A Hike to the Top of the Waterfall | Mexico | Living in Mexico

A Hike to the Top of the Waterfall


Woke up this morning, started to sneeze,
I had a cigarette and a cup of tea.
I looked in the mirror, what did I see?
A nine stone weakling with knobbly knees.
I did my knees bend, press ups, touch my toes,
I had another sneeze and I blew my nose.
I looked in the mirror at my pigeon chest,
I had to put on my clothes because it made me depressed.

The Kinks, Superman


The land Edward James bought for his garden, Las Pozas, contains a natural waterfall. Imagine owing a waterfall! This photo was taken in March, five months into the dry season. You can see there's plenty of water in these mountains.


I want to return some September during the rains to see the falls in flood stage—a good excuse to miss the stupid Sanmiguelada.

While exploring the gardens, I met Ana and her two dogs—Sacha and Thor. Well, actually I met the dogs first. It was they who introduced me to Ana.

She was born in Seville, traveled all over the world, and finally chose Xilitla as her home. (What are the odds of that?) She makes silver jewelry and sells it in the Jalpan plaza most Saturdays. She works maybe 20 hours a week and makes enough to support herself.

(Boy, did I go wrong somewhere.)

She asked me if I had hiked to the top of the waterfall. "No? Well you must go. Here. I'll take you."

I quickly learned that there's no saying "no" to Ana.

We started up a dark, steep stairway,...


... an endless stairway. Ana and the dogs bounded up the path. I trudged and panted. The trail became a dirt track, steeper than the stairs, with boulders and roots to scramble over. Soon I was pulling myself up using tree branches. The jungle, semi-tame in the lower garden, became wilder as we climbed.


Thighs burning, gasping for air, I reached the top at last, just before I might have triggered another coronary. Ana and Sacha were waiting at the edge of the drop off looking relaxed and happy, like that excruciating climb was just an everyday event.


Well, it turns out it was an everyday event—for them anyway. Hiking to the top of the falls is how Ana exercises the dogs. And herself. Pretty much every day. At least Sacha had the decency to leave her tongue hanging out, no doubt so I wouldn't feel too bad.

(I like to think I'm blowing away all my San Miguel friends by walking up the hill to Gigante. I guess I'd better think again.)

I was too chicken to crawl out onto the wet rocks to photograph the cataract from above. I got as close to the edge as I dared and shot a few uninspiring frames of the pool below.


Man, that's a long way down. Looking for scale? The two vertical rectangular objects are not wooden planks; they're big concrete structures, each a couple of feet wide and maybe twenty feet long. Above them, where two other concrete structures make a roof shape, there are three UT Austin architecture students, sketching. That's the male one wearing a red shirt. You see him there?


I'm in better shape than I have been in for years. But Ana and her dogs showed me I have a long way to go.