have ever experienced a nicer/ more unexpected gesture. Some true gems out there.

Garden of Edward James
Amazing structures in the middle of the rain forest
This place is filled with the some stunning butterflies

I tried to make my way to Sotano de las Golondrina. This was a big challenge as it was completely off the beaten track and most people take a tour here. The main attraction is this really deep cave where at sunrise millions of swallows emerge. I managed to get a bus to a random village. I then hitch hiked to another village so things were looking good until I found out where I needed to be was 18 km up a mountain. I figured I could start walking and hopefully try to hitch hike not the easiest  task as it was getting dark. After about 1 hour walking I found this drunken man on the curb telling me he lived in the mountains and he was headed in the same direction. He said there was a jeep going up but the driver was in the pub so we just had to wait for him. Absolutely delighted! Eventually the lovely albeit very drunk Malachy arrived (jeep man). He started the bumpy journey up the mountain  and stopped twice en route for supplies of Corona. Malachy was getting progressively drunker by the minute but I was in no position to complain. He told me where I needed to go was another 4 km. He said he was in a great mood so he would drive me all the way. When we arrived I had no idea where to sleep but Malachy saving the day once again said I could pitch my tent in his mates garden.

Yuan filling up on chicken while waiting for the bus man to get his corona

I pitched my tent in Ceaser’s house. He was a lovely Mexican Man and had the most stunning view of the valley. He was pretty horrified when he saw my atrocious excuse of a tent.

Early wake up call to watch the swallows emerge from the cave

Ceaser had a similar swing to the one in Banos (Ecuador) the only difference it wasn’t a tourist attraction just for his own enjoyment. A highlight was getting pushed while watching sunrise. This was an incredible experience and one I had completely to myself. Moments like this always make me realise sometimes taking the more challenging route is so much more rewarding (although I definitely admit the tours are easier).

Home sweet home
Ceaser’s deadly house and swing
Sunrise swings

Husateca Potosina is not the easiest place to backpack with most people having cars or taking tours. It is a stunning place and completely worth the effort. En route down a tour bus asked me did I want a lift. Without hesitation I was on board a bus full of hilarious retired Mexicans. They invited me for a delicious breakie. They too were off to the famous Tamul waterfall. They insisted I tag along.  Cascada Tamul was out of this world  you have to take a canoe through beautiful caves to see the waterfall.

The crew
Obsessed with these boats
En route to cascada Tamul

During the boat ride the guy next to me was asking about my trip etc. He then asked where I had eaten lunch the previous day and it transpired this was the guy who had randomly paid for my food. Alex, a young guy from Mexico city said someone had done something similar for him in the past and when he saw me he thought I looked wrecked and could do with a treat. I couldn’t believe that we happened to meet each other and be on the same boat. As the saying goes it is a very small world. I was so grateful our paths crossed again. Alex good karma is on your way muchas gracias ( + the power bank is saving my life)!!!

Alex, Mexico’s kindest stranger
Cascada Tamul
Me and Miguel

That night I arrived into the village of Naranjo. I hate arriving to a new place in the dark especially when you’re looking for somewhere to camp. Not ideal at all. After some quick street food I tried to suss out somewhere to pitch the tent. The place was a bit of a ghost town with not even a taxi to be seen.  A few people pointed me in the direction of a camp site which was 2 km walk away. Instead I went to a nearby hotel to check could I pay to pitch my tent there figuring that would be the safest option.

I got chatting to a lad at the entrance who said he was the hotel owner. He said he had a spare room that wasn’t ready that I could have for the night free of charge. I couldn’t believe my luck. That soon changed when I realised that Fransisco wasn’t the hotel owner and  his intention was to share the room with me. Luckily there were two beds but it still felt a bit dodgy. Fransisco said he was going out to get tacos and that I would  have to let him back in because he had no keys (also a bit odd). At this stage I realised I had been completely stupid to accept the invitation and that he was quite clearly a funny fish.

When he was gone I left the room to try and find reception to see if I could pay for my own room but there wasn’t a sinner around. I honestly had no idea what to do or where to go. Francisco came back 3 hours later locked.  Naturally enough I didn’t sleep a wink. In bed I had my panic whistle and my pocket knife close at hand (just in case!). In the middle of the night he was hovering over my bed asking me was I was frightened of him. The obvious answer was YES but I just pretended to be asleep. I then started to hallucinate and genuinely thought there was another man in the room. Frightening stuff but still think it was just my imagination.  In these situations you always think the worst and I was convinced he had  me locked into the room but luckily at 6 am I made a dash for it and it was open.

A horrible night that I was extremely lucky to escape from.  I know that sometimes I am too trusting of people too quickly and on this occasion I put myself in un necessary danger. Completely stupid. I have been amazed about how generous, kind and helpful the Mexicans have been but obviously this doesn’t apply to them all. No matter where you go there will always be funny fish. I think Fransisco was harmless enough just a bit of a looser. Lesson learned.

Later in the morning I took a taxi to the nearby waterfalls Micos. Another set of stunning waterfalls with barely anyone here because  it was a Monday. I camped out here for a few hours I met a lovely American family who ended up giving me a lift to the next set of waterfalls Minas Viejas.

Mica’s waterfalls
Swimming here was pretty divine

Minas Viejas was practically empty which was great but not exactly great when trying to leave the place. When it came to leaving I started to walk the 6 km down the mountain when luckily a police van kindly stopped and drove me the rest of the way. Even better, the police were super sound they set up a check point where they stopped every passing car until they found someone to take me back to San Luis Potosi.  Absolute legends.

Minas Viejas
The most amazing ducks
Mirrador Minas Viejas

After successfully finding a couple to bring me home I was so relieved and my faith in Mexicans had been firmly restored. I gave the couple money for petrol so grateful for the lift. Once they got their money they said they couldn’t bring me any further and left me out in the middle of the motorway. I still had another 200 km to go. A disaster. I saw a bus pass, flagged it down and begged the bus man to let me on but he refused saying I needed a ticket. Things were looking really grim and I had no idea what to do as the sun was setting in. I started to hitch hike with no other option and prayed someone would stop before it got dark. That’s when Jose stopped the kindest Mexican Man. He wasn’t going my direction but insisted on driving me to a nearby town where I could safely get a bus.

En route we had some laugh and we stopped for delicious tacos (complements of Jose). I ended up getting a parting gift of a sombrero and an apple and Jose insisted on paying for my bus ticket. A true gent. I eventually got onto the bus and made it back to San Luis in one piece.

Two lifesavers!

Huasteca was an adventure to say the least and although I probably took the more challenging route I loved it and met some amazing people. This part of Mexico is relatively untouched by backpackers during my week there I didn’t see one foreigner  just Mexican families. Highly recommend it!

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