For many great reasons, we decided to go to the Huasteca region of NE Mexico with Ben Kvanli of the Olympic Outdoor Centre in San Marcos, Texas. It was a bit of a leap in the sense that this was a no frills trip that kicked off with a 15+ hour drive, along with 5 other people, in a passenger van to get there. It turned out to be a fabulous week and we now have 4 new friends – Kelly, Phil, Nejla & Greg!
Quick & dirty Beta: We were in the state of San Luis Potosi, the Huasteca Region (mountains & rivers) and paddled on 3 distinct rivers with 3+ conditions- Rio El Salto (travertine slides & drops), Rio Micos (travertine slides & drops), and Rio Tampaon (flat water, standing waves in canyons, flat water). We also toured around and saw the Cascadas de Tamul on the Rio Santa Maria, the Sola de Goldrinas Tamapa and the city of Valles.
We left Saturday February 1st at 12:45 am. This was intentional as it enables us to pass through Mexican customs at first light (i.e. 7:00 am) and then drive the remaining time in the light on the Mexican highways (where 2 lanes are actually 3 lanes). We stopped in Victoria for lunch at 11:30 and then carried on to Huasteca Secreta on the Salto River – our home for 2 nights. We stayed in small yurts with outside bathrooms and showers, surrounded by lush vegetation. The hotel is right on the Salto River – an azul blue warm water river – right at the base of a 160 foot waterfall.
We had a fairly slow and lazy first paddle on the lower Saltos by the time we got going on Sunday. It was a run full of slides and drops that worked their way from smaller to larger… warm water and sunshine helped with all of the comfort zone stretching that was going on! The put in is just up the road from the hotel but a bit of a bush wack and steep climb down the rocky slope to get to the river. The slides and drops are all made of travertine, a type of corral, that builds up in the river and also has lots of green, lush growth that makes the slides slippery.
Hunter did a fabulous job of running his first drops and he loved the bump & grind of the slides. He did his first combat roll at the bottom of a 10 foot drop and there were loud cheers by everyone. My big win of the day was going over the 20 ft salsa drop. It had a 5 foot slide and then the drop. The 5 feet went much faster than I was expecting and over I went, screaming I’m sure! Hunter chose not to do this one and he and Tim portaged around part of the drop and then found a place to throw their boats off and jump 10 feet into the water, which was better than the scratchy bushes.
Tim joined Ben, Phil, Greg & Nejla for an afternoon run on the Upper Saltos and had a good time. It was a bit rushed as it was getting dark but they powered through everything!
Phil made some great videos of our runs on the Saltos:
Monday saw us driving from El Naranjo down to just north of Ciudad Valles and to the camp on the Rio El Micos. We got in around lunch time, got settled in our palappas and then did an easy run down the lower Micos.
The camp was similar in style to what you see on the Ottawa River with a number of cabins spread out across the property, a couple of washroom/shower buildings and then a main eating hut. The rate was very affordable and the staff were wonderful. This is a tourist location for Mexicans that are looking to raft, zipline and play in the waterfalls.
The lower micas run starts just up the road from the camp in the midst of a local farmers market. There are a number of small drops that converge on the river here so it made a good place to play and warm up. The rest of the run was made up of small surf waves and easy slides and drops.
Tuesday was exploring day and we started off with Hunter and Ben doing a short run down the Santa Maria to the top of the Cascadas de Tamul while the rest of us hiked in. It was quite beautiful and very very high!
A few other stops that day were the Sotano de las Golondrinas, a great big sinkhole, a stop in a small village where we bought Diet Coke from the “American Store” and Hunter’s new favourite – Chile Corn (roasted corn on the cob with butter, chile & lime) on a stick and then dinner at Ricardo’s Taqueria in Valles. On our way home Ben bought some fabulous bar stools dirt cheap (I wonder why…) from a truck in the alley!
Wednesday was a long day of shuttling and paddling as we paddled the Tampoan River, which was an hours drive away from camp. Ben’s local rafting friends decided to join us, which made for a very full van and a fun group on the river. The Tampoan is different from the Salto & Micos as it has a bunch of flat water, a long canyon section with boulders and standing waves and then more flat water down to the take out. It was another great day for Hunter’s paddling – he trailed Ben down the “easy” lines (still lots of pushy water and waves) and managed 2 combat rolls in the midst of the hardest section before ending up swimming after he got pushed into a rock. We were both so impressed with his bravery and choosing to roll vs panicking and swimming right off the bat.
Thursday was our last day of paddling and we were headed to the Upper Micos before starting the drive home. Unfortunately I was visited by Montezuma Wednesday night and spent the night and morning expelling all food that I had taken in, so chose to stay in bed vs paddle. The Upper Micos run starts with a long travertine slide and then moves into a series of drops before coming out at the farmers market where the lower Micos puts in. One neat feature is that you can go behind the Upper Micos falls and get a sense of the power of the falls!
By travelling to a non-touristy area of Mexico (by American/Canadian standards) we had the added benefit of really getting to experience the local culture. At no point did we feel unsafe but it did really help to go with someone that spoke Spanish and knew this area inside and out.
This region is powered by the Sugar Cane industry and there were fields and trucks coming and going all day long. We cut some sugar cane directly from the field one day and it was neat to see how it is not nearly as sweet as refined sugar.
Hunter also had a great time hanging out with the local puppies…
2 responses to “Mexico Whitewater Adventures”
Great article, we’re going to have to add a link to Ben’s site! So good paddling with the 3 of you and wish you que te diviertas on your future adventures – k
Thanks Kelly – hopefully we’ll see you guys up north for some world class mountain biking! Ben’s site is linked in the text but just in case… everyone should check out http://www.kayakinstruction.org and call Ben to get yourself out on the river!