This week’s dream
Finding adventure in central Mexico
“Imagine if you took a giant bottle of Champagne, shook it up, popped the cork, and let the bubbles rush all over your body,” said Mark Johanson in the Chicago Tribune. Such is “the riotous joy” of swimming above a geothermal spring in the crystal clear waters of a prehistoric lagoon in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí. “Lost in its whirlpool of bubbles, I watch in awe as they tickle their way around my skin, rising to the surface and popping in the midday heat.” I have scuba gear on, and as I swim on, I come upon other wonders, including a petrified forest and subterranean caves. I can see why famed explorer Jacques Cousteau named this spot one of the best places on the planet to learn the basics of cave diving; “what I can’t understand is why I’m one of the only foreigners here.”
Perhaps it’s because San Luis Potosí, halfway between Mexico City and Monterrey, doesn’t have the beaches or Mayan ruins that Americans expect when they vacation in Mexico. Instead, this inland state has “untouched turquoise rivers, thriving Wixáritari and Téenek cultures, and a terrain riddled with deep sinkholes, like a block of Swiss cheese.” My journey, with the adventure tour group Corazón de Xoconostle, began in the Wirikuta desert, where we hiked five hours through peyote-dotted scrubland to a hilltop sacred place called Ameyaltonal. “When I arrived, a shaman cleansed my body with smoke and aromatic herbs in a ceremony where we honored the four cardinal directions, the earth below, and the sky above.”
From the state’s arid high plains, we ventured south to the subtropical forests of the Zona Media and soon found ourselves peering over a deep, dark sinkhole known as the Cellar of the Macaws. Hundreds of squawking parrots, parakeets, and swifts flew around the sinkhole’s perimeter, creating a tornado of wings. When the birds finished their morning routine, the guides lowered me by rope, “like a swinging tea bag,” into the darkness below. Some 600 feet down, we stopped to explore the cave’s first chamber—a “primordial” world of moss-covered rocks and ferns where we walked on spongy terrain and gazed over the ledge to the sinkhole’s second bottom far below. Two hours later, we were pulled back to the top, just in time to catch the birds returning home.
At the Hilton San Luis Potosi (hilton.com), doubles start at $115.