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Mexico 2012 Part III: Zapotitlan

Below: Adam Goshorn in one of the many canyon sections, photo by Matt Beauchamp

Our third full day in Mexico was spent running a nine-mile section of the Upper Rio Bobos, putting in near Zapotitlan (If you missed the first two parts of this trip report, you can find Part I HERE and part II HERE).   We had almost the exact same crew as the previous day on Big Banana, but had the pleasure of being joined by Lianne Germaine as well.  The long drive to the put-in for the Zapotitlan section was so rainy and foggy I’m pretty sure we would not have found our way there on our own.  However, knowing the shuttle was quite long we had hired drivers from Aventurec ( who knew the route and after hopping out to push Christine’s car a few times, we found ourselves at the top of a rocky, switch-backed, trail leading off the side of the mountain, supposedly to the river, hidden somewhere below in the fog.

Much of the trail had been stabilized by the placement of large rounded rocks, somewhat like cobblestones paving the surface, but larger, rounder, and on this day, covered in a thin veneer of mud and algae.  The next hour was a test for our knees and ankles as we negotiated the slick, rocky trail down into the valley.  As we gingerly proceeded, step by careful step, a few local men jogged past us heading to the river as well, but instead of kayaks they carried fishing nets draped around their necks.  Another local passed us heading uphill leading his sure-footed mule up the tough trail.  Eventually, the steep path emerged on the floor of the valley and with knees screaming, we left the trail and cut across a grassy field covered in boulders to reach the river.

Below: Christine, Wade, and Julian at the rainy put-in, photo by Matt Beauchamp

Where we accessed the river, it was wide, shallow, and the water level seemed too low.  Sliding into the water we started moving downstream quickly, mentally preparing ourselves for what might be a nine-mile scrapefest.  Luckily, the river soon constricted between boulders and morphed into fun sections of continuous class IV boulder gardens.  Again and again throughout the day I was surprised by great scenery and fun rapids, despite the low water level.  Although a couple sections were tougher than rest, using aggressive boat scouting we managed to make quick progress and avoid timely bank scouts.

Below: Ben Bernhard in one of the canyons, by Matt Beauchamp

In some places, grey and white cliffs towered overhead and during one of the more cliffed-in sections, a 150-foot waterfall soared off the left cliff line as a tributary rushed to join the river.  In other spots, small valleys opened up and the edges of fields of crops were visible on the river bank.  At one of these remote fields we passed a man standing on the riverbank.  He wore a poncho and stood motionless in the rain.  As we approached we could see he was holding rifle at his right side and slightly behind him, as if to not draw attention to it.  Plenty of locals hunt for food in rural Mexico, but it was unclear if he was hunting or keeping an eye on whatever was being grown in that remote valley.  Either way, we approached the situation like we always do, with a friendly wave and a smile.  He didn’t return either, but in response only gave us a slight nod while maintaining his stern facial expression.  We continued downstream around the bend, happy to leave the mystery of his presence unsolved.

Below: A tributary waterfall, photo by Matt Beauchamp

Before long the canyon walls receded and we began to see signs of civilization again.  First we started to see some fenced-in fields along the river, and then houses came into view.  Rounding another bend, we saw the take-out bridge and our two vehicles parked next to a small house that doubled as a café with a covered area providing outside seating.  We loaded boats and changed in the pouring rain, happy again to have our shuttle drivers take the wheel as we dozed on the drive back to Tlapacoyan, dinner, and our nice dry hostel rooms at Aventurec.

Below: Matt Beauchamp on the Roadside Alseseca, photo by Mikkel St. Jean-Duncan

After starting out our trip by padding three new runs on three consecutive days, we decided to spend the next day back on the Roadside section of the Rio Alseseca.  It would be somewhat of a rest-day (or at least more relaxed than our last couple of days) and it would give Mikkel and Lianne a chance to run the most classic of the creek-runs in the area.  The rain had stopped the previous night and the sun emerged as we left Aventurec for the short drive to the river and we enjoyed blue skies for the rest of the day.  As expected, the Roadside Section was as fun as ever and we enjoyed a great day with big smiles, high fives, and even a little harmless carnage to keep things interesting.

Below: Lianne Germaine on the Roadside Alseseca, photo by Adam Goshorn

The real buzz within the group during the day on the Roadside Section day was about the river we hoped to do next.  The Upper Jalacingo has only been known to paddlers for a few years and the mystery of its tight basalt canyons intrigued us all.  Once again Julian would be prove indispensable as he figured out the shuttle, led the charge on the river, and assured we stopped in time for several mandatory portages… stay tuned for Part IV: the Upper Jalacingo.

Until next time you can keep up with my travels at

-Adam Goshorn

Below: Entering another canyon section, photo by Matt Beauchamp


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  1. Mexico 2012 Part III: Zapotitlan | Whitewater News Blog - Kayaking, Rafting, Canoe, SUP & River Conservation says:

    […] Read the full story over at the Team Pyranha Blog. […]

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