Sept 9 These roads make me feel like we’re back in Guatemala, steep climbs mountain ridges with 360′ views. Tight, twisty, steep and narrow lanes, one lapse in concentration and were done for. Rains have caused a few minor mud & rock slides onto the road, one big enough to block traffic, as we pass an excavator is finishing the clean up. Not wanting to get stuck or caught by one, we push on a little faster. Traveling the back roads we pass through many small Pueblas (villages). Not so many people wearing masks, maybe the threat is lower here due to isolation from big cities, or they’re just coping and getting on with life.
As the sun dips below the horizon we pull into some town, somewhere where. Pemex gas station camping it is! Nothing exciting, but we’re far enough off the road. At 6,000 ft, it’s warm and dry, we open up the camper and let everything dry out.
Our first glimpse of the mountains towering above the Tolantongo River so dramatically took my breath away. Tolantongo is a popular Mexican tourist resort, just an hour or two North East of Mexico City. Before we’re able to enter the resort park, we’re stopped at a makeshift ‘disinfection station’. We’re asked to get out while the interior of the cab is sprayed with a mystery chemical cocktail by a guy wearing a hazmat suit. We have to pass individually, through a spray booth before our body temperature, name, date and time are recorded. Tolantongo is open and they are taking all precautions against Covid. We were told whats in the liquid mix, but only understood two of the ingredients, purified water & alcohol.
The Tolantongo river flows through a box canyon originating at Grutas La Gloria, (Glory Caves). We set up camp right beside the river, and have the place to ourselves! The water is a pretty milky blue. Coloured by the mineral salts it picks up as it passes through the mountain, the cloudy water is bathwater warm, hard to believe coming from Canada where our crystal clear rivers are icy cold. And yes, the kids are straight in and spend the entire afternoon playing in the pools.
Can this place get any more beautiful?! Looking past the infrastructure, we explore the caves at La Gloria. A natural tunnel roughly 20m long, with a hot water plunge pool. As we stumble along warm water seeps through the rock like a steam shower. The only light is from the opening, it’s hot and humid with people passing, definitely not a place for the claustrophobic, so Charley stays at the entrance. We don’t linger long, as this much water must be constantly eroding the roof, and we don’t want to be in there for when it does happen.
The Cave is large with a warm waterfall jetting into the middle. Covid caution aside, we swim in. The camera and flashlight safely in a dry bag, we’re able to snap a few pics and explore another chamber. Swimming against a strong current along an anchored rope with Jaxon on my back, following Tim with Charley tightly gripping on to his back we pull ourselves to a shallow sandbar. The flashlight shows the pitch of the roof and another hot waterfall with enough force to extinguish a house fire. Again we don’t linger long and have fun drifting out with the current. Such a cool place to visit, we’re the first people there the next morning to have it to ourselves. *Reading later, back in 2004, in the tunnel, there actually was a partial cave in!!
Looking at the map, this place is massive, the mountain has been terraced out for hotels and Mexican style resort life. The iconic pools are a good half hour walk through the forest, up the mountain side to where the hotels are. The pools are concrete, but with the natural mineral water constantly flowing through them, calcium deposits have built up giving them a natural look, it’s a pretty neat experience, but the kids are drawn more so to the swimming pool and waterslide. Where they dazzle and impress the locals with their fearless backflips, high dives and deep water swimming.
Sept 12 The weekend crowds will soon be here, our own private paradise shattered. The rain has also caught up with us, like waking from a dream, our blue water river has turned a muddy brown, time to roll on. Perfect timing to go, leaving at 8am there were already 40+ full size tour busses parked at the top of the hill, shuttling the masses in.
Back to SMA (San Miguel de Allende) for a few days to celebrate my birthday and Mexican Independence day with our friends Mark & Todd then on to the historical tunnel town of Guanaguato.