Tacos, Waterfalls and Tequila: Rafa’s beta for kayaking in Mexico
Part II, Veracruz- The Alseseca
It was several years ago that we completed connecting the dots on this famed river. Ever since the old Twitch crew days, and even other earlier explorers’ times, this river has gained fame as something spectacular but ultra challenging. And here, trying to explain the whole river to you in a simple way is a very complicated task. But I love this river, every drop on it, every piece of it, and it will keep amazing us with its endless possibilities.
Still hidden in the higher mountains of the Sierra Madre Oriental, lays the first section of the fabled Rio Alseseca. Though you can actually put in higher (through the town of Atzalan), hike in to the bottom of a 300+fter, and even find a big drop to rappel around, I recommend putting in lower for practical purposes.
You find the bus stop above the roadside, hike in following a cool little dirt road that you follow all the way down to the water. From the start, and through the next half hour you’ll bomb some epic slides and boofs. Keep your eyes open as eventually you’ll find a higher drop: the river constricts into a foot wide slot where you can magically fit through and shoot out for the 25ft of drop left. We call him the Pooper.
Some more fun drops afterwards, including one with a burly hole a higher flows that comes on a blind corner, and then right into the first 20fter of the roadside.
The ultra-classic of the Alseseca, Roadside section has been paddled since the late 80’s. Being the section of the river that holds the race, and the section that has seen the most amounts of boaters, you can imagine its pretty freakin good. Upper and lower sections are divided by a small bridge, and you can paddle both in 20-30 mins if you know it, even lap it a couple of times in a day. Just watch for the sticky hole, the s-turn rapid and the crack.
When we first found these waterfalls we had been coming from the Roadside. A full day involving a couple portages and maybe not enough joy hasn’t made us want to paddle it often nowadays. But we did figure out a there is access to hike into the rapel that drops you into the main Truchas canyon. Find the tree, it probably has a biner and an anchor from previous missions. Drop in, Lower boats, cross the river to the left shore to scout. The first slide is quite manky, but pretty sick (the hole isn’t as bad as it looks). You can skip it easily, then drop into the sweet 20ft slide that puts you above the drop. No real need to scout it, best spot to hit it is on the right. Just be careful as some have injured themselves from boofing it’s 50ft of stoutness.
Get out on the right. You’ll find the trout farm and its trail that takes you back to the highway. Hopefully you have talked to Pepe’s family about taking out there before, and eat some trout for dinner.
There is also a stout drop just downstream. 20fter into a 70ft slide. Check it out, there’s a way to paddle out below it but its quite a mission. You can also ascend back up and back to the trail.
Cinco Cascadas de Aguacates (Five Avocado Waterfalls)
The stoutest of the stout, we paddled this section on the first descent and no one has wanted to go back in there with me since. There is a sick big dog that needs to be fired in there, but the stories of our first descent include a sketchy portage, a near drowning experience, 3 beat-downs, and an 80ft throw and jump.
Big banana run- the new classic
From the graveyard you follow the trail, down the valley, then follow the creek through the jungle till you hear Big Banana Falls on your right. I would divide this run into 3 sections: from Big Ganana Falls to Pacanico’s bridge, Pacanico’s to Silence Falls, and Silence to Tomata Bridge.
The first section is the manky one. From the bottom of Big Banana Falls you’ll paddle 10 minutes of class II before you get into the first steep section. With some flatwater and a couple of gorges in between, you’ll eventually get to a sweet 30fter that leads into a 20ft slide dropping into the Pacanico’s Kasm, just about the darkest place of the whole Alseseca. Both the 30fter and the slide are good to go down the middle.
The second section is the chill one. After that dark gorge with a bridge up top (Pacanico’s Bridge), you’ll get into a chill class III section that my dad loves joining us for. You will notice after some rapids that the river flows into a big gorge, huge walls, but really only class III-IV in there that you don’t need to scout. The river opens up again; another class III rapid and then comes Silence.
Be careful here, as it is a class II rapid that flows right into the 40ft Silence Falls. Originally FD’d by Burning Time crew, this drop has a reputation of being sketchy at the bottom left, even though Jason Hail has been the only to experiment with it. You’ll recognize it as a beautiful pine tree and grassy area comes out on your right. 4 options here: fire up the whole thing, seal launch for the drop, throw and jump 40ft close to the lip or walk around on the right till you find a 20ft ledge to seal launch back in.
And here starts the third section. First you’ll find the Mac Trio (all three drops good to go, even though the first one looks weird pillowing against a wall), then some fun class IV stuff and then into the Meat Locker, one of my favorites of this river. You can either boof (or drown) the next scary one, or use some ropes to get out before. And to end up your day in a delightful fashion, the Pezma section is still to go. This series of epic drops are easily scouted and stomped. Follow the final class II to Tomata Bridge.
Tao Berman ran this drop for the first time years ago and created the first boom of hype around it, claiming a world record that later proved untrue. It’s basically a pool-to-pool 60fter with a complicated lip, and two main lines. Turn on the huck mode and go, but be careful, as it has claimed many injuries and swims.
But the real challenge roars just downstream: Tomata II. After a chill 10fter that you boof on the middle-right, get out on the river right side and turn on the huck mode higher. If you’re not up for it, find your way up on that right wall. Ropes will be necessary.
You’ll be amazed at this beautiful puzzle of whitewater and freefall. Tomata II is a drop right at the very edge of being un-runable, but for some reason it goes. My buddy Iker calls it the fish, “in the last second you feel you have it, right in your hands, but it will probably slip off.”
To take out, you have to drop at least the first couple of sisters of the Tomata Gorge.
The second most classic section of this river and a step up from the roadside, Tomata gorge is also known as “the seven sisters”. You can rappel in below Tomata II and get to run all of them, but if you don’t have a 60 meter rope you can also skip the first three. Then you walk, descend boats and seal launch right above the forth sister. Fifth is probably the trickiest as it has a munchy hole that you can’t rally boof. I usually end up plugging it and hoping for the best. Sixth sister fire up some epic freestyle!
Take out is on the left, above Pablo Falls.
Pablo falls section (and the lost section below)
Pablo Falls we call that massive cascade that John Grace beliefs has a line. You’ll notice the house in front of it, hence the name, Pablo Escobar apparently was familiar to this area. If you keep hiking around you’ll find an easy rappel above the next big stout. It plummets 45ft with a hard to scout unclean line, that hasn’t been run yet as far as I know. Easy to throw and jump from a 40ft ledge.
Follow downstream and look back to enjoy a sick view of that 40fter. Ahead you’ll find some class IV-V stuff and epic views that make the short section worth it.
Be careful not to paddle into the rapid that flows beneath the Cochota Bridge, which will be your takeout.
The river follows downstream till it gets to the Encanto Hydro. But that last section I’ve never paddled, nor heard it’s really worth it. Maybe Encanto Falls.
Terms to know
Mi chingon (ˈme shee-n-göne)
1.- My good man, my F(#&n good man. It’s the best way to call a waiter or anyone who is offering you a service of any sort. You have to have people on your side always, never wanna’ get your tacos spat on.
I’m off to the Alseseca for some creekin’ now, but more bits of beta soon. In the next parts I’ll share the details of specific areas and rivers, The Jalacingo coming up soon.