La Huasteca: Cave of Swallows
Get There: Off Highway 85, 15 kilometres west of Aquismon, San Luis Potosi
Cost: 30MXN entrance fee, 40MXN per person to camp overnight
Bring: Sure feet
Up on a hillside overlooking one of the Huasteca’s many giant green valleys, you’ll find a touristy restaurant or two and a small wooden office where you’ll pay to walk down into the Sotano de las Golondrinas, or “Cave of Swallows”. The “cave” is actually a gigantic hole in the ground, a hole 500-odd metres deep at its lowest point and about 60 metres across.
You reach the cave on a lengthy track down from the road, and there is no real way of preparing yourself for the moment the jungle floor turns to stone and you find yourself at the edge of a huge drop down into the bowels of the mountain. When we visited there was some precautionary tape strung around the edge in a half-hearted attempt to stop people getting too close to the edge, but that’s where all the fun is. Indeed, the only signs around ask visitors to refrain from yelling or screaming, presumably because the locals are sick of tourists shrieking all day behind their backyards. That said, it is worth giving one good shout or whistle, just to listen to your own voice echo back at you from deep within the earth. Cling to a tree or lie on the rocks with your head poking over the abyss and know fear.
There are a couple of campgrounds and palapas – rudimentary wooden shelters – set fifty metres or so back in the jungle with average facilities, but camping there is worth your while to see the literal millions of swallows that swarm in and out of the cave at dusk and dawn. If you’re around, it’s a sight that needs to be seen. Keep in mind that you need relatively decent weather for this to happen.
On the track down to the cave you’ll pass a couple of houses where people will offer a tour that includes rappelling right down to the bottom, a bit of a scramble around the tunnels on the cave’s floor, and then somehow – they were unclear how – ascending back into the world of the living. This does cost $4000 pesos (AUD$350 at the time of writing) and was therefore a bit beyond Global Hobo’s budget when we visited.
Need any more convincing? Here’s a video of a bunch of lunatics who evidently escaped from an insane asylum to go and base jump into the Sotano de las Golondrinas.