The plan the next morning was to get away from the vicinity of Mexico city. We had post we were waiting on, so we needed to be in Puebla for Monday in a few days’ time, but for now all we wanted was a nice quiet spot with no drama. We opted to drive further east, there was apparently a car park where you could park and visit some springs, while not hot it sounded nice. From there we could work our way back west, trying to stop at one of the spots that had been recommended to us by our driveway host. We set off past some interesting architecture in the middle of a great flat plain.
As we drove east, we began to descend from the high altitude of the central section of Mexico. We were now in the state of Veracruz. We passed through a small alpine looking village that mainly consisted of cheese shops, very excited we stopped and bought a lot of cheese before continuing onward. We passed through the large town of Xalapa, before heading out into the countryside through chayote plantations towards the spring.
We were a little disappointed to arrive at the car park, small and on a fast road. Aimee wouldn’t be coming out here. We went inside to ask if we could camp on the car park. It turned out that there was actually a campsite here, for 120pesos per person per night we decided to give it a go. We paid and then got escorted to the campsite by one of the workers who hopped in Jaro’s car. The entrance was back down the road a little way, he opened the gate and we drove down a small steep cobbled road that emerged into a grassy clearing.
We were now far away from the road in the midst of the lush jungle. A grassy flat area which was perfect for the campers stood next to a large palapa with tables, chairs and electricity.
Our guide showed us the bathrooms, which were very clean and also included hot showers, very exciting. He then walked with us down the show us where the spring was. There were free firewood piles everywhere. It was a hidden gem that was well deserved after a couple of shitty days. The cats could run around, plenty of trees and lizards for entertainment. We had the place to ourselves, I think we decided almost instantaneously that we would stay more than one night.
Having access to unlimited water, the next morning turned into a washing day. Kiki and I strung massive washing lines between the trees and did several weeks’ worth of washing. The guys supplying the water in buckets. With this job done, we packed up our swimming stuff to go and see the river properly.
Firstly, we went and paid for another night and had a look at the butterflies in the butterfly house, all three of them! Retracing our steps down the steep hill, we walked along the river to the several different pools. We opted for the last one, the water wasn’t warm, but crystal clear. Definitely refreshing. and the boys seemed to enjoy failing to front flip in off the sides. Afterwards we lay in the sun with a beer to warm up and dry out.
At this point I spotted a huge orange iguana in the trees opposite. We spent some time sitting on the rock watching him, getting eaten alive by little black flies.
There were iguanas everywhere, we saw at least four climbing around in the trees opposite.
Having lost the sun now, we headed back up to the higher pools. The river poured straight out of the rocks alongside the little metal bridges we crossed.
It was a beautiful place.
I declined to swim again, but did sit in the cool water to relieve the bites, already itching. That was going to be fun at night.
Feeling all inspired by the green of the jungle, we set up the projector and watched Indiana Jones in the palapa that night, it’s been a while since we’ve been able to get the projector out. It was such a peaceful place, no one else was there, the road barely audible and Aimee was having the best time. I could have stayed longer.
We needed to get to Puebla though. Not only did we need to collect our parcels, but we wanted to try and renew our visas at the immigration office. Chico too needed a vet, as he had some kind of infected cut. So regretfully, we packed up, hunted out our cat who didn’t want to leave either, and headed out.
The first stop was Xalapa for a vet. We decided to take Aimee too, she needed her vaccine boosters which we would need in order to leave Mexico. Jaro waited. The vet was painfully slow and incredibly chatty. Over an hour later, Aimee finally had the shots she needed. We headed to Costco for some supplies. At this point, Lee decided to factory reset his phone. It had been having issues since getting wet at the hot springs. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t dropped my phone at the tills in Costco. The cheap terrible screen replacement that had given me nothing but issues instantly shattered and went black. This meant by the time we left, neither of us had satnav. Bruno had already started making his was towards Laguna Achila so we followed Jaro as the road climbed relentlessly up several thousand meters into the mountains again. Fortunately, it was a cool day so we didn’t have to stop for the benefit of the engine, but we did had to stop for Jaro, who needed to adjust his clutch. It was nice not to be the ones stopping for a change.
We arrived at the lake towards the end of the afternoon and saw the police heading to where the car park to camp was. So we headed to the other side of the lake. It was a pretty place and we drove past a much less fortunate car that had got itself seriously stuck in the mud. They declined Jaro’s winch however, and so we continued on. We found a nice spot the other side, Bruno who was now at the first spot, drove around to join us. We stayed in our campers a while as there was a huge insect swarm around us, open the door for only a few seconds and you let in hundreds of flies which wasn’t really worth it.
As the night cooled, the flies left and Lee and Jaro made a very sad campfire before heading to bed. We had just turned the lights out and I was explaining to Lee how lorries engine brakes worked as we could hear them on the road from the other side, when someone knocked on the window.
We got out of bed and came downstairs. Drawing the curtain revealed two men in balaclavas. I was glad we locked the doors. The tried to tell us me needed a permit. One of the pretended to be the police. Neither were true. There was no car and no lights, they must have walked here and been watching us. We had an awkward conversation through the door where we just said we didn’t understand. There was no way we were getting out the car. After five minutes or so, they gave up and went away. That was probably the end of it, but it was definitely a bit dodgy and we didn’t really feel like sleeping here anymore. We messaged the others and then after a quick group chat drove around the other side and parked in the noisy parking lot with lights. Another camper was also there and we parked up close to each other, partly for safety and partly because it was level there. Now I didn’t have to worry about masked men waking me up because it wasn’t easy to sleep. The lorries constant ‘jake’ brakes continued throughout the night alongside the usual symphony of barking dogs. Great.
It was a shame for such a pretty spot, but I wasn’t sad to leave in the morning. We headed off to Puebla to find a suitable spot to stay. We wanted plenty of time, as we were unsure whether we would be allowed in the usual spots, Puebla city has red restrictions in place. Travelling can be unpredictable enough at the best of times, throw in a global pandemic and you just don’t know what you’re going to get.