Hierve del Agua aka my biggest travel adventure yet
This weekend I took a little side excursion to a place called Hierve del Agua, literally, Boiling Water. But the water’s not really boiling, it’s very cold, but it bubbles out of the ground like it is boiling and these amazing limestone cascades formed because of the high mineral content in the water. It was beautiful and I took a million pictures, but unfortunately this computer doesn’t have a slot for my camera card, so the photos will have to wait. For now you’ll have to be satisfied with the story.
I left Saturday around noon and couldn’t believe my luck with transportion. I was able to catch the Teotitlan/Oaxaca City bus to the crucero (intersection) for 5 pesos right at the corner of my street with practically no waiting. Then I stood at the crucero hoping that a bus or collectivo to Mitla would drive by and I could flag it down. I also thought about the possibility of hitching a ride with one of the tour vans that stop at the Mezcal stand on the side of the road. I didn’t have much time to think about it because a collectivo to Mitla pulled up and let out two passengers and I jumped in. It was another short ride to Mitla and on the way in I saw collectivos to Hierve del Agua. This was exciting because I was concerned that I would have to hire a car for a significant fare at the Mitla ruins. After walking back from the center of town (the collectivo dropped off there and I wanted to see it) I learned that the collectivo was 25 pesos a person and that he wanted to wait for at least 5 more people before we left. This ended up being the longest wait of this leg of the trip. A pair of French girls got off the Oaxaca bus and he asked them if they wanted to go too. The French girls and I ended up having a French-English-Spanish conversation and somehow ended up deciding that we would go to the ruins to find more people and then go to Hierve del Agua.
The ride is up a very steep winding dirt road with amazing views. It was not too insanely scary since the collectivo driver was a relatively calm driver. The whole ride took about an hour. We got to Hierve del Agua and I inquired about the cabañas that they rent. It was $100 pesos for one night and we’ll just say that I got what I paid for. I requested a cabaña that had a view of the other mountains. I think this request came back to bite me later. When I got to the cabaña there were no sheets on the bed and a weird dust on it. The kid went back to get some sheets while I cleaned off and flipped the mattress. Surprisingly this has been the best bed I’ve slept on the whole trip. There was a bathroom with a shower I did not plan on using and a little desk.
After I put my stuff in the cabaña I went for a little walk down to the lagoons where the cascades were as well. There were lots of people there, mostly families. Some were swimming, others taking photos, and some were having a cookout. I thought about swimming and went into my knees, but it was just too cold. Then I took a long hike around the side of the cascades to see them from the bottom. Words cannot do it justice, I hope my forthcoming pictures can. This took almost two hours round trip so I was very tired at the end!
In addition to the cabañas there is an old swimming pool that was not in use. There is also a brand new bright white building with non-functioning bathrooms, food stands, and a gorgeous pool with a view. It looks like it could be operational in the near future. Since that wasn’t open I ate a couple of quesadillas at the food stalls that were operational. They were nothing special and I suspect that they or the lukewarm coffee I had the following morning may be to blame for my not so happy tummy right now.
There really wasn’t much more to do so I took a few more photos and headed back to my cabin a little before sunset. This is when things started to get interesting scary. I enjoy traveling alone quite a bit, it’s flexible, there’s no one to argue with and it’s easier to transport one person rather than two. It does get a little lonely sometimes and this is one of those times where a travel companion would have made things a lot better. I am also traveling in the low season right now, which has many advantages, including decreased crowds, prices, and not having to worry about getting in or getting a place to stay. The problem with traveling alone, in the low season is well, that sometimes you just end up alone and lonely.
I was literally the only person in the entire area that night. Clearly there were people in the town, but it was just me at the site. As I tried to fall asleep I tried to convince myself that I was just as safe as I would be if there were other people there, if not safer. Unfortunately all the horror movies I watched as a teenager made the little voice in my head say “yes, but there will be no one to hear you scream!” I got up and put my stainless steel water bottle next to the bed as a weapon, just in case. I also tried to convince myself that I had been in scarier situations, that this wasn’t scary, but I couldn’t think of a time I had been more scared than this.
Why was I so scared? Besides the fact that I was sleeping, alone, in a strange place with no one else around, literally in the middle of nowhere, there was the wind. The wind was so loud and scary I thought that it was going to blow my concrete cabin off the mountain (turns out it wasn’t concrete, but that comes later). I also discovered where that weird dust came from as little bits of it kept blowing on my face. Oh, and there were no pillowcases and a t-shirt makes a great makeshift pillowcase should you ever need one. At least I knew that the sheets were clean thanks to the heavily perfumed detergent that Mexicans love to use. So, I pulled the sheet up over my head to keep the dust off. Then I had to go to the bathroom. Well, when I turned on the light I saw a huge cockroach, which I decided to kill, and did, but then when I woke up the next morning he was gone. Shudder.
At one point I thought about taking the Benadryl I had brought to help me sleep, but somehow talked myself out of it. I think I wanted to be alert in case of attack. How did I get so paranoid??? Anyhow, I slept on and off for most of the night and actually woke up a bit when the wind died down and thought “now I can sleep better,” and tried to doze back to sleep. That’s when I heard the buzzing. “Ugh, flies,” I thought to myself, until I realized they weren’t flies, they were bees. Lots and lots of bees. They were in the windows trying to get out. Turns out that the cabañas are made of straw bale mud bricks and bees just love to hang out in them when it gets wet. Yay. This is when I decided to get up and pack my things. It was barely 8 am.
I was able to get the bees out of the room and carefully packed my bag checking my clothes for bees, cockroaches and spiders. Did I mention the huge spiders I saw? I sound like such a wimp. You would never guess that this was the woman who lived in a tent in Colorado for three months. Of course, I slept with a crowbar next to my sleeping bag back then.
Anyhow, I decided to make the best of the beautiful morning and ate a breakfast of mangos and pears while enjoying my gorgeous view. The bees were otherwise occupied with the blooming flowers at the edge of my cement deck. I went for a walk back down to the lagoons and decided it was the perfect time for a swim. I was all alone, the water was beautiful and calm, and I had actually gotten a little warm on the walk down. I enjoyed that moment of solitude immensely. It almost made the night worth it.
The swim was lovely and refreshing. When I ducked my head under I felt all the stress from the night before melt away. I even did a few laps and felt like I got a little exercise. I dried out looking out at the mountains and the mezcal farms and thought about my plan to get home.
Initially the plan had been to get a collectivo back to Mitla and then see the ruins at Mitla and then head home. I guess it was 10:00 at this point and there was no one else there. One woman was opening her stall up and she made me some coffee while I sat and read, for two hours, waiting for someone to come. She said they would come, because it’s the weekend. A car full of early 20-somethings and two kids showed up a little while later. After they walked down the trail I checked to see if they had come by collectivo or car. Car. It was maybe big enough to fit them and maybe me, if we squished.
Bit by bit more cars showed up, but no collectivos. I started rehearsing my Spanish in my head thinking about how I would ask if I could ride down the mountain with them. The group of 20-somethings I had seen earlier sat down across the stall from me and during a lull in their conversation I asked where they were headed. One of them replied “¿De donde eras?¨And when I replied Estados Unidos she started talking to me in English. Turns out she was from California visiting Oaxacan relatives that she hadn’t seen since she was five.
After some talking between them they agreed that we could all fit if we squished. So we squished, three of us in the back, plus my backpack and two adults two kids in the front. They didn’t have the keys to the trunk so my backpack sat in my lap. It was a relatively calm drive down. The most interesting part was listening to this young woman processing her culture-shock of being in Oaxaca. She was born in the U.S. and lives in California and she just couldn’t believe how poor everyone was here. She went on about how here you have to wait and take the bus instead of just getting in your car and driving, the lack of water, and so on. She also really wanted to talk in English so her cousins couldn’t understand what she was saying. It was a very eye-opening experience for her to be here, she talked a lot about how she wasn’t going to take her life in the U.S. for granted anymore.
I got dropped off at the Mitla ruins and had texted a friend and turns out that she was at the ruins so we met up and talked for a while. I was extremely tired and decided not to go into the ruins and just save the experience for when my mom is here. It’s also such a short trip from Teotitlan that I could do it in one evening after clinic. We walked to the fork in the road to catch the bus back to Oaxaca for her and I would get off at the crucero in Teotitlan and hope for a ride into the center of town.
This turned out to be the best luck I’ve had transportation wise so far. I really hope I didn’t use it all up! The bus showed up shortly after we got there, stopped in Tlacolula and then let me off at the crucero. As I was putting together my things to get off the bus the woman in the seat next to me stopped me and told me that this was Teotitlan. I told her that I knew and that I was getting off here. She just looked at me like she didn’t understand why. It was funny. A few minutes after I got off the bus a collectivo got off the highway and I took it the rest of the way into town and they left me off at the corner.
So, that ends my story about Hierve del Agua. Definitely worth the visit. Only stay the night with friends or if you never watched horror movies as a teenager.