The creek-like Rio Actopan - Chicuasén to Actopan

Trip Start Feb 05, 2010
1
5
9
Trip End Feb 13, 2010


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Where I stayed
Hotel La Villa

Flag of Mexico  , Veracruz-Llave,
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My day began early so I could go to yoga. This morning's yoga class met at 7:30 a.m. and was being held at Casa Esprit where most of the guides live. They have an open air palapa on their roof so that is where we did yoga at. We worked on shoulder openers and sun salutations. It was pretty up there and you could see more of the town but it was loud and hard to concentrate when the roving vendors came through selling their wares over the megaphone.

After yoga we went to Esprit for breakfast at 8:30 a.m. Today we had spinach, dried tomato and cheese omelets with beans and yogurt and granola. Donna was feeling horrible since late last night so I had the girls take her some burro tea to see if it helped.

At 10:00 a.m. we met at La Villa to load our gear and begin the 1.5 hour ride to the Actopan River. Donna was feeling too bad to paddle today so I said goodbye to her for the afternoon. We took a few pictures in front of the hotel before we left. I was excited to see more of the Actopan because it was supposed to be very beautiful and has rare blue colored waters.

Along the way we drove through the villages of Apazapan, Emiliano Zapta, La Cumbre, Palo Gacho, Actopan, Villanueva, Chicuasén and Zetal. We saw fields of agave, mango, sugar cane, coffee, nopal and chayote. The area is close to the Pico Orizaba which is a dormant volcano in the area, it is also the third largest peak in North America. The natives claim that they can grow so many varied type of crops because of the rich volcanic soil from Pico Orizaba.

When we got to the put-in Mill played "Eye of the Tiger" for us and we wondered what we were getting ourselves into. We got changed, did some stretching and put in at the large eddy next to the restaurant. While in the eddy we worked on bow draws, draws, sculling draws and boof strokes. We stayed there awhile working on strokes and techniques before continuing down the river.

The Rio Actopan is very creek-like. It is narrow and requires many side to side creek-like moves without the severe gradient of a creek. It can be rather shallow in spots, very continuous and requires many boofs. It is a gorgeous almost unbelievable shade of blue and surrounded by verdant jungle and various type of fruits on either side.

I was having fun on the Actopan because its shallow nature and rock gardens reminded me of my home river when the water level is a little lower. For the most part it was read and run class II-III whitewater. It was incredibly beautiful and nice to look at in-between rapids. We ran several rapids and floated for about an hour before we pulled over at a spot on the river side for lunch.

Our lunch spot was on river right underneath a bridge. We had peanut butter tortillas, pasta salad, cookies and water for lunch. While we there we saw a local man cross the bridge on a donkey and go to the other-side of the river to harvest chayote in a field. Once he had a box packed he would return to our side of the river unload the vegetable and go back across. He did this several times while we were there. All around us growing in the trees was the guanábana fruit. Most were still too small to be harvested.

After lunch we continued down the Actopan. Along the way we stopped at a small surfing wave and got some practice at side surfing. I still don't have a ton of practice side surfing, I'm much better at front surfing. But the wave looked very friendly so I went in for a try. I can hold myself on a wave for awhile but I'm still unsure of how to do a flat spin. I held myself in the wave on a side surf for awhile but as I exited the wave I shifted my weight and my stern was grabbed and I flipped, I managed to combat roll. I watched the other more experienced woman do some flat spins and I started to understand it a bit better.

Once everyone surfed we continued down river for about two hours. Along the way we came across two incredibly low lying bridges that we had to duck under. Actually we had to fully lay down on the front deck of the kayak just to get under! I got under the first one, under the second one but sat up to fast and got caught in a hole and flipped. I tried but couldn't manage to roll so I had to swim. Someone else swam there so I didn't feel too bad.

Near the take-out we had one more bridge to go under and that was no problem. We hiked our boats up to the van and got changed. I took a few pictures around the area and we visited a local restaurant to use their facilities before we headed back to Jalcomulco. We sang all the way back and Mil even put on "Business Time" by Flight of the Concords! Some of my kayak buddies from home always play this song before they go paddling so I had to laugh at the coincidence. Once again we sang all the way back to Jalco and listened to some other very comical songs.
 
When I arrived back in Jalcomulco I had just enough time to unpack my river gear, check on Donna and check my emails before my massage appointment with Abríl. Abríl is another local massage therapist who works with Anna's trips. She actually had a small room dedicated to massages on La Villa's property. Her room was located behind the temezcal, it had a variety of incense and different massage oils. I had signed up for a half an hour massage because I needed enough time to shower and get ready for dinner and salsa night. Abríl started by asking me what type of massage I usually get, I told her deep tissue. I decided to go with the back and shoulder massage since I always get tight there and it is a shorter massage. She seemed to start with a type of Reiki as I could just barely feel her touching my lower back and moving upwards. She did this for a few minutes before applying massage oil and getting to work in my shoulder area. She was a good therapist and very quick to find where I hurt the most. For a small woman she had the power to really work deeply in the muscle. My massage lasted for a little over an hour all for the price of a half hour massage.

After my massage I quickly showered and hurried over to Esprit where I was still able to get one of the happy hour drinks, rum and coke before dinner. For dinner we were served tortilla soup with cheese, avocado and chipotle seasoning and tostadas. We had local handmade mango and guanábana ice cream for dessert.

After dinner we watched our pictures and videos, then we moved the furniture around for salsa night. Salsa night began with shots of Tequila on the house. A local named Benjamin came in and taught us a few basic salsa steps before the band showed up. The band consisted of Benjamin, Carlos and two others on bongo drums. We danced to salsa and afro-cuban beats. Local men came in and danced with us throughout the night. It got incredibly hot in there, salsa is a very active dance! At some point we formed the shortest and fastest conga line. We took lots of pictures and the drinks continued to flow. Salsa night was alot of fun and a good look into Mexican culture.
 
After salsa night we returned to La Villa to journal and hit the sack. Donna was feeling well enough to eat lightly and dance at Salsa night but was far from better. A rooster started crowing around midnight and didn't let up for quite awhile and made it very hard to sleep.

Things learned on Day 5:
 
1. Pico Orizaba info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pico_de_Orizaba

2. Bow Draw stroke: http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showArticle.html?203 

3. Sculling Draw stroke: http://www.kayakhelp.com/kayaking-strokes/the-sculling-draw.php

4. Draw stroke: http://www.ehow.com/how_2153315_draw-stroke-kayak.html

5. Boof stroke: http://www.paddling.net/guidelines/showArticle.html?352

6. Chayote vegetable: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chayote

7. Guanábana fruit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soursop

8. Side surfing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbBZEYUEjdk

9. Flat Spin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playboating#Spinning

10. Business Time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGOohBytKTU

11. Reiki info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reiki

12. Rio Actopan info: http://wikipaddle.org/wiki/Actopan 
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