Mind Body Wellness: Chasing Waterfalls on Sacred Land

With the rainy season coming to an end, I recently realized I was running out of time to visit the nearby waterfalls while they were still flowing hard from the summer storms. Believe it or not, I’ve never been to any of the waterfalls within an hour or two drive of Sayulita, but have been wanting to check them out for a while. A few weeks ago, I finally headed out on a mini adventure with my sights set on Altavista.

Waterfalls have always been considered special places in most cultures. They are seen as sacred, representing the release of emotion, spiritual cleansing, and rejuvenation. Altavista is no different and has a rich history of indigenous use, which can be seen all over the place on the way to what has been deemed the King’s Pool. There are petroglyphs, offerings from locals, and signs explaining the history of the land and the people who called it home.

Before I get too far, I should mention that Altavista is also the name of the town in which this sacred land is located. On our first trip there, I made the mistake of following my google maps all the way up the hillside to the town itself, where we found an amiable man who offered to guide us back to the entrance of the trail.

He ended up taking us through his friend’s orchard, which required more walking but not as much questionable driving with our less than ideal for this type of thing car. Once you get to the trailhead, the hike through the jungle and along the river is calming, beautiful, and will provide plenty of opportunities to see a variety of petroglyphs. The carvings tell the story of the Tecoxquin people, their wars for the land, the way they interacted with the earth, and their devotion to their gods.

Along the way, there are offerings of food, money, animal bones, and artwork from people who still hold this land sacred and visit to communicate with spirit. Some of the most common themes in the petroglyphs are spiraled images, depictions of water and animals, and a portrait thought to represent the god of corn. This “Maiz Man” is said to have symbolized fertility and growth.

The distance from the trailhead to the Kings Pool is not far, and you will know it when you see it. Never having been during the dry season, I can only imagine it empties out, but when we were there it was about four or five feet deep, and the waterfall was flowing straight through the central hole into a shallow pool below.

Having a guide was a huge plus. He was able to tell us stories about what the pool was used for, how it was set up like a stadium to watch human sacrifices, and where the king and other important people sat. The picture he painted was straight out of a movie, violent, but sacred and done with purpose.

Being there I felt close to nature, taking a moment to lay on the rocks and let the waterfall rush over me. If you have read this column before you know that embracing my personal connection to the earth is one of my favorite ways to ground myself when I’m feeling anxious, or things get too busy. I loved this place so much that we went back with friends less than a week later.

If you are interested in visiting the waterfall and petroglyphs at Altavista, you can find more information online. Keep in mind that the waterfall is likely seasonal, and the road to the trailhead is a little rough.

Sarah Johanna is a freelance writer and researcher. At the beginning of 2017, she left her typical New York City life to travel and gain insight into how we relate to the natural world. Sarah manages Haus of Healing, a travel and lifestyle blog focused on exploring the themes of nature and mysticism in connection to health and wellness.