In Part One, we had just arrived in our jeep at the Pueblo of El Llano, where we were going to look for a guide to take us to the lower waterfalls at El Cora. We, consists of the author, Vicky Flores, my partner in our business adventures of a Bed and Breakfast and Back Road tours, and our guests, Jeff and Jane Hill.
We pull in to El Llano and it is 10 a.m. The odometer reads 0035 kilometers.
There is a pretty little church with a nice plaza and it is right on the main highway. The town is spread out. Not just built around the plaza, it just kind of stretches.
Vicky and the Comisario of El Llano: Vicky asks the Comisaria, (mayor) where we can find a guide to the waterfalls.
We have never been to the lower waterfalls before, although Vicky has been to the upper falls. We have been told that a local guide would be needed. A visit to the Comisario (town mayor?) and the local cantina produced a guide. Beto Montez. Beto boards the jeep with his guitar and we are on the road again. We back track down the highway and take a side road.
Vicky talks to our Guide: Beto Montez and Vicky talk in front of Beto’s home. He is a singing guide and brings his guitar.
The road is dirt and gravel, not bad at this point. Beto says we need to go about six kilometers to our jumping off place. We pass a little settlement and a neat little rancho. It is a small trailer park. Beto says it belongs to some gringos. Now we go down into a little valley. There is a jungle canopy overhead. The road divides and we go to the right. There is a banana field to our right. Now water is running down the center of the road. Beto tells us that many artifacts are to be found. Ceramics, some petroglyphs, etc. The road starts to get rough. I put it in 4 wheel drive. We are passing through a mango grove and planted areas.
Beto tells us an interesting story. Germans came to this area in 1906 and started a hacienda. It extended all the way into the mountains where they planted coffee and down to the coast. They built roads, a hacienda and settlements for their workers. Produce was shipped out by wagons and mules. Of course the revolution of 1910 to 1914 put an end to the haciendas. Soon we come to a tunnel that goes through the mountain. Beto says the Germans built it, but I found out different later. We pass through. It is very narrow and Vicky gets a little nervous. This is not helped by the darkness and the many bats flying around. I make mention that this place looks a little shaky and could collapse at any moment. I realize this mistake too late when a near panic starts in the jeep. Soon we come to the end and come out in another valley.
Note on the tunnel: There are two tunnels in the area. We did not locate the other. A railroad was planned from Tepic to San Blas but never completed. Limited records made note that two tunnels were completed in this area. I could not find dates or other data.
Editor’s Note: “Back Roads of Nayarit” is a series of essays written by Bob Howell, a long-time resident of Jaltemba Bay. We are sharing his stories in an effort to preserve Bob’s memory – and to help Bob’s partner and traveling companion, Vicky Flores Ramirez, who still lives in La Peñita and quietly carries on the work that she and Bob so loved. You can learn more below.
We enter a small forest of what appears to be miniature bamboo but the guide has a different name for it, and I can’t remember what. Now we come to some red flowers which are called mala mujeres, or bad women (what did they do?). Now we see some red looking trees with what looks like paper hanging from them. The guide says if you make tea from them it will increase your appetite. I glance at my stomach and decide I don’t need to know more. It is 11:09 and we are at kilometer 0047. We are passing through a different kind of country here. The road is up and down, the soil is red and there is only a tree here and there. We go sharply down hill and come to a little creek and enter a real bamboo grove. Large, round and very tall. Just beyond we come to a second creek. There is an entry through the fence and we follow the creek up some distance. There is a near solid bamboo grove. The road narrows and we park. The guide insists that we take the ice chest and guitar. Who am I to argue. I like food and music. A note here. There is no way you can enter this road without a 4 wheel drive. The entrance is rough and steep. We follow along the stream and pass through a couple of cattle gates.
A petroglyph on a rock: After driving through mountains and jungle, we park the jeep and start hiking. We soon come across this petroglyph along the trail.
The stream we are following: This stream empties into the river below the falls.
We continue along this bubbling stream, which has many pools quite big enough for swimming. It is forested on both sides. Soon we pass a small banana patch, then a field of corn, both are irrigated. There must be a spring above. We find a rock that has petroglyphs and I snap a picture. There are a lot of boulders above. I bet if we checked them out we would find more petroglyphs. This is interesting country. We are in the middle of a rainforest. The ground is fertile. Water abounds. There sure would be worse places in the world to settle. The trail is getting a little rough. We cross the creek several times. Jeff, the guide, and even Vicky (she insists and there is no arguing with this little lady) switch off carrying the ice chest. They won’t let me. They must think I am old or something. The stream is getting bigger as we go. Up through another bamboo grove. The water is getting louder. Vicky falls into the stream for a second time. Now we leave the river. We are up the mountain through many oak trees. The trail forks. We go left. Now descending on a trail that has been worn over centuries. The stream is down below. It looks like a swimming stream. The water is azure blue. There is the cascada! (waterfall). It is beautiful here. The water is falling down a rock face. There is a very large deep pool. Like a small lake. As I write this I am listening to the tape and the music of the falling water. I wish I was still there. It took us an hour and 8 minutes of hiking. Well worth the effort to be in this little Eden. We lounge around. Vicky goes for a swim.
A waterfall at El Cora: We soon come to the lower waterfall. There is a beautiful pool to swim in.
One of three waterfalls: The falls are located on an old hacienda that was settled by German immigrants in 1906. The revolution of 1910-1914 broke up the haciendas.
A great swimming hole: The water was icy cold but very refreshing. The pool was deep. We never did find out how deep. We pick a shady spot next to the pool and have a picnic lunch. Sandwiches, beer and goodies.
A tropical paradise in the middle of the jungle: The first waterfall has easy access. The second involves a brisk climb up the rocks. The upper falls must be reached from another access from above, which is a dangerous climb.
Steep rocky cliffs surround the pool: The stream can be crossed a short distance below the pool and brief, but heavy, climb will take you to the middle pool and falls.
Vicky kicks back: A tired hiker. Vicky, Jeff and the guide took turns carrying the ice chest. It was hard work.
Beto sings and plays: Beto has a nice voice and plays well. Although poor by northern standards, he is richer in life than most. He farms 2 hectares (4.4 acres) brings in a little money now and then as a guide, looks ten years younger than his 62 years and has the energy of a mountain goat. He will outlive most of us and he is a very happy man.
Jeff and the guide climb up to the middle fall and pool. That is as far as one can go safely. We break out the lunch – Turkey ham and cheese sandwiches, pickles, goodies, potato chips, beer, soda, coffee, etc. Beto picks up his guitar. He plays and sings. Here we are sitting in another beautiful world. It is hard to imagine the hardship and crisis now going on in war torn Iraq. This is a moment when you might weaken and just say goodbye real world and live here in paradise.
It is 1:30 and we pack up and leave paradise. The weather has warmed and we take a couple of breaks on the way back. We arrive an hour and nine minutes later at the jeep.
Jeff crosses the stream with the ice chest: We cross the stream many times. Vicky fell in twice.
Jeff clowns on the bamboo: There is a small forest of bamboo along the stream.
We are surrounded by mountains and tropical rain forest: The tropical rain forest is fast disappearing throughout the world. It is estimated that in 50 years there will be no more in Mexico.
We meet a vaquero along the road: This is cattle country. There are few fences. This is ejido land. The revolution divided the haciendas into ejidos, where all members share in the use of the land.
The countryside changes along this road: This road served the old German settlement many years ago. They planted coffee up in the mountains, and varied crops down below. This was an old horse drawn wagon road at one time.
Entering the village of El Cora: A surprisingly large pueblo in the mountains. Now served by a good road, it was very hard to get to, especially during the rainy season.
The church in El Cora: This village is rather poor and there is no plaza by the church.
The new road down the mountain: A new paved highway goes down the mountain to the village of Tecuitata and the main highway between Tepic and Santa Cruz on the coast.
The village super market: It is a long ways to a real super market. Shopping is limited and prices are high. A hardship for those who can least afford it.
A basic home in Tecuitata: Home is where the heart is. This one is pretty basic. The walls are naturally air conditioned but let in the critters.
We continue on toward the Pueblo of El Cora arriving about 15 minutes later. A larger village than I thought. We pause to take a couple of photos and pass through. The road is very good and soon changes from dirt to pavement. Although a little narrow, the pavement is good and there are many places to pull out. We pass through more tropical fruit groves and come to the village of Tecuitata, a neat place sitting on the hillside, and then the main road from Tepic to Santa Cruz on the coast. The kilometers are 059. We have beautiful views and a nice trip home.
We arrive home at 5:39 and the kilometers are 0133. For a total of 58 on this trip. We left at 8:20 so time was a little over 9 hours.
The adventurers: Left to right we have Jeff and Jane Hill, Bob Howell (the author), Vicky Flores and guide, Beto Montez.
by Bob Howell
Originally published March 23, 2003 on La Peñita Folk
Editor’s Note: “Back Roads of Nayarit” is a series of essays written by Bob Howell, a long-time resident of Jaltemba Bay. The series details his day trips and adventures between 2001-2007. We are sharing these stories in an effort to preserve Bob’s memory – and to help Bob’s partner and traveling companion, Vicky Flores Ramirez, who still lives in La Peñita and quietly carries on the work that she and Bob so loved. Sometimes her bodega is packed full of donated clothing, school supplies, toys and medicine; sometimes it is bare. If you enjoy reading these articles, please consider making a donation so the McKibben Foundation (Nurse Vicky’s Dispensary) can continue helping schools, seniors and needy families in the Jaltemba Bay area. And if you have copies of any of Bob’s old stories or photos, please contact us.
If you haven’t already done so, read Tom Plattenberger’s personal dedication entitled “In Memory of Bob Howell,” which serves as an introduction to this series.