Sunday, January 23, 2011
Leaving Mexico City to the east, the road climbs up past the summit of Iztaccihuatl, before descending past Puebla and crossing a dry, open plain. At the end of that plain lie the verdant highlands of Veracruz. Amid the sharp hills of this dramatic landscape, coffee grows in abundance beneath the broad fronds of banana plants. The region's economy is based around these small red beans, and in towns like Coatepec, the air is redolent with the smell of roasting coffee. Farther into the mountains, picnickers drive past vendors hawking cream liquors to reach a spectacular chasm cut through the lush forest.
Water flows plentifully out of these mountains, running down to the coast in great clear rivers. At the end of the highlands, this water bubbles up warm and sulfuric, a reminder of the restless geologic processes that formed the great range above. Tucked in the foothills, the hotsprings at El Carrizal attract families of tourists to a rustic hotel reminiscent of a fading summer camp. An hour east and descending to the coast, Veracruz, Mexico's great Atlantic port, is a whirl of activity, but amid the huge mossy trees at El Carrizal it feels much farther away.