Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cerro Colorado

Any town that I have to in Latin America has something in common. No matter Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Bolivia or all part in between. At the highest point in the surrounding mountains or the highest natural area there is always a huge cross. These being dominant Roman Catholic regions of the world can lead credence as to why a huge and usually brightly lit cross looks down upon the local town and Tehucan is no different.

I notice Cerro Colorado my second day here in May. High steep cliffs surrounded by bright green forests and cactus it's siren call has been in my ears since that first sighting.  In mythology The Sirens were beautiful but dangerous creatures that lured the sailors with their beautiful voices to their doom, causing the ships to crash on the reefs near their island. Doomed sailors aside when I hear the siren call of a mountain hike it is pretty hard to keep me off the trail. The distant cross of Cerro Colorado has looked down on my for 4 months and it was finally time to meet, face to cross.

Tom, Freddie, Jess (kneeling), Ken, Eric, Ashlynn, Daniel
 Friday night is fun teacher fun night and the night before the hike was no exception. Classes finish at 9:00 and the full sprint to La Chopperia for cold well deserved beer begins. We were set to meet at the Zocolo at 7:30 am on the Saturday morning so most of us had good intentions of a few drinks then home for a decent nights sleep. At least we had good intentions.

With an alarm ringing in my ears at 6:30 I dragged myself out of the warmth of my cocoon, put the coffee on an prepared to get going. Our intrepid crew all managed to meet at 7:30 a bit bleary eyed but ready to go. Although the forecast called for thunderstorms the sky was clear (Mexican weather forecasts are as accurate as North American) we needed an early start because the heat of the Mexican day intensifies as the day wears on.

I can not explain why but I feel "at total peace" when I am on the trail. I am in my element and happy place. Any attempt to explain would be futile but I will say I am enveloped by a total calmness, a huge warm hug by mother nature if you will.

Carlos our guide, Daniel, Freddy, Ashlynn, Ken, Tom, Jess
For me the summit, although always climactic, is more times than not secondary to the hike itself.  The views from various levels and directions never bore me no matter where I am. The findings on the trail some down to the simplest of pleasures. Colorful flowers, strange plants, stranger insects, squawking birds, rock formations and in this case fossils that were found everywhere. Tens of thousands of years ago (not sure exactly) this entire area was covered with water and we were hiking the bottom of the sea. When you take a minute and look at the canyons and valleys and use your imagination (something I am trying real hard to develop) you come to realize the enormity of what "could have swam and lived here"

Skip ahead to 500 years ago and the Aztec and Mayan peoples used this area to live and worship. There are temples and ruins at the top near the cross and that was our secondary destination. We would not be awed in the beauty when were arrived but looked around solemnly at the mounds of dirt covering the historical artifacts. These ruins have not yet been uncovered and it makes you wonder how many more unearthed testaments to the past exist in Mexico and beyond.  True to form Carlos our guide, who has been hiking this trail for 50 years, told us that we would find shards of pottery near the top to which we all thought "sure old man, keep telling stories to the gringos". Well to my surprise there they were scattered all over the trail and around the covered temple zone. Pottery shards and pieces dating back 500 years. I put a few larger ones in my pocket then thought "these, although special right now" will end up being tossed somewhere down the road" so I put them back where they belonged. I was not even thinking to take a photo to share and I do not know why but it just felt wrong too. Dam ancient and scary Mayan gods!

Another summit reached, another cross visited
There was and exposed wall (again no photo) that could be seen when we climbed what was the highest hill at the top. Knowing that underneath us was at one time a building or temple used by an ancient culture made the moment very serene and oddly everyone seemed to realize it almost all at once. Our excited chatter suddenly stopped as everyone took it in. No words needed to be spoken and as it should be the moment was just savored. I love being a history nerd.

When at the summit and after embracing the ruins and history we walked back to the cross to relax and take it all in wit the views, the history and the "I wonder if's". Adding to the mystique was the clouds started rolling in and Carlos started playing his flute. You could not have asked for a more embracing moment even if I was stuffing my face with Doritos. Not the food of the gods but a close second and my "summit snack"  of choice.

The hike itself was not a huge challenge at 1800 metres. There were a few steep rocky areas but I have developed great Billy Goats skills in the last few years, bounding up them without issue. Passing some who were 25 to 30 years younger who were complaining, sweating and panting their Facebook addicted lives with every step. I am exaggerating a bit...but not a whole bunch.

At the end of another great hike
I hope to climb Cerro Colorado a few more times while I am here. It is close and a good way to spend the day, well any day hiking is a good way to spend the day. I had a great crew to hike with, the views were beautiful, this history of the area mesmerizing and the Doritos were delicious.

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