Poor Veracruz state. While other areas of Mexico inspire at least some recognition around the world, most people (us included) don’t know much about Veracruz except that it’s biggest city, Port of Veracruz, hosts what some claim to be the second largest Carnaval celebration in the world after Rio de Janiero (and we’ve met Mexicans who didn’t even know that much).
Sadly, we didn’t make it to the city of Veracruz in time for Carnaval. However, when we learned that Veracruz state is also home to some of the best and some of the first white water rafting in in the country we had to go check it out. Here’s what we found on the water in and around the rafting mecca of Jalcomulco–and look for more eye-opening discoveries from Veracruz state in our next few posts.
This part of Veracruz state has two things which are crucial to a good white water river: mountains and rainfall. In fact the highest mountain in Mexico, 18,490 foot (5,636 meter) Orizaba volcano, can be seen from Jalcomulco on a clear day. And the area averages almost four feet of rain each year.
Folks started running the rivers here decades ago and today there are around 40 different rafting companies to choose from.
We chose Mexico Verde, which has been running the rivers around here for 16 years. They also run a very unique “base camp” on five acres of land that was once cleared and turned into a mango orchard (the arms of the massive old trees still provide welcome shade and more mangoes than you can shake a stick at). The jungle has crept back into the orchard over time and current owner Mauricio and his staff have gently carved out a wonderful retreat in the midst of it all–thanks in part to the United States Army.
Mexico Verde’s overnight guests are accommodated in army surplus tents bought in the US then brought to Veracruz and transformed into four bed rooms with shared spotless and roomy bathrooms or suites with their own bathroom. There are beautiful rugs on the hardwood floors, and nice sheets and private decks. Even Wi-Fi.
The army tents aren’t the only things that are being recycled at Mexico Verde. The company reclaims and reuses all water via a cutting edge on-site system. All garbage is sorted and either composted or recycled. And there’s even a nursery where indigenous plants are being grown and replanted around the mango trees.
Three delicious meals a day, a refreshing swimming pool and a soothing hot tub don’t hurt either…
Every Mexico Verde rafting trip is accompanied by a safety kayaker whose job it is to scout the rapids and be on standby to pluck any swimmers out of the water as fast as possible if need be. Mexico Verde also has a roster of highly-experienced and highly-trained and certified guides who speak English in addition to Spanish. Our guide, Coba, is from the local area but spent years guiding in the United States on many rives we’ve only dreamed of rafting. He’s also a biologist, by the way and helped us identify a lot of birds during our trip, including a juvenile eagle. Of the 40 or so river rafting operations in and around Jalcomulco, Mexico Verde is one of the few that employs predominantly local river guides like Coba.
You can watch us and Coba (okay, mostly Coba) in action on the Rio Antigua in this video.
We were rafting in the low-water season when the 10 mile trip down the Rio Antigua, which plummets roughly 3,000 feet in just 70 miles, is at it’s most placid–which was still a lot of fun. In the high season (July/August) this same trip, which took us about two hours and rarely approached class III rapids, whizzes by in less than an hour hurtling through a never-ending series of class IV and V churns.
GLAD WE HAD
Waterproof housing for our Flip video camera (good up to 30′ deep) which let us shoot the video in this blog post
Chaco sandals which are slip-proof and stay on our feet no matter what the river throws at us.