My cycle trip to The Cave of Swallows was inspired by watching documentaries. They have in many ways inspired the journey that I am currently on. Hiking and Cycling the most amazing places on the Planet. Many years ago I watched David Attenborough introduce the world of caves to me. In one scene there was a large sinkhole in a remote part of Mexico. I just had to find it and go there. My whole travels in the Sierra Gorda and Huesteca regions of Mexico have been inspired by the following YouTube clip of the Cave of Swallows.
It’s called the Cave of the Swallows or Sótano de las Golondrinas in Spanish. It’s near the town of Aquismón, in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí. I set off from the town of Xilitla mid morning and after spending the whole day climbing I arrived at the small parking area that led downhill to the cave. It was late and I asked Ricardo the gate attendant if I could camp nearby. To my surprise he told me I could camp at the edge of the cave. I grabbed my backpack and filled it with my camping gear, some food and some water. Ricardo let me store my bicycle in the ticket office.
It was about a 10 minute walk to the cave, passing many trinket shops and food stalls. A couple of dudes tied some ropes around me and encouraged me to step to the edge of the 400 meter shear drop. My old foe returned. I’ve been afraid of heights my whole life. I was 23 years of age when I took my first airplane flight. Several years earlier I chose to take up abseiling (rappelling) in an attempt to get over my fear. It worked, sort off. I then progressed to caving, canyoning and rock climbing. All the while I was still scared of heights but managed that fear. So I thought. Standing on the edge of The Cave of Swallows my legs started to shake. Then they went weak. A strange feeling overcome me, I felt like I was going to collapse. I felt nauseous.
I walked away a little shocked that my fear of heights had returned in such a strong way. For many years I’ve managed it and would tell people I wasn’t afraid of heights. Damn. I went to another viewpoint to wait for sunset and the return of the swallows to their roosting sites inside the cave. It started to rain so I retreated to the thatched roof hut for the night. I was joined by Emilio and his son Bryan.
Maybe it was the roosters, maybe it was the very loud banadamax music or maybe it was a nearby alarm clock that woke me. Before the sun had risen I set off to watch the swallows leave the cave. There were maybe 20 other people there. The overnight rain had cooled things down a lot. It was cold. I waited for more than two hours. The swallows were not coming out. It turns out that they only leave the cave when the temperatures warm up and light enters the cave. The thick low cloud and cold temperatures meant I wasn’t going to see them today.
I set off from the cave on the walk back to retrieve my bicycle and eat some breakfast. At 10.30am I set off for my next destination in the jungles of the Huesteca. In the distance I could see the cloud of swallows. They left the Cave.