By JOHN PINT –
In accordance with our tradition of spending the last night of the year in an unforgettable place, we once decided to camp out next to the twin geysers of Los Hervores, located near the La Vega dam, about an hour southwest of Guadalajara. We expected to ring in the new year submerged in the local balneario (hot pool), but this was not to be.
The only friends we were able to talk into this scheme were Luis and Mary Rojas, who—being cavers—were just crazy enough to go for the idea.
What you first see when you reach Los Hervores (meaning The Boils, as in “Bring it to a boil, Bill!”) is an open-air pool so dilap
idated it looks a lot like the ruin of a Roman bath. The water running through it, however, is constantly changing and deliciously warm.
The pool is fed by a shallow stream, only 70 cm wide which you can follow back to its source, about 500 m to the west. The farther upstream you go, the hotter the water gets, until suddenly you see a cloud of steam rising in the distance.
Next you hear the roaring and hissing of the geysers. As you approach the origin of this hullabaloo, you discover a rocky outcrop where twin jets of scalding water are shooting into the air. These are definitely more faithful than Old F, as they never stop, even for a second, and they provide the hottest shower you could ever ask for.
Next to the geysers are several “natural cooking pots,” about 40 cm in diameter, filled with vigorously boiling water. Plenty of corn husks lying nearby testify as to how they have been used by previous picnickers. The rock around the geysers and hot pots is coated with milky white, yellow and brown minerals coated with green to black algae which seems to thrive in temperatures that would turn us lobster red.
There’s lots of flat ground for camping at Los Hervores, so we set up our tents next to a little stream of water so hot you could hardly touch it and then carried our frozen sweet corn over to the roaring geysers. Here we had our choice of four “natural cooking pots” in which sulfurous-smelling water boils away day and night. Despite the smell, local people had told us that whatever you cook in the boiling water will “taste great” and we discovered this to be true. Apparently there are no poisonous substances in this water either, as we all survived the night and made it into the new year.
Well, by the time we finished our meal, it was dark and so cold that none of us could bear the thought of taking off our sweatshirts and coats in order to jump into the swimming pool. However, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the truly unique attraction of Los Hervores is not the swimming pool, but the bizarre fantasy world the whole area is transformed into overnight.
Peeking out of our tent at two in the morning, we saw billows of white vapor floating above the hot creeks around us. A few hours later, at sunrise, we followed these wispy clouds downstream, utterly fascinated by the effect of the sun’s first rays creeping through the fog-shrouded branches of the trees, dramatically illuminating the tiniest drops of water on spider webs and tall grass.
Hollywood could spend a fortune on smoke machines trying to come up with a spooky effect like this, but they would never equal the weird and scary mood produced during Mother Nature’s nightly show at Los Hervores. All it lacked was the presence of the Blair Witch herself, but after seeing the silhouette of Luis Rojas creeping through the trees, I suspect a Mexican director could film the Scary Movie of the century right here, and on a shoestring budget, to boot.
When the sun’s rays finally began to dissipate the horror-show atmosphere, we wandered back to our tents to make breakfast “geyser style.” No need to boil water for coffee, just leave a bottle filled with drinking water overnight in one of the hot pots. And your eggs will be perfectly soft-boiled after only six minutes of natural cooking.
Like so many similar places in Mexico, this natural wonder has no fence around it and costs nothing to enjoy. If you’d like to splash around in the dilapidated balneario, however, you will have to pay a small fee.
How to Get There:
From the Guadalajara Periférico (west side), take highway 15 (Nogales and Tepic) 25 km to highway 70, heading SW towards Ameca. After 17 kms, you’ll pass the Tala sugar refinery. Keep going straight another 15 km where you’ll hopefully see a sign saying La Vega. Turn right and go straight until you come to the cemetery (panteón), 1.3 km north of the highway. Turn left, pass over a cattle crossing and drive 2.6 km NW. Here, you’ll find a dirt road heading north. After only 831 meters, you’ll reach Los Hervores Balneario. The geysers are at UTM 616169 2278552. Driving time from Guadalajara: about one hour.
Editor’s Note: the first version of the above article and photos was copyrighted in 2006. The updated and revised text has been reprinted courtesy of John and Susy Pint.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Pint
Explorer and adventurer John Pint is a regular columnist for the Guadalajara Reporter and author of several books in both Spanish and English, including “Outdoors in Western Mexico” (co-authored with his wife Susy). The Pints’ website (http://ranchopint.com/) offers many fascinating articles about caves, geology, history, and hidden or little-known natural wonders and mysteries in Mexico.