The Hot Springs at El Carrizal
A Restored Hacienda

Photographs and Text by John Todd, Jr.

A couple of years ago, we took a family outing on a Sunday to Los Baños Termales de Carrizal. I had never been to a thermal bath spa, and thought it might be a new experience. In those days the conditions were rather primitive, so I never went back.

Times have changed and now they´ve really fixed it up. Recently Don Adolfo Contreras began restoring the old hacienda and hot springs inherited from his grandfather.

Now the people at El Carrizal offer White Water Rafting at nearby Jalcomulco, and the spa is the gathering point where their guides will pick you up in a van.

In addition the hot springs is still used by people to cure a variety of ills including relief from the pain of arthritis.

In late January, my friend Carlos González invited me to go back for a visit to El Carrizal, and tag along with some people who organize tours. They had arranged for a personal tour with the owner, Mr. Adolfo Contreras.

As soon as we arrived, I realized it had changed a lot since I was last there, especially the old hacienda Don Adolfo is restoring. Now, I can hardly wait to go back.

How to Get There
How to Get There
El Carrizal is about half way to Xalapa in the mid range mountains so the ambiente temperature is a little warmer than Xalapa, and a little cooler than Veracruz.

It takes 30 to 45 minutes to get there.

The water temperature at the hot springs is always between 39 and 40 degrees Centigrade, slightly above body temperature.

The pool flows down into the river. There are also 3 other "normal" swimming pools.
The Spacious Restaurant
Don Adolfo Contreras
Don Adolfo and the Group
A Tour by the Owner
Since I was doing tour guide work, my friend, Carlos González, sales manager of one of the local bus companies in Veracruz , had invited me along with a group of tour representatives.

The others in the group were university students from Veracruz, and some school teachers interested in organizing local bus trips to interesting places close to Veracruz.

Over refrescos Don Adolfo Contreras, the owner of the hot springs, explained how he had inherited the old hacienda from his grandfather, and began development trying to keep the original flavor of Spanish colonial times.
Hot Pool
View of the Hot Pool
A Cure for Arthritis
During the week people come in wheel chairs and on crutches for cure from arthritis.

Don Adolfo told us he has seen a treatment which will dissolve calcium deposits and cure arthritis in 30 days.

Even though this was a Tuesday, there were a few people enjoying the warm waters.
other pool
A Normal Swimming Pool
The Original Business
Since before the arrival of the Spaniards, the hot springs were used by the Indians for healing.

Later people would come down from Xalapa and Puebla to enjoy the warmth of the water and the climate.

The hacienda among the tall mango trees, in addition to being a working ranch, was a place to come to rest and relax.

Gradually several swimming pools, dressing rooms, and a good restaurant were added.

Now, many people come here on the weekends from Veracruz and Puebla.
With the increased interest in white water rafting, Don Adolfo began offering rafting trips from Jalcomulco.

Although rafting is fun, safety is first.

Before anyone sets foot in one of the rafts, each person is given a 30 minute pre rafting safety class.

The equipment is first class and complete.

Don Adolfo wants to offer the best.
Steps up the Hill
Ecological Awareness
In the last 10 years, people have become more aware of ecology and want to come closer to nature.

Don Adolfo began offering white water rafting at Jalcomulco, up river from El Carrizal.

At the same time, there was a new awareness for the need for "retiros" or weekend retreats for groups and businesses to meet in a calm peaceful environment.

Don Adolfo began to restore the hacienda with this in mind.

His idea is to offer a place for families and as well as business associates to get away from high stress environments and enjoy the different activities available in the area.

After Don Adolfo´s presentation I took off on my own and went up the hill for a look around at the old hacienda and bungalows.
Friendly Hammocks
Unable to Resist a Hammock
Whenever, I see a hammock, I just can´t help myself and want to try it out.

There was nobody around, other than some friendly campesino workers, and the hammocks looked tempting.

Nobody said anything so I relaxed in one of the hammock looking up through the green leaves of the mango trees.

The hard part is mustering up the will power to get up from the hammock.

Small Patio
A Touch of Elegance
The group caught up with me and I followed Don Adolfo to the old hacienda he was restoring.

The main dining room complete with Spanish colonial furniture had a touch of elegance in a rural setting.

Another room was being restored as a formal meeting room, and the dining room will be left as a recreation area.

He even had a pool table for the kids next to the original fire place.

Don Adolfo, said, "Just let us know what you want."

"Our business is serve you the best we have to offer."

What is remarkable is the peacefulness of the area. It´s like a huge park with lots of room to walk undisturbed.

The Specialty
When I asked about the dining room, Don Adolfo says they serve the excellent food typical of this area of Veracruz.
Caldo de Mariscos
In addition to steaks, local seafood and acamayas which are large fresh water shrimp abundant in the river, is their specialty.

The Bungalows
Around the corner from the dining room and rec hall, Don Adolfo showed us some of the hacienda buildings he has converted into comfy bungalows.

I think Don Adolfo said he had 56 rooms in different parts of the hacienda.
A Quiet Bungalow
An Original Building
The Rocks are Heated for Several Hours
El Temascal
One of the activities offered at El Carrizal is the Temascal the history of which is lost in time. American Indians of the Southwest also call it a sweat lodge. Its purpose is to remove toxins and evil spirits.

The origin of the Temascal and the ceremony dates back to very ancient times here in Mexico.

And the ceremony is held at night. Out here at night it must be very dark!

In the middle of the Temascal is a pit for the hot lava rocks which heats up the Temascal. The top is covered with banana and other kinds of leaves.

During ceremony aromatic water is poured on the rocks producing steam which helps you sweat out the toxins in your body.

Everybody I´ve ever talked to said that it is a wonderful experience that leaves you feeling clean and refreshed both physically and mentally!
El Temascal
A closer look
A Closer Look
La Capilla
La Capilla
The Chapel
In the center of the hacienda complex is the original chapel which must have been the center of spiritual life in the raw countryside during the days when Mexico was a Spanish Colony.

On the way from Veracruz to Xalapa, the hacienda was a convenient way stop for weary travellers to spend the night along the old Camino Real.

The next day before resuming their trip, prayers were said for a safe journey through the remote bandit infested country.

Camino Real
The Original Camino Real
Camino Real
The Original Camino Real
El Río
The River Gives Life
The Río Antigua, also called, the Río de los Pescados, flows peacefully through the old hacienda.

As we approached the end of the tour, we went back to the river that Don Adolfo used to walk as a child with his grandfather.

He told us that on these walks, his grandfather told him this is the river that gave life to the original forefathers of Don Adolfo.

Just as the river of water gives us life, we must care for what we have been given. We must take care of the land for our children.
Timeless Roots
Off to One Side
Off to one side is an old retaining wall.

Over the years the roots of an old tree have grown up next to the wall.

Don Adolfo said he and grandfather used to sit here in the evenings and talk.

We thanked Don Adolfo for the tour of his hacienda, and he welcomed us back at any time.

As we drove away, he waved, "Vaya con Dios."

Go with God. "I hope you can come back soon."