Thursday, May 24, 2018

Matacanes, An ultimate experience

water oozing out from Rocks giving the name MetaCanes
It was the June of last year. I had just landed in Mexico and one of my friend Srini was describing a place which he liked a lot. He was mentioning that we need to jump from big rocks into flowing water, swim for some distances and walk/hike until you find other rock to jump into the water and repeat the same exercise from morning till evening ! Stars sounding crazy ? yes i too felt the same then and the place was called Matacanes. It started sounding more crazy when he continued that those jumps are 10 to 15 feets high and water force would be so high that we would we swept away to ocean if we don't know swimming. I started getting scared here as i was neither a swimmer nor a diver into water from heights. So, i thought Matacanes was not my cup of tea and at one point of time i thought it would be the stupidest of things to plan a trip there! Time passed on and rainy season started when all trips to metacanes were cancelled due to the high waterflow. Though i did not go there , there was a increase in desire to start swimming so that i can make these kinds of trips sometime in future.

Rebirth of Desire: 
Trips to Metacanes were opened this year on April and my trekking friend Sudhee completed it. His stories inspired me so much that i thought of going there before i go back to India. He mentioned that there would be guides who would tell how to and how not to jump, neoprene suits which provides some protection against water as we would be in water whole day and also life jackets which would make sure that you won't sink in water. As i have learnt swimming by then  i was confident of not drowning in water and above facts boosted my confidence and made me register for that event with a group by name Alpek Adventures with whom i had been to different trips already like Pico Pyramides and Pico Perico in Cerro de las Mitras and Copete de las Aguilas in Chipinque.

Where is this Metacanes and what exactly is this ? 
You might have seen normal waterfalls and water flowing through caves. You might have also seens underground ponds known as "Cenotes" in Mexico where no sunlight reaches. But have you heard of water oozing out from the rocks ?
One of the streams which gives Metacanes , its name. Had to make special request for the guide to take this pic :-) 
Here there are rocks made of limestone and other materials where water would be oozing out of it throught the year forming water streams. This gets mixed up with water flowing from the nearby water streams forming huge flow of water. It forms cascades/waterfalls of heights greater than 70 feet , small plunges , slides and also runs through dark caves for hundreds of meters before reaching sunlight again. So, this water oozing out of rocks and whole experience of following the water streams by rappelling the descent of waterfall, jumping from various heights when water is plunging down  and other activities like slides, swim, hike, trek is collectively known as Metacanes !

It is Located at a distance of approximate 2 hours from Colla De Caballo Cascada/waterfalls in Portero Redondo, Santiago, Neo Leon, Mexico.

Journey to Colla De Caballo:
We started around 7 PM from our place and reached the Colla De Caballo hotel around 08:30.
Journey from Monterrey to this hotel gets very difficult in evening because of the fog. We could hardly see 20 meters ahead of our vehicle !
Foggy road towards Colla de Caballo from monterrey in night

From there we transferred to the mountain jeep and started towards Metacanes by 09:30.

Journey Towards the Center of Jungle: 
It's a unique experience when you are travelling in a forest in a small muddy road full of curves and there is no light except the headlight of your vehicle !
widest part of the road towards Metacanes !
 There are no sounds except the sounds of crickets , frogs and some forest insects . My Mexican friends were chatting a lot though i could not digest the complete conversation. Bumpy road and the drizzle which started eventually spiced up the experience. There was a bio break probably after 90 minutes and someone sitting next to the driver came out and asked me to sit with the driver and our guide Ge Ge(her name sounded something like that!) started conversing with me in Spanish. Although my spanish friends tease me that i am very lazy to learn spanish, somehow i manage to speak and get the gist of conversation with total strangers. We were speaking about places i visited in Mexico and she mentioned about So many strange places like Linares, Poso Del Gabilan, Canon De rflectanes near Saltillo,  Nido de aguilichus in La Huasteca, Scuba in Half moon of Nialgo, A la mar revones etc. I have not visited any of them so far and might be sad not to be visit all of them during my remaining days in Mexico :-(

There were lots of Mountain bikers and the party guys driving there 4 wheelers for mountain with load music entertaining us with their sound for some distance. But once we cross them, roads used to be dark, quite as they were before and journey continued.. We reached our destination around midnight.  
Mountain vehicles enjoying night life in road from Metacanes to Colla De caballo

A Lonely Forest House: 
We had to walk a bit in rain to reach our place to rest for couple of hours and it was a wooden house with few rooms. Each room consisting of few double beds and could provide space for a total of 8-10 people.

Inside of our room.

 Trip guys told us that they would give us some food in night and food till next day evening. So, i did not bring any food and was feeling hungry by then . But there was no signs of food and people started eating their own food which they brought and getting to bed. Without any option, i entered my bed and was not getting sleep. I Thought of exploring out and enjoy the fireplace which was kept outside.
Fellow trekkers at the fireplace

When i reached the fireplace and was warming myself against the cold and rain, guides started opening the food boxes. Bingo ! They started giving Tortillas with Chicken/Pork and being the sole vegetarian of the trip, i had a tough time. When some of my friends from previous trips like Daniel and Luis and others were asking me on why i was not eating it, i had to explain that "NO comida carne. Yo comida solo vegetariano/I Don't eat meat. I eat only vegetarian food" . Gi Gi had asked me on how do i like Mexican food earlier in the jeep and my explanation regarding that earlier had helped me now :-) She saw me and provided a separate package wrapped in different cover which had Vegan Tortillas. Thanks to our Guide and Organizer Israel who had prepared a Tortilla roll with Potato and Tomatoes only for me as i have mentioned him earlier that i don't eat any meat, fish or Egg :-) After the dinner, we headed back to our rooms and tried to sleep for a while.

 A Different Morning: 
Somehow i did not get sleep whole night , probably because of the excitement of the next day or because of new place or the bed or what so ever reasons. All 42 of us had to get freshened up in single toilet available there which was a challenge and somehow we managed it :-) After having the breakfast of 2 bananas and some milk, we got ready for the hike with our neoprene suits, helmets and life jackets. If you are not aware of what is a neoprene suit, i need a mention a bit about it. Its a suit which covers you from your toe till neck and provides lot of protection against water when you have to be in water for long durations. But it also blocks your normal movement initially as you would not be used to walk around with it and makes your arm get tired early if you are not used to swim with this suit earlier. But its a must for places like Metacanes with of lot of jumping , swimming and sliding exercises.

Me at the door of our woodhouse . You can see the beautiful cloudy mountains at the backdrop

One more look of our woodhouse and Israel climbing the ladders to collect some signatures :-) 
We took some group pics over there and started our hiking
Our Metacanes Gang

Hiking through the forest: 
We walked for almost 90 minutes in forest routes and enjoyed the nature.

our group at various points 

Around 9 AM we reached the point where we had to start our water sports. Some of this distance can be covered by jeeps and heard that some other groups bring people by jeep till those points to make the overall experience easier. Some even start in early morning to avoid overnight stay problems. But The overnight stay in a wooden house of a forest was definitely worth of loosing some comforts :-)

First Plunge: 
when we had to start jumping into water, our guides Christian, Nestor and Ricky came forward and gave instructions and demo on how to jump into water. They were showing on how to jump straight into water . Although i could not get all instructions point to point, i could get the context and the signs made by guides while explanations helped me :-)  Some of the other trekkers like Ismail, Victor,Jorge, Alex helped in some translations as well. As I have jumped into water from 14 feet in cancun which was 10 feet deep, i was confident that i can do it here as well . But somehow, that was in last year and needed to see some guys here to get the confidence back. First Dive went well although i could not get the angel right and landing slightly on my chest instead of landing on on my feet at 90 degrees to water.

Rappelling across the waterfalls: 
View from the top of first waterfall
I have done Rappelling during my highschool during a summer camp and few years back in Bangalore in Ramadurga with the General Thimmaiha adventure academy guys. But Rapelling across a waterfall is a different thing altogether !
Our Team before the start of rapelling

There were couple of other groups along with Alpek that day for Metacanes and all guides took extreme care to make sure that the belts, equipment are proper, tied correctly against the persons and explained people on how to descend down .
My first rappel in Metacanes
So, rappels of more than 70 feet in two waterfalls was a piece of cake :-)
We spent time at the bottom of the waterfalls until the majority of the group completed their descent and enjoyed the views of the falls

Me infront of the falls

Wrong Plunges can be dangerous ! : 
I saw people doing summersaults while they jump and falling into water with their backs landing in water. So, i thought that if i jump as if a swimmer dives into the pool, it might be easy to land in water.
People trying various summersaults during their jump to water
 But in that attempt , i managed to take my body horizontal during the jump and ended up landing on my chest and face !
Incorrect jumping technique which makes you land on your face or chest
 So, instead of having a diver pose where his diving hands penetrates though water before his face comes in contact with water, i ended up landing on my face :-( Oops. It hurts a lot and used to pain for a while. But that pain used to vanish in few seconds and i managed to swim ahead. Although i was getting that something is wrong, i could not correct my technique and managed to jump with less errors than previous jump although majority of jumps hurted me and one of the jumps caused slight bleeding in my lips as well because of landing in wrong angle. I heard that there was a 12 meters jump which is approximately as if i am jumping from 3 floors which was optional. As i was not getting the jumping right that day, i thought of not taking further risks and not to take that jump when it comes after the bleeding incident.

Nature at its best: 
Apart from enjoying the crystal clear blue waters, one more reason to come to Metacanes is its nature. The green foliage and fauna providing a soothing effect as long as you are here
Group pic at a resting point in Metacanes

Swimming through a black hole !
After the second Rappel , we landed in a cave of Metacanes.
Me descending the 2nd rappel across the waterfall into the cave
The place of second rappel is definetely worth to take couple of pics. So, did we ..

Me Under a tiny stream of water oozing out from rocks in Metacanes
One more goup pic at the cave

Initially i thought we need to hike from there to next plunge. But the end of the cave was pitch dark and guide was showing his battery to us to slide ahead. Believed the guide and got some sunshine after a while. Swimming continued for a while and we reached one more dark spot and it was not clear on where to go. We could just see that water was moving out of it to somewhere and guide was indicating us to swim through there. But to where ? what if that water jumps as some waterfall ? ! Although i have swimmed in Cenotes and dark caves in cancun, those are meant for that and you knew the length of those places by markings. but here here are no such things and you have to blindly believe the guide !
Place somewhere inside a cave in metacanes. Lighting is not natural and caused by torch
 As there were people swimming ahead of me, i followed them and after swimming for about 3 minutes in pitch darkness we saw the sunlight at the other end of the tunnel ! We swimmed as if we never saw light before and reached out of water !

12 meter Jump:
2 sides of the 12 meter jump point
Luis was telling me that the highest jump of 12+ meters is still ahead . By this time i had decided not to take that jump as that can be quite risky with my incorrect jumping technique. By this time i had also realized that people doing summer saults, jumping with their back downs are doing these exercises in pools/other places already or have to come to Metacanes Before ! So, i should not follow them blindly and choose a correct technique for a beginner. In other words, i was looking for my "Hello World" program in jumping ! But Fellow trekkers seemed to sense it somehow and started giving tips to correct my technique. As i was encouraging and trying to help them during rappelling and swimming , probably they wanted to help me as well. it started working out and i started landing on feet at angles near ninty degrees and the direct plunges took me in water as if swallowing me inside in a single gulp and i did not face any resistance from my face, chest during the plunge due to the corrected angles. I was damm happy about it and could easily come out of water in few seconds because of life jacket and my swimming instincts. Inspite of all these i was afraid in some corner of my heart and was sitting in the other bank of the river watching others jump from 12 meters.
one of the guy completing 12 meter jump
Some people went till the 12/13 meter point and came back as they could not gather sufficient courage. Friends like Daniel, Luis, Alex did it successfully and motivated me to give a try . I was just watching and some part of my heart started to motivate me although my brain was warning against it ! After Luis completed the jump for the second time,  could not resist and went with him for his third and my 1st ever jump from that height :-) Luis gave a nice advise to stand still like a soldier when i jump which was a super duper advice and i wish i got that advice couple of jumps before :-) But When i went ahead and saw down, i got scared by the height.. Damm. I stepped back and asked Luis and other friends to go ahead. Alex gave one more advise not to see anything down and walk as if i am walking in a road. Probably closing my eyes. That was a damm good idea too. He was trying deep breath to focus and relax himself before the major leap. I was still scared and stepped few steps back. I had to be extremely careful here as the wrong angle during the plunge could have caused catastrophes damage to me.  Finally i took some deep breaths and convinced myself that i would not die here and i can give it a try instead of repenting whole life for not doing it in spite of being on the edge to do it. Israel was luring me to jump for a photo with his cam. But there was a portion of fear in my mind and i was taking deep breaths to prepare myself for the plunge. My Fellow trekkers who had already completed their jumps or were watching it from other bank, started cheering me up which gave tremendous boost ! I did not run to jump as that could make me lean ahead and land with incorrect angles. I just walked to edge and forwarded my next foot towards the water initiating the fall. Only thing running in my find for a time slightly greater than a second was to hold my hands as tight fist along with my foot and foot as straight as possible as a soldier !
Fellow trekkers at 12 meter jump point shore

Dumm.. I fell into water and went straight into it as a bullet going through its target. Came out in a second in same force and there was no control to my joy ! I was alive and unaffected after a plunge into water from over 12 meters ! It was the highest jump in my life so far and probably the prefect jump i could ask for and  i should remember for a long time. Later got to know that Israel's cam battery had ran out and he could not capture the picture. However the scene of 40+ cheering for me and being courageous enough to fight my own fears and take a plunge from 12+ meters still comes infront of me and gives immense pleasure as if it just happend few seconds back.

Journey Continued: 
There was a food stop around 1 or 1:30 where all of us were very tired and hungry.
Jump during which i injured my lips and had lunch after that
Guides started supplying people with Tuna Fish and some chicken. Alas, i am a veggie and can't eat both :-( I have told the organizers about it earlier and they have told that they would bring some protein bars for me. But they could not find it on time and i was thinking that water might be my only food for that day :-) However they found some biscuits and fellow trekkers felt pity on me and offered some chocolates :-) The lunch spot was after the Dark cave and before 12 meter jump spot.  So, it was the time where my lip was having some bruises because of incorrect landing and i was thinking weather to eat the biscuits or not. But there was no other go and i started eating it to give me some energy for the journey ahead. Organizers found the protein bars and gave that as well in sometime and that added up in raising my energy levels higher. This definitely helped me as i did not bring chocolates or cookies like other trekkers as i had miscalculated the overall amount of energy needed here based on info given by some friends earlier. I could not make the whole day journey with 2 bananas which we had in morning .So, definitely needed some solid food and these things helped to restore the energy to some extent.

After the 12 meter jump which is the highest in Metacanes, we had some other small jumps which did not bother us much. The things which started bothering now are the long stretch of water where we had to swim as our hands and legs started getting tired. So, started to swim with backflips as that was pretty much easy with the life jackets :-)
A slide

A reverse Slide !
under a waterstream

more swims and slides 
Easy to swim in a group 

Our jumps, slides, swimming, hiking continued for next 1.5 hours before Ricky finally announced that we can remove the life jackets now as there is no more swimming !

That was a great relief for the hands as they were dead tired although it was not a great news for legs as they had to take up the next journey.
Hiking through the jungles 

The thought of reaching the end point soon gave some energy to legs and they started pushing their way. We walked for 2 hours or so before reaching our destination around 6:15 which was the city point in Cumbres De Monterrey Natural Park.

Final Notes: 
There were places to change our clothes and restaurant as well. But we were not in a mood or energy to explore further. It was a great relief to change to warmer clothes after wearing the neoprene suit for whole day. Gi Gi was waiting with some sandwitches and Jamaica(Mexican drink made from Hibiscus flowers) and Coke. Thanks to Gi Gi for making a Vegetarian sandwitch for me and keeping it aside which was delicious with Avacado, Chilli and Cabbage. After everyone assembled there and  the guides packed their instruments, we started from there back to Colla De Caballo by 07:45.
We enjoyed the views again and taking group pics on the way

Some Flashbacks: 
I had been to Cumbres de Monterrey Natural park during my Santiago to Colla De Caballo 23KM trail running event. It was organized by Runners de Monterrey guys and was damm tiring as well. I could recall those boards, mountain ranges when our vehicle was taking the return trip through them

Back to Track:
We reached Santiago around 9 and reached back to Monterrey around 10. It was 10:45 by the time i reached home and was a damm tired , wonderful day. I should admit that it was my toughest one day trip so far which required so much of mental and physical energy and courage. Would cherish the memories of time i Spent with superb friends like Jorge, Daniel, Luis and his 2 other friends, Ismaiel and his gang, Ariana and one more Luis Fransisco, Victor, Alex, Nestor , 5 Guides(Israel, Ge Ge, Ricky, Christian, Nestor) and so many wonderful people whom i met across the trip. It is the Trip Ultimatum in Mexico so far and looking forward for some more such memories to come. Hope to see you again with some nice memories/adventures next time. Till then.. Take care and let me know how  you felt about my blog which is open again after a slumber of  months.  

Superb views of the Metacanes somewhere towards the end

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Templo de dolores y perpetuo socorro aka Church of Pain and Perpetual Relief, a lesser known wonder of Monterrey

Are you wondering what is this place with so big name ? You can just call it as Templo de Dolores or Church of lady of Sorrows or Church of Pain ! It is not very far from downtown and located here . It is one of the oldest church's in monterrey built in 1908 as per the pic shown below.
Templo De dolores Monterrey
Origin of the name: 
There are various views on why the church got its name. Some believe that it might be related to Mother Mary/Virgin Mary as they used the term "Maria de los Dolores" /Mary of the sorrows 
to refer to Mother mary to refer to 7 sorrows she suffered for her son Jesus Christ. You see lots of images related to Mother mary, Jesus christ inside the church. Infact the painting in the main entrance of the church is dedicated to mother Mary . Coincidently the english term Mary of the Sorrows became famous to refer to Mother Mary during the initial decades of 19th century as a translated version of its spanish term !However exact historical references to confirm the same are not available as of now.
Maria de los dolores
Some also believe that this place was used as a place of shelter for the natives in the early part of 19th century who tried to save their lifes from attackers during Mexican revolution in Monterrey after the death of president Francisco Madero in 1913. However exact details about the same are yet to be found similar to first one(atleast to my research/info gathering so far)

Construction of Church:
Apart from entrance of church which shows its construction as 1908,some sources quote the historical references and state that the construction of this church completed in 1909 . It has 2 bell towers which is something strange here compared to single bell towered church at the center of downtown and other old churches of this locality. There are various details like how many famous personalities who visited here etc in the archives. Not going to so many details, let's directly enter the church and see what is interesting here.

Stained glass paintings: 
This church is known for its stained glass paintings and painted ceilings.  It might be better to walk through some of them instead of explaining about it. Localities believe that 8 of the total available stained glasses are preserved as they were when the church was built in 1908/09

It also has beautiful ceilings as i mentioned earlier and overall view is superb.

Local Market: 
one more reason to visit here is the local Market/Mercado Juarez which offers various spices and sweets/dulces which i have not seen in other parts of Monterrey. If you are an Indian and striving for some spices which you don't get in other parts of monterrey, it can be a places to visit once! Prices of vegetables are pretty much cheap as well

It has lots of Pinata and other local dolls as well
strings of Gralic which is something unique to this place !

A snap of us in Market next to the church