For a long time we had been thinking of the trip to the waterfalls near El Cora. From the top near the village – a dangerous undertaking. From the bottom – unknown trails and roads. There are three falls. Vicky, my traveling companion and licensed tour guide, had been to the top pool and falls, but not the middle or the bottom. We heard that there was a guide in the village of El Llano. With that in mind, we decided, since we only had two guests at our bed and breakfast, and since they were willing to go on an adventure, this was the time. Here is our story.

It is 8:20 in the morning and another beautiful day in Paradise. We are heading out on another adventure into the unknown. Our vehicle is a 1985 CJ7. Our driver is the author of this story. Our tour guide is Vicky Flores. Our passengers are our B&B guests Jeff and Jane Hill from Juneau, Alaska. Our goal for today is the waterfalls at Cora. And away we go.

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. You can learn more below.

As we leave Mi Casa es Su Casa in Rincón de Guayabitos, Vicky announces the usual. Saying “I hope so we go back from this trip.”

We go out on the highway, which has more traffic than usual, and head North in the direction of Tepic. Our speedometer reads 975 kilometers.

We pass through the pretty green countryside. Many trees, tropical plants and small farms. There are mangoes, papayas, bananas, beans, fields of tobacco and many others. We pass by the village of Puerta de la Lima and make a stop at Balastre. The home of Peluda the burro. A previous story. This family needed some medicine, and Vicky, who is a nurse at the hospital at Las Varas, wants to drop some off. We make a pit stop and again we are off.

The kilometers are 992 and it is 8:38. The sky is beautiful and things are starting to grow back after the hurricane. Soon we are nearing the road leading to the beach community of Chacala, which was hard hit by the hurricane. We see lots of fruit stands. Here can be bought coconuts, coconut candy, bananas, pineapples, watermelons, sweet breads, honey, bananas, papayas and many other things, including yaca, the Mexican answer to viagra.

We enter the community of Las Varas and turn left at the traffic light and head in the direction of San Blas. Again we pass through planted fields, passing by the entrance to Boca de Chila, the pirate den where possibly lies buried treasure and where on a previous trip one of our guests actually found an old Spanish coin. An adventure for someone with a metal detector. On we go and soon enter the Pueblo of Zacualpan. We stop to top off the gas tank and decide that, while we are here, we will show them a small outdoor park that contains a lot of old stone artifacts.

It is 9:04 and we pull up in front of the park. A gardener is working and trimming the roses that abound within. We walk through and our guests snap a number of photos. These artifacts were found when the road was being built and other construction that required excavation. There are petroglyphs on some of the boulders, small flat round stones – how did they do such precision work with only obsidian tools. Metal was unknown to this generation. The first thing we see I better not discuss here, although I have a photo. We spend a while, give the gardener a small gratuity and are on the road again. You know, the thing about this outdoor museum is that very few people know about it and it is not easy to find. I have never met a gringo who has seen it. I guess you are going to have to just look at the photos or come with us on a trip to find out where it is.

01 - Petroglyphs on a rock at Zacualpan
Petroglyphs on a rock at Zacualpán: We stop at the outdoor museum on our way to the waterfalls at El Cora.

02 - More petroglyphs
More petroglyphs: Some of these date back over 4000 years. Most were found when the road was being constructed.

03 - A rock bowl used for grinding corn and nuts
A rock bowl used for grinding corn and nuts: This one is larger than most that we have found in the jungles.

04 - Are these ancient writings_
Are these ancient writings? We are reminded somewhat of the Aztec calender, which of course it is not. Actually the Aztec calendar was made in Yucatan by the Mayas.

05 - Of what use was this_
Of what use was this? Several of these perfectly rounded and curved rocks were present.

06 - Like a round ball cut in half.
Like a round ball cut in half: Like the writings and petroglyphs, we will never know of what use these were for. Historians have different opinions.

07 - What do you think this is_
What do you think this is? I cannot comment.

Again passing through more fields and small villages. We know where many of the roads go. Those to the right lead to the high mountains and coffee country – La Cumbre, the old German colony of El Malinal, El Italiano – where most men were killed during the revolution and where only three old ladies survive, and La Cofradia all of which have great Arabica coffee. Many others. We pass through San Ysidro, Ixtapa, a few ranches and continue on toward the coast. At kilometer 021 we pass the entrance to the turtle hatchery and Playa Custodio, a development and miles of pristine beaches, only a few kilometers distant. This is where turtle eggs are taken and permitted to hatch unmolested. Turtles nest during Jul-Oct and the hatchery releases Aug-Dec. A neat trip.

08 - The small fishing village of Platanitos
The small fishing village of Platanitos: A beautiful beach and estuary. There is a planned development here. An artist colony, marina and golf course. Better see it now.

Now we pass a large estuary and arrive at the intersection to Platanitos and we decide to swing down and stretch our legs. This is an age old fishing village and has remained almost unchanged except for the palapa restaurants with delicious fresh caught seafood. It is a cove with gentle waves. This place is being discovered. Hidden on the point, which is Punta El Custodio, is the new development of Costa Custodio. It is a must to see now because an artist colony, golf course and marina are planned for here. Progress that I could do without. While Vicky and our guests stroll the beach I break out coffee and cookies. This coffee is from the mountains near Mesillas and is Arabica Altura, which I shelled and cleaned with our hand grinder, roasted last night and ground fresh this morning. I will never tire of this aroma and full flavor. We have a leisure cup, a couple of cookies and reboard the jeep. The next stop will be El Llano, a small tropical village where we are going to find a guide.

Now we are traveling along jungle cliffs overlooking the sea. What a place to build a home. The road passes over mountains, jungle, streams, through villages. What scenery. At places we can see all along the coast to San Blas. Beautiful. Dotted with beaches, and small villages. Jungle forests, valleys, on the other side, coffee country. Wow! Sometimes I seriously ask myself what I ever did to deserve this life. One of my many regrets is that I didn’t decide to live like I do many years earlier. Somebody up there must like me. Although we are on a winding mountain road, it is well paved and maintained with pull outs here and there. There are several small beaches far below. Vicky and I are talking about exploring this entire area and soon. Now we are coming into the village of El Llano, where we will start looking for a guide.

09 - The church and plaza at El Llano
The church and plaza at El Llano: After leaving Platanitos we continue on through tropical forests and mountains to the town of El Llano, where we will find a guide to take us to the waterfalls of El Cora.

Watch for Part 2 in the next issue of our newsletter.

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.