Cascada El Encanto

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I’m sitting in a cement baño with a door made out of loosely woven together vertical wooden slats. After an early morning session of wrestling the ocean’s rhythm, and soaking in a refreshing 10 peso shower, I’m enjoying being barefoot. I’m also quietly hoping that my four-day run without going the bathroom is about to end. A lot of ruckus is going on outside. I watch, waiting to resolve what the commotion is all about. Then through the spaces between the slats I see a man walking backwards, holding the back legs of a pig, then a pig walking backwards on his front feet, screaming for his life at the top of his lungs.

It turns out that when a pig screams in Mexico you quickly learn how many dogs are in the area. I’m often surprised by how many dogs occupy a single block around here. There are roof dogs, road dogs, dogs that beg stratagicially for food – positioning themselves in places that people are likely to be throwing out food scraps, societies of dogs, beach dogs, river dogs, farm dogs, and a few dogs that actually belong to humans.

Random thoughts pass through my mind. I recall the many comforts that are seeded by the single act of having a refrigerator. I remember Elaine and Phil’s nightly routine, and imagine Phil giving Elaine a foot massage. I think about the snow that is at their place right now, and fantasize about going to dinner with them again. I wonder what my friends are doing at this very moment. I imagine their laughs. Josh and Marcus would love this experience so much. I really wish there were here. It is strange not having the surge of intellectual discussions I’m used to. Phil, Marcus, Josh, Jeff – send me some emails! Marie and Maria are sorely missed, and quite frankly their energy is needed right now. And it’s been way to long without a dose Tom and Chris’ high quality wit. Every day I think about how sad it is that Marc didn’t make it on this trip. I miss looking up and seeing him trying to climb into the strangest places to get the right shot. Marc really knows what he is doing. I miss his passion. All of team death punch would really enjoy this. Deserts, pyramids, waterfalls, campfires, riding on top of Wiggles, butterflies, baby whales, newly hatched turtles, strange cities, tunnels, jungles… Yup this is like an extended team death punch excursion.

I feel a surge of excitement as my thoughts turn to the recent news – my request to participate in a very special “summer school” program in Germany has been approved! Lucas forwarded me an email telling me about the opportunity. Thanks Lucas. It is put together by about 10 of the 30 most influential minds in my field. It’s a concentrated whirlwind program titled ‘Physics and Philosophy of Time.’ Detlef Dürr (perhaps the worlds foremost expert of Bohmian mechanics) is an organizer along with Christian Wüthrich (a genius that I drove to San Diego once to meet, and then met again at the recent Philosophy of Science conference). Nino Zanghi (who often publishes with Dürr) is going to be there. And Tim Maudlin (one of my favorite math authors) is also going to be there. This is going to be great.

Although I’m in the middle of this excursion, I’m putting together a new interpretation of quantum mechanics. The crux of the new initiative stems from the insight that the state vector may represent ensemble states of the quantized vacuum. With that starting point all of the same math follows for quantum mechanical claims, but because the ensemble itself stems from a new set of axioms for the vacuum it provides a way to get beneath the formalism conceptually. I hope to get something formal written up before participating in Germany’s get together.

Success! The four-day streak is over.

Hours later we have made our way back up to the mountains. We are a bit lost and a bit sidetracked – picking wild oranges in a jungle. We have been searching for a waterfall that we heard about called Cascada El Encanto. Down dirt roads, through shallow rivers, past cows… We ran into a fence at the edge of another field. A Mexican was lying on his back sleeping near the fence. Upon hearing us arrive he stood up to greet us and request 50 pesos to pass. He also told us that when we arrived to the canyon we would have to rent a boat to get to the waterfall. We told him we didn’t need it, that we could swim there. He tried to convince us that it was impossible. Since we couldn’t afford the boat we knew it was possible to swim.

Arriving at the boat rental spot we locked up Wiggles and proceeded to enter the waters. Chihiro used her cold negotiation skills to rent a single lifejacket for 15 pesos – just in case the current has some surprises for us. Then we entered the wonderland. We began swimming up the slot canyon, with long jungle roots hanging from its walls. Everything about it was breathtaking. As we rounded a bend we saw the first waterfall, and as we approached that waterfall we caught a glimpse of the giant waterfall in the distance. Next up, rock climbing up the side of the canyon wall and over the first waterfall. Marie and Maria would have died for this place! Then we were back in the water making our way towards the towering wall of water. Our laughs we muddled and overcome by the loud roar of the water all around us. We couldn’t see anything as we tried to make our way back to the rear wall, water crashing all around us.

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A raft with a guide was carrying two girls up the canyon. He showed them how to climb the rock walls, and then the dragged the raft up the cliff so the girls could reboard and experience being under the falls while in the raft. After getting more than their fill of water in their face they were ready to depart. We all joined them for the ride off the first waterfall. I knew well before we approached the falls that I was going to be thrown from the raft. I was on the wrong side. No matter, I intended to swim back anyway. What better start the swim then to be thrown from a raft as I go over a waterfall? J

This place is being added to my list of favorites. I vaguely remember seeing it featured in a National Geographic article that I read in prison. It’s amazing to think that the fantasy that was once formed, from the inside of those walls, has now been lived. What’s more is that I got to live that fantasy with someone that is a permanent part of my life – Angela. Now I just have to convince all of you other permanent parts of my life to come live some of this with us.

Love to all of you.


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19 Responses to Cascada El Encanto

  1. KatieRose says:

    Ah Thad, we are living this with you. When you write and post pictures then I have the opportunity to live it with you. I’m enjoying all your experiences as well. I could almost feel the water fall as you tumbled over it. So much fun. 🙂

  2. Rico says:

    Thanks for posting so many pictures of Téotihuacan!! It reminded me of my Mexican adventure during the Harmonic Convergence in 1987 … during the key night a group of us stayed all nite on the top of El Castillio at Chichen-Itza!! It was a trip … in many ways similar to what you are experiencing!

    From what I’ve seen of your itinerary, it doesn’t look like you are planning to go to Palenque & there is another water site, Aqua Azul, that also shouldn’t be missed!! You are going to be so close to them once you get to Villahermosa. It looks like you are planning a coastal route. May I humbly suggest that you go inland to Palenque and then up to Etzna and then to Campeche. You have seen plenty of water, but these incredible Mayan sites are the kind of energizing that you are seeking for your trip to Germany!

    Contemplate how the Mayan’s could align their pyramids with Venus Cycles and the solstices etc, w/o modern tools!! They had the concept of ‘zero’ in their math. What other indigenous civilization could say that?! Every experience you’ve had so far has been fantastic, no doubt!, but going to these incredible sites are life altering … at least they were for me! Then again I’m a student of Mayan sites and all things related to Maya.
    Angela as an archeologist would find these essential to her knowledge of Mexico, Maya and indigenous peoples! And you would see the multi-dimensional aspects of the Mayan Calendar. How they could conceive of cyclical infinite time. Have you read any of Jose Arguelles’ works?!? Here is your chance to live what he taught!

    Thanks for posting all that you have so far! KatieRose and I look forward to every post and picture!! Naturally, having Angela on this trip is … just as her name describes … Angelic and truly an ecstatic Blessing for all of you!!

    • Thad Roberts says:

      Thanks for your suggestions 🙂 We are adding Agua Azul to the route 🙂

      • Rico says:

        I’m guessing that you will also stop at Palenque since you’ll be so close! I only mentioned Aqua Azul because I know how much you love the water … BUT … Palenque is way more empowering than water!! Fit it in somehow … you won’t be disappointed!

        • Thad Roberts says:

          Yes of course! As it turns out, Palenque was scorching hot all day, but beautiful. Just before the entrance we found a beautiful waterfall with a dark cave behind the waterfall that went back quite far. It was the highlight for me :-). Aqua Azul was gorgeous. The water and formations reminded me of the falls in Havasupai but it was much broader. There were danger signs posted up all around the water, but thankfull the Mexicans let us explore and swim around anyway. What a place :-). Thanks for the tips Rico.

          • Rico says:

            GREAT … I wish I could have been there with you all!! I just knew that you would like it! Now … go on up to Ednza … that is a magnificent site that you can’t miss … trust me. It could be transformational … there is that much energy there!
            Love you guys!

          • Thad Roberts says:

            Rico – We are on it 🙂 Please advise about the best Cenotes to visit in the Yucutan area (names of the ones you think are best, and where they are). We plan to hit Edzna, a few of the smaller ruins, head toward the two nearby Zonas de Cenotes (but don’t know yet which ones to try to go to), then go across to Cancun and explore Isla Mujeres, Zona de Lagunas y Cenotes, Xcaret, Cozumel (to bike the island), Xil-Ha (for the aquarium), and Tulum before going into Belize. Any info you can provide would help as you have had wonderful suggestions so far 🙂 Thank you.

  3. tom says:

    Hey Thad, Angela, Chihiro and Thomas,
    your pics nad adventures are great and i also feel drawn into the time machine of our imaginations and our memories to the time i was in mexico for 3 months back in 1978 and 1984. Those are still some of the best times of my life.

    I think the FUN that exudes from your photos is what reminds me that we all need that in our lives. I have so much fun seeing you guys have fun!!

    I am sad we missed each other in Mexico City. I will be there in about 9 days, but your adventures take you onward…..but just in case you return ….i will be at the Nikko Hotel from 27Feb – 01Mar…i will make sure i have lots of place to crash, in case you might be back in the ciudad!

    I thought a lot about you Thad when the Meteor hit Russia.

    Where in Germany will you be and when? If I don’t make it to Mexico, then maybe we can meet on this side of the globe.

    All the best to all of you ! FUN travels


    • JOsh says:

      Sounds like an absolutely amazing time!!!
      I’m already convinced!! and am trying to join ya all for those Gulf of Mexico sink hole islands!!! I’m hoping to have raised the money within 8 or 10 weeks :/

      Don’t worry, we’ll all send you some intellectual loving here soon 🙂
      And I’ll be working on getting more TDPers down there!!!!

    • Thad Roberts says:

      I’ll be in Germany from July 23rd to August 5th, in Basel, Stuttgart until the 29th, and then probably around Frankfurt (although this part is not planned as of yet). If you can meet up during the second half please let me know.

  4. Thad Roberts says:

    Thanks Josh!! We are looking forward to your visit. Joel and his girlfriend are joining us on March 1st for a week. We will explore the northern tip of the Yucatan then. Jeff and Dave are coming to join us for 20 days in Costa Rica. Aubrey, Jason, you and Marcus are still supposed to join at some point, and Marie is going to do the entire Caribbean with us (fingers crossed). You will love this Josh!!!!

  5. Jose Arteaga says:

    That summer school sounds so cool man!!! The people you talked about that will be in it and stuff, it should be an adventure in of itself!

    Dude, I’m really glad to have met you guys. Just knowing that you guys are out there doing this helps me be a bit more adventurous too. I will keep reading your blog, keep us updated on the journey!

  6. Rico says:

    WOW!! Thanks for your kind words and I’m so pleased that you found Palenque and Aqua Axul to be worth the trip alteration!! I’m just blown away that you are also going up to Ednza!! They have been working on restoring this site for the last 25 years and it has to be even more powerful than when I was there last!! It is not a very highly visited site because its so out of the way. It makes one ask the question WHY would so much energy be put into building such a huge site all by itself out in the middle of nowhere?!? Well I’ve been there twice and the last time we were the only visitors, so we had to it all to ourselves! I feel that it magnificently transformed me in many ways; about life, the process of how Eternal Beings could occupy mortal earthly bodies and come to realize while comprehending their place in the Universe!!

    It would seem to me that the road you will be on will take you to Uxmal and the Puuc Ruins. So I don’t see how you could not at least stop at Uxmal. It is a VERY major site and very popular. They have restored this site into a magnificent must see set of buildings. I spent several days there … you probably won’t have the time to see all of this but you should at least see the Temple of the Magicians!! … after this site the road will take you thru to Merida on your way to Cancun.

    I was more of a site specialist, so I didn’t really a keep track of cenotes. Of course on your way to Cancun, you will have to go thru Chitchen-Itza AND they have the most popular and deeply investigated Cenote perhaps in the whole Yucatan! There are others, some of which you have mentioned, all are also interesting and popular.

    So glad that you are also going to Tulum!! Not a spectacular building site, especially after seeing those we’ve mentioned above, but here is were they sent the burnt out priests after years of managing huge crowds … (my feeling on this!)

    Take plenty of pictures so that we we get together we can compare how they have improved the restoration process!
    Love you Guys … we are there with you in Spirit and our Prayers!!
    Rico & KatieRose

    • Thad Roberts says:

      Rico and KatieRose,

      Your question seems to me to have a very clear answer. Almost all conscious human actions are done in an attempt (whether veiled, direct, or complex) to increase one’s own social status. Pyramids were the central mark of individual Mayan civilization’s status, showing a direct comparison to nearby civilizations, organizing local power structures, and positioning people within a religious structure. They also provided centralized market centers, which amplified the power of specialization etc. The largest social difference between then and now is that the social norms, the options that we have for increasing our social status, have changed and multiplied. If we had been born in those days we would probably have been excited to rise through the ranks as they were set up, to worship, to build, etc. Unless, of course we were among the very few rogues, which is a route to increasing one’s own social status in a completely different way, but would have probably gotten you killed back then.

      I don’t share your belief that we are eternal beings that occupy mortal earthly bodies. I am, however, often awestruck by the beauty of the exact opposite idea – that we are entropic consequences of biology, ecology; products of cause and effect and therefore causally connected to the entire history and future of the omniverse. I find myself smiling at the recognition that there is no free will, (in the non-compatibilist sense), and although I am clearly biologically programmed to experience the illusion of free will I have the intellectual capacity to see beyond that illusion. Places/experiences like this help me take pause over these issues. it gives me hope that more humans will connect to such beautiful ideas in the future.


  7. Rico says:

    See that you made it to Cancun! Would be interesting to find out how you liked Ednza! I’m hoping that you felt it was worth the visit! It would be great to see what it looks like today and how much rebuilding they have done since I was there last! I can totally believe that Uxmal was very commercial! … it was like that already in 1987!! But they did put on a good show … did you stay for that?!
    Glad you liked the Cenote at Chichen-Itza! even though you couldn’t go for a swim in it! What about the Castillo and the Observatory?! Did they figure out how to put the cone shaped musical instrument together in the last 25 years!? They probably didn’t let you climb up these pyramids like they used to …
    So glad that you are both OK!! Looking forward to your comments and especially your pictures! Thanks again for your postings!!

  8. Thad Roberts says:

    We loved Ednza. There were only a few people there the entire day we were there, and we got to climb around on everything – chasing the iguanas :-). Uxmal and Chichen-Itza were like Disneyland – commercial, overpriced, crowded, and full of “tourists.” It left me with strange feelings. I got to thinking about how there are so many people with the money to travel, but they don’t seem to be very happy while traveling. I get the feeling that most people don’t have very good relationships, both with themselves, and with their spouses. Not really putting anyone down, after all it takes a bit of practice to learn your relationship style and find someone compatible with it – while modern age society still paints a dangerous fairytale image in that regard that tends to corrode the most valuable parts of most humans that buy into it. My heart goes out to all of those that frivolously spend lots of money in a desperate attempt to feel alive, to feel loved, special, or part of something wonderful, without accomplishing it. So much money wasted that could go to so much better things, and the truth is that the things most people are secretly searching for are quite cheap – meaningful conversation, interaction, expression, love, feeling integrated with Nature, adventure, etc. I wish more people could feel what it is like to be completely accepted, to go through the cocoon stage and find their own wings, and then to get to explore and live without throwing away the money. One person at a time.