Saturday, February 8, 2014

Santa Martha Cave Paintings Hike

Beth and I wanted to do a tour to see the cave paintings in the mountains near San Ignacio. We had 3 choices: (1) a 2-hour drive followed by a 5-minute walk to a site with a small mural, or (2) a 2-hour drive to a different location, followed by an hour's hike to the paintings...a large mural, or (3) a 3-day journey into a canyon with multiple paintings. We couldn't do #3, so we chose #2....I like hiking. So we set off in the driver's van to Santa Martha.
Before we left San Ignacio, we had to stop and get a permit to visit the site and pay a fee that allowed us to take photos of it.
The paintings are in those mountains....hence the 2-hour drive down a dusty road.
Beth and me near a cactus that is over 100 years old.
There are a few ranches out along the way, and the livestock is free range.
Approaching the mountains.

Driving through a cactus forest.
Passing one of ranches.
The black "wire" we see alongside the road is really a hose that we are told carries water from Santa Martha to the ranches.

Our guide stops to pull trash off the cactus...being a responsible citizen and caretaker of the land.
Ok, do you see the little horizontal black slit about halfway up the mountain? That's our cave...yikes.
Zoomed in.
Before we begin our hike we have to stop at this ranch and sign a log book. Looks like it was laundry day....the wash is drying on the fence.
Turkeys drinking from a watering trough.
We could hear what sounded like cow bells coming down the road. The goat herders are moving the goats to pasture. (Not sure what "pasture" means for them...not much grass around here)
Driving to the trailhead we get another glimpse of the cave.
Our guide awaits...young and healthy, and speaks no English. The driver waited for us here. Tp be honest, he tried to talk us out of this hike...."muy difficulte," he said.
The guide did a lot of this....waiting for us to catch up.
Off we go into the canyon.
So far so good...
Looking up at the mountains.
There's the cave up ahead.
Zoomed in, you can see the stairs and walkway. Bear in mind that the natives didn't have stairs and walkways.
Really zoomed in you can begin to see the murals.
Beth and I are breathing hard....the guide is waiting.
The trail gets rockier and steeper.

Poor Beth is about to collapse. She decided to stop and rest and told us to go on without her.
I made the guide stop two more times so I could rest, but I finally made it....just because I was determined to. The guide unlocks the gate that protects the site from vandals.
Oh....more climbing. I had to stop and breathe halfway up the stairs too. Then I conked my head on that tree because I was looking at my feet.

The paintings were of deer and people. Two colors, red and black.
I'm guessing the natives had ladders to reach those high walls. Some of the men appear to have their hair in a topknot.
There were more paintings outside of the "cave," but they were faded.
The view from there.
Faded painting of a deer.
View from one end of the walkway to the other.
All of the people are depicted with their hands up like someone was pointing a gun at them. Or maybe it was a worship pose, or just how they depicted people in general. We'll never know because all of the native people were wiped out by the introduction of European diseases such as smallpox. There are no descendants.
You can't get a sense of this awesome site from pictures. It's so impressive to be here on the side of the mountain and imagine the people who lived here and painted in this place. You can't get that from a museum or magazine.
Just as the guide and I started comes Beth! She's just as determined as I was, and just kept coming at her own pace.
I waited here until Beth was finished looking....I didn't really want to climb those stairs again.
And here's the guide waiting for us again. We were just as slow going down as up because the rocks were slippery.

Can you see our van way down there?

And we made it and began our trip back over the dusty road.
Past the ranches.
And past the Three Virgins Volcanoes. Thermal wells at the base of these volcanoes provides electric power to the town of San Ignacio.
We spent three more nights in San Ignacio enjoying kayaking on the blog post.


  1. Wow, what a hike. Kudos to the both of you!

  2. That certainly was a rough trip but glad you both made it and got to see the sights at the end of the trail. Too bad you weren't able to communicate with the guide to enjoy the hike more.


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