Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hierve el Agua

June 10th

North of Mitla is a 50kms round trip to Hierve el Agua (meaning "the water boils") a natural spring and land of bizarre rock formations. We drop our bags in Mitla and ride light, which is a good thing as there is a 500m mountain in the way, followed by several kilometers of dirt road.

The whole area round Mitla is given over to maguay plantations and there are hundreds of tiny Mezcal distillaries. It's a beautiful setting in the picturesque hills overlooking ancient terraces and irrigation systems used 1500 years ago by the Zapotec Indians.


One sign advertises 2 litres of 40 percent proof Mezcal for 30 pesos - around $2.50. You don't get a free bottle for that though and you have to bring your own!

The severity of the dirt road was exaggerated - it's just not that bad....


The hill climb is another matter and we're out of practice, so 500 metres straight up for 12 kms of slow climbing feels tougher than it should. All the while we can see a new cuota road down on the valley floor heading in the same direction. As we descend those same 500m, the valley floor and that road come up to meet us. We decide the journey back will be on the new road!

Arriving at Hierve el Agua, all complaints fade and we know it was all sooooo worth it....


The setting is just gorgeous and when we arrive, we have the place to ourselves.

Water, rich in calcium carbonate gurgles up from deep within the earth to form bubbling pools - which give the place it's name. The water is so mineral rich it glows an emerald green and the surrounding rock is stained in hues of yellow and brown. The water doesn't boil in reality and it's a pleasant bathing temperature with stunning views. Always wanted my own private outdoor pool in the mountains. How nice....


It's hot in the sun though, and the water evaporates as it flows down the hillside, leaving behind all that calcium carbonate. In a bizarre copy of underground cave formations huge stalagmite-like outcrops have grown over the millenia.

There's a trail you can hike for a few kilometers that takes you round and below the "waterfalls". Frozen in place, this rippling sheet of rock is over 100 feet high...


Without the strange formations, this would still be a fantastic place to hike with fabulous open views on one side to the green hills across the valley. The other side is straight out of a subterrainean cavern and lends a surreal aspect to the vista. There's a man stood on top to give scale....


It's a fine way to spend an afternoon and there are cabins if you want to stay overnight. Reluctantly we ride out and after retracing the dirt track we take the new road.

And soon discover why there were no cars on it.....


The beautiful black tarmac turns in to a building site and apparantly it's not finished yet. We did try and pass, but this is 4 wheel drive territory. With just one driven wheel, we retreat to the old road and labour once more - this time up the other side of the mountain.

In keeping with the slightly surreal side of the day, we are attacked and chased for a couple of hundred metres by a ferocious beast, eyes narrowed, it's hell bent on taking lumps out of us....


I reckon it's not just the locals drinking the Mezcal round here!

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