Something feels different when you begin exploring Los Tuxtla, Veracruz with Yambigapan Adventure Company, (www.yambigapan.com) you feel like family. That’s because when grandfather Hernandez of this eight-family member company distributed his land, many decided to go into business of sharing their beautiful area with travelers. And because this family loves nature-based learning themselves, clients come away with not only a ton of lasting memories but a storehouse of knowledge as well.
I was in Veracruz, Mexico for the Adventure Travel Mexico Conference http://www.atmexveracruz.com/en/index.html showing off what Mexico had to offer to tour operators and travel agents. Multiple press trips were offered in surrounding states and fortunately for me, I chose Yambigapan.
Most of the Hernandez family members speak English but Milton Hernandez is their guide extraordinaire whose command of the language is only rivaled by his fun-loving, extremely tolerant and helpful disposition. We based all our adventures from the town of San Andres Tuxtla where every night we returned to the comfortable historic colonial inn, Hotel Posada San Martin firstname.lastname@example.org to rest up for the next day’s adventures.
In our three-day adventure, we hiked through the rain forest to a bat cave hidden deep in the jungle of Ruiz Cortinez Bio-Reserve Park, we kayaked on Laguna Encantada, we rappelled down a sea cliff, we rode horses on the beach at Roca Partida to incredible waterfalls, and we boated on beautiful Lago de Catemaco.
But Yambigapan went a step further, for we didn’t just rappel down a rock face but a basalt sea cliff and then free repelled over a sea cave where pirates once hung out, into a rocking fishing skiff in the sea. And at the end of the lava tube cave were thousands of roosting bats which decided to exit the cave and brushed past our heads, shoulders and arms as they whizzed by. And our horseback ride ended at a waterfall for jumping and deep pools with pounding cascades like a deep tissue massage on our backs.
And we didn’t just kayak in modern plastic sit-on-tops but also tried our hand on rustic Tom Sawyer-like balsam plank boats used by local fishermen and powered by a long pole. And while we boated on monstrous Lake Catemaco, we also stopped in a village for a traditional lava mud mask (masqueria bara) that promised to give us beautiful skin. And while our faces transformed we took our turn in a small grass hut where a brujo (shaman-type) read our palms and promised us a bright and long future.
While on these adventures, we dined on amazing, authentic local food prepared by the mothers and grandmothers of the Hernandez family. But once again, Yambigapan took it one step further and allowed us to visit a garden where we could harvest our own bercighae leaves (to roll tamales in) with a hand-forged machete, then mixed in the corn stuffing (masa) and learned to wrap them into pretty green triangles for roasting. Before we ate our farm-raised red salmon, we got to catch them in a net.
As we feasted, the Hernendez family brought in traditional local musicians (jarocho son music) who sang to us and played their little handmade Jarana (ukulele-type) guitars and sang songs of their history and their folklore; but also taught us to dance on little wooden platforms, where we mimicking one another and also do a courting dance where the men danced on all fours like an iguana. And we learned to play the horse and donkey jaw, which made a wonderful percussion sound when rattled and pounded.
And then we learned to roll cigars, for tobacco is a big agricultural product here, and for the evening’s grand finale, we learned to make tissue paper sky lanterns (globos) that filled with heat from a candle, lifting them out of sight into the Veracruz sky. We looked up with faces filled with awe and wonder like children, knowing that all we experienced touched our lives and will not float away but stay in our hearts forever.
Some may be hesitant to visit Veracruz but it’s important to note that in the past two years all the police have been replaced with upstanding Veracruz/Mexican marines, whose presence provide not only safety for Mexicans and travelers alike but confidence, so you can lose yourself in the adventures, in the beauty of the place and the Mexican people, where your only concern is not knowing if you’ll fit in all the adventures and experiences you want to have.