Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Weather

El Cuale Road Trip

El Cuale the source of our Rio Cuale.

View of Puerto Vallarta from the Sierras.

View of Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta

It’s been 12 years since I visited the village of El Cuale, at the head waters of our Rio Cuale.
Then I arrived by horseback from Talpa de Allende on my way to El Tuito. Not a lot has changed, the Aborrotes store where we rented a room that time is now painted green instead of red, but there’s still a very loud juke-box next door that services the whole village with music, though now I had to endure Hip-Hop in Spanish.

El Cuale Church
El Cuale Church
Street in Cuale
Street in Cuale
Arrival in El Cuale.
Arriving in El Cuale
Leaving El Cuale in the morning.
Saddle up !
Tia Lydia in El Cuale.
Lydia Reyes' Aunt
El Cuale.
The church from town.

This time 3 friends of mine and I drove from Puerto Vallarta. Kevin & Leon – avid orchid hunters and Reyes, bartender from Que?Pasa who’s aunt Lydia owned the previously mentioned Aborrotes store. We gathered at Que?Pasa at 8:30 am and with a full tank and a case of beer, then set off up the Rio Cuale.

It’s a dirt road after Paso Ancho and dusty, the beer was for this ! reasonably well signposted, there’s really only one fork in the road where you need to take the right fork, or end up on your way to Talpa. Slowly climbing over some ridges that must have been over 7,000ft, at one, about half way, you could look back and see the bay and the white reflections of the hotels in Nuevo Vallarta. Photo above.

We then came to a long valley, at the far end the village of Las Mesas, and above it another mountain, behind which we would find El Cuale.

Climbing up this last obstacle, we entered a pine forest, very beautiful, and after cresting the ridge, we later came across old abandoned mine workings, with brick smelting ovens. Then into El Cuale after crossing a bridge over the Rio Cuale, which is just a small stream up there.

Reyes was in charge of finding us a place to sleep and he’d already telephoned the day before. We find our landlord Izak, and get our room with 4 beds for 50 pesos each. It’s really cool inside of the adobe building, with walls 2 feet thick, at least 10 degrees lower than outside, which was hot, even at 4,600 ft.

The beds were OK, well mine was, heard some complaints about springs ! 2 sheets, 2 pillows and a very thick blanket. Bathroom outside required a bucket of water to flush, the shower require lighting a wood fire under the water boiler and we shared the yard with the owner’s chicken.

After slaking our thirst, it was dusty on the way up, we went off to hunt for orchids. This entailed a long ride on a really miserable dirt road, but eventually we found some nice specimens including a couple that we have never seen before. Returning triumphant, we drank quite a few beers and at least half a bottle of Hornitas – shared with or guide, who got plastered.

Hungry, we went across the road to the only ‘Comida Corrida’ in town. 3 options, Beef Stew, Machaca or Chicken Mole (red), all at 40 pesos. Wonderful, fresh Blue Corn Tortillas and the grandchildren waitresses, were fast and quick with their service, and all of, maybe 9 years old.

Satiated, we retired, the thick adobe wall now gave us insulation from the cold night air, you needed a jacket out on the street, but we were toasty all night.

Such a pleasant quiet town, everybody was very friendly to these gringos who descended on them, everyone passing would say “Buenos Tardes” or “Buenos Noches” when passing on their way to and from church, An uneventful drive back, but we were ready for a drink when we got back to Que?Pasa !

Here are the photos, showing the signs on the way up 6,000 ft to the the old Silver Mining Town of El Cuale.
The drive takes about 3 hours on a reasonable dirt road, but we would not suggest attempting it in the summer rainy season.