Soaking up Lake Catemaco


We left San Andres Tuxtla on Monday morning February 8th.  It was a short ride to Catemaco, a town situated on Lake Catemaco.  We skirted through the town of Catemaco to head out to more rural parts of the lake in search of a place called La Jungla, touted as a secluded retreat.  We found La Jungla and headed up the driveway.  It was at least a mile long and as we pushed our bikes over the rocky road the sounds of the rainforest intensified.  We caught glimpses of bright colored birds and heard monkeys hollering from afar.

view of Lake Catemaco

La Jungla

After paying for a couple nights to camp we set up our tent at La Jungla.  It’s the off season here and we were the only guests.  The place was looking a little tired, there was a pool that had a layer of grime and a waterslide that looked like it had seen better days, but the place was nice nonetheless.  It was certainly secluded and it’s location was perfect for helping us get our bearing in the area.  Our fist evening we sat on the dock and watched the sun set and talked about all our thoughts and ideas surounding plans for the next year.

Camping at La Jungla

Sunset from La Jungla

The next day the sun was shining and we decided to bike unloaded by panniers farther around the lake to check out the scene.  It was the first time we’ve biked on a rural road since leaving Vermont.  The traffic was light to nothing and we passed quiet farms, sheep, horses, and cows in pituresque settings around the lake.  Without the panniers on our bikes we feel so powerful, hills feel flat and it almost seems as if we could fly away.

rural road around Lake Catemaco, check out the giant tree on the side, these are everywhere here.

The towns we encountered on the lake were small and quiet.  We passed a school in session with the biggest tree in the center of the schoolyard.  It had a tunnel in the middle of it and the children were just having a blast running around.  It reminded us of the tree in the movie Avatar.  Funny that we just saw that film and now we’re in the rainforest.  We can see where James Cameron’s inspiration came from.  It’s amazing to see flora that can grow year round.  We kept seeing plants that  we consider houseplants just growing wildly everywhere-philodendron, arbolicola, and wandering jew to name a few. 

We rode all the way to Tebanca, a 24km round trip from La Jungla.  We ate perch, known as mojarra caught fresh from the lake.  We had it “a la mexicana” which is with tomatoes and  jalepenos.  It was our first whole fish meal and it was yummy.

Mojarra from Lake Catemaco

We took a siesta after our bike ride and then got up to go for a walk on some trails in the jungle. We also checked out the eco-resort next door called Nanciyaga.  We had read a bit about it in our guide book but we were leery of the cost.  Once we entered the place we decided we should stay two nights.  It looked absolutely beautiful and the services for the price made it worth it.  Check out the resort here

we had to push our bikes across the suspension bridge to get to our cabin

At Nanciyaga we rented a small cabana right on the edge of the lake.  It was marshy around our cabin and there was a crocodile not too far from us that we were able to watch for awhile.  We were blessed with 2 beautiful days at Nanciyaga and we took full advantage of what they had to offer.  We each did two full body mud treatments where we covered ourselves in mud, sat in the sun to let it dry and then washed it off in their mineral springs.  The mud felt a little itchy but we think it made our skin softer.  The mineral spring was like a lagoon, separate from the lake with boards on the botton.  I (Debi) also got a massage-which felt amazing!  Isabela was the  masseuse and she used an egg first that she rubbed all over me (whole, not cracked) to cleanse my aura.  After the treatment she told me to go to the crocodile pen and huck the egg  in there with all my bad energy using my left hand.  I did that and I think it worked :)

Our cabin on the edge of the water

waiting for the mud to dry

that's a croc

view from our cabana

 Our second full day at Nanciyaga we took out a canoe with the intention of checking out La Isla de las Chagas, Monkey Island.  Veracruz University released a few stumptailed macaques on this island years back.  It seems rather odd that these monkeys, native to Thailand are on a tiny island in this  lake.  It’s sad actually, they have become a tourist spectacle as the local “lanchas”, boats that can be rented bring tourists right up to the monkeys and feed them so people can take photos.  This happens all day long and it’s like a mini zoo that is not regulated at all.  In fact, we saw one boat captain bait his boat with fruit and a monkey jumped from a tree onto the boat.  Totally bizarre. 

exploited monkey

We continued paddling around a few more islands, watching and passing local fisherman.  The lake was rather calm and most of the traffic are rowboats.  We hoped to find somewhere to eat breakfast and after paddling for close to 2 hours we made it.  The food at Nanciyaga was a little pricey and super gluteny, no choices for Bryan. 

paddling around

The cabin we had was lovely, there was a small porch with a hammock and the bed was the nicest we’ve had in Mexico (actually since Atlantic City, NJ!) with super soft sheets.  We enjoyed walking the trails around Nanciyaga, there was a lot of creativity and thought put into the buildings and stonework. 

pathways around Nanciyaga...just lovely

our little cabin, there's garlic hanging in the room to keep bad spirits away

At Nanciyaga it felt like our honeymoon.  There were other couples staying there too and the place seemed to be perfect for lovers.  We relaxed, rejuvenated, and shared our appreciation for our  surroundings and each other.

beauty in the details

Catemaco misty mountains

an amazing image captured by Bryan

Thank you Nanciyaga! It's great to be here.

Today we slept in and biked a simple 9 kms back to the town of Catemaco.  We are spending the night in a cheap hotel in order to do errands like groceries, internet and preparing for the leg ahead.  We’re about to get to the state of Oaxaca….we hope to be there for a while.  We’re heading directly to the Pacific Coast in order to scope out a place to rent for us and visiting friends and family in April.  Once we find said place we hope to store our bikes until then and travel by bus to Mexico City, the city of Oaxaca and anywhere else we feel like backpacking to.  There’s also a Monarch Butterfly Preserve that sounds intriguing as well.

We have about 400km ahead of us to reach our destination.  We’ll be staying places along the way that we don’t know much about yet.  But we’ll surely share it here when those adventures happen.

Happy trails!
Debi and Bryan


5 Responses to “Soaking up Lake Catemaco”

  1. 1 Frank

    You guys are great. The pics bring a bit of warmth to the snow covered Jersey Shore.
    The area where we met is covered with 2+ ft of snow and ice. Enjoy the road ahead of you.

    Bike cop

  2. 2 Kate Cross

    From February in Northern In , I thank you! And Happy Valentine’s Day! Love to you both, Aunt Kate

  3. 3 john friedrichs

    Hello Friends!……Just reading your most recent additions warm me up!……All the snow that weve been getting this winter has ,shall we say,lost its novelty to say the least….My work is slow but promising for the Spring.Ive been in touch with Russ Rocco and Laura as they head East across New Mexico.I mentioned that we were in touch and they also knew of your expedition South……Small World……….Best to You both………John

  4. Hey Ya’ll,
    I am from Texas but have lived in the Tampico/Madero area for 10 years now. I have 2 sons and a wife all in Tampico. I wish we could have invited you to our home when you passed thru Tampico. It sounds great your adventure trip thru Mexico. I have been to all the places you mentioned including staying at the Los Reyos hotel there just before the turn off to CD. Victoria. Also Nuevo Padilla is a very nice little town close to Lake Guerra.
    If you pass back my way give me a shout and we have some apartments and a little ranchito that we built. You are welcome to stay long as you like. It is only 15 minutes from the beach there in Tampico.
    I am at present time in Osaka, Japan on a job but will be returning home the first or second week of April. Have fun and be safe.
    Best regards, Millard

  5. 5 Mo

    Wow…these pictures keep getting better & better! I hope you guys are going to have a massive picture- framing party when you get back. I will pay for the art.

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