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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:

Traveling to Veracruz
We awoke at the Santa Maria put-in the next day, and were treated to a wonderful breakfast and tour by Juan Ignacio Torres Landa - a very nice gentleman who is buiding several eco-resorts called Huasteca Secreta at the Santa Maria, Salto, and several other locations. He gave us a tour of the one across the river from the Santa Maria put-in, and treated us to a fantastic breakfast with his family. He is very paddler friendly, and will offer lodging and shuttles for paddlers when his resorts are finished in 2008.

We toured around the grounds of the new
Huasteca Secreta Eco-resort in this truck.
Photo by Ben Edson /

Breakfast on the patio above the Santa Maria with Juan Ignacio and his kids.
Photo by Ben Edson /

Stuffed with terrific breakfast, we hit the road for Veracruz. After two half days of driving south on Mexican highways of very questionable quality (and a night in a Mexican roadside motel), we neared our destination and stopped for lunch on the Costa Esmerelda in Veracruz. It seemed to be the off season for this beachfront area along the Gulf of Mexico, so we cruised into a restaurant and had a tasty seafood lunch. After the meal, we stumbled onto some wildlife on the front lawn of the restaurant! I'm no Steve Irwin, but I decided to have a go at it.

There was a crocodile or two lurking on the front lawn of the restaurant.
Photo by Ben or Emski?

Be careful handling dangerous beasts like this one.
Photo by Ben or Emski?

Actually, the restauranteur had two of these little "crocodillos" in a bucket out front. He set them loose on the lawn, and I helped him round them up. It was definitely good for a laugh or two!

After lunch, we took the short drive up to Tlapacoyan from the Costa Esmerelda, and drove the few miles out of town to check out the Cascada Tomata. This falls has been run in a ton of paddling videos. It doesn't look giant, but Tom McEwan told me he's measured it at 74 feet. Andria and I were on the edges of contemplating a park'n'huck before we saw it, but the boxed in gorge and another huge drop below mean that you would have to rig a rope and ascend back up the cliff next to the falls after running it.

74 foot Cascada Tomata on the Rio Alseseca.
Photo by Ben Edson /

The other thing you don't realize from most of the coverage of the Alseseca is that it runs most of its length not through jungle, but through banana and coffee plantations. Trust me folks, the world is never going to run out of bananas. They were everywhere down there. Oranges too. And Mangos.

Ben got this interesting shot of bananas growing
right near the lip of Cascada Tomata.
Photo by Ben Edson /

We headed back to Tlapacoyan and crashed at Aventurec, which is the place of choice to stay near the Alsaseca and Bobos - complete with super nice people, sweet cabanas, great food, and knowledgeable shuttle drivers. Big thanks to Antonio, Sophie, and their guides for taking such good care of us down there.

One of the Aventurec cabanas.
Photo by Leland.

The next morning we were up and going, ready to huck some drops on the Alseseca!