travelog 111

Salto Agua Llovida

In a beautiful special edition of the Mexican travel journal "Mexico Desconocido" about the hidden corners of Durango we had seen pictures of a very nice waterfall of which we had never heard before: Cascada Agua Llovida. It's name comes from the fact that the water falls down about 60m or so over a cliff like a rain shower. From the short accompanying text we learned that there was a hotel and cabaņas, cabins, nearby where one could find accommodation for the night. Since we had planned a trip to the Quebradas of Durango about which we will write in the next travelog, an adventure that we intended to start in La Ciudad, the decision to make a detour to Agua Llovida on our way to La Ciudad was quickly made.

We were on the road with Jean-Marc Chalet, a friend whom we have mentioned in earlier travelogs. We filled the coolers with ice and groceries for the next few days in Durango. Then we drove west to Navios on the normal road. At kilometer 60 we turned off to Recocijo, crossed the old railroad tracks of which only a few wooden planks and some rusty nails were left, passed Cienega de Caballos, and promptly missed the turn-off to San Isidro which, of course, was not identified. We finally made it to San Isidro where we spotted the hotel's huge red roof from far away. San Isidro is a small lumber village with cute wooden houses and corrugated iron roofs and small front gardens planted with colorful flowers. An old man explained the way to the hotel "San Isidro" and said that we should be able to find the encargado, the person in charge. It was easy to find the hotel, but once there we stood in front of a huge and solidly locked iron gate. All the honking, whistling and yelling didn't help, the hotel seemed completely abandoned. It did not matter, we thought, we still had the alternative of the cabaņas "Los Molinillos". The search for the cabins took quite a while because of the many little dirt roads that all looked pretty much in use. Apparently we had ended up in a recreational area close to Durango where people were having fun on their ATV's on the weekends. Finally we found a house with a woman who sent us on the right road but soon after that we took another wrong turn to the left. Fortunately we met a pickup truck and the driver knew his way around the area and took us to the cabaņas. After he and his friend had asked us all about the from where, to where and why, they finally radioed to the person in charge of the cabins and the entire area. We had not known that we would have had to announce our visit in advance with the boss in Durango to reserve one of the cabins. Because of the insecurity in the area the usual clients had not visited for quite some time and when we showed up unannounced in two big trucks with Jalisco license plates, everybody was getting a little nervous.

Finally Francisco Quiros appeared on his ATV, the vehicle of choice for all these small dirt roads. He had talked to his boss in Durango in the meantime and they had agreed that we were really harmless tourists who were studying the flora of the area. In the car, Martin had mentioned that the cabaņas certainly would cost around $3000 pesos per night. Then we arrived in front of a huge wooden cabin with a covered veranda and rocking chairs. We entered a large room consisting of a living room with an open fireplace, a dining room with a large, round table, and a kitchen. Behind there were three bedrooms, one of them with its own bathroom. Everything was nicely done, the towels were thick and fluffy, the linens were cotton, the bed spreads and curtains very tasteful, and the huge antlers above the fireplace gave the entire place a rustic touch. Electricity was generated with solar panels, as was the hot water. Since we had been camping the night before we desperately needed a hot shower. We explained to Don Francisco that we really liked the cabin but that we were not so sure if we could afford the price. Francisco was very optimistic and announced that the night was only $1500 pesos. We had to swallow hard, and then Martin explained that we could not spend that much money for a bed and a hot shower. We finally agreed on $800 pesos. Then we sat on the veranda with a cold beer, enjoyed the view and the sunset and talked about God and the world with Francisco for quite some time.

After we had all taken a very refreshing shower and were dressed in clean clothes, Jean-Marc did magic and a "Caldo de Camaron", a shrimp soup, appeared from one of his many cardboard boxes stuffed with supplies. With fresh lime juice and chile the soup was actually pretty good. In a fleece jacket and a warming tequila in hand we sat for a long time on the veranda in our rocking chairs.

The next morning a deer visited first. Far above we saw, or better heard first, a pair of large green parrots. Francisco appeared on time and made sure that we had not packed any of the inventory of the cabin. But first he took out the $800 pesos to give back to Martin, saying that his boss in Durango was so excited about our work for the UNAM and about our search for plants that he had decided that we could spend the night for free, and come back whenever we liked. We were speechless and promised to advertise in a travelog for the beautiful cabins. The place is ideal for a group of friends and not that expensive in the end because you split between three parties and you also don't need a restaurant because you bring everything yourselves. You can ride horses, rent ATV's to do some off-roading, observe birds with a guide, or you can visit Agua Llovida on your own bat. That's exactly what we were doing this day.

From the cabins we drove on to Tres Lagunas where we asked for Miguel Hernandez, the person in charge for the area around the waterfall. He quickly got into a red pickup truck with a young man to show us the way. Like crazy people they raced over the narrow dirt roads, passing many small turn-offs where we surely would have gone wrong. Soon we reached a canyon, passed interesting cliffs, and drove deeper and deeper into the canyon. After about ten kilometers we finally reached the parking at the waterfall. There was a small platform and viewpoint hanging over the cliff from where we had a great view over the waterfall, the blue basin at its base and the canyon that disappeared on the horizon. Our guides left us to ourselves after they had explained that there was a steel rope to climb down a cliff to get all the way down to the river and the base of the waterfall. We all headed into different directions along both sides of the waterfall and also upriver, but did not find anything really interesting apart from Agave schidigera, Mammillaria senilis, Echinocereus polyacanthus and Sedum stelliforme. But we were convinced that this place was ideal Crassulaceae habitat. Finally we found the steel rope but it looked more like something for the younger generation and so Julia started to climb down on her own. The climb down was far less difficult than it had seemed from above. The climb down to the water was a lot more demanding because it was extremely steep and slippery and the terrain was covered with old leaves and one could not see where to place his/her feet. Halfway down Julia suddenly discovered an Echeveria that resembled an E. roseiflora and which was perfectly adapted in color to its surroundings. Down at the river she startled a pair of parrots from their nest in a dead tree. The birds protested loudly against her presence and even Martin could confirm via walkie-talkie that he had heard them. Apart from thick greenery there was nothing interesting to be found along the river. Climbing up again Julia explored a low cliff where she found a beautiful, purple flowering Laelia orchid species.

For a late lunch we sat down on a table and benches that had a roof on top. This was made for the moment since just then it started to rain in thick drops. Rain happens when you're on the road at the start of the rainy season, but this rain fortunately turned out to be a short and intensive downpour and soon the thick black clouds moved downriver. We drove back to San Isidro through Tres Lagunas and on and out to the main highway. There we turned west towards La Ciudad. When we reached El Salto the rain was pouring, and we asked ourselves if we had to stop the trip because the roads we intended to take would be absolutely impassable in the rain. When we reached La Ciudad the sky had already cleared and we could see blue patches. We got rooms at the "best" hotel along the highway. In a restaurant just in front we sat down for a hot meal and in the next house there was an Internet Cafe. In the small supermarket we could buy ice for the coolers, and there was even a gas station to fill the tanks. Now we were ready for the adventure "Quebradas" about which we will tell you in our next travelog.

May 2012

Julia Etter & Martin Kristen