Cave of Swallows


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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.

Cave of the Swallows
My view of the Cave of Swallows. My old fear of heights returned. I’m surprised the photo isn’t blurred
Cave of Swallows
That’s my foot at the edge of the 400 meter deep shaft
Cave of the Swallows
I camped for the night under this thatched roof building only about 50 meters away from the edge of the cave
Rubbish on the road
The road to the cave complete with rubbish tip on the side of the road
road to cave of swallows
The only real bad section of road near the turn off to the Cave of Swallows

Next : Waterfalls of the Huesteca

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Where to buy all the best gear for Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking:
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|  | | | MEC Canada -Bicycle Touring Gear |

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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6 thoughts on “Cave of Swallows”

  1. Hate to tell you, but fears and phobias get worse as you get older.Oh, those dogs. Bear spray works great on them. A little expensive but you will need it in Montana and Wyoming. Damn grizzlies. Speaking of which,You have to see the movie The Revenant. Leo Dicaprio gets mauled by a grizz. Obviously a tamed one. I think it’s the one you passed in SoCal that was behind a chain fence by the trail. Spring is already here up north. The snow melt begins. And your pics are getting better yet. Some look like paintings. Keep the blogs coming. Bike on bro.!

    • It’s something I controlled for 25 plus years, just a bit freaky. I carried bear spray while cycling in Alaska but didn’t use it, even on the dogs. In my former life as a Police Officer I have (unfortunately) had to use Capsicum Spray numerous times on aggressive dogs, I can also confirm it is very effective. Good to hear the snow melt is on the way, I’ll be on the CDT in about 6 weeks! More info to come about that in coming weeks.

  2. Wow ~ what a cave! Thank you for sharing the beautiful pictures. I enjoyed watching the video but would have to say a big, fat “NO!” to the cave jumping. Makes my heart race to even think about it!

    Our minds and bodies are strange sometimes. When I was parasailing in Roatan last month, I loved the first part of it. Being at the end of an 800-foot rope hanging 500 feet above the ocean didn’t bother me, or so I thought. For the first 6 minutes or so, I loved the amazing views of the beaches, the island, and the different colors of the ocean. Then suddenly, anxiety (fear?) hit me like a ton of bricks and I was frightened beyond words. I just knew I was going to fall out of the straps and die. For the next 6 minutes, I was frozen still, could hardly speak, was dizzy and nauseous, and had the straps in my hands in a death grip. Thankfully we survived the ride and made it back onto the boat just fine. Now I can check that off of my bucket list!

    Glad you are doing well and enjoying Mexico! What a grand adventure!

    • Thanks Heather. Yes it’s strange how fear impacts the body. Hopefully we will both be able to manage it better.

  3. Thanks for another amazing day trip. Tis nice to travel vicariously with you. Better YOU than me at the mouth of the swallows cave. I commend you for facing that fear though.


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