Yesterday we took our first inland sightseeing trip and had a blast. We’ve done very little off the boat cruising so when the trip was announced on the cruisers net and the price was right we jumped on the chance and signed on. The plan was for an early stop at a farmers market, the largest in Nayarit then a short drive and a hike into the hills to view some petroglyphs, followed by lunch on the beach at Chacala and then back to the marina around 3:00pm. Bill and I, Chris and Liz from Espiritu, Paul and Judy from Grace and their son Kevin and his dog Patches all loaded into our guides van. The entire trip was great but the highlight was definitely the hike into the petroglyphs.
The petroglyphs are about a 40 minute drive NE of Banderas Bay and the ride through the hills was a whole new view of Mexico. April our guide has lived in Banderas Bay for 25 years filled the tour with her years of insider knowledge and insight. As we wound through the hills she acted as naturalist and historian telling us about the plants, trees and birds around us including a type of tree that the locals use for fence posts that re-sprouts back into trees once planted into the ground and a “gringo” tree known for its red peeling skin.
A sharp right turn had us off road and climbing into the hills. The road soon turned from pavement to dirt and then into something much more like a dry river bed. When the road got so bad we were barely crawling along it was time to either get out and push or grab our gear and get walking. After about a mile and a half of easy walking through nothing but fence line, cows and trees we arrived at the park entrance.
The boundary of the park was little more than a clearing and more barbed wire fence line. As we entered there was a large clearing off to the left where we could see the remains of what had once been the Mexican Indian version of a sweat lodge. On the other was the fence with an entry gate wired in with a lone gentleman holding a cell phone. We paid him our 20 peso entrance fee -we were warned the admission price varied from day to day and group to group, typical Mexico- and he silently went back to texting on his cell phone.
We had passed a couple of other trekkers on our way in but we seemed to have the park to ourselves as we followed the riverbed path into the park. Within a few feet of the gate April began pointing out petroglyphs and telling us about the history of the place. Along the path there were information signs in Spanish and English that gave detail and historical references and told the story of the people who lived in these hills many generations ago and the stories behind the petroglyphs.
The last curve of the trail led us to a bend in the river that opened up to a waterfall in a beautiful shady grotto.
There was an almost still leaf strewn pool at the bottom of the falls and a series of stair stepping rocks that climbed upwards along the slow moving riverbed. Below the pool there was a big stone curve that over the centuries had cut deep into the rocks. The years of flowing water left what looked like great rocky rectangles standing sentry over the sight. Along the curve there was one recessed spot into the rock that looked like an opened doorway, deep enough and tall enough for a man to stand in and it gave the impression of a giant stone doorway. All amongst the stair stepped rocks and boulders there were dozens and dozens of petroglyphs. Large and small images of the sun and various depictions of lines and squiggles that they believe represent the nature of weather, seasons and crops. There were also many glyphs that represented the great corn god or god of the crops.
When we arrived our group was alone and everyone spread out on their own to explore. As I climbed the rocks to the top of the falls I passed small alters that had been left scattered into nooks and crannies. Each alter was filled with modern day offerings of candles, beads, sweets and flowers. There were also bits of burned away candles tucked into the flats and crevasses all along the outer curving river rock wall. The quiet of the place had settled into the wet earth and the mossy woods all around us. Over the centuries it has left a peaceful calmness that you could feel. Maybe that feeling came from knowing how old the carvings are or maybe it’s a sort of left over spirit that makes this such a magical place. The place oozes power and energy and it was easy to see why the site was chosen hundreds of years ago and why it is still in use today by the native Indians.
By the time we had finished our hunt for petroglyphs and a quick dip in the deliciously cool pool we had been joined by some other hikers and the spell of the place was dimming. Our cameras were filled with pictures and Patches the Chihuahua-Jack was walking on sore tippy toes across the rocks so it was time to head home.
The hike out seemed shorter (of course) and soon we were back in the van and headed to our beachside lunch in the tiny seaside town of Chacala. This had been our tour guide Aprils' beta test trip with cruisers and the trip took us much longer than she had anticipated. Our 3:00pm drop off at home was well past by the time we made Chacala for lunch but we had all had a great time. And hey, were cruisers -all we have is time. So April, what else do you have for us in the state of Nayarit?