Mexico – What a place to spend Christmas.

Mexico – What a place to spend Christmas.

Words by Laura Griffin (Actually she and we quote "I wrote it and Ultan fixed it" :-) )

Over the Christmas holidays I went to Mexico, and what a Christmas it turned out to be. From running more slides than I care to count, paddling through some of the deepest canyons I’ve seen, paddling rivers from high up in the mountains all the way to the sea, and that’s before you add in all the waterfalls!

Canoe_Centre_Mexico

I was joined by a full Irish crew of Ultan O’Kane, Frank Carr, John Costello, and Mac Skelly, when we arrived in Mexico we hooked up with other paddlers of different nationalities. Travelling to Mexico we all went via different routes, some having more stressful journeys than others, but eventually we all met up in Jalcomulco in Veracruz.

Frank, Mac and I flew via Amsterdam into Mexico City; we were met by John who had arrived a few days prior. From Tapo bus terminal in Mexico City we got a bus to Xalapa and then flagged a taxi to take us the final leg to the village of Jalcomulco. Ultan was waiting for us there with rented kayaks which he organised through Aventurec in Tlapacoyan. We quickly dumped our bags at the hotel, grabbed our kayaking gear and headed to the river.

Our first experience of kayaking in Mexico was on the Antigua river. We paddled all 3 section of the river during our stay. A crazy local paddler lead us down the The Pescados section on our first day, this was a lovely grade III+ nestled in beautiful surroundings.

The second day in Jalcomulco we paddled the quarto quarto or 4,4’s. 4 grade IV rapids in a row. The day started with a drive in a pick-up truck on small dirt track roads with 8 boats strapped to the roof. This didn’t end so well as 5 minutes from the put in a few of the boats came loose. We quickly reattached the boats and made our way to the river. To reach the first rapid we had to carry our boats up stream for about 15 minutes, not so easy given the heat. It was a tough start to the day but well worth it to run some pushier rapids finished off by a few bottles of Corona in town. A nice way to finish the day.

Our third day on the Antigua was one of my favourite day paddling in Mexico. We started at the Barranca Grande and paddled 47km all the way back to the village of Jalcomulco. The guide book describes the first 2 hours as continuous III/IV with very few eddys. This first stretch was really fun and exciting, paddling nonstop in a beautiful gorge lined with a combination of banana and orange trees along with coffee plants.

Our third day on the Antigua was one of my favourite day paddling in Mexico. We started at the Barranca Grande and paddled 47km all the way back to the village of Jalcomulco. The guide book describes the first 2 hours as continuous III/IV with very few eddys. This first stretch was really fun and exciting, paddling nonstop in a beautiful gorge lined with a combination of banana and orange trees along with coffee plants.

We finished our stay in Jalcomulco with a night in a local tavern sampling a few Tequilas, I think this was the only bar in town run by 2 very odd gentlemen. They did have an excellent juke box so we got the pub rocking with a few 90s classics.

From Jalcomulco we moved on to Tlapacoyan where we stayed in Aventurec. This place is fully equipped for kayakers and the staff are really friendly, helping in whatever way they can. They provide shuttles to and from the river each day, this is a big help as trying to locate these for some rivers can be a nightmare. A word of caution, the rock around Tlapacoyan is very sharp and will break boats. On the plus side, Hector in Aventurec is always on hand to mend boats with his trusty heat gun, this became a daily occurrence on our trip. We opted for the full board package which included an all you can eat breakfast and dinner, I would highly recommend this option as some of the dishes served were amongst the most delicious we ate in Mexico. All in all it’s a fabulous place to stay with the added benefit of meeting other like minded paddlers.

We ran the roadside section (IV) of the Rio Alseseca several times while in Tlapacoyan. It’s a great section with a slide or waterfall every few meters. It’s only a short section but is so much fun. The main feature of this section is the S-bend. First impression of this rapid I thought it looked very scary, so we all choose to portage on our first lap. On our second run a few of our group decided to run the S-bend, Mac being one of them. I was given the job of photographer. After watching the others style the rapid and make it look easy, I quickly changed my mind and fired it up. It turned out to be really fun, it was over in a flash.

After a few days on roadside section, as a group we felt ready to step it up a gear and head for the Big Banana section. Oh how wrong we were. We’d arranged for a Russian paddler staying in Aventurec to join us and show us the lines, unfortunately when he saw the size of the group he pulled out. This was probably the correct decision on his part considering when we got on the river we portaged more rapids than we paddled. The portages involved trekking through thick Mexican jungle of trees lined with large spikes, spiders, snakes and millions of ants. I almost go bitten by a snake on this mini adventure. A little terrifying to say the least! As the river was in a gorge and pool drop in feature, re-entry after a portage was always fun, consisting of throwing your boat and paddle off a cliff, sometimes 25 ft in height and jumping in after them. This was the highlight of the section.

After we had exhausted all sections of the Rio Alseseca within our capabilities, we decided to travel south to the Rio Oro. This turned out to be my favourite river of the trip, and what a way to finish the holiday. Every part of this river/trip was so much fun. We arrived in a small seaside village called Punta Roca Partida and were instructed to ask for a local man named El Flaco. He turned out to be a local fisherman who owned a restaurant on the beach. El Flaco organised a young lad to bring us to the put in of the river. This involved a 30 minute walk through farmland. The Rio Oro is a beautiful pool drop river with some great rapids and beautiful scenery. It finishes with 2 waterfalls, a 40fter leading into 30fter. If you decide on running the first waterfall you’re committed to the second as you land in a gorged in pool with no way out apart from over the second waterfall. Above the first fall we had a little excitement ending in Mac’s boat floating over the waterfall, as a result Mac had to jump 40 foot into the pool to gather his boat and run the final drop.

The Rio Oro was definitely worth the 6 am wake up and 6 hour drive. I also managed to paddle the highest waterfall to date regardless of how terrified I was. Although, I think I need a lot more experience running large waterfalls before I master the art of freefall. The river ends by flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, were we surfed a few small waves before paddling along the shoreline to El Flaco’s beach side restaurant. Here we were served with ice cold Corona and fresh Barracuda fish, a great way to end any river trip.

On our journey home we managed to squeeze a day in Mexico City, this was well worth it and would advice anyway travelling to Mexico to do the same. We visited the ancient city of Teotihuacan which houses the third largest pyramid in the world. In the evening we went to watch a Lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) event, this was so entertaining.

Overall paddling in Mexico was an amazing experience; it was one complete adventure with many funs days on the river with a great group of friends. I can’t think of a better way to spend my Christmas holidays.

Slán go fóil.

Laura 

 

 

  • Mar 03, 2017
  • Category: Blog
  • Comments: 0
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