Monday, July 13, 2009

The Sumidero Gorge

June 16th to 18th 2009

The climb off the coastal plain is a cracker. The road meanders it's lazy zig-zag way up the mountainside for 30kms for around 1500m of height gained. Both the temperature and the buzz of insects slowly recede, which are both welcome changes.

The plains just teemed with any number of nasty little bitey things and they obviously had a twisted sense of humour, taking direct aim on my nether regions. An unwelcome souvenir of their attention is the swollen red ring of itchiness I now have in the exact shape of a bicycle saddle. Cycling has become an uncomfortable fidgety, squirming search for a comfy spot.

The terrain starts to look a little like the rolling hills of mid Wales and Sue, a taff gets a little home sick as we climb. The land looks like it has been draped in velvet and we sing (badly) the Tom Jones classic "The green green grass of home"....

More scenes from a pastoral Shangri-La....

It's like stepping back in time to an England before it was concreted over and turned to a stone and steel jungle....

After the grueler of a climb, the land calms down again and sets about rolling merrily towards the next set of peaks....

Even the flutterbyes take a breather....

But the concrete jungle is here too and we stop in Tuxtla Gutierrez, an ugly traffic choked city of half a million which is stark contrast to the ride. The next day, we roll to Tuxtlas better looking sister city of Chiapa de Corzo just 10 miles away. This is the launch pad for river trips along the mightly Sumidero Gorge and we've got a boat booked!

Blasting noisily up the emerald green waters of the Grijalva River, we are suddenly dwarfed by sheer walls of rock a thousand metres high to either side. It feels like a trip down the the great river taken directly from The Lord of The Rings. We feel about the size of hobbits as we adjust to this new scale and crane our necks to see clouds fall off the tops of sheer cliffs...

Even the howler monkeys seem to be measuring the walls of their home....

Giant waterfalls - rendered miniature in proportion to the drop, deposit calcium ledges which are colonised by huge new growth. From a distance the effect resembles the oversize Christmas Tree of a colossus....

Everywhere is life. In nooks and crannies a million bats roost and snooze waiting for the coming dusk....

We see crocodiles sunning themselves on the river banks, statue like and unmoving, their massive jaws open and ominous.

On a rock; what looks like mud turns out to be the next generation - hundreds and hundreds of them - each of these 6 inch minnows destined to grow into fully fledged 12 foot horrors....

It's an incredible and impressive natural habitat.


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