During a recent outing organized by Guadalajara’s Museo de la Ciudad, a friend of mine, Leopoldo De Leon, enthralled museum director Monica del Areanal and myself as he described the marvels of a vast forest over 3,000 hectares in size, located in the green hills between Tapalpa and Chiquilistlan.
“It’s called Reserva Rancho Mazati and has 70 kilometers of rustic brechas leading to utterly charming rivers and springs and a huge volcano and awe-inspiring giant monoliths that make the Great Rocks of Tapalpa look like peanuts.”
The description by Polo (his nickname) was irresistible and an overnight campout was arranged for May 1.
That morning I was ready and rearing to go, with boxes, bags, rucksacks and a tent piled in my living room, when the phone started jumping off the hook.
“There are narco blockades everywhere,” my callers informed me. “Semi-trailers and buses burning on the highways. Better stay home!”
I called my colleague Mario, who was joining us on the expedition. “Semis on fire?” he inquired. “Don’t worry, the flames will be out in an hour and then we’ll go.”
We set off a bit late, squeezed past a huge burned-out hulk on the road to Tapalpa and headed toward our destination. Of course, we had to eat and luckily just happened to be in the vicinity of La Culebra Restaurant, famous for its exquisite carnes asadas.
Well fed, we met up with Rancho Mazati representative Gerardo Gutierrez, who took us to one of many entrances to the ecological reserve, strung along an eight-kilometer stretch of the Tapalpa-Chiquilistlan road. A sign at this gate announced that we would find La Zona de Campamentos inside, as well as 12 outdoor attractions comprising giant rocks to deep arroyos and bubbling brooks, all linked together by hiking, biking and equestrian trails.
Gerardo took us to the campsite, which overlooks a small lagoon with a majestic view of tree-covered mountains as far as the eye could see.
“The name Mazati is from a Nahuatl word meaning deer,” he told us. “And just about everything you can see out there belongs to this ecological reserve.”