Cuernavaca Spa, Las Estacas, a Watery Wonderland Powered by the Volcanos
Las Estacas Will Amaze You
During the latter part of my years working in newspapers in Mexico, I had a variety of jobs. Perhaps the one I enjoyed the most, despite it not being the most remunerative, was having my own English language section in a paper in Cuernavaca. This was called “Inner Circle,” published in the Union de Morelos, as it was directs principally at the 5,000-strong foreign community, most of whom used English as their first language, or were fluent in it.
Inner Circle flourished for 5 years. Each weekday I published about 1500 to 2000 words, I never missed a deadline and I made many friends. I covered many Mexican businesses in this delightful area of Mexico which has the best weather in the world, according to a panel of journalists who decided this about 30 years ago. Indeed, the temperature, year-round, never varies much from 75 degrees Fahrenheit. People living in Cuernavaca often think their barometers are broken with the needle jammed on this number. It does rain, but it’s hardly ever windy and cold.
During my time there and before I moved to Southern Baja, I made friends with a family who were the owners of a place where the over-used sobriquet, oasis, is right on the money. And this in an area known as the bread-basket of Mexico, with all the plants and greenery this suggests. It is said that if you stand too long in one place here, your feet will send roots into the soil, so rich is the loam.
Anyhoo, I digress. The family owned a resort called Las Estacas, situated abut 40 minutes outside Cuernavaca. The place was built along a river, but not a river in the usual sense. Overlooking Cuernavaca, about 80 miles north-east, is the mighty volcano, Popocatepetl, (please see my article about Popo). The 17,000 foot, mountain’s permanent snow cap fed underground rivers which rushed into the valley of Morelos where Cuernavaca is situated, surfacing in several locations, one being Las Estacas. But forget mountain streams. We are talking six-thousand litres per second of cold, crystal clear water, gushing forth from a gash in the earth about 20 feet across. From there, a shallow, wide, water- course continues on for a mile of so before disappearing from whence it came. This mile of tropical jungle with its river is like something from a Tarzan movie. In fact, about 40 films show footage from Las Estacas.
A rustic resort area has grown up around this watery wonderland and visitors come from all over the world to visit it. Diving and jumping into the huge hole where the torrent begins is encouraged by laid-back Mexico; no “’elf ’n’ safety” bull here. If people haven’t got the sense to avoid landing on their fool heads in the shallows, or leaping in when they can’t swim…well: anyway, someone’s always there to fish them out.
In the middle of the river, a wide, concrete pool has been built; hundreds of toe-nibbling fish line the edges. Having one’s toes nibbled as a small fish cleans off all the flaky skin, is rather a pleasant experience and one that has been exploited commercially elsewhere. At Las Estacas, it’s included in the roughly £10 entry fee.
The resort is beloved by the workers from Mexico City about 2 hours away. Coaches by the dozens bring them here every Saturday and Sunday. Another plus in Mexico is that you can play outside all year round, except for the odd day of torrential rain and thunder storms. Despite hundreds of people visiting at the same time, the resort never seems crowded. Only very basic huts to stay overnight, last time I was there, but as they only cost about £10, you could put up with the odd mozzie and rattlesnake…whaaaaa! Just kidding, no snakes. Since those rough and ready days, a hotel and a hostel has been added, so the resort is definitely going upmarket. You don’t need to bring anything when you come, either, as everything is here to rent, from towels and shorts to rubber dinghies. And a decent restaurant serving a full “comida corrida” or several course midday meal, plus many kiosks selling cold beer and sodas. Or you can bring your own and picnic in the lovely estate-sized grounds, grass-covered with huge shade trees and several pools for the kids.
There’s about 30 more spas and water resorts in this area. But none as special as Las Estacas, a place you won’t forget.
Afterword: Las Estacas means wooden stakes. In this case, they lined the banks to protect same during flood periods. The spa occupies the site of an old sugar hacienda de Temilpa,, destroyed during Emiliano Zapata's time. As well as the Queen of the Jungle series, many Tarzan movie shots, and shots in Mexican movies, are from here.
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