Our flight to Mexico City took off just before a major snowstorm hit Western North Carolina and buried the area under 15 inches of snow. Talk about good timing! Jalcomulco, Veracruz is one of my favorite places. The town of about 3000 residents is located in the Antigua River Valley surrounded by beautiful hillsides of Mango orchards. The riverís indigenous name is Huitzilpan which means river of the swallows. And there are lots of swallows that fly overhead and around you as you paddle down the Barranca Grande, Pescados and Antigua sections of the river. I really enjoy the pace of life in the village, how people greet one another and spend time outside. The people are friendly and welcoming, the food is delicious and the scenery is stunning.
We arrived a week before our first trip to spend some time paddling on our own and doing recon trips on all of the rivers. Our friends Jason and Kara McClure also decided to check out the paddling around Jalco the same week. And, once we were down there I got to catch up with some Canadian paddlers and friends whom I hadnít seen in a few years and who work and live in Mexico. It turned out to be a really fun week of paddling and hiking.
We paddled the Pescados, the Actopan, the Antigua and the Alseseca. We also did one of my favorite canyon hikes. The hike starts in the village and follows burro trails up to and past a natural swimming hole into a long, deep canyon. As you go up the canyon you have to do some bouldering, climbing and crawling over, around and under big rocks. Eventually you get to a spot where you scurry up the side of a steep hill, through a grove of coffee and tangerine trees to wooden ladders that take you up the canyon wall. Thereís nothing that tastes better when youíre hot and sweaty than tangerines that youíve just picked from the tree! From there we walked across the meseta to another burro trail that lead down the mountain and back to the village. The view of the valley from the highest point was breathtaking.
Along with the paddling and hiking we also enjoyed delicious food. Our favorite place is El Navegante taco stand. El Navegante use to be a raft guide and now he makes the best pork and pineapple tacos ever! The bad thing is that he only sets up on weekends.
Even though it didnít feel lik e Christmas to us because we werenít with our families, Mexicans definitely get into the festive spirit. One of my favorite traditions in the village are the groups of kids who decorate a tree branch, make rattles and go door to door singing Mexican Christmas carols. If they come to your door and sing you give them a few pesos and then they carry on to the next house. At New Years thereís a similar tradition where the adults get into the action too. Groups get together with instruments and one or two people dress up as elders who represent the old year going out. They sing and dance for you and then you give them a few pesos. Itís really fun.
The day after Christmas Andrew and I hosted an awesome group of paddlers for a week of fun and kayaking. There were different skill levels in the group so we split up and tackled different rivers on different days, coming together to paddle for a few runs. It was a great trip and weíre so glad this group got together and wanted to come to Mexico! In addition to the singing groups at New Years we were also treated to an Afro-Cuban band and African Dance performers as well as a fire show. Everyone was so tired from all of the paddling that only a few of us made it to midnight!
On our way home Andrew and I spent a day in Mexico City where we were surprised to find an ice rink, an artificial snow tube run and a snowball fight area in the middle of the Zocalo. And there were beautiful Christmas lights on the buildings surrounding the Zocalo too. We ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant, Los Girasoles and that was a delicious way to end our holiday trip to Mexico. Luckily I get to go back this week to run my womenís trips! Below are some more photos from my camera, enjoy!