Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Day in the Mountains

We'd met William Mertz at a party—an in-person gathering of folks who frequent Zihuatanejo's popular internet message board. He's a nature photographer and graphics designer who, with his wife Belem and daughter Ruth, live and work in the little beach town of Troncones, about 20km north of Zihuatanejo.

Turns out Wil's a good guide to some of the back country up in the mountains northeast of here, where he often goes to collect samples of the snakes and lizards he prefers to shoot (with his camera). So we hired him for the day. He picked us up in his creaky 24-year-old 4-Runner and off we chugged.

About 50 kilometers northeast of Ixtapa, in the Sierra Madre del Sur, is the tiny settlement of Vallecitos de Zaragoza. Near it is one of the very few creeks that still flows during this dry, increasingly torrid season of the year, and along it, Las Cascadas de Mesas de Bravo. With little rain since February (and that quite an anomaly) the cascades themselves were actually something less than impressive, but the scoured grey granite pools and undulations of the river bed gave credence to the stream's venerability.

The place is in the early stages of development as a regional eco-tourism destination, with the local authorities building a welcome center, cabins and more easily accessible trails. A couple of shaky cable bridges are still in place, but we decided to avoid the longer one, with many of its stick cross-pieces dangling by one end.

Among the interesting things Will pointed out to us were the many trees playing host to other plants. These included the bromeliads one would expect in such a place, but we were struck by the several types of cactus that also had a foothold on the trees. Other fascinating plants included what the locals call the paper tree, covered in a coffee-brown onionskin, which peeled off in small leaves.

And another tree—I've forgotten its name—that reminded us of our magnolias back home, with its lack of any foliage to compete with its scattering of spectacular large blossoms.

William seemed to feel responsible for the reluctance of the resident parrots to show themselves today, but made up for it by pointing out the splash of iridescent blue fluttering up the stream bed toward us. The striking blue and black, hand-size butterfly, the Morpho Guerrerense, kept flying right at us, passing our faces within arm's length.

Wil explained that the parrots we weren't seeing that day might be holed up in the huge dark brown termite nests looming here and there in the trees. Apparently, they're able to dig their way into the solid, woody structures and carve out cozy nests inside—surrounded by the still-active termite nest as a handy source of food.

We saw a big, yellow-and-black swallowtail and several other types of butterfly, as well as the impressive white-throated magpie jay and several other birds. We also spotted several of the distinctive long, sack-shaped nests of the cacique, a feathered clash of jet black and bright yellow common to this area, including Zihua.

As we hiked around the site, the broad masses of granite radiated the sun's heat, making even the timid waterfalls awfully tempting to us, but, alas, we'd decided not to bring our swim suits. Pools of shade and the cold water Wil had brought for us helped quench the heat.

On our way back to the coast, we passed a number of fish farms where pools, large and small, teemed with talapia. Wil stopped once, thinking he'd heard some of those parrots, but they were only toying with us.

By three-thirty we were bouncing along the only street of Troncones, chased by a choking cloud of blond dust. After a very nice lunch at the restaurant Belem manages (and where Ruth also works), Wil drove us back to Zihua and our villa.

On our way up the long flights of stairs to our place, Sally and I stopped, as we often do, to dangle our feet in our lovely, usually deserted, pool, comparing notes about a very rewarding day. We'd enjoyed the scenery, learned much about the plants and critters of Mesas de Bravo and, perhaps most importantly, made some new friends.

1 comment:

sue in mexico mo said...

Thank you. I enjoyed your trip report. I have always enjoyed William Mertz's photos and his postings on the forum. I hope to meet him and arrange a guided road trip the next time I am in Zihuatanejo. He sounds like a great guide! Thanks again.
Sue Austin
Mexico, MO