Sunday, January 14, 2018

One Day Trip to Cuatro Cinegas

One Day Trip to Cuatro Cinegas:

Many times i believe that journey is more enjoyable than the destination. It turned out to be true once more in the Journey towards Cuatro Cinegas. When we were planning to visit Cuatro Cinegas last time, somehow trip was cancelled due to last minute cancellations by many. Friends who decided to opt out wanted to join this time and we ended up having more people than the capacity of the vehicle at the last moment ! Again there were drop outs and we managed to cover the Cuatro Cinegas as expected although Cuatro Cinegas was not like what we expected :-) Getting confused ? How can you not get confused when you are visiting a place with Mirage , Hot water springs and Oasis filled with water bodies which are not to be seen anywhere else ?  Let's get started
Sceneic Beauties on the way to Cuatro Cinegas

How far is Cuatro Cinegas and how/what it is ?
Cuatro Cinegas is a City located around 275 KM from the City of Monterrey in the State of Coahuila which is next to the state of Neuvo Leon(NL). The main attractions of the City are Poza Azul(Blue Water pond situated in a desert) and Zypsum Dunes(Dunes de Yeso). There are other attractions near Poza Azul like WildLife Prorection Area and Rio Mezquites both of whom are closed now. You would also get La Poza de la Becerra on the way from Poza Azul to Dunes de Yeso which is closed since 2008 as well. After Poza De azul and Zypsum Dunes , if you move ahead for 2 km, you would see Mine de Marmol(Marbel Mine) which is not attractive as it looks in Tripadvisor or in Google pics.There are two famous vineyard on the way by name Vinos Vitali and Ferrino Wineries out which we visited the earlier one. To be very frank, Cuatro Cinegas is not what it looks as in Tripadvisor or in google and not worth driving 280+ km from Monterrey in the search of a superb location. So, don't be disappointed once you arrive here ! Were you wondering if this is a spot to visit or not if you are located somewhere nearby. If you are, then it's a good location for photographers and you can read on for details if you still want to visit it. 

Entry Fees at Cuatro Cinegas: 
Poza Azul Restaurant and Ticket counter
There are Army Checkpost just few kilometers before you enter into Poza Azul in Cuatro Cinegas. 
So, better to carry your ID proof . Although they did not ask us for it, they have asked one of my friends who visited there last year. 

Don't go by the google location of Poza Azul as google tells to drive ahead of Poza Azul and annouces that you have arrived at Poza azul after you came 600 meters after it !! The actual Poza azul is 600 meters behind towards your left if you are coming from Cuatro Cinegas city. There you have to take entry ticket of 30 pesos per head to see the ponds of Poza Azul. You have to take entry ticket for Dunes de Yeso(Gypsum Dunes) from here itself and you would get a guide for whom you have to pay 200 pesos extra. Guide just shows you where is the Poza Azul pond which is almost 1 km from the entrance. He is also needed to open the Gates to enter into the Gypsum Dunes and he takes you to the actual spot where mots photos would be taken in Gypsum Dunes.  In case you want to visit Mina de Marmol, don't listen to the guide you have taken from Poza Azul and just head 2 km in the same road from where you came(after exiting from the Gypsum Dunes gate) and you would get Mina de Marmol towards your left. Google maps shows the exact location here and you need to pay a seperate entrance fee of 30 pesos per head to visit here. Your vehicles can go till the last point in all of above places. Guide might say that Marble mine is closed as well (as in our case) because he is afraid that you won't leave him back to the location from where you picked him ! We felt its quite insane as we had to drive 8 km back to drop him off and come back and go 2 more km ahead of Gypsum dunes 
to find the Marble mine. Infact you could see Marble Mine from Gypsum dunes as well and would be enraged by the localities who call themselves as guides and misleading you

Poza Azul: 
After travelling for approx 1 KM in our van, guide told us that we have arrived at our destination. I was shocked to see a greenish small pond and were wondering if we really had to drive almost 4 hours to reach this. 
First Sight of Poza Azul
But After going near it , we saw the magnificent blue water which was caused by the crystals over there and varieties of fishes floating over there. 
View of Poza Azul as you get near it
If you are a photographer, you would enjoy the location a lot.
View of Poza Azul from the View Point
But for a normal tourist, its just a over hyped place . Let me just put some non photo shopped pics of the location and allow you to decide by yourself. 
Group pic at Poza Azul. From Left: Venky, Biswa, Harsha, Me, Suvarna, Sudarshan, Anusha, Ayesha, Lakshmi and Naveen.

 Once you come back to the place you took tickets, you can find one more pond and can spend some time over there. You don't find any restrooms in Dunes De Yeso or in Mina de Marmol. So, better to relieve yourself in the restrooms provided here. Don't ask me regarding the cleanliness of the restrooms please :-)
Pond near the Ticket counter

Some fishes in Poza Azul

 Dunes De Yeso/Gypsum Dunes
It is a private property again which is located in a land jointly owned by 7 partners. They call it as Parque Los Arenales and you have to drive almost 2 km in a road after crossing the entry gate . It is located in a distance of approx 8 km from Poza Azul. It is made of Gypsum Dunes and you won't feel the heat of the sand irrespective of the heat of the sun. So, you can visit this place throughout the year and we could see some more (not many) visitors here compared to Poza Azul . Probably they come here to take some pics at a center location where you are not allowed to climb with your footwear. Again , its a Photographer's paradise and you won't miss anything if you don't visit this place in your tour of Mexico . 
Center of Attraction in Gypsum Dunes

A Food Bar at the entrance of Gypsum dunes which is cool in all seasons as it has the Gypsum covered sheets
Suvarna impressed by Harsha's Tapasya ;-) 

Biswa Catching Uttar Korea rocket ;-) 

What am i doing ? Believing the photographer ;-) 

Marbel Mine/Mina de Marmol: 
It has an entry fee of 30 pesos per head which would be collected by a Guard at the entrance to the mine.Visit this place only if you have not visited any other marble mining sites ! Few places are just like dump yards where they have dumped the marbles which could not be extracted. Your vehicle can go till the top if you are courageous enough to sit in the vehicle inspite of the bit risky and curvy steep path ahead. It can be good sunset destination after visiting other places and before you head back to your home
Mina De Marmol

Vines de Vitali: 
it is in the city of Cuatro Cinegas itself and you can visit it on your way back if you want to taste some wine. It is not a big winery compared to those in Parras(would write about it in other blogpost). So, it can be a location to pay visit on your way back home if you have not seen other wineries in Mexico. But they don't have tours to take you through the preparation process of wines and you won't miss a thing if you plan to skip it and want to head to Monoclova enroute your journey to the destination in Monterrey. 
Cuatro Cinegas Downtown: 
Naveen was telling me that Downtown of most cities in Mexico look alike. I did not believe it earlier until i saw the Downtown of Cuatro Cinegas. It is an exact replica of downtown we have seen in Parras and similar to one in San Miguel de Allende. When i was roaming in downtown of Cuatro Cinegas, i was getting the feel of roaming in Parras or Santiago or Sanl Miguel de allende as the streets and park in the center look the same ! It's a must visit place in Cuatro cinegas and we enjoyed a lot roaming around there. Although you won't get any sovieniers with the name Cuatro Cinegas over there, its worth spending time over there. 

 Hope you enjoyed the Pics and reviews about the places so that you can plan your trip to Cuatrocinegas accordingly. Look out the blog for travelogues about other places to visit in Mexico 
Sunset on the way back from Cuatro Cinegas

Monday, January 8, 2018

La M Hiking in Chipinque

La M Hiking in Chipinque: 

What is "La M" ? 
"La M" is one the the difficult, probably the toughest hiking trail in Chipinque Ecological Park(Parque Ecologica Chipinque) situated in the city of Monterrey, N.L, Mexico. It is one the four summit trails in Chipinque for which we need to obtain prior approval by applying in Chipinque website. One of the pre-requisites for approval is to carry a guide or a person who knows that place well and would be with us. Without him/her our application would not be approved and we would not be allowed to go. Other Three famous summits are "La Ventana" , "La Antenna" and "La Epizote". There are few more trails for summits and would write about them in other post about Chipinque hiking trails.
The Four major summits and their distances from Meseta

How did i come to know about "La M"
In my First hiking in Chipinque where i started from where we pay the Entrance fee till Meseta, i went to see the canopy , Mini museum of Butterfly and garden plants and accidentally came across a board which meant "permission for only those who obtained prior approval" which surprised me. The gate was closed. But i have seen few people coming out from a side entrance. When i asked one of them, he told that it is the entrance to "La M" and we can only go if we obtain prior permission. As that was my first trip , i thought of researching about it later and come again. When i came down that day, i looked for the maps of Chipinque and came to know about "La M" in bit more detail. Although i came here for the second time with Aman , we explored other hiking trails of Chipinque, not covered in first hike and did not plan for "La M". Our Pico Norte Guide Carlos messaged me that he is planning to go to  "La M" and if i am interested to join him. Somehow our timings did not work out well and had to wait till today to finally start the hike to  "La M"
Restricted Access Warnings seen throught the Trip

Entering the summit Trail: 
As i told, The entry timings for the Summits start in the early morning, we need to be in Chipinque early morning. Once we reached, there, had to take a 50 Peso Ascent ticket(for ascending into the summit) along with the Parking ticket for our vehicle. We went till Meseta in the vehicle and from there, started the hike to "La M" around 07:50. Within 5 minutes of Walk, we could see the path divide into two branches and the board given above indicated that only Mesa Del Epazote was in the left and we had to walk 3.162 KM for that. We went straight

Fellow Trekkers going towards La M
How Safe is the Path and how to avoid getting lost
Other than the Difficulty of the path, there are very less chances to get lost as there are only few(in two places which i would detail next) deviations where ends of both paths can be seen diverging in a single point. In other places , boards are put to indicate that the path should not be taken as in below pic
Hiking Symbol at the Top Left indicating the correct path to the taken

Tuffer Trails:
Once you have hiked for about 20 minutes, you start getting the views of Monterrey City across the woods and path starts getting tougher. In approx 40 minutes, we seen a declination which was a surprise for me as i thought we have to incline continuously to reach M. After completing it a walking for some more distance, could see the board for Ventana and Antenna.

Views of Serro De la Silla: 

After crossing the above board (around 08:18 AM) and walking few steps, we started getting the views of the mountains in Serro De la Silla. Pic Antenna, Pico Norte, Pico Virgin look amazing across the clouds.

A group pic of  the Fellow Hikers

View of Serro De la Silla

View across the mountains
After the Ascent, there is descent again
in one of the Descents
Although there was inclination after that, it  starts gradually as in below pic, 
the real fun of hiking starts when the inclination starts getting steeper as in below ones
Normal paths(!) in La M Hike
Fellow Trekker Ruby was feeling tired here and was left far behind. We initially thought Ruby to be the other guide and thought she may give up here or catch with us after some time ! Although we were way ahead of her and were willing to wait , she signalled us to proceed further

After walking for about 5 minutes from above point, we start getting declination again !  After some more hike,we came across a Junction from where we need to choose if we need to go to La Ventana or If we need to go to La M. 

Carlos Mentioned that La Ventana is easy(although its distance is more compared to La M) and we can go there any other day. So, we went right towards La M. At this point , we were there by 09:15 Am (around 1.5 hours of Trek)

Next Pit Stop: 
Views of Serro De la Silla and Monterrey gets better with each step as in below pic
Views on the way to La M
 We reached the next resting point in about 30 minutes and had to wait for Ruby to join us. This point offers similar views of Serro De la Silla and Monterrey
next Pit Stop
Joining of two hills

 Probably it is the joining of two hills

After hiking for few minutes from here, we get an descent again which is bit steep as in below videos

Rope Paths:
The Fun increases further when you reach the place from where you have to climb the rocks ! But it also scares the hell out of you and people decide to give up :-( Although everyone was getting tired, Edna was feeling more tired and decided that Rock climbing is not her cup of tea for that day. She was ahead and with Carlos and took few steps. But the fear of how to climb down seeped in and she came back within few steps. As she was telling, it was her first time in La M path. 

It was the first time for most of us as well and somehow, we thought of giving a try. But How to Climb the Rocks without ropes ? 
Pic From path across the rocks 

The climbing might not look interesting unless you see the below 3 videos of how we managed to climb there

False Hope!: 
Once we completed the Rope path, i initially thought that we did it as i could see some peak and people taking pics As in the video.

Views were mesmerizing

But that was a false hope and we continued our journey further as in

 Finally !: 
we made it to the La M around 11:15 as in

Instead of Going to the Tougher peak with Cross in it, we started enjoying the views from other easily accessible peaks.

Few videos the views are in
We also celebrated the Reyes the Racas (which is supposed to be celebrated on Jan 6th ) where people cut the cream cake which would be having baby jesus hidden in few pieces. The ones who get the baby jesus are considered lucky and need to give Tacos or other party to others :-)

 La M Top:
Eventhough, we climbed till there, we were bit hesitant to climb towards La M Cross as that's bit steep and might be dangerous if you don't know/can't calculate the proper places to keep your feet.
Thanks to Carlos , that we made it to the top :-)

At Cross of La M

yay, We did it :-)

Feels Great to be here :-) 

Getting Down from La M

A video of how other peaks look from La M is given above.

Time to descend: 
We started descending around 12:30 and reached the Meseta around 3:30. Although there were medicines like Volini Spray for Knee pains, First aid kit etc, we were bit slow during the descend due to the slippery ground and small rocks which were slipping with each step for few fellow trekkers who came with flat shoes. Descent was challenging anyhow due to the damp soil in few places which was dry during Ascent. Dampness might have been created by the morning fog or a rain in between.
It was time to realize the importance of starting the descent in the early part of the day or by afternoon in worst case once again.
A Group pic while Descending (Women with Woolen Hat at bottom: Edna, next at bottom: Lucio Cantu, Next up in Red shirt: Ruvi A Carrillo, Top Left: Sudendra GT, next to him: Ruby, Ulises Lara, Adrian, Juan(in Green shirt)
one more with the Guide
Overall it was a good hike with a set of strangers who were no longer strangers by the end of the trip :-)  It was fun meeting a new set of people and adding one more place to the bucket list of nice places to be seen in Monterrey as well. Many of fellow hikers have been to La Alpha and Serro De las Mitras(seems to be quite popular and less steep with long walking) already and were mentioning about it when i was talking about the next places to hike near Monterrey. Although they are added to the wishlist, not sure when i am going to make it.

Till then, have a nice day and Enjoy Guys :-)