Travel to Hierve el Agua

Travel to Hierve el Agua
It Touched My Soul

My husband, a friend, and I drove to Oaxaca, a rich travel destination….There are some days that you remember forever. The day we spent in the small towns of the Oaxaca Valley was MAGICAL.

El Tule

Just outside Oaxaca on highway 190 is el Tule. This Ancient ahuehuete (cypress) reaches down and hugs its visitors. When you travel to see el Tule you leave breathing better and with a renewed sense of perspective. Click here to open a new window and scroll down to the bottom of the page to see two pictures of this gargantuan ambassador of peace.

Teotitlan del Valle

A little further down highway 190, there is a humble turn-off to Teotitlan del Valle on the left.

This quiet, dusty place is now the active conservator of ancient knowledge, welcoming travelers from all over the world. The people of this town are reclaiming their ancestral cultural knowledge of natural dyes, almost lost in the face of easier, cheaper, synthetic dyes. They are combating the pressures on Mexicans to produce cheaply. Their rugs cost more because they require intensive, skilled labor to produce.

We randomly picked one of the lovely work/display rooms incorporated into people’s homes along the road and spent hours wrapped in the quiet, joyous hospitality of a traditional Oaxacan artist. 40ish year old Manuel Montano Sanchez shared with us many details of weaving and dying woolen rugs. He talked about how important it was for his generation to be reviving the traditional dying techniques (and how the consumer needs to be aware that some Oaxacan rugs are made with synthetic dye and sold as if they were made with natural dyes.)

Click here to open a new window where you can see photos taken by Chuck Place, a professional photographer, of Manuel Montao Sanchez’s warmhearted shop. Be sure to scroll down to photo number a38160 because it shows Mr. Sanchez’s dye demo setup that he uses to teach travelers about the natural dyes. Numbers a38156 and a38157 show the cochinilla, which is the base for an astounding array of colors.

We floated out of Mr. Montano’s shop, deeply touched by his patience and the artistic beauty in what he and his community are doing. We didn’t know we’d be floating again soon.

Hierve el Agua (Where the Water Boils)

Arriving at the Hierve el Agua park, it isn’t obvious what a special treat you are in for, though the environment is pleasant enough. It wasn’t until I began walking down the well-trodden path on the loop trail, that I knew we were in for a special treat.

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On the trail, one walks on water. The regular ripple pattern of flowing spring water is frozen onto the ground in the form of calcium deposits.

Barely recovering from the wonder of contemplating the spring that created those deposits, I rounded a bend in the trail and saw ahead of me a pool of creamy, light blue water. “Wow!” I thought, “this gets better!” But as I got closer, there was a break in the foliage and I could see that the edge of the pool tops an almost 200-foot cliff overlooking a roadless river valley. …and I was mentally speechless.

The pool is formed by spring water backed up behind a wall built along the top of the cliff. The whole pool, which is the size of a small swimming pool, looks and feels very natural because the wall was constructed in the rounded shapes of the surrounding area. Time has helped to enhance the natural look by covering the man-made borders with thick, rounded calcium deposits. The water skims over the wall and down into a series of smaller pools before plummeting down the cliff face to the valley below.

The pool is a delightful warm temperature, and clean because it is continually refreshed by a spring just outside the pool area. You can place your hand over the bubbling water of the spring and feel it gurgling out of the ground, through your fingers and down to the pool. The center of the pool is deep enough to let you tread water or float lightly, looking up at the perfect sky and branches of the nearby trees.

The most unforgettable place in the pool is right at the wall above the cliff. You can rest your arms there and look out into the vast space of the perfect valley beyond.

Click here to see some pictures that show just how spectacular Hierve el Agua is.

Tooling around near the pool we found ancient water canals and further down the loop trail is a view of a columnar formation of calcium deposits created by the falling of a second spring over the cliff edge–a frozen waterfall!

We had arrived at the park only about 2 hours before closing. While we had to keep track of time and couldn’t explore all of the trails in the park, we were the only people there and had the rare joy of being in such a magical place alone!

Even the Drive Was Special That Day

Since the park is up in the mountains, it wasn’t the easiest place for a traveler to find. My husband had gotten a map from the tourist information office in Oaxaca and was using that to guide us there. Mostly the map was good for providing the names of towns along the way so that we could ask people if we were on the right road to such-and -such as we traveled along.

This area of Oaxaca is still the classic rural type where people don’t have their own cars and use the roads opportunistically to walk, ride horses, catch infrequent local busses, or hitch rides. We entered into the roadside interaction of men of varying ages going about their daily business. My husband’s brown face and well-honed country boy manners served us well.

We even had to stop for gas on the way, which is always a lesson in safety and ecological hazards for those who travel in Mexico.

Click here to read A Lesson in Small Town Tourism Politics.

Click here to read about the hitchhikers and the nanches.

Back to Travel in Mexico Before you Live or Retire There

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