I still remember this. A Mexican friend said he had been to Matacanes. So, out of curiosity, I asked him what exactly it was. He said it is a place where you jump into the water through waterfalls from varying heights and swim through the caves. "So what do you do when you are tired of jumping ?", I asked him, to which he replied quite nonchalantly, "You jump some more" !
Matacanes, Ladies and Gentlemen, is exactly that. I was quite excited and pumped up on the prospect of this trip. For one, I had no knowledge of swimming (something which I am quite determined to rectify by the time I leave Mexico!), and I have a morbid fear of heights. Combine these both, and you have a perfect recipe for disaster.
Before I continue with my trip description, I would like to thank one of my co-travelers, Raul, who had a waterproof Olympus camera with which he took quite a lot of nice photographs. You can check out more of his pictures here. All the pictures I have posted here are links to his pictures.
Anyway, on a Saturday morning we went to the starting point of this trip, the Hacienda Cola De Caballo hotel, near the waterfalls. We booked this trip through Geoaventura, an adventure tour organizer. The cost of the trip was 130 USD and it included all safety equipment, breakfast, lunch and dinner. At the outset, I must say that they were quite professional and cajoled, encouraged, and sometimes literally pushed lots of guys to complete the trip.
So, at 6.00AM, we were bundled off into the back of a truck to get to the starting point, a quaint little village called Potrero Redondo. It is a two hour bumpy ride to this village with a magnificent view of sunrise and the mountains, sufficient enough to shake out all the sleep that you have within you. At around 8.30AM we reach the base camp. It is at the base camp that there is a guide who briefs you about the trip. They also provide you with a breakfast of cakes, biscuits and juice, something which you need to take. They also give you a ziploc pouch bag with energy bars for your lunch, something which would be soggy from the various jumps that you make, and yet for which you would be thankful for later in the day.
However, there is an important point which the guide tells you and which you need to pay close attention to. This trip, is by no means an easy one. The second part about this trip is that, it is a one-way traffic. There are thirty jumps that one needs to do. Out of this thirty jumps, five are compulsory, which includes a 10mt jump and a 7 or 8 meter jump into a pitch black cave. Hence, if you are afraid of heights, better think again before going to this trip. But then again, if I could do it, anyone else can do it ;-)
The guide advises you to get a neoprene suit, which would be needed as the water is quite cold. Unfortunately, I could only manage to get a suit which was a bit bigger, and hence, spent the entire trip with totally wet clothes. The guides also provide you with a life jacket, helmet and harness for rappelling.
After we were properly equipped, we were bundled into the van again and a short drive for about thirty minutes followed. We got down and started the trip. We walked for an hour to reach the point of the first jump.
That is the path that we needed to take to get the point of the first jump.
The first jump. Yeah, that is me jumping. Notice that I tried to close my nose. In fact, after this jump, I forgot to close my nose for a few other jumps, which resulted in water entering my nose. This water, combined with my sinusitis problems, gave me a very heavy head and in fact, I grew tired, more out of this issue rather than anything else. I think if you have nose and ear plugs, it might help you to jump, and enjoy the trip to its fullest.
After finishing this jump, you need to rappel and reach the second jump point. I had never done rappelling before, and my knees buckled during the start. The guide had to help me to continue rappelling. In fact, after I got the hang of it, I though that it was pretty easy to rappel !
This is the second jumping point, the Lagunillas Cascade. You need to jump from the point where the guide is standing. It is at this spot that I slipped and fell directly into the water. Luckily, I survived. The point was that I flouted one of the most important piece of advice the guides gave us before the start. "When we say jump, you jump". I hesitated a little bit and hence, slipped and fell. Luckily, there were no broken bones or bruises.
After this jump, we had a few more little jumps and a few other places where we skid across, to reach this beautiful spot.
That is a shot of us while we were waiting for our turn to rappel.
The guide who helped me to rappel made sure that I was the first one to start rappel this time ! I can still picture the sly grin he had on his face when he beckoned me to start rappelling. Luckily for me, the rappelling was fairly easy as I managed to use the mountain wall behind me as a support. After rappelling, there was another jump which was easily done. That led us to this spot.
This is the spot which gives Matacanes its name. This is a spot where water flows through a small opening in the mountains. But then again, after this spot comes the pitch black jump, the "Jump of Fate" as our guide called it. The guide has a torch, but he will not use it to show where you jump. All he told us was to take one step and fling ourselves into total darkness, hoping that we would land safely. When you look down, you can see the waterfall, but nothing beyond that. In fact, it was indeed an exciting and thrilling jump. After this jump, we swam through and reached the mouth of a cave.
The guide asked us to stop and eat a few candy bars.
We then continued jumping like this for a few more times.
Yeah, it is me. Please permit some amount of ego boosting ;-)
And a few more jumps like these
Yeah, me, me, me.
Some more jumps like these.
In between these jumps, we came across two jumps which I did not do and chickened out. One was the tallest jump of 14 meters and another one was around 12 or so meters. In fact, I was more worried about more water entering my nose and aggravating my headache, more than the fear of the jump itself !
There was one jump which had a rock jutting out. The guide urged us to jump and not think about the rock. But then again, I played it safe and went to the rock which was jutting out and jumped from there. So, out of 30 jumps, I manged to do twenty seven and half. I guess that is not bad after all !
We also skid through the water like these
I did manage to get myself caught in a whirpool once, but luckily, I managed to extract myself from it.
After a few more jumps we came to the last jump, a 10 meter sideways jump.
That is the guide helping out another terrified person (like myself), take an alternative route for the jump. Since the guide said that this was the last big jump, I did not want to miss out and hence, I jumped the entire 10 meters.
After that jump, we swam through total darkness and reach the mouth of the cave, the Lion's cave, Matacane de Abajo. I must mention that the guide cautioned us before we entered this cave. The week prior to the one that we went, there was a twelve year old girl who got caught in the whirlpool inside this cave and had to be rescued using a helicopter. Hence, he advised us to stick to the right side of the cave and not move towards the left side of the cave. In fact, the currents inside the cave were actually quite strong !
The water was green in color due to the reflection from the plants around the cave. It was, perhaps, one of the most beautiful sights I have seen.
We then had a few more small jumps and a kilometer or two of walking before we reached the point from where we had the truck to take us back to the starting point.
At the starting point, we were provided with food, which was welcomed by our rather tired and weary bodies.
To sum it up, if you are in the mood for some real excitement, and have a day to spare, I would suggest that you check out this place !
Posted by Shyam Krishnaswamy at 12:12 AM