Mar 13, 2012

Altavista Petroglyphs

A handshake beats an autograph.

La Pila del Rey (River basin of king) - low water line at this time of year
Up early today to visit the petroglyphs of Altavista. First time we have to use an alarm clock in a long time. We are not used to that anymore. We left early to be back before the heat of the day.

We asked many people in Chacala about visiting that area but it took us three days of asking before finally being led and meeting the right person. It is easy to have access to these types of ‘tours’ if you stay at a resort or a hotel where they pool people together to go at certain times but not so easy to do when only a couple of people inquire. Thankfully we managed and were extremely happy to find Alvaro Hernandez, a local who lives in Chacala but was raised in Las Varas, only 6 miles away. He has been giving this tour for 12 years. He knows the history, the locals, the birds, the animals, the plants and he is very accommodating, cheerful, and carries a lot of reverence and respect for Mother Nature, the meaning of history of the area and of Mexico.

Some of the petroglyphs are nearly impossible to distinguish even after they are pointed out for they are from 2,000-2,300 BC! A guide is definitely a great help in that area alone. Getting there can also be tricky as you go through private land and road intermixed with paths.

We were shown the two types of carvings that make up the petroglyphs: Pointillism (pecking) and Abrasion (rubbing, scraping). Some petroglyphs have so little relief left you can barely see them unless you have the right light, others are still deeply engraved in the stones.

Our guide Alvaro near the five steps of knowledge
Chacala God
We saw representations of jaguar, gecko, ram, lobster, crocodile, snake, corn goddess, sun, moon, rain, wind, thunder and lightning, the four seasons, the four directions, fertility, the five steps only the knowledgeable ones can climb up, waves, mountains, drums, shields, hunters, and of course many spirals.

Maize [corn] Goddess
Four seasons, four directions or four ages of woman
At the end of the tour we meet up with the Pila del Rey (Basin of the King) part of the Pila river/stream, somewhat low at this time of the year but still beautiful. The water is crystal clear and very cold. The surrounding rocks are cubic and pile upon one another as in pillars. On one side of the stream is a certain set of rocks they call the mouth of the "Cave of the Gods" where they believe god’s treasures are buried.

Rock formation of la Pila
The mouth of the Cave of Gods
We taste coconuts the size of eggs which are normally used for their oil rather than their flesh. The whole region used to be covered with palm oil trees but now that has been changed to tobacco, yaka (jackfruit), guanabana (soursop), noni (a medicinal herb), bananas, etc.

Palm for oil
Palm for oil  - close-up
On our way out, we watched a fruit picker meander the orchards. He is carrying a basket made of an old square plastic milk container and a long stick with a net to catch the higher fruits. In his pickup you see yaka (the large green one on upper left corner), guanabana (the other smaller green fruits), and bananas.

Fruit picker
Yaka in top left corner, guanabana in center, bananas at top
Upon our return ‘home’ to Déjàlà, we stopped at a fruteria. There we find several types of fruits and fruit products such as dried, in jams, in marmalades, candied, juiced, in macaroons and other desserts, etc. Nice to first see how they grow then find a place to purchase them.

Roadside Fruteria
More fruits at the fruteria
This whole 5 hour trip only cost each of us $17 and that was with a very generous tip to our guide. You cannot go wrong with the pricing when you work closely with the locals rather than depending on resorts and hotels. Their cost started at $25 per person…

We had planned a visit to El Capomo River and Waterfalls but they are dry at this time of the year. One has to wait for the rainy season to see this 65’ waterfall.

As in Mazatlán, San Blas and Matanchén Cove, everyone around is getting ready for the Semana Santa from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday (This year from 4/1 to 4/8), the second largest holiday in Mexico where many come to beach towns to spend their hard earned money. Everything is being spruced up, cleaned up, fixed and rearranged for the hopefully heavy influx of tourists. Our guide Alvaro had to go back to his little tiendita at the end of the beach to get ready as well. Thank you Alvaro for a great tour.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I'd like to contact Alvaro Hernandez, the tour guide from Chacala, MX, for the Altavista Petroglyphs tour before heading down there. I understand he takes reservations. Is there a phone number I can reach him at or an e-mail? Thank you! Mei Li (


We are always happy to hear from you but at times it may take a while to get a reply - all depends if we have access to the internet.