Huasteca Potosina is often referred to as a “water wonderland,” or place of “aquatic adventures.” For the next two days, we will be spending time canoeing and floating down rivers, swimming in caves, and jumping off waterfalls. A photography enthusiasts dream! So one would think what a great opportunity to use those four snazzy new dry bags I bought myself for Christmas, right? Or the GoPro knock-off waterproof camera. If only they weren’t 1,000 miles away, back in the Winnie!
As I mentioned before, the entrepreneurial Mexican people always seem to have what you need, when you need it. And wouldn’t you know, at each of these aquatic adventure locations, they have vendors selling waterproof cases….only they are for phones. None large enough to fit my Canon G7X. For someone who is used to shooting at least a dozen photos on any average day, imagine the agonizing decision whether to take my only camera along in a Ziploc bag hoping it stays dry, or leave it behind locked in the van, far far away from the scenic beauty that in all likelihood, I will not pass again.
That’s a long way of saying that for all activities occurring ON the water or IN the water in this post, I had no camera. My thanks to friends Karen Yee and Vivian Little for sharing their photos taken with their smart phones….I weighed this risk, and in the end decided I was too addicted to connectivity to brave risking the loss of my only link to my life back in the US. Without their willingness to share, I would have had to rely on words alone to describe the beauty of these two destinations.
On our first day, we travel down a long, dirt road to reach the Tampaon River, where to my surprise, dozens of brightly colored boats await alongside a river the color of liquid turquoise. High calcium deposits make the water an artificial theme park blue. We will be paddling upstream for about three miles to reach the Tamul waterfall, the state of San Luis Potosi’s tallest at over 300 feet.
One of the benefits of traveling with a group of our size (seven) is getting our own, albeit smaller, canoe rather than having to cram into a boat with other tourists. Most everyone in our group has some basic concept of rowing etiquette. We will need it, as our trip upriver will require constant, sweat-inducing paddling. We take turns with what is often a surprise dousing of cold water from the bailing bucket down the backs of our lifejackets to cool off.
Soon, we reach a series of shallow rapids, too difficult for rowing. We must get out of the boat and hike up alongside a parallel trail, while our two guides portage the boat further upriver.
After a brief stop near the base of the falls for photos, we hop out of the boat and float the shallow rapids on return. It’s a thrill navigating and steering my body, feet first over the low level white water as if I am my own personal watercraft. After about a mile of drifting with the current, we swim over to a beach and climb a series of switchback stairs, crossing a swinging bridge to reach a cave in the side of the mountain, La Cueva del Agua. We enjoy a bracing swim in the spring-fed cave pool before boarding our canoes and paddling back to our put-in point, reluctantly leaving the refreshing aquamarine water behind…at least for today.
The following day, we load up and head down a different dirt road, this time to the Micos Waterfalls. I haven’t done much research on this trip at all, as for once it is nice to just show up and go with the flow, and not have to make all my own plans. So I just figure I’ll take whatever comes along, as long as I don’t have to plan it, book it, or drive to it for once!
We are told not to bring anything with us once we leave the van except our swimsuits and dry bags and anything we can easily carry (water, sunscreen) that won’t hurt getting wet. All I know is that we are going to hike up a big hill and float down some waterfalls. The first sign I see says “Lifejackets mandatory!” Okay, well, that’s understandable. But when I see a stack of helmets, I start to wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. This is, I believe, the first place in Mexico where I’ve ever been required to sign a release form. (GULP!)
We hike in single file up a long staircase to reach the entrance to the first waterfall. It is here that I learn we will actually be jumping off a total of seven different waterfalls! The first waterfall is the second to tallest. I inch out to the edge, water rushing around my shivering lower legs. I peer over, at which time I freeze. My knees are visibly shaking. I can’t do it. It’s not the water that scares me, it’s the less than 90 degree angle…having to catapult myself off the rounded edge to clear the rock face without slipping on the limestone and busting my butt! I turn around and start back, telling Erik I am going to go back and wait at the entrance.
But all six of my travel mates have already gone off the edge, and are now waiting patiently for me in the pool below. If I don’t do it, I’ll be the only one who misses out. I begin to realize how much I will regret it when the others are basking in the afterglow, while I have sat out the dance. The wave of regret and disappointment which fills my stomach feels worse than the fear stuck in the back of my throat. So I go back and interrupt the line to ask the guide if I can try one more time.
By now, the people in line behind me start to cheer me on. No way can I turn back now! The guide counts off my steps, “One. Two. THREEEEEE!” at which time I shove off and go flying over the edge! After that, the next six falls are a walk in the park, even the tallest one at over 30 feet drop. One by one, we cheer each other on as we go running off the edge, then regroup and swim to the next waterfall.
Such an incredibly fun experience in a beautiful water wonderland! And thanks to Karen and Vivian, I’ve got the photos to remember it by…