Bereft of moolah after our fender-bender incident, we still moved ahead with plans as usual. We drove to Agua Azul, not thinking that there might be an entrance fee.
When we arrived at the gate, and saw the cost was $35 pesos each, we became disheartened. All that was left to our name, at least in pesos, was about $90.
We were about to turn around, when the gatekeeper said, "Just pay us the $35 for one and we'll let you all in."
Gratefully we accepted, and drove into the village complex that surrounded this massive jewel-colored river with it's impressive series of resplendent waterfalls.
The parking lot was surrounded by restaurants and artesian shops, with a police station on the other side. We parked under some trees, and set up camp for the night, including hanging out our laundry to dry, which we'd washed at a roadside waterfall.
After dinner, we took a stroll down to catch our first glimpse of these famous falls, and for the kids to do a little swimming.
It was late in the day, and river was hidden in the shadows of the forest of trees which surrounded it. Even then, the color was an unearthly blue that was complimented by the roaring white that cascaded into it from above. We were anticipating tomorrow, so we could explore the splendor in the sunshine.
Arising early as usual, we had to combat the attack of biting ants during breakfast, but survived and were soon ready for the ascent.
Agua Azul is a series of cascades that descend alongside a path which has now been built for tourists to walk on. It includes a lot of steps, as you hike up while the water falls down, but the indescribable beauty that rewards you is worth every effort (or as they say in Mexico, vale la pena).
We wanted to hike up as far as we could go before we did any swimming. The sign said that the 'boca' - mouth - of the river lay 1 kilometer ahead. That was our aim.
As we climbed beside, the river on our right, we gawked in awe at the myriad of falls - from giant, brilliantly white, roaring titans to fairy sized, sparkling trickles - each delightfully winsome and with jewel-like colors that you can only imagine or find in your dreams.
"I have been to some beautiful places in the world, but this has got to be the most beautiful place I've been, yet" sighs Greg.
Pictures don't do it justice.
On our left, following the curve of the river, on the other side of the artesian stands that sell souvenirs to tourists, is a village of people who have lived here since long before there was a paved path for foreigners to climb. This river is their life, and you can still see that connection - banana and papaya trees planted on the river banks; a young mother washing her family's laundry; a grandmother bathing with her daughter and granddaughter; a young man fishing for his lunch.
As the pave path ends, and we leave the tourist area behind, we follow the jungle trail that shadows the river's bends.
Then, unexpectedly, we're stopped by two men.
"You cannot go any further, this is the end of where tourists can go."
Hmmm…okay. "Why?" we ask. "On the sign it says the boca is this way, why can't we go up there?"
"It is too dangerous. You cannot go up, unless you have a guide. The people may try to rob you," is their response.
Ohhh…kay. So we turn around and start walking back.
But then we stop short, and say to each other, "Wait a minute. Who are they to tell us that we can't go further? I want to see the boca, and I'm going to see it."
We change direction once more, and walk back to the two gatekeepers.
"We're going to take the risk and keep going anyway."
"Well, just know that we are not responsible for what happens to you any more. If someone comes out with a machete to rob you, it's all on you."
We'll take that chance.
I must admit their words made me a little wary, enough that I took my camera off from around my neck, and put it into my bag, and was on the look-out for 'bad guys.'
But all I found was a boy fishing with a bit of string; a canoe and it's two boatmen lazily floating down the river; a village on the opposite bank; and two men working in a banana field. Not your typical crime scene.
Barely escaping with our lives (ahem, do you detect the sarcasm?), we reached the end, or the beginning, depending on how you look at it.
The path stopped at a beach that gradually sloped into the transparent, blue waters. From the waters edge, you could look up toward the cliffs, where water gushed forth out of the rocks.
There wasn't another soul in sight. The gatekeepers were making sure of that.
A private beach on an breathtaking river in the middle of the Mexican jungle, what more could you ask for?
The kids swam and dug and played to their hearts content. Greg and I just looked around in amazement at the incomparable beauty that surrounded us. Wow! This is just incredible. (We even made a video about it, but it's not available yet...).
But like all perfect moments that you wish would never come to an end, it did.
Wise and envisioned parents that we were, we knew that our children would soon be hungry, and it was better to hike the kilometer back now, before it set in too deeply. Plus we still had rope swings and swimming holes to explore.
Escaping once more the treacherous path which led us to this paradise, we reached the 'safe', touristy part of the rivers edge, and joined the other sightseers who were bathing in the blue-green pools, enclosed on one side by rich, tawny-brown boulders, ideal for sun-bathing.
After lounging there for some time, we hiked further on to the rope swing and had a delightfully fun time swinging and splashing, even though our lively Parker slipped and hurt himself and was out for the count.
The rope swing was still our favorite though.
Have you been to Agua Azul?
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