Saturday, July 23, 2011

Las aguas. Agua Azul y Misol-ha.


We left San Cristóbal de las Casas this morning and by late morning had arrived at Agua Azul  (Blue Water) waterfalls, a small river that runs in an area that Mayan Tzeltal call "Water Mountains".  The river runs through an area that was declared a Mexican Federal Protected Forest and Wildlife Refuge in 1980 and a Biosphere Special Reserve several years later.


When we left San Cristóbal, we also left the cool mountain air behind. The heat and humidity immediately hit us when Franciso pulled open the door of the van.

Cataratas de Agua Azul. The parking lot was filled with cars and people.  A lot of people of all age.  Many with swimsuits on or in hand.  Agua Azul is a popular swimming spot for locals and standing in the heat of Chiapas, I could understand why.  I wanted to jump into the water but unfortunately, none of us had our suits on so we would just be looking (jealously) at everyone else.



 
A wide path wound through the woods, following the route of the falls.  Flanking either side of the walkway were vendor stands and restaurants.  So unlike any national or even state park you would find in the US.




As we passed one restaurant, sharp eyed foodie Juan Jose noticed chicken cooking on the grill.  I just started to drool at the thought of sinking my teeth into the chicken.  When Francisco asked us whether or not we would like to have the grilled chicken for lunch, you can guess what our answer was!

At various points, we stepped off the path to get a closer look at the falls.


What makes Agua Azul unusual is that on certain sections, the water has dug holes in the limestone as a ladder, known in geology slang as “gours”, where water pools acquire a turquoise green color. This phenomenon takes place because many types of sediment, calcium carbonate and magnesium hydroxide, both of a beige whitish color, compose the limestone.

 Here's a quick narrated tour of the falls and the park.  Watch for a *cameo* appearance by Ayşe :-)




 

The path ends at the top of the falls.  There, a platform juts over the falls so you can get a look from the top of the falls down to the flatter section of the river.





I have the say, Agua Azul was not the most memorable creations of Mother Nature....at least not to the naked eye.  I think we had all seen much better examples of water falls and rivers.  So, there was no reason to linger long.




Lunch! With pollo barbacoa (barbecue chicken) on our brains, we left the falls behind and headed back to the restaurant for lunch.  We were hungry (or may be just greedy) and thirsty.  A table in the shade and time to enjoy lunch was just what we needed.



Our meal began with some empanadas, piping hot from the fryer. The chicken was pulled right off the grill, put on to the plate and delivered to our table. It had been marinated with some sort of a chili before it was cooked so the final flavor was smoky, spicy and very tasty.  Small bowls of Mexican rice, french fries, a salad of cabbage and carrots and tortillas were the compliments.  Didn't look like much of a meal but it was enough to hit the spot.


Cascada Misol-ha.  After lunch, we strolled back to the van stopping for a potty break along the way.  A short 40 minute or so drive away, we had arrived at Misol-Ha (meaning "Streaming Water"), a river that falls off the edge of a 120 foot cliff into a deep pool surrounded by lush vegetation.

For you trivia buffs out there, Misol-ha's claim to fame is that it served as a backdrop for scenes in the movie, Predator (1987) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Juan Jose dropped us off at another parking lot that was crowded with cars and people.  This time he opted to stay behind.

As we wove our way through the crowd, Francisco actually stopped one of the vendors he could give us a cultural lesson.  Yes, Francisco is that kind of guide - with him, even a vendor can offer up a lesson :-)  In this case, it was a young man from the Mayan Lacandon culture.  He was dressed in his native costume and he was selling a homemade bow and arrows.  Francisco took the opportunity to tell us a bit about the Lacandon as well the arrows - how each tip was shaped to kill a specific prey.  Interesting though the young man looked very disappointed that we didn't buy his bow and arrow from him. 










We followed a narrow walkway through the rainforest.  The sound of the waterfalls grew louder and louder and soon enough the cascading water came into view.












The walkway was crowded and so we had to move single file.  Our goal was to get to the path behind the waterfall.  Slowly, we walked as we had to often give way to people passing us in the other direction.  We weren't in any rush.

As we got closer, the rocky pathway got wetter and more slippery.  I was trying to film and watch my steps at the same time so I was moving at snail's pace.  Luckily, everyone around me was very patient.


We soon made our way to stand behind the curtain of water as it cascaded over the rocks high above us.  The air was filled with mist. Felt good as it cooled us off. People were swimming in the shallows. Everyone was having a good time.

Water was showering down from overhead cracks above near the path. Ayşe couldn't resist putting her head under one to cool off.  My brother decided to follow suit (though we had to egg him on bit) and then it was my turn.  It took a bit of cajoling but Francisco eventually did the same.  We all looked like drowned rats afterwards but it felt good!


Happily cooled off, we soon had to make our way back to the van.  We still had some driving to do before our day was over.

Next destination.  Palenque!