Day 3: Jalco - Intro in the Pool - Pequenos Pasos
Trip Start Feb 06, 2009
9Trip End Feb 14, 2009
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Where I stayed
Aventuras Sin Limite
What I did
Anna explained some of the breakfast items on the menu to us and we all made our selections and ordered in Spanish. While we waited for our food Anna talked to us some about how the trip was going to run and what to expect in Jalcomulco. Our orders came out rather quickly. Its typical that the servers in Mexican restaurants will bring you your order as soon as its ready instead of waiting until all the orders at a table are ready to go. So some people end up eating before others. I ordered huevos espanola, which is a type of fritada with potato and cheese in the middle. It was really good
The drive to Jalcomulco took about two hours. I noticed that once we got outside of Veracruz that Mexico looks much poorer. There is little tourism in this area so there is very little development. Many of the houses and buildings looked very run down. All of the houses we were seeing were small one story buildings that had metal poles sticking out of the roof. Anna explained that the residents are given compensation from the government when they add onto their homes, that is the reason for the poles, so they can build in the future. I also noticed that there is a ton of roadside fruit markets all over Mexico. Agriculture seems to be the predominant business here.
Everyone was very upbeat as we drove the two hours through the state of Veracruz. We listened to Latin music as we passed fields of sugar cane and agave. Along the way we could see the Sierra Madre Orientales, a mountain range that runs through a good portion of eastern Mexico. We could also see the Pico de Orizaba, it is snow-capped and it's actually a dormant volcano and the third highest peak in North America. We started to see hints of river in a valley below and signs that showed rafters in a river...it was very exciting.
Finally Anna announced that we were in Jalcomulco. It's a cute little village with cobblestone streets and brightly painted homes and shops. We pulled up alongside Aventuras Sin Limite, which was going to be our base camp for the week. We unloaded our gear from the van and then we were shown around
We walked through the streets of Jalcomulco carrying our river gear. This is a rafting town so to some degree I'm sure the residents are used to seeing this kind of thing but we were the only white people in Jalcomulco and we were a group of eight women plus all female instructors. I could see some curious glances in our direction, especially from the men.
We walked to the bodega where all of the kayaks and other river gear was kept. Here we met Milissa and Karine who were the other two instructors for the course. They had quite a fleet of boats there but we were only going to be using river running kayaks since they are the most stable and friendly to beginners. Looking over the kayaks they mostly had Wavesport Diesels and a few Dagger Mambas. I paddle a playboat and I've been in a Mamba before so I decided to try the Diesel. Since I work for a kayak school and paddle I'm well versed in outfitting myself for a kayak
Next we were taken to Esprit. Esprit is rafting company in Canada that runs international trips. They have a base in Jalcomulco which was our location for all of our meals, yoga classes, video reviews and happy hours. Here we had lunch. We were served tostadas, vegetable soup and water. Esprit has two local women, both named Berta, that cooks all the meals. The food was great, it was also very light and fresh nothing like the majority of the Mexican food in the States.
After lunch we loaded the van with our river gear and we were taken up the road to Centro de Kayak Mexico, which is another local rafting outfitter, that has a pool large enough to accommodate several kayaks at once. Since all the ladies were at different experience levels we began with the very basics
First we entered the pool in our kayaks without a paddle, when we were ready we capsized our kayaks and began banging on the bottom of the boat, this is a call for help.
Next we reached forward and located the pull loop on our spray skirts and released it which causes you to do a summersault out of the kayak. This process is called a wet exit and is the most basic and most necessary self rescue skill in whitewater kayaking. Since I had been kayaking before I was well versed in this skill and only had to do it once. Some of the other ladies did the wet exits several times until they were comfortable with the process.
The next rescue technique in whitewater kayaking is called a bow-rescue. Its done when some one can not roll their kayak or their roll fails. Basically the person in the capsized kayak bangs on the bottom of their boat to draw attention to themselves and to ask for help. Another kayaker paddles up to them and hits the flipped kayak with the bow of their own kayak. Ideally the rescuer should hit the kayak at about the hip so the victim can easily reach both hands up to the bow of the kayak and hip snap their boat to a righted position. We practiced this quite alot. Its not always possible on the river but ideally its best to try and wait for a rescue rather than having to swim out of your kayak in the middle of the river. Anna gave us a great suggestion to repeat a mantra to ourselves when we are upside down to help calm ourselves down...it wasn't quite in the spirit of things but our group chose "holy shit! I'm o.k." as our mantra.
Once the most essential skills were taken care of we played a great game of water polo in the pool. We did not use paddles, only our hands to propel ourselves forward. It actually was a great lesson in edge control of the kayak. It also served to lighten the mood and helped get the jitters out. We played two rounds and my team kicked ass both times :)
When the game was finished we took our kayaks onto the grass and Anna began to review the movements of the sweep roll with us. I found this incredibly helpful! I've been going to pool sessions at home with my local kayak club and my roll would sometimes work and sometimes not....it got frustrating at times. Having someone show you the movements you need to make out of the water was so beneficial because once you were upside down in the water and left to your own devices to roll you knew exactly what movements you needed to make! Anna was also able to identify a particular movement that I'd been making that causes my roll to fail. I was really psyched to have this new information!
All in all we were in the pool practicing for about 3.5 hours that afternoon. We got changed at the center and had some cervazas pool side before returning to Aventuras
First we stopped at the swinging bridge and took some pictures. We walked across it and the local kids had some fun with us by jumping up and down and forcing us to walk like drunks just to keep our balance. On the other side of the bridge is the put-in area for the Antigua river so we went down there to get a better look at the river and some of the smaller rapids there. While we were there we got bit by more of those terrible bugs. We continued walking around town just looking at the homes and shops and taking pictures. The people live a simple but beautiful life here.
We went to Esprit at 6:00 for happy hour. Tonight's happy hour drink was a Canyon Sunrise, similar to a tequila sunrise but made with local sugar cane alcohol
A little while later dinner was served. We had both chicken and beef on tortillas served with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, fresh vegetables, water, white wine and for dessert local made vanilla ice cream and chocolate cookies. The food was fantastic, its Mexican food but done much lighter and much more fresh and spicy than you find at home. The food portions you find here tend to be smaller as well but everything was so delicious.
After dinner we talked for a while and got to know each other better. Somehow we ended up playing a multi-lingual counting game. It was surprising but between us we were able to count to 10 in atleast nine different languages!
Later we returned to Aventuras for the night. I opted to get a shower since it was still so hot and humid outside. It was about 85 degrees Fahrenheit in this part of Mexico the entire time I was there
Things Learned on Day 3 in Mexico:
1. Its typical that the servers in Mexican restaurants will bring you your order as soon as its ready instead of waiting until all the orders at a table are ready to go. So some people end up eating before others.
2. On the way to Jalcomulco you will pass through the Sierra Madres Orientales and the majestic Pico de Orizaba a snow-capped dormant volcano and the third highest peak in North America.
3. Jalcomulco is a tourist destination for Mexicans. Everyone goes there to raft, kayak, bike, hike and zip line.
5. If you are a white person in a non-tourist area in Mexico you may here the word Guerra/o alot. It means white woman or white man. Its not an insult or a racist statement simply a means of getting your attention.
6. It was about 85 degrees Fahrenheit in this part of Mexico the entire time I was there. I wished I would have brought alot more tank tops with me instead of just short sleeved tops.