Thursday, January 15, 2015

oaxaca: bethania

We asked the woman who worked at the front desk and she had never heard of the place. We asked the people at the restaurant with the plastic tables and beyond perfect enfrijoladas. And we asked the taxi driver. No one had heard of Las Cascadas de Bethania
But we decided we would go anyways. 

We took a bus out of Tuxtepec, past the Corona plant, and down the winding road lined by sugar cane fields and haze covered mountains. One hour later, the wheels of the bus noisily ground into the gravel as it halted to leave us on the edge of a small town center preparing for its anniversary celebration. In the very middle, kids were crowding around a mechanical bull cheering each other on and fighting for the next turn (yes, of course I participated). Men were scooping giant mounds of chili peppers into potato sacks, laughing at the way our jaws dropped when we realized they weren't piles of grass. Women were herding their little ones, running from place to place. One of them pointed us to the place where we could wait for that town's only taxi driver to take us the rest of the way. 

  He came after what seemed like forever -- the muffler signaling his arrival long before he came into view. We got up from our makeshift seats on the log pile, brushed off our dusty pants, and hopped into the taxi. He warned us that there was barely any water at the falls and it might not be worth the trip, but we had already come so far. We veered onto a dirt path, car scraping the uneven ground, and maneuvered around puddles and potholes. At the end of the path and with the promise to meet two hours later, we parted ways. 

Almost immediately, we heard the sound of water. The dirt trail beneath us became narrower, the trees above us became denser, and our skin cooled as the temperature dropped. Just ahead, through thick vines and low hanging branches, we saw it. Glasslike, turquoise waters being fed by a series of waterfalls -- a private pool of mountain water just for us. 

After exhausting the first couple minutes with cannon-balls and swan dives, I pulled myself out of the pool, over the slippery rocks, and walked towards the back of the falls. If I were honest, I would tell you that I was looking for a place to climb to the top so I could jump off the ledge above. I found a barely visible trail covered in tangled roots. It was the kind of trail your mom tells you to stay away from, but then makes her pray harder when your dad gives you the green light to go ahead on up. With arms and legs working in unison, I made my way up and when the trail continued on the side of the next waterfall, I followed it. There, at the very top, I treaded carefully across shallow pools of water to look down over the cascading water and out over the sugar cane fields and mountains we had covered on our bus ride. This place -- this peaceful place harboring a hidden gem -- was ours. 

For two hours, it was only ours. 

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