A Backcountry Coffee Plantation
with Lodging, & Miles of Explorable
Tropical Forest Trails in Southern Mexico
Host: Alvaro Ricárdez Scherenberg
When: Any time.
Length: The longer you can stay, the better we will like it
Languages: Spanish, English, French
Fee charged: $60 US each person per night with three full meals included. Kids under 12 get 50% off. Longer stays and groups can have discounts. We charge a minimum ($10 US) to get to the place and comment about it and the plants and animals met during the walk. If the trip takes longer it is up to the visitor to add a little very welcomed tip. Children younger than 13 do not pay because we want children to discover, enjoy and start loving nature because they are the future.
In Alvaro's own English:
We have all the ammenities of urban life except noise and polution and we can offer you good and simple food at very good prices. If you stay more than a week, we offer free spanish lessons!
The strategy is to encourage a constituency of visitors who seek neither a selfcontained backpacking sort of experience nor the high-speed, high-energy style of vacation associated with elegant hotels or elaborate resorts.
Things to do:|
One of the most beautiful places to go is called Las Lobas. It is at about 4 Km. away at the top of a small mountain and it is named Las Lobas (The She Wolfs) because it is near the Lobo mountain and two womans live there all alone taking care of a small coffee farm and the ruins of a precolumbian observatory that their father discovered when trying to make a shelter for his mules. From this place you have a 360° view of the whole area, the coast and the sierra, with all the rivers, beaches, lagoons, towns,cascades and being the place very steep, you can have an eagle´s view of the nearest farms.
There is a large stone slab full of hierogliphics, dates and spirals signaling at different directions all around. I have gone at the Spring Equinox and you can see the Sun rising from the Pacific and the center of its disk perfectly aligned with the vertix of a small mountain on the coast very much like a perfect pyramid and the lines and spirals in the hierogliphic stone, It is a remarkable experience that makes you feel the great knowledge that had our american ancestors, and with the solitude and the early lights and the chants of birds and insects around you, saluting the new day, you have a deep mystic awe that shows you your humble place at Universe!
You can visit also the small schools that the Mexican government has improvised to give education to little hamlets with less than ten students. They are attended by young urban mexicans that instead of making the army training, help teach children and get a scholarship to continue their studies. With a little knowledge of Spanish you can join the little school in a Geography lesson.
On the hikes, beside the exotic plants, insects and birds, you will see the endangered Pico real or Tucanet (a small green tucan with a yellow big beak) or the also endangered Pabellón (Flag Bird), from the Trogon family (same family than the quetzal), with its beautiful emmerald green robe, with red and white breast, symbol of our mexican flag!
Or you can follow a river downstream, see how vegetation changes with altitude, enjoy the cool waters and great views, mount ancient pyramids and explore urban centers covered by the forest, and finish in a small modern town to see people carving wood to try to sell its handcrafts at the nearby Huatulco resort.
I also have good news for the future, that I am proud to cry aloud!. My nearest town, Santa María Xadani (Xa-at the foot, and Dani- mountain in Zapotec)is on the way to start a small museum and is the first town to have put aside a grat chunk of tropical dry forest as a communal protected reserve. And there is an endemic forest inside the reserve! And to find trees related to the endemic trees, you must travel as far as Michoacán State! And it is just the beginning of the flora studies in this area!
Getting to Our Place
In the map at the right, the yellow area at the bottom of the green State of Oaxaca is the Pochutla District, and the tiny dot at the right in the Pochutla District is our Monte Carlo.
The Pacific coast shows a very peculiar configuration in the District.The western part follows a southeast direction as most of the mexican Pacific Coast does, but the eastern part takes a northeastern direction to form the western coast of the Tehuantepec Gulf. There exists also, all along this coast, a very deep submarine canyon called the Mesoamerican Trench that in parts is almost 8000 feet deep.
There are two currents that in this part of the coast collide and give place to strong winds, waves and a rich environment with plenty of marine life, because of the temperature gradient between the cold California current that flows to the southwest sweeping the mexican coast and the Northern Ecuatorial current, warm, flowing in a reverse direction all along the Tehuantepec Gulf coast. This fact makes this part of the coast very diferent than the rest of it, playing a decisive rule in the weather and ecological singularity of the area where Monte Carlo is situated.
Two of the tallest mountains in Oaxaca are also in this area: the Quiexobra with 12,000 ft. and the Nube Flan or Chontal Mountain with 11,800 of altitude. These peaks offer an imposing barrier to the winds that in summer and automn blow in north and northeast direction blessing the area with plenty of rain and allowing so the existance of a unique aerea of rain forest in the otherway dry Pacific mexican Coast.
It is at the piemont of the Quiexobra , at 3,200 ft of altitude, near the imposing Lobo mountain at 7,200 ft., that Monte Carlo is found. We enjoy a temperate climate with plenty of summer and automn rains, with a diverse flora ranging from tropical rain forest, to temperate forest and tropical dry forest.
Still unexplored, this region offers undeniable physic evidence of a vigorous and rich cultural past. We have found irrigation chanels providing the life giving water to amate plantations and the ancient sites where, using the fibrous bark of the amate tree, paper was elaborated.
We still do not know which name will we assign to this ancient culture, but we can judge that it shared knowledge and myths with the great mesoamerican cultures: astronomy was not a science as we who are schooled in the Western tradition tend to think of it. Rather, the movements of sun and moon were the journeys of gods personified. In Mesoamerica the stars and the bright planets in their intrincate wanderings were often conceived of as gods moving through the night sky en route to rebirth each sun up. They wove un enormous celestial tapestry mirrored in the warp and weft of the lives of the people themselves. To observe and predict the recurrent paths of divine lights was to know the fates of kings and empires, to discern the proper day for rituals, to forecast animal migrations, the season of the life-given rain and the time for planting. The power to foretell required that observers, probably specially trained shamans or priests, make accurate records and preserve them. The information must have been accumulated over generations and generations, the observers using naked-eye sighting techniques to discover the patterns of movements in the universe. Their knowledge reached a level comparable to that of ancient cultures in the Old World.
Proudly and lovingly we keep in our mountains the touching evidence of this knowledge: in a beautiful breathtaking place we found a big monolith and an observation complex that testify and pays homage to the virtuosity of our wise grandparents.
To most modern-day americans, though, the night sky is routinely banished by our house lamps and all but erased by the lights of our cities and suburbs. There is not much magic-or even astronomy-in it now. We are, you might say, too enlightened.
Witnessing the magic of such a place, send us back to the times when we vibrated together with our environment, with the spirits of the Navajo "Nightway Chant":
With Harmony behind me, may I walk,
With Harmony above me, may I walk,
With Harmony below me, may I walk,
With Harmony all around me, may I walk. . . .
It is finished in Harmony,
It is finished in Harmony.