No. 4: La Sierra Gorda, Part I

September 6, 2013. Toluquilla, Sierra Gorda.

Group shot at Toluquilla Following our third week of classes, we headed out for our first long excursion of the semester: to the beautiful region of the Sierra Gorda in northern Querétaro. We began our trip early Friday morning with a Dramamine and a several-hour swirling bus ride through the enormous mountain range.

We stopped first at the archeological site of Toluquilla, where the drizzling weather helped create a mystical mood as we wandered around the prehispanic ruins. We then climbed to the Sierra's highest point—7,000 feet above sea level—and reached the quaint town of Pinal de Amoles, where we all enjoyed outstanding gorditas in the pouring rain.

Gorditas with the group in the SierraHike to ChuvejeBen and Brad at ChuvejeWith our bodies nourished and our spirits high, we then embarked on a hike to the raging waterfall of Chuveje. Due to the constant rains (from the huricanes that have hit Mexico extremely hard), the waterful was indeed powerful that afternoon, and only the brave few dared enter the water. A few hours later we checked into our hotel in Jalpan, dried off, and headed out for a lovely midnight supper at a restaurant on the main plaza.

Puente de DiosThe next morning, following an early breakfast, we were off for another day of adventure. We again crammed into two small pickup trucks and headed out for a hike to the "Puente de Dios." Because the waters were too high, we couldn't trek through the Escanela River, but rather enjoyed a wet and muddy hike up and around the mountain to enjoy another spectacular waterfall over "God's Bridge." Karaoke in Jalpan

After lunch and a swim at the hotel, we headed out again, this time to visit one of Father Junípero Serra's missions in Landa (see Part II for more on the missions). On our way back to Japlan, we checked out a local hip-hop contest in town, enjoyed a late supper, and then topped the evening off with a rousing night of karaoke at the hotel restaurant.

To view pictures of these first two days, click on the slideshow below: