El Aguacero Waterfall, Chiapas
After a few days in San Cristobal de Las Casas (Chiapas, MX), we were ready for some nature and time off-grid. Based on a great tip from our overlander friends Glen and Jeanette, our first stop was El Aguacero Waterfall and La Venta Canyon River in the Ocote Biosphere Reserve, just a few hours down the road in west Chiapas. Leaving the highway, it took a few miles of driving down a gravel road and steep, winding driveway to arrive at the non-descript dirt parking lot, which would also be our campsite for the next two nights. There were only a couple of other parked vehicles in the lot and we were thrilled to discover that we’d have the place mostly to ourselves.
I had hoped to get a view of the waterfall from the parking lot but no such luck. Realizing there was no easy way to see it, we stuffed some essentials in our backpack and started the 724-stair decent to the bottom of the canyon. At first glance, the water seemed to be a murky brown colour but once we dipped our feet in, we realized that it was super clear, cool water with a sandy bottom. Following thundering sound of falling water, we rounded a bend in the canyon to find a most beautiful waterfall. My pictures (of which I took MANY – much to the dismay of my models, Marc & Walter) don’t do this place justice.
We spent the next day and a half playing in the river and waterfalls. We let Walter off leash for a while and he was losing his little doggy mind playing in the shallow pools and enjoying his newfound hobby of hunting down chicken carcasses and picnic remains. The highlights for us were exploring the canyon, which we had almost to ourselves, swimming in the little pools and streams, discovering an underground river/cave that Marc explored in the dark, admiring the lush greenery and staring in awe at the waterfall.
We also couldn’t help staring at the Mexican guy who decided to fully lie down in the river with all of his clothes on. We thought it really bizarre (and pretty funny) but have since noticed that in many parts of the country, Mexicans swim with their clothes on (usually shorts & t-shirt over a bathing suit). It seems to be a modesty thing and we’ve realized that I’ve actually been getting stares when wearing my bikini… it’s impossible not to stand out as I’m roughly half a foot taller than most of the Mexican women, blindingly white and apparently not wearing enough clothes.
We drove west from El Aguacero through the state of Oaxaca to Cholula, a little city in Puebla, MX. We hadn’t expected much from Cholula; it was just planned as a cheap place to camp for the night. We had read on iOverlander that for 60 pesos (~ $3 or 4 CDN), you could camp in a parking lot at the foot of the ruins of the Great Pyramid of Cholula. We arrived on a Sunday and the place was hopping with locals and national tourists. The little gravel parking lot was quite charming (as far as parking lots go) with street art on the wall, a clean bathroom and a really friendly little old man running it. We strolled up to the ruins to discover an amazingly landscaped public space with parks, gardens and play structures.
One thing that struck us immediately about Cholula was how different it is from other Mexican cities we’ve visited. The streets were extremely clean, kids were playing with expensive toys and wearing brand name clothes, the park was full of purebred dogs on leashes and many people were jogging and exercising on the nearby track. I think this place must be representative of the wealth and modernity that exists in nearby Mexico City and surrounds.
Despite getting VERY HANGRY trying to find a dog-friendly restaurant (of which there are very few in Cholula) we really enjoyed our first evening in the City and decided to spend an extra day to do some more sightseeing. Thanks to Glen and Jeanette having given us their Mexico ‘Lonely Planet’ guide (if you’re remarking that Glen and Jeanette have really influenced our current route – you’re right!), we were able to learn a bit about the City and find our way around town without needing to first hunt down WiFi. We visited the church on top of the pyramid, which provided a great view of the City, discovered a dog-friendly café with good lattes, did some exercise in the park with the locals and wandered the streets where we found so many beautiful, colourful buildings and murals. We also spent some time in the City’s Zocalo (centre square), which was a bit touristy and over the top for our liking but full of enormous trees in full bloom.
Stay tuned for our Part 2 post, which unsurprisingly will be all about… more waterfalls (Grutas Tolantongo) and urban exploring (San Miguel de Allende).
Camping & Travel Tips:
- There were very few visitors to El Aguacero while we were there but I’ve heard that it can be a total zoo on the weekend, with the entire parking lot filling up and locals arriving by the van full. If you want to enjoy nature in peace, be sure to visit from Monday – Thursday!
- Cholula was brimming with people and activity on Sunday when we arrived but on Monday, a lot of the restaurants and stores are closed and the vibe wasn’t the same. If you like vibrant urban places, weekends would be the best time to visit this City.