By Ed Labine from the August 2015 Edition
My wife Camilla and I decided to take a small jaunt out of Manzanillo one morning to go and visit the ‘El Salto’ waterfalls. Leave our condo in El Ferro, and head southeast on Blvd Costero Miguel de la Madrid, until you hit the sailboat. Then follow it north as it goes through town and past the shipping yards. Head northeast from there on the Manzanillo-Minititlan highway #98 and follow it into the mountains. The road is very narrow in points, and crosses the river a few times. You will pass some small villages along the way – we stopped to buy some water, but I can’t say much about what was in the towns. We generally do take the time to at least drive around most of the villages we pass through. We like to look around, and it seems safe to us although we have learned that roads can go from good to horrible quickly, and you sometimes find yourselves backing out). All of the villages are what I would describe as typical small Mexican villages.
Continue following the road through Benito Juarez de Pena Colorada (town), and start looking for the sign. The fact that the town was built to support the local iron mine is of interest to me. I’ve worked in and around mining all of my life, and it took some selfcontrol to not try to get a tour of a mine in Mexico. The mine itself is a bit further up the road and is apparently visible from the road, but I didn’t see it. This happens when you are driving twisty mountain roads dodging donkeys and topes – you miss stuff. I’ve added a link to a Google map in the foot-notes. If you hit Minatitlan, you’ve gone too far.
The drive to El Salto was beautiful and in its own right, worth the time. Take your time and enjoy the jungle’s splendour. Stop and take a few pictures. The scenery is outstanding. While driving keep your eyes open for mining trucks on the road as well. They seemed pretty good, but they move fast so beware.
When we got to El Salto, we were greeted by an old fella who is collecting the admission. At the time, the cost to get in was 10 pesos each. We drove in and drove past some run-down buildings that clearly had once marked what was a pretty cool place to bring your family, and parked our car on the far side of the recreation area.
Although it was not clearly marked, we quickly found the path towards the falls and started our little hike. Look for the sign marked ‘Cascadas’ (waterfall). Cross the bridge and make your way down the steps to the base of the falls. A warning: This is Mexico. Don’t hang heavily on the stair railings, and watch for loose and uneven footing, even on the steps. I’m pretty certain that I could have brought the railing down with my weight had I decided to lean on it.
Once you get to the falls, you’ll be delighted with your find. It is a beautiful, under-developed waterfall of about 100’, which crashes down into a crystal clear basin at the bottom. An earlier version of myself would have been in the water in a flash, but the older, more cautious, recovering from a surgery version, decided a wade in the cool stream in my bare feet was enough.
My two favorite finds at the falls were the Skull Caves, and the Tree of Life (see photos).
When we decided that we had seen enough, finding lunch became a priority. We packed our stuff and headed back up to our car. We knew that the town of Minatitlan was just up the road, and I was hoping I’d get to see the mine as I drove by. However, I saw only the road to the mine (disappointing), but we did find the town at least.
When we drove into Minatitlan we were immediately struck by a sight we didn’t expect to see – Valentines Day everywhere! Little girls of all ages were awash in colors, from bright bunches of flowers, to stuffed animals, to cards and candy. They walked home for lunch loaded down with goodies from the local boys, who were trailing after them like a bunch of forlorn puppies. Fates would be sealed, and hearts would be broken today!
We didn’t get any pictures because we noticed something else; we were obviously the outsiders this day. Our appearance got quite a bit of attention, I suspect because we accidently intruded into a bit of personal business that day. Everyone was friendly, but we felt like someone who calls on a friend, only to discover a dinner party is underway, and you aren’t dressed or bearing gifts. It was their day not ours; for this reason we chose not to take pictures of the people.
Minatitlan is an absolutely gorgeous little town. Everything is clean and cared for. The city center and its pavilion were beautiful. We immediately fell in love with this town. It was everything we had hoped rural Mexico to look like, yet even neater and tidier! We needed to eat, so we kept our eyes open for a little tacoria for a quick lunch. We quickly found one on a side street, and somewhat tentatively sat down. It was, as many restaurants in Mexico are, a hole in the wall with a wind up store front. This one was particularly small, with room only for the kitchen/counter, plus 3 small plastic tables, all of which were covered in neat little plastic red and white checkered tablecloths. There was no menu on the wall, just a toddler running between our feet on his plastic tractor and his smiling mother/chef/waitress/cleaning person. In other words a Mexican business owner.
We each picked a drink out of the cooler, and not knowing what else to do I ordered dos tacos de pollos, and my wife ordered one de carne. The food came out 2 minutes later, having given me just enough time to chase the toddler around a bit and get him laughing. There were nachos and salsa as an opener, she brought the fixings for our tacos, then brought out the two plates with large 12” tacos on them. We absolutely stuffed ourselves – I should have only ordered one, because they were large and I had to help Mrs. finish hers as well. I didn’t want to waste anything though – the young mother running the business smiled non stop and watched us enjoy our food the whole time. I didn’t let her down!
I pushed my chair back to make room for my engorged stomach, and asked for “la cuenta, por favor.” I don’t remember the total, but I do remember with large tip it cost US $3! I felt a bit like I was stealing!
The drive home was nice, as we recalled the day. We not only got to see a beautiful waterfall and natural area with no one around but us, we drove through some incredible scenery on the way there and back, we had a great meal in a very nice Mexican town almost for free, and we got to see the absolute joy that something as simple as Valentine’s Day brought to these people because of their loving, family oriented culture. We are frequently in Manzanillo for Valentine’s Day, and we usually go out for a nice dinner in town or at Margarita’s on Santiago Bay (best sunset views in the area), for a quiet, intimate time.
Valentine’s Day will forevermore be changed for me by seeing those young girls in Minatitlan with their arms full of goodies from their admirers, running through the street to bring them home to show mom.
Link for Google maps (Cut and paste into your browser): http://tinyurl.com/nn7ru9a
By Ed Labine