Wednesday, July 4, 2007


National park in Michoacan a must for travelers
Ran May 22, 2006 in The Monitor, McAllen, Texas

Monitor Staff Writer

URUAPAN — Broad cobblestone walkways meander through the rainforest, the sound of rushing water permeating the air as ribbons of sunlight flutter through the shade of trees towering more than 100 feet high.

Laughter and excitement skip along the trails as children discover the wonders of Parque Nacional Barranca del Cupatitzio, - Cupatitzio Gorge National Park, an 894-acre park whose entrance lies at the western end of Independence Street in Uruapan, the second-largest city in Michoacan. It's not something you'd expect to see right on the edge of town; natural wonders such as these are usually located far away from populated areas.

However, this park is populated - with tourists. For only about $1, visitors spread out along the many winding trails, rushing up to fountains of water bouncing over rocks like disoriented snakes, or dripping lazily from cold stone, or cutting across breaks in the trail.

They all have the same destination - the river, where the water in minute periods of wakefulness manifests itself in shreds of foam, twisting and turning before receding into its warped translucence.

People are everywhere, but it never seems crowded. Families make brisk climbs along steep hillsides; trails shoot off in different directions and lead them to new adventures, to quiet parks or playgrounds with slides and swing sets, past a fish farm, waterfalls, benches, gazebos and small vendors selling food and drinks.

At a stand selling cups of freshly-cut fruit, a woman slices a mango in slithers so it looks like a blossom, then sprinkles chili pepper on top and hands it to a customer.

Halls, clorets and candies crowd a small table nearby. Gorditas are transformed by heat and oil into a welcome meal, bubbling, sizzling and popping in the sun for hungry travelers. Bundles of pumpkin flowers — flor de calabacita — lay on a plate to be used in quesadillas, and dark red links of chorizo meat wait for the next round of gorditas. Boxes of Ramen noodles sit nearby.

Two little girls bounce eagerly down the walkway in front of their parents to a point where water explodes from the rocks to achieve a moment of timeless beauty before crashing into a foaming pool and then the river below, losing its identity forever.

It's a river with a powerful draw. While signs specifically forbid anyone from entering the river, some can't resist the temptation to experience its enchanting waters. A man in a uniform orders several boys out of the water, but elsewhere others have partaken of its dream, dipping hands or cups into streams of spring water spewing from holes in concrete steps.

They can savor this moment, or they can finish it off back at the entrance where a vendor provides you with a taste of Michoacan's coffee: a cup of straight mojo, a bag of fresh coffee, or a frozen cappuccino, a perfect way to cool down from a long and wondrous hike before returning to the playful energy of Uruapan .

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