Alaska, Mexico and Beyond…

“One Journey Leads to Another”

Ruins of a Spanish Mine

Spread along the Rio Papaloapam, high in the Sierra Norte north of the city of Oaxaca, are the ruins of Spanish haciendas that were built and inhabited during the years of Spanish exploitation of the mineral riches of the area.

According to historical records, Cortés learned of the possible existence of gold and silver in the Sierras and immediately sent scouts in search of the minerals. They returned with the news that the mountains were indeed rich with gold and silver ore, and Cortés, ever the opportunist, claimed the entire Central Valley of Oaxaca for himself (year 1521). The Spaniards built the infrastructure needed for mining operations and constructed aqueducts, large haciendas, stone bridges, and a church. These remains are located deep in a lush valley near the villages of San Miguel Amatlán and Lachatao.

Hacienda Wall

Hacienda Wall

Click on any photo to enlarge it   

The Friday hikers explored El Socorro, the first section of the Spanish ruins.

A sinuous highway (the highway signs said so!) led us through seemingly endless mountains that offered spectacular vistas. Local people navigate narrow gravel roads that zig-zag up the mountainsides to their villages.

Winding River, Winding Road

Winding River, Winding Road

After climbing to the mountaintop to pick up our guides in the tiny village of Amatlán, our excellent bus driver maneuvered to the valley floor on a dirt road that was clearly not designed for a school bus! He received a loud cheer and applause when we reached the fork where the hikers got off and started down the trail, while he continued on to a wide spot where he was faced with the daunting task of turning the bus around!

Our guides hopped off the bus and cleared rocks from the “road.”


Ruins of the Hacienda

Ruins of the Hacienda

Trout were visible lazing in the shadows of pools in the river, which  runs with clean, clear water.

Trout were visible lazing in the shadows of pools in the clean, clear waters of the Rio Papaloapam.

The pink blossoms decorated fat cactus in perfect circles.

Perfect circles of pink blossoms crown these fat cactus

Epiphytes grow anywhere and everywhere they can find a resting place. Some cactus favor the tops of old stone walls, while other prefer to just hang around.

Mountainside church

At the end of a long day of busing, hiking, and exploring…what could be better than relaxing and spending the night in a cabaña with a view!

Cabin with a View

For information on ecotourism in The Sierra Norte, and how YOU TOO could hike in these magnificent mountains and end your day in one of many charming cabañas:

Several of the photos in this blog were taken by my husband, David, who has become a hiker and photographer too!

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12 thoughts on “Ruins of a Spanish Mine

  1. Karen Zeller on said:

    I love reading and seeing vistas of your adventures! How I wish I could join you.

    • How great to hear from you! I’ve been so negligent about keeping in touch. I’m glad you like the posts – these hikes are one of the highlights of our life here, as they have made it easy to get to many places I wanted to go and also taught us about places we would probably never know about. You know how it is, sometimes just figuring out how to get from point A to B is almost overwhelming, but it’s always part of the adventure!
      We are heading back to Alaska next week. I have things to tell you about…Chiapas and Ted and Susan!

  2. Alex Hurst on said:

    These photos are absolutely astonishing! I love them! And that road~ how fun to drive on (well, maybe “fun” is an over-exaggeration, haha). Thanks for the info regarding the tours. I bookmarked them for my bucketlist! 🙂

    • Thanks so much! Yes, “fun” would be stretching it, mainly because the bus wheels were perilously close to the crumbling edges of the road, and the ravines were steep and deep!
      Eight villages in the Sierra Norte have organized into “mancomunados,” which means they cooperate with each other to build trails between them and to other interesting places, provide guides, and generally promote this kind of eco-tourism. You can hike in the area without guides, but you can learn a lot from them, and guiding also provides them with income so they can continue living in their villages.

      • Alex Hurst on said:

        That sounds really interesting. I love the ingenuity of it. And there’s always a lot to be enjoyed in a place that is freshly “discovered” rather than already in the guide books. I’m so glad you had a good time, sans perilous bus ride, of course. 😉

  3. I saw you on Michael Lai’s site and wondered how I had lost touch with your blog. Now I see you haven’t posted since March. I hope all is okay!
    Happy Mother’s Day!

    • Thanks so much for checking in! I have a post about 3/4 ready, but we returned to Alaska at the beginning of April, and I have been so busy I can’t seem to finish! We have had WEEKS of sunny weather, which is unusual, so we are taking full advantage to do outside projects. Those gray, rainy days will come…

  4. Gorgeous sceneries! I was delighted very much to see Cactus photos – very beautiful.

  5. I’m glad you liked the cactus. One of my favorite things about traveling around Mexico is admiring the huge variety of plants, most of which I have never seen. Once in awhile it is surprising to see a wildflower that also grows in Alaska. An example of one that you probably have also is lupine, which I saw growing at high altitudes of southern Mexico.

  6. Hi Marilyn, nice to catch up with you again. These ruins look the stuff of explorers’ dreams. The pretty flora, and adventurous approach, add other fun elements. Did you and David stay overnight in one of the cabañas?

  7. Thanks, Tricia. I think I have been on blog slog for awhile! We did not stay in one of these cabañas that time, but it is on my agenda. A few weeks ago we hiked another part of the ruins (blog in the works) and saw cabañas in a village even more spectacular than this!

  8. Great post! I stayed here a few yrs ago – the view in the early morning is absolutely phenomenal.

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