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Published: March 25th 2010
We left San Juan Neuvo first thing this morning. The owners were not up so we merely packed up and left. We decided to leave breakfast until we reached Uruapan, since as the guide book states the best place to eat in San Juan is not to eat in San Juan! I asked for directions to the bus stop... but apparently we could get one from the point in the road we'd arrived at. As we approached I saw a bus with Uruapan painted across the side. I started to hurry and seeing me the bus driver actually stopped, waved to me and waited (the drivers of the number 13 bus at home could learn something from him!!!)
We took the short drive to Urpuan and asking a fellow passenger on the bus where the centre was we managed to avoid riding the bus all the way to the bus station and have to travel back into town. We walked up the street and found the plaza directly ahead of us. The plaza is undoutedly one of the prettiest. I haven't exactly visited many towns in Mexico yet but Colin agreed with my pronouncement.
The river Rio Cupatitzio surfaces in Uruapan,
at the site of its National Park, and it is thanks to the river that the town of Uruapan came into being. In 1533 Fray Juan de San Miguel arrived in the area and was so taken with it that he gave it the Purepecha name, Uruapan, meaning 'Eternal Spring'. He designed a large market sqare, built a hospital and a chapel and arranged streets into an orderly grid which remains today. Uruapan rapidly grew into a productive agricultural centre as is best known for producing avacados.
We strolled around the plaza which was full of girl guides doing something creative with bags of crushed drink cans in typical guide fashion. Beyond the central point of the plaza we found a very pretty garden area surrounding a fountain and a lone Mexican man in a cowboy hat relaxing by the fence. Cowboy hats appear to be very popular here and a few people complete the outfit with denim and big belt buckles and boots.
We visited the small church across the road, an old stone arch standing bereft of any ajoining walls or fences in frotn of the courtyard. We cpuldn't eneter the church as a service was going on
but we admired the exterior for a while before going to look for somewhere to have breakfast.
We walked around the nearby streets but there weren't any obvious breakfast places. We eventually sat down on a doorstep and pulled out the Lonely Planet. Seeing that lots of eating places were listed as being on Indepencia Street Colin suggested we go and look for it. I glanced up at the nearest street sign and said 'uh, we're already on it'. Feeling a little silly I hastily shoved the guide book away and we walked around the eating places before finding a very nice restaurant back at the plaza that did wonderful breakfasts and faced out onto the street. We sat and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, then hit the streets again in search of the National Park.
We found it very easily. I walked up the street, pausing to wonder at a completely tumble down house which appeared to have caved in on itself while the houses either side remained in good condition. I stopped briefly to check in the guide book that I was on the right street, but before I had the chance to get the book out a couple
of men sitting outside a house simultaneously raised their arms and pointed up the road and said 'parc, parc'. Well I suppose with sunglasses, backpacks and a Lonely Planet we were rather obviously tourists and the main tourist attraction in town is the National Park. Thanking them with a grin we continued the uphill march until we reached the entrance of the park.
The modern history of Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatitzio began when Toribicio Ruiz acquired the then much larger property, and in turn bequeathed the lands to his son, Eduardo Ruiz, for whom the park is named. Eduardo Ruiz then gave the lands to his daughter, Josephina, and the estate became known as "La Quinta Josephina" during that time. At the end of the 1930's, President Lázaro Cárdenas authorized the purchase of the lands from the remaining Ruiz family. On November 2, 1938, the land officially became a national park. Cárdenas then ordered the building of roads into the area, and the improvement of park facilities by adding fountains and dining areas so that this remote location could be enjoyed by many new visitors to the region.
For a mere 12 pesos we gained entry and picked a
direction at random. We entered the park and followed a path on the left, slowly leaving behind the sounds of the road and the people gathered around the stalls near the entrance and following instead the sound of running water. It was cool and peaceful walking beneath the trees. I followed a sign saying cascadas and we found the river, a bridge over it and a waterfall at either end with plenty of overhanging jungle plants to complete the picture. We walked from one waterfall the other and then followed the steps upwards and along a path running beside the river.
The park is amazing. It is incredible to think that the town of Uruapan is just outside the gates yet while we were there it felt like being in the jungly. Tropical and sub-tropical plants surrounded us, waterfalls splashed down rocks at every turn and and peeping out of the greenery were brightly coloured flowers. It looked like flowering season is already over and I'm sure the place must be even more incredible in full bloom. It was still lovely though and a welcome retreat after all the bustle of travel and bus stations.
We followed pathways without much
thought to direction. We found an incredible tree with huge sprawling roots and a found myself a hobbit hole which I hopped into from the path and over the trickling stream between.
The final place we visited was a pool known as "Las Rodillas de los Diablos" (the Devil's Knees), which is in fac,t the source water and spring from which the Cupatitzio River originates. Legend has it that once the river dried up, leaving the surrounding land barren. The village, left without food and water, prayed for help. One day the friar Juan de San Miguel led a procession to the dry river's mouth, carrying an image of the Virgin Mary. The friar halted the procession to sprinkle some water on the VIrgin's image and on the rocks at the river's mouth. Suddenly Satan appeared, saw the image of the Virgin, and with a tumultuous shaking of th eearth vanished into the rocks. The flow of water resumed but one rock still bears the imprint of the devil's knee.
Despite the tale I found the pool to be incredible beautiful and peaceful. The water is incredibly blue and clear and jungle vines fall to brush the surface of the
pool. After taking a few last photos we walked out onto the street, leaving from a different exit. On the main road we wandered in the direction of tiwn until we were able to hail a taxi to the bus station. The journey went smoothly mainly because I now know all the bus stations on sight and have definitely had plenty of practice asking about bus timetables and buying tickets. Our bus from Urupan to Zamora was amazing - definitely the best bus I've ever been on - with fully reclining seats and adjustable leg rests. Unfortunately the choice of film could have been better - High School Musical 3 in Spanish! Eventually we arrived back in Sahuayo and it was weird to realise that three weeks ago I was panicking at being left on the streets of this stange place and this time I was saying 'ah, home at last!'
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