Saturday, 7 January 2017

Hikes in the mountains around Tepoztlan – Days 109 to 115

Tepoztlan from the Mirador

The title is for people who are searching for information on walks/hikes in the mountains surrounding the lovely town of Tepoztlan in Central Mexico, information that is not available, other than the hike up to the Aztec Pyramid, which in itself is very worthwhile and exciting, everything else is on unmarked, faint tracks in often very steep exposed terrain and all the advice is to hire a guide.

Jackie gets a lick from Luna
We have now done several hikes using a GPS (actually two, a handheld GPS and a smart phone, just in case one breaks) and they are challenging, yet quite do-able if you have suitable experience and equipment, and they are not very long. The attached link gives more details on each one, but we take no responsibility and you are entirely at your own risk! Circular Hikes in the Mountain of Tepoztlan - Mirador, 7.6km, 480m ascent; Lookout, 5.7km, 350m ascent

We found recently a video taken by a drone flying over the mountains and in the town, which really gives a feel for what it’s like here. It was made by and here’s the link to view it (I hope they don’t mind us including it!), it lasts 2min 30sec:

Full attention from the dogs as Jackie hands out treats
So, since New Year’s Day and apart from two longish walks we have been fairly relaxed here in Louise’s house looking after Luna, Cookie and Maty and it had been fabulous. Mornings start around 7:00am with proper coffee (and for me with cream!) and at least two if not three dogs on the bed with us; breakfast around 8:30; walks into town for shopping etc; lunch; afternoon iced coffee, maybe cake (she won’t let me bake much as cake is bad for us!); 3:00pm walk for the dogs on Louise’s approved route round town, saying ‘hola’ to the seven cats in ‘Black Cat Towers’ (a rickety old building with broken corrugated roof on which six black and one Burmese cat snooze and watch us walk by), 
Black Cat Towers. How many cats can you count? Only 5?.......
‘hola’ and some broken Spanish to the guy usually sitting on the step outside his house (his dog recently gave birth to ten puppies), ‘hola’ and some Spanglish to the guy selling fresh chicken, ‘buenas tardes’ to assorted other people and fend off various stray dogs with the sticks we carry. Early evening is G&T and nibbles in the garden with Luna wanting her ball thrown constantly, dinner as the sun goes down and then a film in the evening. Not much socialising as our Spanish isn’t really up to it, but the time during the day has been useful in planning our onward trip through Central and South America, which is taking an inordinate amount of time!  Such is our current life here in the very mild and pleasant climate in Central Mexico.  
You probably missed these two!
Domestic tap issues continued when water fell out of the cupboard under the sink! B tried tightening it, worrying about overtightening at, as it is only plastic, before deciding to pass the problem to German, the lawnmowing handyman, who was due. He tightened it with a big wrench, and no more unwanted water has been seen. Hurrah.

Our New Year's Eve fish dinner - delish!
New Year was an interesting time, plenty of fireworks with very loud bangs that continue right through the night and day (fortunately not fazing the dogs one bit) and a New Year’s party in the building right opposite that went on, impressively, until 09:30am on New Year’s morning. We slept through it, having expired at 10:30pm, after effectively bring in the New Year at 6:00pm out time (midnight UK time) by group messaging to my daughter, Fiona at home in the UK with her partner James, my sister Denise and husband Paul in their house in the UK and with niece Steph and husband Sam in their house in the UK. Although we were all in separate houses it felt as though we were all together and we had a surreal experience bringing in the New Year through quick typed messages. We didn’t plan it, it just happened! Followed by a Skype call with the Monday club boys/wives/kids, it was lovely to feel included. We woke up at midnight (our time) to the sound of many fireworks going off and hung out of the window to watch them, but other than that we slept and awoke to party noises still going on at about 7:00am.

Early evening G&T's in the garden, Luna wanting ball throwing
The fireworks continued as the days passed and are still going on now, right through the night, often waking us up and sounding like gunfire, but it isn’t a problem to us and it isn’t malicious, it’s just how things are here and we quite like the different experience.

We’re having a slightly worrying time with Luna dog at the moment as she’s started limping, starting with her front paw and now her back paw too. In consultation with owner Louise (who is in Ireland) via email we eventually decided to take her to the vets as she could hardly walk and looked decidedly sorry for herself. After putting her on her lead and her hobbling outside she was unable to continue and I (Brian) had to pick her up and carry her. She’s a big bulk and very heavy and it’s all uphill to the vets, so needless to say I had aching arms and was pretty out-of-breath by the time we got there! 
'Throw my ball for me!'
Luna on the other hand did not struggle at all and seemed to quite enjoy being carried! Fortunately she slowly managed to walk herself downhill back home as I didn’t fancy carrying her again and taxis apparently are reluctant to have dogs inside their cabs. Today she’s still feeling sorry for herself, but still running to the fence to bark when horses go by if we don’t manage to stop her first, then hobbling back to her bed. We’ve put all her balls away in a cupboard to stop her dropping them on us or in front of us then looking with pleading eyes for us to throw them. The fact that she can hardly walk doesn’t seem to register with her and her eyes have the ability to make us feel incredibly guilty for not throwing it for her. Hopefully she’ll be a bit better soon, the vet having only prescribed pain killers for the cruciate ligament injury she’s diagnosed.

How about this for a local dish - Mexican Lasagna. No lasagna at all, it is layered with tortillas instead and has a heavy helping of black beans. Really nice!
So here's am aerial view of walk 1, as plotted
So the two longish walks we did, one on New Year’s Day and one yesterday, 6th January, were quite exciting, particularly the one on New Year’s Day. On that one we walked up through the top part of the town, skirting round the first line of mountains, hit the main road for a few metres then took a path up and round the back, ascending some higher ones behind, ending up on a 2250m summit, not far short of the ultimate top. 

Jackie ascending the rope and tree root
We reached a band of 30m high rocks with a path along the bottom and, after a short distance saw narrow vertical crack splitting the face. I walked past it, but Jackie saw some other people squeeze into it so, we followed. At the end was a near vertical face with a knotted rope hanging down. We climbed the rope using foot holds on the rock face, eventually the rope finished at a tree root, halfway up and we used the tree root and rock foot holds to get the rest of the way up. 

Making the final difficult move out at the top
At the top we were greeted with fabulous panoramic views back into Tepoztlan and the countryside beyond and below us and in front, quite a distance away was the Aztec Pyramid full of people. We continued on up scaling some quite difficult scrambling that we knew we would have to down climb (always more difficult than going up), enjoying the even higher view. We decided enough was enough when confronted with probably the last scramble which looked like a difficult rock climb and would need a rope to abseil down, so we left that one and went down, passing the bolt in the rock for abseiling as we downclimbed! Never what you want to see when you get to the top of a scramble! This ended up as a good circular walk as we continued onto the pyramid path which was hideous, full of people, but quick and easy, before ducking off, over the wall onto the path we found on our blunder through the woods.

The view as we appeared at the top
Apparently that hump of trees right of the rock is an unexplored Aztec temple
Yesterday’s hike was up the first line of mountains, much more craggy and scrambly than the first one. After walking through the upper part of town we had to climb over a wall with barbed wire to access the path. We had been assured by a local on the previous day when we did a recce that this was the way. The land has been fenced off as it is ‘For Sale’, he told us in Spanish, but it is absolutely OK for walkers to climb over to use the hiking path to the summit. 
Another scramble we climbed up
He even wrote his name down with his phone number to use if we should have any access problems. It was indeed very craggy and the path continually faint and switching direction to avoid steep crags or drop-offs and involved ducking under and over fallen trees and undergrowth. The scenery got better and better as we got more remote and Jackie was beginning to question what we were doing there. There was a scrambly bit up onto a fabulous lookout over to the Pyramid, a roped section where the path narrowed over an exposed edge and another out onto a flat section the other side of a huge chasm to the pyramid, where Jackie calmly sat on the edge of a precipice to try to see where the path went. After following a path that led to the summit we were confronted by a rock face that, with our rock climbing gear and a rope we would have gone up, but without it we decided it was safe to stop there. We retreated to join a path that joined the one from our New Year’s day hike and led, eventually back down to the Pyramid path and back to the town, actually then onto a path we had found that led back to the house rather than the centre of town.

Things you don't want to see when you reach the top of a scramble. This is a bolt used for abseiling. It means that most people abseil down and consider it too dangerous to downclimb. We had to downclimb as we had no rope!
There’s one more walk I want to do that leads into a canyon and I’m hoping will link up to the waterfall walk I’ve done before. More exploration and details to follow…

The panorama from our highest point. We think it was worth the effort!
The final scramble we didn't do
So our onward planning is taking shape and we have plans to take us out to the Yucatan peninsular in Mexico, down into Belize and across into Guatemala, where there is so much to see and do. There are a couple of areas to avoid due to high crime rates, but hopefully it should be OK> We’ve decided to leave El Salvador and Honduras as the levels of crime vs the sights to see make those countries not worthwhile for us so, from Guatemala we’re thinking of flying down to Nicaragua which looks fabulous! Next will be Costa Rica and Panama and we’re looking at a housesit in both Guatemala and Panama, so we might have more furry friends to look after before we head back into South America for Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Just hope we have enough time to see all the things before Jackie gets homesick!

Approaching the bolted downclimb/abseil
Just starting the downclimb. A few tricky moves at the top
This was the gash in the crag which led up to the knotted rope and root ascent
Approaching the Pyramid, seen on the skyline with lots of people in this photo
This is a satellite view of our second walk
Jackie negotiates a narrow section with rope support. There was actually a big drop to the side
The pyramid (centre)
UFO rock, or so we've named it! Do you think it looks like a UFO?
Jackie casually looking over a precipice
The climb we didn't do as we had no gear
The very busy temple through the trees
Through a narrow section on the way to the pyramid
Interesting rock formations
A bit out of focus, but a different coloured bee to the ones we're used to
And some mountain flowers. No idea what they are
Fried grasshoppers, a delicacy in Mexico. We tried some, they are actually quite tasty!
The bread salesman with a hat full of bread out on his rounds. The bakery is almost opposite us and the smell of freshly baked bread drifting through our windows every day is heavenly!
Did we tell you about the second scorpion? Massively out of focus I know, but it was very small, a baby, but it was on the bedroom wall one night. This one was despatched, but are there any more? We've had a spider hatching, with the bathroom ceiling covered in baby spiders, but not seen a mass of scorpions!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all those lovely pictures! You must cook the Mexican lasagna dish for us when you get back. I love black beans! Sounds like you are doing all the right things with Luna. Definitely no ball throwing for a couple of weeks. Maybe you can break that habit by the time Louise gets back? Monty loves his tennis balls as you know, but we don't throw many times a session as it's not good for shoulders in bigger dogs.
    Your future travel plans sound very exciting! Won't it be weird getting revved back up to travelling around? You sound so settled there now after.... 4 weeks?
    Take care, lots of love, Helen (and me two chaps) xxx