No. 8: La Sierra Gorda, Part I

October 15, 2008. Sierra Gorda.

Group in Sierra

Continuing our rapid pace of a trip every other weekend, we headed off to the Sierra Gorda the second Sierra mountainsweek of October. After so much time in the city, it was a real treat for us to get back to nature for a few days. We began our trip early Thursday morning, October 9, with a Dramamine and a several-hour swirling bus ride. As we wound our way through the enormous mountain range, we watched the landscape change from barren desert to lush tropical jungle.

Our first stop was near the top of theChuveje falls Sierra, in Pinal de Amoles, where we visited the town cathedral, snacked on gorditas, and enjoyed a visit to Doña Rosa’s home, where she makes award-winning dulces y licores (sweets and drinks) from the fruits found in the region.

At our next stop, we took a several-mile hike through the mountains to the raging waterfall of Chuveje. Our guides, Regina y Sal, said that in their twenty years of visiting the falls, they had never seen it so powerful as on that day. After the long hike back (or, for the lucky few, a bumpy ride in the back of a friendly pickup truck), we headed to Jalpan for a nice dinner, some ice cream, and an evening swim at the hotel. Conca mission

The following morning we began our tour of the region. This is an area rich in history. Before Father Junípero Serra embarked on his famed mission trips north to California, he founded five missions in this rugged region. All five of these churches are architectural masterpieces, and over the course of the weekend we were treated to four of them—in Jalpan, Concá, Landa, and Tilaco. While similar in style and design, each has a personality of its own, reflecting the culture of the indigenous builders and artists.

Friday morning we took in Jalpan, the principal town of the Sierra Gorda and site of the flagship mission of Santiago. There we visited its museum, mission, and market, and then headed off to Concá. On the way, we stopped to view the famous "Meeting of the Rivers," where the cold, blue waters of the AyutlMud fighta River meet—but do not mix with—the warm, brown waters of the Santa María. After a tour of the Concá mission, beautifully decorated for a local festival, we took a leisurely walk along the roads behind the church to discover a creek with crystal-clear wading pools, where we swam, swung on rope swings, and had the obligatory mud fight.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Hotel Misión Concá and yet another swim in the hotel pool. It was a perfect day until, during the dreaded Red Rover game on the hotel lawn, Justin took a spill and cut open his knee. We were greatly blessed when we discovered that the seemingly only guest in the entire hotelJustin's stitches just happened to be a paramedic, who graciously treated Justin right there on the lawn. We then took him to the public clinic in Jalpan where, for about thirty-five dollars, they took X-rays of his knee, thoroughly cleaned the wound, and gave him stitches.

To conclude what felt like our most full day thus far, we all joined Sal and Regina for a night out of Karaoke singing and celebrating.

To view pictures of these first two days, click on the two brief slideshows below: