UMA AGUA BLANCA
February 25, 2018
My friend Josh Wolf finally got himself a vehicle designed for exploring the byways of Jalisco...many of which cannot be reached by ordinary cars. Well, he may have overdone it a bit, as his new Nissan Pathfinder comes with so many bells, whistles and built-in entertainment attractions that kids might never be tempted to peek out the window at the natural marvels around them.
"Let's give your new 4x4 a real test," I suggested to Josh. "Let's go to Agua Blanca and the Saucillo Pyramid."
Agua Blanca is an UMA, an officially recognized animal sanctuary started by members of the local ejido (co-operative) on 433 acres of their land which are "too rocky for farming but unusually beautiful and home to all kinds of animals, including an extraordinary variety of birds."
The enthusiastic founders of Agua Blanca managed to get support and grants to create a 350-meter-long nature trail overlooking a steep canyon and leading to a combination bird-watching platform and lookout point with a magnificent view. They even built a dramatic hanging bridge across the arroyo and managed to print up a very useful, professional-looking guide to the local birds.
On top of that, only 500 meters away lie the ruins of El Saucillo, a well-preserved circular pyramid and ball court over a thousand years old, conveniently located a two-minute walk from where you park your car.
Because of all this, I included the Agua Blanca Sanctuary in volume two of Outdoors in Western Mexico (Chapter 24), but ever since I've had the nagging fear that the bad road leading to the place might ruin what had seemed like a wonderful project.
Well, the Pathfinder lumbered up the four-kilometer-long dirt road without a hitch and brought us to the parking lot of Agua Blanca, where not a soul could be seen.
The Reception Center was filled with cobwebs and the Nature Trail with fallen branches, suggesting that no one had been there for a long time. Next we drove to the pyramid, which we found guarded by a whole herd of cows and bulls, but they graciously allowed us to pass among them to reach the El Saucillo Guachimontón, which looked in wonderful shape for being over a millenium old.
The circular walkway around it is clear of undergrowth and you can easily distinguish the platforms on its perimeter, where colorful houses once stood, long ago. The only damage is a looters' hole at the very top of the central mound. "I doubt if they found anything interesting here," I told Josh's children, "as these structures were not tombs, but platforms for ceremonies and for groups of musicians entertaining throngs of people who danced arm-in-arm around the circular patio surrounding the mound."
As long as you have a high vehicle—even if it has no bells and whistles—you can visit this most remarkable wildlife-sanctuary-bird watching paradise-cum-pyramid. Bird watcher Julio Álvarez assures me he can make the arrangements. So just call him at cell 375 111 2223 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to get there
From Guadalajara, take highway 15 west toward Nogales. Turn off onto highway 70 for Ameca. After 18.5 kilometers, turn right onto Jalisco highway 4 and drive 14 kilometers to Teuchitlán. Continue past Teuchitlán for 7.3 kilometers and turn right onto a dirt road at N20.68973 W103.91775. To see the pyramid (located at N20 44.493 W103 52.966) and other ruins, follow the northeasterly route shown on Wikiloc.com, under "GuadHikes – UMA Agua Blanca." The UMA (Trail, campsite, hanging bridge, bird-watching platform) is located at N20 44.675 W103 53.219 and you can arrange to visit the place by contacting Julio Álvarez as mentioned above. From the Lake Chapala area, take the Circuito Sur (Ajijic-Tlajomulco-Tala). Just past Tala you will come to highway 70. Drive southwest only 1.5 kilometers to get on highway 4 heading for Teuchitlán. Driving time from Guadalajara: about an hour and a half and about two hours from the Lake.
The trail at Agua Blanca is still in fine shape.