Thursday, August 26, 2010

(a very late) el Cielo recap

For this trip we traveled to the El Cielo Biosphere reserve in Tamaulipas. This is one of the northern-most areas of tropical cloud forest in North America and we were less than 100 miles from the Texas border. As you can see here, the area is covered with limestone outcrops and lots of caves.

We were fortunate to meet with the staff of CIE, the interpretative center there. There staff was really helpful and two of them even came with us to the field.

They had an amazing facility with green roof, water recycling,etc.

We did a lot of collecting in the caves.

This one was full of pottery shards.

And salamanders!

Here is a closer picture

We also find salamanders in Bromeliads - usually we cut them down with a saw, but here is SR climbing a tree

The first day in the field we walked up to the small village of San Jose from a town called Alta Cimas - about 1.5 hours above CIE. The town is on a 4x4 road, but there is no electricity.

We were hungry and thirsty - Luckily there was a small store that had drinks - not cold. The owner said she could cook for us, but she was apologetic - she didn't have any cheese or meat - only eggs, beans, and chorizo. I wished my Dad and Brother were there - eggs and chorizo is their favorite meal!

Food never tasted so good. The ladies were making tortillas on a griddle over a wood stove. They were the best corn tortillas I've ever had!

In front of the campanilla (bell tower) rock in San Jose.

Once we were back at CIE, we got to play with Cie  the baby jaguar. He had been rescued and was currently living at the center. Although he was just 3 months old, he was definitely not a pet. He tore off a piece of SR's camera and bit Jorge and SR hard enough to draw blood.
But he was adorable!!

The second site we visited was a private reserve administered by UT Brownsville. Thankfully we got a ride in a 4x4 up the hill - I was not looking forward to backpacking - it was HOT and very steep.

We got to visit many nice caves there.

All of the caves had large chambers to walk around, but a few had small openings.

The facility had several rustic cabins - most folks slept in bunk beds here. TD, SR, and I decided to pitch our tents outside hoping it would be cooler. It rained really hard so yes, it was.

All in all it was an awesome trip - and very successful in terms of salamanders - we found all 3 (possibly 4) species we were looking for. We spent the last night and day looking at some (unsuccessful) sites near Ciudad del Maiz - where we had the best food so far of the trip - barbacoa tostadas. We all just kept ordering more - they were so good! We also had tiny Enchiladas Potosinos - a red corn tortilla filled with chorizo, potatoes and carrots - but no enchilada sauce, just lettuce, tomato, cheese and sour cream. Mmm! Cuidad del Maiz was a winner, though its also where I picked up chiggers, 3 ticks and a bad case of poison ivy.

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