Vulcano Paricutin & It's Half Burried Church
Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
163Trip End May 10, 2011
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24 km...by horse.
2300 m to 2800 m and back
Yup, at 7 am sharp, the (no longer) mystical "chanting" started. We lazed a bit longer under the heavy blankets in our chilled room. Then, at 8:30 am there was a knock on our window. Aristeo told us that the guide and horses were waiting for us down by the gate!! What happened to 11 am as previously agreed???? In any case, it was a glorious morning so we got dressed in a hurry. Our guide, Luis, had 3 nice little horses saddled up and ready to go.
We stopped for provisions. I had hoped we could pick up a nice big lunch "torta"; a meat, cheese, tomato, lettuce and onion stuffed roll you find almost everywhere in Mexico! No luck. We settled for some Mexican pastry breads and Maria cookies from the tiny store on our street.
On the street, a lady was frying 3 small fish in a large flat pan over a wood fire in a jerry-can. Silhouettes of ladies walking with their swaying skirts could be seen in the distance.
We are happy to learn that the horses are well trained and respond to light tugs on the reins. The trail switches from 4 wheel drive track with stones to soft black lava sand. The horses don't like walking on the rock road and step carefully. In the sand, they like to go fast. Dave's horse likes to be in front and often trots to stay ahead. For a short time, the horses galloped with little encouragement. We see mostly lava flow on our left with farms and orchards on the fertile soil to the right.
After an hour in the saddle, we turned directly toward the volcano cone and began to climb. From this point, the horses walked mostly in the sand from the eroded lava. We passed some outcrops with ferns growing profusely. Surprising to see the large ferns at this altitude and climate. As we got closer to the cone, the trail got steeper until we reached the transition where the cone clearly begins and it became too steep for the horses to go further. From here, everyone walks.
Michelle realized she had forgotten her knee support and did not want to risk injury. So she waited while Luis and Dave walked the last 30 minutes up the cone. The 1st two-thirds of the path is in course sand. It got steeper and soon it was two steps up, and one step back, as we slid back in the sand. Then we turned and traversed across baseball size pumas stone. The air is thin and rest stops are needed. Luis and Dave reached the crater's edge and hiked along it taking in the views of the broad lava flows below. Steam can be seen rising from vents here and there. After taking in the great views, it was time to take a direct line and run down the sandy trough to the bottom of the volcano.
We were happy to be on the horses for the 434 meter (1,391 ft) climb. But our butts became pretty sore by now and we had another two hours to get back to town. So uncomfortable we became, that we took a break to let the blood start to flow in our behinds. Then we passed a house that had a small restaurant on the patio. A great chance for another break. The Purepechi lady made delicious blue corn tortillas as we sat there. A few tacos later, we were on our way.
We crossed onto the lava field and got to Saint Juan's church that was buried in the lava when it erupted in 1943. We are astonished to see just how big the church was that got partially buried.
The final ride up into town was up through dense pine forest. With great relief, we dismounted in front of our hotel. We took the pillows off the bed and used them for chair cushions. We will be reminded of this horse ride every time we sit...for a week at least.
We asked the hotel owner (Josť) for some firewood (Madero in Spanish) for our fireplace. He rounded some up and lit the fire. We asked the name of his hotel and why he did not have a sign in front like the hotel down the road. He thought a bit and seemed to be deciding on a name on the spot. 'Casa de La Loma' he concluded. In means 'house on the knoll' very descriptive since is on a small hill .... He does not want a sign because he has only two rooms, and with a sign, people may come.
We played some cards and enjoyed the warmth of our fire. A bit later, Michelle moved her jacket from the bed and something cold fell on her foot. She had a good scare from a 2 foot long snake as it slithered over her foot and across the room. We suspect harmless. It may have come in with the firewood. The incident didn't keep us awake. We slept like babies.