jueves, 8 de abril de 2010
Destination: Cuatrocienegas, Coahuila
For our four-day Easter weekend mini-vacation, we packed up and headed northwest to Cuatrocienegas, smack in the middle of the great state of Coahuila. This means that it is smack in the middle of nowhere and only those who live in Saltillo, Monterrey, or Torreon ever bother to go there. And for those of us in this region, it is worth a short trip.
Cuatrocienegas piqued our curiosity early on in our encounters with the Coahuila tourism board, as they boast a suprising amount of biodiversity in the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert. This small area is home to a number of endemic species--meaning plants and animals that are found nowhere else on earth. The naturalist in me just HAD to go.
Our first day, we headed off early to Poza Azul, a deep pool that's astonishingly aquamarine. This is the scene of the larger chunk of afore-mentioned endemic species, and some scientists believe that life on earth began here. [That's life in general, not HUMAN life on earth.] It was very pretty, but there's only so long one can look at a pool of water. The Poza Azul park contains a few other pools (not quite as exciting as the blue one), a lovely, clear creek, and a turtle conservation program.
Just down the road from Poza Azul are the Dunas de Yeso, or White Sand Dunes. Yes, exactly like those at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Just smaller. In fact, the park is a sister park to White Sands National Monument. Having spent plenty of time in 2002 exploring White Sands, I didn't need to spend all afternoon at the Dunas de Yeso. Particularly because these dunes weren't so "dune-y" and not so exciting to run down. More importantly, there was a wicked wind whipping though the valley, slashing our faces with sand, so we really couldn't get out of there fast enough. On a not-so-breezy day, it may be a lovely excursion. That wasn't our luck.
Then on Saturday we joined a huge line of idling cars at the entrance to the Rio Mezquites park. They let you swim in the river and have grills and picnic shelters, so everybody and their brother wanted to be there the day before Easter. We were among the last 10 people to be allowed to enter. As it is a protected natural area, they have some limit to how many people can disturb the wildlife in a given day. They also request that swimmers to not use sunscreen. Fortunately, I had not yet put any on. When we weren't in the water, Clara and I huddled in the shade while Mario did his best to soak up the sun and get burned. I didn't seem to get burned at all, Clara only got a light burned patch on her arm, and Mario, despite his best attempts, just got pleasantly burned. Not the nearly-second-degree burn he was aiming for.
As we were among the final families to join the horde, there were no picnic shelters left for us, but the Jeep came in handy. It was also way more comfortable than picnic shelter benches. And since we didn't bring anything to grill, it was not at all an inconvenience that we had to stick to the car and the river.
The town of Cuatrocienegas itself is small, cute, clean, and astonishingly well-maintained. While no house looked like millionaires lived there, no houses appeared to be in disrepair. Rather shocking, given all my previous experience in Mexico. Their church is now on my list of Favorite Churches in Mexico. It celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2008 (a rather young church, by Mexican standards) and Mario and I were debating whether they had redone the interior for the anniversary or whether it is original. It's very simple, full of stone arches, painted a tasteful peachy-pink, sporting beautiful curling metal chandeliers--classy, simple, and elegant. I was pretty shocked to find such a lovely church in such a small town and am still disappointed that I didn't get pictures. I was planning on taking them on Easter, but Clara decided to be Miss Crabbypants on Sunday. Just like last year. She seems to have something against Easter.
At any rate, we had an excellent weekend (despite very little sleep--Clara did not adjust well to the hotel). However, we probably won't be back for awhile, as Parras is just as charming, half the distance, and sports a much better winery. But I'm glad we went, nonetheless.