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The descent into the canyon of Chavarillo

Thursday, November 2, 2006 | 0 comments

Today Esme and I went to the town of Chavarillo, which is not far from Xalapa. Close to Chavarillo is a deep canyon. We had descended into this canyon several times, and found very interesting wildlife.

The canyon near Chavarillo.
The canyon near Chavarillo.

But for today we had planned to walk to the canyon from a different direction, and trying to reach its bottom. I had made a print out of the area using Google Earth to guide us.

Close-up of a open seedpod with seeds showing.
Close-up of a open seedpod with seeds showing.

And thanks to this excellent map we were able to locate the path we wanted to follow very easily. We passed a few buildings for keeping farm animals, mainly pigs.

Coffee berries.
Coffee berries.

After we had passed the buildings we turned to the right and soon found a small but easy to follow track that would lead us down to the bottom of the canyon. I looked under some stones to the left and the right of the track whenever possible, hoping to find a scorpion. But no such luck.

The canyon near Chavarillo.
The canyon near Chavarillo.

When we reached the small river at the bottom of the canyon, I noticed a big female Golden silk orb-weaver (Nephila clavipes), a large spider that looks very frightening but is in fact quite harmless.

Female Nephila clavipes (Golden orb-weaver).
Female Nephila clavipes (Golden orb-weaver).

Esme and I decided to have a short break and drink a little, and eat a sandwich. We both enjoyed the view. The only sound we could hear was the soft murmuring sound of flowing water and some birds in the distance. Now and then a butterfly flew past us, following the flow of the small river.

The small river at the bottom of the canyon.
The small river at the bottom of the canyon.

Esme and I continued our walk, following the river into the direction of our earlier visits. Suddenly I noticed a big fat frog in the river, close to the shore. But when I got closer it was clear that it was dead. Nearby we found tracks in the mud.

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I measured the size of one foot print, which was about 5 cm (see photo below). The distance between the front paws and the hind paws looks to be around 20 cm. I have no idea what kind of animal made those prints.

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We wondered if the animal had just checked out the dead frog and tried to get it, or just came here to drink water from the river. In the water we saw several tadpoles swimming around.

Female Nephila clavipes (Golden orb-weaver).
Female Nephila clavipes (Golden orb-weaver).

We continued our walk, which suddenly ended. Far below we saw the bottom of the canyon. We had already wondered why the trip down was so much easier here compared to the spot we had used several times earlier this year, and now in front of us was the explanation, the canyon made a huge drop.

Waterfall, in the background the canyon continues.
Waterfall, in the background the canyon continues.

The river made the same drop, resulting in a little waterfall. The view was wonderful, but I stayed away from the edge as much as possible and asked Esme to do the same. I am quite afraid of heights, but that was not the only reason. I had no idea how solid the edge was, and didn't want Esme or me to find out the hard way.

Female Nephila clavipes (Golden orb-weaver).
Female Nephila clavipes (Golden orb-weaver).

Nearby, to our right, I noticed another female Golden orb-weaver, so I took a few pictures of this magnificent spider.

Female Nephila clavipes (Golden orb-weaver) against the blue sky.
Female Nephila clavipes (Golden orb-weaver) against the blue sky.

Descending was impossible, so we decided to climb the left slope of the canyon, which from our point of view looked like a hill, covered with coffee plants.

This blog entry continues in Climbing the slope of the canyon of Chavarillo.

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