Driving southeast of Oaxaca, our first stop is at a mineral spring. On the map it looks like it will be a short detour, but in fact it takes us an hour to wind through the mountains, past a small village, coming at last to Hierve el Agua. The name means boiling water, but the mineral springs are actually cold. But they do indeed bubble out of the rock.
Our campsite is at the far end of a parking lot, by the bluff where we can look down and see the springs and a “frozen” waterfall, where minerals from the flowing water have built up over time. Beyond the pools is a deep valley.
After naps, thunderstorms roll in the valley, adding even more drama to the landscape and cutting our time down at the pools short. We eat dinner inside the trailer as the sky dumps rain and hope the trailer doesn’t get washed away. We play Mexican bingo and all learn some new Spanish words.
The next morning I take the kids on an early walk down to the pools and over to the waterfall. The van-loads of people and all the vendors at the top of the hill haven’t arrived yet, so we have the whole place to ourselves. I am proud of what great climbers the boys are. After our hike we go swimming in the amazing turquoise pools.
Matt is waiting for us at the top with the car ready to go and we jump in for a long drive. Down, down, down the mountain we go to hit the main road, and then down, down, down some more. As we come around a bend, a car flashes its lights at us. Ahead of us a car is parked, and in front of him is a roadblock. Rocks and barrels are across the road and it is filled with people. There is a sign in the road, something about the electric company, and how they are demanding fair treatment.
We hear that it will be 5 hours, or possibly overnight. On the side of the road it is sweltering hot. There is no shade and no breeze. We are thankful to at least have the trailer for the kids to hang out in. They color and have snacks while Matt talks to some guys outside about the trailer.
We finally get word that a guy from the electric company is there and they are negotiating. They unblock one side of the road and let the other line of cars go first. Finally, after 2.5 hours, it is our turn, and we are on our way again.
It is another 40 minutes to our free camping spot on the shores of Benito Juarez Lake. The description on iOverlander sounds nice, but the water level in the lake is down about 20 feet, and it looks like a moonscape. We park anyway because we can’t drive any further today. It is hot and muggy, so we take the boys down to the lake to swim. The water is brown and does not look very refreshing, but the boys don’t seem to mind at all.
Amazingly, our friends Joe and Josee drive up. They were stopped at the same roadblock, only later. They must have re-closed the road after we went through. We have drinks together until the wind picks up and we can eat and go to bed. Still it is a hot, sleepless night.
We do not feel like driving much the next day, so we head straight south to the coast. It is only an hour and at least there should be an ocean breeze. The closest spot is a restaurant that allows free camping if you eat there. There is a breeze, but it feels like a hair dryer blowing hot air on us. I take the kids down to the beach but it is too windy for the umbrella. We sit down on the blanket and get sandblasted. After a few minutes we head back up.
After nap, Graysen and I go swimming. The water is warm but it is still refreshing. He laughs and laughs as we hold hands and brave each wave that rolls in. We take too-warm showers and then head to the restaurant. Cold beers and bubbly water save the day. We have agua chile, fresh shrimp marinated in lime and chile, and fried octopus. Even the boys love it.
The next day we have a long drive again to Aguacerro. The only saving grace is that it is back in the mountains. Sparkle Stories make the time fly by. The last 100 meters down to the park we go down super steep switchbacks, Matt navigating the two narrow cement paths perfectly except that little bit that is missing, which catches the trailer wheel with a jolt. When we park I open the trailer and find that another bottle of balsamic vinegar has burst in the upper cupboard. Why does it have to be the black stuff? Matt and the boys explore a cave while I clean it up.
In the morning we trek down 812 steps to the waterfalls. The boys want to go swimming right away and have a blast playing in the cool, clear, shallow water. We walk up the stream to the waterfalls, the boys chasing sticks they throw in the stream as they go. I can’t get them out of the water. We have finally returned to temperature and everyone feels much better.