CROCS AND KINGS

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By Sam Warren

February 4, 2016 (Zipolite, Mexico) -- Two friends of mine, Sophia and Carlos from San Diego, were visiting me at my bed and breakfast in Zipolite, Mexico, and I was showing them around the area.  We visited a nearby lagoon where the government had set up a crocodile reserve in a nearby lagoon named Ventanilla. It was named after the Spanish word for window as there was a nearby rock in the ocean with a square hole in it that looked like a window opening. We got into a boat with a young Mexican guide, another young Mexican who helped with the paddling, and the other passengers.

The guide gave a running lecture of the local flora and fauna while throwing meat over to the crocs. The crocs came in all sizes and were really ugly critters. We were told to keep our hands inside the boat. One came right up where I could have reached out and petted it if I had lost my mind. One looked

 like it wanted to come aboard beside Sophia and she jumped to the other side of the boat. I wonder if any visitors ever lost an arm.

Later I took them to visit the Cascado de los Reyes (Waterfall of the Kings) a couple of hour by camioneta from Zipolite. I should explain what a camioneta is. In the Zipolite area there are only two forms of public transportation, the colectivo and the camioneta.

The colectivo is a taxi that cruses the street picking up passengers like a bus. They can squeeze in as many as six passengers depending upon how big they are. The camioneta does the same but it is a pickup truck covered with a tarp and with two wooden benches in back. The joke is, "How many passengers can a camioneta hold?" The answer, "There is always room for one more."

A friend gave me directions on how to get to the waterfall. First we took a camioneta to the nearby market town of Pochulta. Then we asked a local for directions to the camioneta to the town of  Chapalapa. We were stuffed in along with local passengers and boxes of supplies. We drove up a mountain road to the town of Chapalapa and then continue on to the town of Los Reyes.

This was the worst road that I can ever remember traveling on. It looked like the rains had washed out a lot of it. We were bounced and thrown around all over the inside of the truck. My rear end was getting a little sore bouncing up and down on the wooden bench so I stood up and held onto the cross bar holding the tarp.

Then we got to a bridge that had been washed out and forded the stream down and around it. We continued until the road got so bad that the truck couldn't go any farther. The passengers then got out and unloaded all the cargo. We were in the middle of nowhere in a forest. The passengers all grabbed boxes and started to carry them up the road. Luckily I knew enough Spanish to ask one of the passengers where the town was. "Oh it's just a ten minute walk up the road," he says.

The instructions I was given by my friend was to get to the bridge and then ask someone where the path to the waterfall was. We continued walking up the road until we came upon a modern bridge over a fast flowing river with rapids. I did see a truck coming down from the town and wondered how it got there. Maybe it was there before the road got washed out. Looking down I could see women beating clothing on rocks and kids laughing and swimming in the river.

asked another passenger how to get to the waterfall and he told me that he didn't recommend that we go there as it was too dangerous. We didn't come all this way to have to go back just because of a little danger. He then said that maybe it was not so bad and he showed us where there was a small, steep path just past the bridge.

As we made our way down the path to the river, I was dreading the idea of having to go up the path on our way back. This was definitely not one of the usual tourist destinations. I was thinking that there had to be a better way of getting to the waterfall. I asked one of the women washing clothes where the waterfall was. "Oh, it's just up the river just a short way past the old wooden bridge."

So we followed the river, past a burro eating grass, climbing over rocks and getting our feet muddy in places, until we got to the wooden swing bridge. The bridge was a hanging pedestrian bridge with wooden planks. Some of the planks were missing and it looked like it was right out of an old Indiana Jones movie.

We were blocked by rocks and couldn't go any further. It looked like there was a much better path on the other side of the river but there was no way we were going to cross the river on that bridge. I'm not in too bad a shape for a 75 year old man who spent most of his life behind a desk but there was no way I was going to wade across the shallow but fast moving river. No matter how much I wanted to see the waterfall, it wasn't worth the risk of being swept down the rapids and over a waterfall to just see it. After all, it would have to be a really fantastic waterfall to beat the Niagara Falls which I had already seen years ago.

So I told Sophie to take some pictures for me and I stayed on the bank watching some of their possessions they didn't want to risk getting wet. They then slowly made their way across the raging torrent and on their way to the waterfall. It was late in the afternoon and I began to worry about our return trip. I forgot to ask someone when the last camioneta back to civilization was. I wanted to see what a Mexican town in the middle of a forest looked like but didn't want to take a chance of missing our ride and having to spend the night in the town. I don't even know if it was big enough for a hotel.

But finally Sophie and Karl made it back with their pictures. They told me that the waterfall was not on this river but where another river joined it at the foot of the waterfall. So they were able to get some good shots at the base of the falls. I found a good walking stick and we made it back up to the road without any trouble.

We met a group of locals carrying boxes to town and they told us that a camioneta had just dropped them and their packages off. Another women heading the same direction we were going said that there would be another camioneta arriving soon. So we made it back to where we had been dropped off before. A group of locals were also waiting for a ride back.

The return trip was just like the way we came in but in reverse. There was an older lady carrying a box with flats of eggs. Whoever the eggs were for, I hope they liked their eggs scrambled.

Epilogue

After getting back, I found out that if I had continued further across the bridge and a ways up that there was a much better path. I was also told that the rickety swinging bridge was safe to use and the locals use it all the time. You just have to be sure that you don't step in the wrong place.

Zipolite is an inexpensive beach town and is very liberal and laid back. Nudity and marijuana are legal and gays are welcome. It is no Cancun or Porta Vallarta with expensive hotels. If you are interested in visiting Zipolite, Google or YouTube it or feel free to contact me for additional information at sambookwarren@yahoo.com.