Friday, May 30, 2008


At the eleventh hour, the much anticipated and much prepared odyssey to El Cielo, had to be postponed due to unavailability of a vehicle that could drive a herd of 16 people. We were spending our Saturday morning with total sloth and boredom. Browsing his friend's orkut album, Loks, known for his silence, cried out, "Hey do you know where this water fall is? " The waterfall indeed looked splendid and I used keywords "Las cascadas cerca de Monterrey" (waterfalls near Monterrey). With Chipitin and Cola de Caballo as the top search results, it displayed an unknown and unheard waterfall, El Salto, Zaragoza. Immediately the key words changed to El Salto, Zaragoza and in no time we were all (Mallesh and Liyan joined us) set to hit the road.

Zaragoza, located in the southern part of Nuevo Leon state, is a tiny village with the most magnificent waterfall in it's outskirts. The route to be followed from Monterrey is as follows:
Monterrey - Saltillo (bypass) - Matehuala highway - San Roberto exit (towards Linares) - La Ascención - La Escondida - Aramberri - Zaragoza. The distance is about 320Km and takes approximately 4 hours. The drive after La Ascención is a very picturesque and peaceful one - country side Mexico with horses grazing alongside lush green mountains, farmers tilling their patches of land in ovlivion and cowboys lazying on horses watching their sheep. We stopped over at Aramberri for grabbing beer, but bought some palomas (tequila with grapefruit juice and sangrita) for they taste better and doesn't contribute for your belly.

Zaragoza has many pointers to El Salto for easier navigation. The entrance costs 130 pesos for camping (per vehicle) otherwise it's 35 pesos per person with an additional 20 pesos for parking. The entry is through a pavement that leads directly to the camping area with lots of tents and barbecue grills. Velo de Novia unveils itself with all the splendour of a bride's veil as you enter the camping area. Elegantly thin stream and delicately milky white in texture, this waterfall is the tallest and the prettiest among other cascades.

We parked, we changed, we dived!!!

That summarizes the whole trip. La cascada del Salto, is a roaring stream of milky white waters which pacify in the large green pool below. Don't think that the green of the pool is due to chlorophyta deposits, but they're travertine pools (it's the primary calcite that gives them that pleasing green colour). The water was ice cold, but amazingly fresh. Trust me, the feeling of guzzling chilled paloma, completely drenched in the waterfall is goddamn divine. There is another tiny water tail joining the pool and next to it was a natural diving platform of about 2 meters high and there was a great feel good factor in diving from there. We dived from every platform available around the pool, we tried swimming against the current, we jumped from next to the waterfall into the pool, we drank paloma, we photographed till the sun reached his home far in the west.

We neither had tents to stay nor had food to eat, but the urge to camp was much stronger than the willingness to drive back 4 long hours in the night. We had a 3 tarpaulins and ropes we had got for the other trip and a couple of torches and it took not much time to decide staying there. But we had no food, we drove back to Zaragoza village in hoping for a taqueria. We found one which served us delicious machacado con huevo (beef with egg), smashed beans, rice and lettuce salad, all for 40 pesos per plate. As we were having the dinner, the lights of the whole village vanished and it immediately took us to India for few moments...Power Cut!!!

We came back to the camping area of El Salto waterfall and tried hoisting a makeshift tent with the using car trunk, ropes and tarpaulins, but we sucked at it. We gave up...we asked Liyan to sleep inside the cars and we three men slept on a tarpaulin with two of them covering us from top.

The next morning, we started a short and simple hike to the source of the waterfall, which was marked to be 1Km from the camping area. We walked along the stream clicking more photographs for more than a kilometer. The forest was denser and more secluded, we were the only four mortals around. We climbed rocks and kept going until we found a completley mangled and rotten dead body of an anonymous animal, with scattered bones. We looked around for a glimpse of a bear or a coyote or some damned wild animal, but to our dismay we didn't find any. We decided to retreat from there, my eyes were all around the forest to get atleast a faint coup d'oeil of some animal, but I was not fortunate enough. While we were resting at the woods a little away from what I mentioned above and sucking on oranges, we heard some animal cry from the side we just came, though I couldn't even make a wildest guess of what animal it was. Though I was happy to spot a baby serpent which eschewed away in a jiffy.

We returned to the waterfall, undressed and dived into the pool again. Finished rest of the paloma cans we had saved and chilled in the water for about an hour and started our return journey. I could have stopped the write-up here but for the unforgettable lunch we had. We were in search of pollo asada (chicken barbecue), the boards of which we had seen at lot of restaurants on the previous day. As I was speeding my car, I saw a country fella making the same, I paused and shouted "Listo amigo?" (Is the chicken ready?) and he said "Como deis minutos mas" (Like 10 more minutes). I pulled over the car and waited for 10 minutes and he served the most delicious chicken barbecue I've ever eaten. It was served with tortillas, barbecued onions and lemons, we almost ate one-and-half chicken and was surprised to hear the bill - 105 pesos for 4 persons. We thanked him for such a sumptuous lunch and continued our drive.

The route was a little different one during return journey: Zaragoza- Aramberri - La Escondida -La Ascención - Linares - Montemorelos - Monterrey (via Carretera Nacional). I would recommend the earlier route (Monterrey-Saltillo highway) for the latter one is dangerously curvy uptil Linares which greatly slows down the journey. Zaragoza is one of those few places which I felt was perfect for weekend chill-out. No hikes, no hurry, no loads of things to do. Drink, eat and stay cool in the waters.

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