From Guanajuato, we began to head east toward the state of San Luis Potosi. We were on our way to Las Pozas, a surrealist wonderland in the jungle built by Edward James. In order to get there, we decided to take the most "direct" route, which required traveling through the Biosphere Reserve of the Sierra-Gordas.
The landscape was transforming. As we climbed out of the central valleys, the desert was getting greener and there were more trees. The flat plateaus were coming to jagged points. The elevation was increasing, and the cloudline appeared low. Everything was getting colder and more damp, more heavy, more gray. We were about to drive into a cloud. As we entered the Biosphere, we continued up the only road stretched out before us. We curved along slowly like a serpent. Our vision was fogged past the light of the headlights and what was beyond the road looked like a shadow of gravity with no bottom.
After a few minutes, Mark checked the gps on google maps, and determined we somehow got off the road we were supposed to be on. Since we had no cell service, our gps symbol looked like a tiny blue bubble floating in a green blob of mountains. We didn't even appear to be on a road. We consulted our other atlas' and maps. "No idea," Mark said. "I didn't see any other road. We must have taken a wrong turn in that last town." We were lost in the heavy breath of cloud.
Eventually we came upon a village and saw two guys unloading a truck. We asked them for directions to Xilitla. They sort of chuckled and looked at us like we were crazy, explaining that we were a long way from there, and that we needed to circle around a few mountains to get to the other side. They advised we keep going, through to the next town and from there we could find a way to back to the main road. But the road ahead had become narrow, gravel and heavily potmarked; the last few towns we past showed few signs of the modern economy. We were truly out in the country. A little ways up the road we found a pulloff to a seemingly seldom used bull riding rink or something. We camped here for the night, parked in the cloud, wet and cold. Air temp probably in the low 40s.
We trusted that the directions we were given were correct- even though both the road we were told to take and the town we needed to go through was somehow left off every map we had. "Do these two roads connect?" I asked Mark as we set off into the unknown. "Yes... I hope so," he replied. "Hope..." I mused. "You know, " he elaborated, "Hope in one hand, shit in the other." Gotcha. We are doomed.
Lucky for us, the two roads DID connect, and we were able to find our way to our destination, even though it was not the route we set off on. When we finally made it through this long set of cloud-laced switchbacks through the Biosphere, the fog had settled, and we realized that we were now in a dense, lush rainforest. The air was much warmer here. We had made it to Huasteca! A subtropical rainforest and a land of wise ancient trees covered with twisted vines and soft mosses. Enormous jungle ferns and thick palms. We parked our truck near the entrance of Las Pozas and decided to walk around and stretch our legs. It was too late now to enter the park but we could stay here overnight.
We wandered into a quaint little open-air restaurant across the street where we crossed paths with an adorable little family of three. Joey immediately laid his eyes on a girl his same age and size. Within minutes, they had joined forces and set off persuing some kind of toddler mischief together by sprinkling all the salt shakers on the tables, chasing one another in circles and taking turns throwing papa's hat into the air. We all introduced ourselves and became fast friends, and I distinctly remember Rodolfo saying something super epic- like "we've been waiting for you, guys," something ironic. After a couple of beers, they extended us a very welcoming invitation to park and play on their property.
Around the corner, we found their place- Casa Caracol- a funky, dreamy, trippy little slice of heaven with concrete teepees, bungalows, a tree-house, hammocks, murals, sacred geometry, and more. What an amazing surprise! They gave us a little tour of the property and Nara showed us her room and her cool toys. Then we stayed up late (for us) exploring the sparkly mirrored trails through the gardens and telling stories. Rodolfo bought this property 12 years ago and has been slowly transforming it into this whimsical wonderland ever since. And now Paulina is in the process of completing the studio space where she will soon be hosting yoga retreats.
Such a fun environment with so much to explore. What an inspiring family. Mark and I have dreamed of having our own retreat center like this one day, and this place was so impressive- so full of enchantment and good vibes.
Nara let Jose borrow her cute little bike.
The next afternoon, we all walked over to Las Pozas together. This garden is an 80,000 acre labrynth of unbelieveable sculptures and structures designed by the Surrealist artist Edward James. The name Las Pozas means "the pools," for the gorgeous jade-colored natural waterfall you can bathe in. James spent 35 years dreaming up this totally eccentric and one-of-a-kind jungle fantasy.
Rodolfo and Paulina have been coming here for years, so they know all the secret spots! We got a personal tour to some of their favorites. There were some places that were never completed and they remain mysterious and obscure. Other areas, you CAN climb (this is Mexico- there are no saftely regulations) but I am not sure you would want to- unless you are a passively-suicidal adrenaline junkie- afterall, there are narrow stairways leading to clouds and portals giving yield to optical illusion.
The next day, we entered the small town of Xilitla (pronounced hil-leat-la) looking for a local market where we could buy good-quality organic produce that comes straight from the gardens of the indigenous folks. Somehow, Mark and I ended up separated, and we spent the next couple hours looking for one another in the same 2 block radius, both somehow just missing the other. It was like a dream. Going in circles over and over. I wondered if maybe the unusual flora was emitting some kind of mildly sedating perfume. I told Paulina about having a weird day, and she said "that's just Xilitla. It's a trippy place." And indeed. It was.
A few days of relaxing in our rainforest retreat and we were ready to set sail again. We were grateful to make this connection to our lovely hosts. We bid our new friends goodbye feeling energized and refreshed. I hope that one day we can return to see how much the kiddos have grown, to take a class at Paulina's studio, and see what new magical feature Rodo has dreamed up. I am sure the stars will align again in perfect timing.
Next stop, Tolantango!