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Mexico Trip Report '06/'07

Our most recent trip to research for "The River Gypsies' Guide to North America" took us south of the border to Mexico. We decided at the last possible minute that a trip down there was needed, since Mexico is a North American paddling destination with plenty of whitewater. We decided to explore the Eastern Slope - the Sierra Madre Oriental - in the states of San Luis Potosi and Veracruz. Here's the report:

The Journey and the Gathering Point
We departed Asheville two days after Christmas, having just finshed a very hectic holiday and packing marathon. We were excited to head south to warmer weather and longer (slightly) days. It's a two day (22 hour) drive from Swannanoa to Brownsville, TX - with a stopover with some friends in New Orleans half way.

We stayed the night in a hotel near the border, and woke up to begin the adventure of trying to get everything together to cross into Mexico. I left the hotel around 7:30 am, looking to score some Mexican auto insurance and some pesos. I managed to find an insurance company that opened at 8:30, and got back to the hotel to get Andria. You can't get pesos at the banks, so you have to go to one of the money exchange places which are in a little town near the border. This little village is part of Browsville, but feels a lot like Mexico - sorta like Mexico light. We bought a few hundred bucks worth of pesos (10.7 pesos/dollar) and headed for the border, arriving about 10am. At the border you have to go through quite a runaround to get into Mexico. First, you buy a tourist visa at one window. Then you go the car window to get your auto permit. You have to go from there over to the copies window and get the copies you need for the car permit. Then back to the auto window to finish that process. Then you have to go next door to pay for your tourist cards and get them validated. The people at these windows may or may not speak any English. I didn't speak any Spanish when we got there, and Andria's Spanish was very limited at the beginning of the trip, so this process took a while.

At long last we crossed the border and headed south for our first destination - Cuidad Valles in the state of San Luis Potosi. The plan was to meet our friends Ben and Emski in Valles - they were flying into Mexico City and renting a car, and would be with us for the first half of our trip. We would hit the rivers around Valles and then head for Veracruz for some boating down there. We had considered then going on to Chiapas, but later decided that was outside the scope of this trip and this book.

Our destination states in Mexico.

We had planned to meet Ben and Emski at the Micos takeout that night, but we were late arriving and ended up getting there after dark. We didn't see any sign of them there, and after driving around to one campground and the put-in, we gave up and returned to the campground to spend the night. Upon waking up the next day, we realized that they had camped about 100 yards away at Expeditiones Agua Azul, which we had failed to find since there is no sign marking the tiny dirt 4x4 road down to it. We got right to work that next day, stocking up on groceries and then paddling the Cascadas Micos in the afternoon.

The Micos valley and the 70' drop above the put-in.
Photo by Leland.

The Micos is a pool drop river, with big easy slidey travertine drops that make for the perfect warm-up when arriving in Mexico, or the perfect first waterfall run if you've never gotten any verticality. In late Dec and January the water is mostly drawn off for irrigation of the massive amount of sugarcane grown up in the drainage, but there is still enough flow to have some fun!

The 70 footer above the putin (doesn't look that big in the photo, but trust me) didn't have enough water to look good to me.
Photo by Emily Mahowald.

Emski on the first drop of the run.
Photo by Leland.

Andria and Leland doing the Recoil/Ammo tandem playboat slide.
Photo by Ben Edson,

Ben firing up the second big drop.
Photo by Leland.

Unfortunately, I went a bit too far left and dried out at the lip.
Photo by Ben Edson,

This resulted in a not-so-graceful pencil, barely missing the rocks at the bottom.
Photo by Ben Edson,

Andria made a snap decision to run the other side, which is the preferred route at this level.
(sorry about the hot exposure, I didn't realize which way she was going until she went and had the camera set wrong).
Photo by Leland.

Here's a cool shot that Ben got of her finishing the drop
Photo by Ben Edson,