Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Greetings to the Artic Tundra from Las Grutas de Tolantongo

Made this little gem for my family in New England... for anyone else digging out of 4-6ft of snow... cheers

We’d heard about las Grutas of Tolontongo through the social media sites of Ewa and Sheldon of Ride4Smiles. It sounded fabulous and when we realized our route from Xilitla to Mexico City would take us past the road to Las Grutas, we decided to make the short detour.

From the bustling smog-filled city of Ixmiquilpan, we rode out in the direction of Cardonal. No joke, we encountered no fewer than 60 topes in 50 kilometers, even though there were eventually no businesses. No Houses. No nothing. Just topes. UGHHHH!!

As the sun was setting we arrived at the top of a spectacular canyon and followed the signs straight ahead for las Grutas. Although the road was dirt, and pretty gnarly in some of the hairpin turns that they had just wet down to avoid dust, (kind of reminiscent of the Dalton Highway) there were signs everywhere for the Hot Springs and we knew that what appeared to be a deserted canyon would be a rather touristy enterprise.

(We came to find out during the course of our stay that Las Grutas de Tolantongo are actually owned by 112 families that are a part of a communal property agreement. All of the employees of Las Grutas are members of this family and everyone has a say in how business matters are handled. Jobs are rotated, so while someone might be at the reception desk one day, he might be working at the locker rental the next. While we were there, we saw a group of men hacking away at stones that will likely be used to build yet another structure on the land - at the end of the day, we watched as several of them went into the shower building and emerged in security guard uniforms. Pretty interesting way to run a business.)

Entry was 140 Pesos each (about $10) and at the bottom of the canyon we found 3 hotels (largely empty as it is apparently the ‘off-season’) and a camping area empty but for one truck. We set up the tent next to the thermal river which Roel immediately jumped into.

The next morning we set out to explore the Grutas (or caves) that this canyon is famous for. A 100+ foot waterfall screens the entrance to the caves,  so it was quite a cool sensation to have our lower legs covered in warm water while chilly water was cascading down our bodies.

Once in the cave, our eyes adjusted to the dark and we noticed a massive waterfall (4 feet in diameter), falling in the middle of the space. We headed straight for it and as we moved along in about 2-3 feet of water, we realized that the walls of the cave were practically covered in waterfalls, all pouring out hot-shower temperature water. We went from fall to fall, then explored another cavern off to the right of the main cavern, and eventually visited the tunnel up above.

This shot is for my friend Bruce, who gave me crap for that last waterfall photo... as requested, Bruce... here's Roel's waterfall shot

In my life, I’ve seen beautiful caves. Breath-taking waterfalls. Lovely hot springs. Just not all in one place like this. It was spectacular.

From there we took the 2 kilometer hike up to the man-made Pozas (pools) that were also filled with geothermic water. The views during the hike and from the Pozas made it OK that the Pozas were only luke warm ;)

The next morning we wanted to get on the road early to 1. beat the city traffic of Ixmiquilpan and 2. Hopefully ride out before they wet down the road, so we rode up out of the canyon just as the sun was rising. Beautiful way to start a day.

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