Exploring West of Veracruz City (part 5)

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Exploring West of Veracruz City (part 5)
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Exploring West
of Veracruz City
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Western
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E
XPLORING WEST
OF VERACRUZ CITY
This trip travels west from Veracruz City to Córdoba,
Fortín de las Flores, and Orizaba. Take a look at the
driving route on page V-2 to see the route from
Veracruz City.
Highway 150, an excellent four-lane toll highway, intersects the road leading from the
Veracruz airport. Turn west toward Mexico
City. You’ll climb from flat lush grasslands, to
rolling green foothills, to the steep, carved
volcanic slopes of the Sierra Madre Oriental
mountain range. Towering snow-capped volcanoes loom in the distance, like beacons.
Your first stop is at Córdoba and its neighbor
Fortín de las Flores.
CÓRDOBA
98 km west of Veracruz City; elevation 817 m.
Córdoba is located in the heartland of central Veracruz
State, 266 km from Mexico City and 98 km from the
port of Veracruz. It is located at 817 meters above sea
level, and its climate is temperate and wet with an
annual average temperature of 19° C, and abundant
rainfall in the summer and early fall.
The territory of Córdoba lies along the foothills of Pico
de Orizaba and is surrounded by valleys and mountains belonging to the Sierra Madre Oriental. The
economy is based on farming, including the growing of coffee, sugarcane, beans, corn, squash, plums,
and mameys, and livestock. Related food processing
industries generate thousands of
tons export-quality food items
every year.
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CÓRDOBA continues
For centuries Córdoba was an
important way station for overland caravans between Mexico City
and Veracruz. In the 18th century it
became an important sugar industry
center, with nearly 50 mills.
This sturdy colonial town (pop.
330,000) is today a thriving commercial center with some traffic and
sprawl, but an attractive main square. The surrounding
hills are blankets of green jungle interspersed with crop
and pasture land.
Two interesting historic events took place here. Córdoba
was founded in 1618, when 30 men from the neighboring town of Huatusco arrived to catch escaped black
slaves from local plantations. The fugitives were led by
Yanga (prince in his native language), son of the king of
the Yang-Bara tribe. The Spaniards were forced to found
a town on Las Lomas de Huilango (Hills of Huilango) to
protect the Spanish Crown’s interests. These 30 men were
later recognized as the ‘Thirty Knights.”
Its greatest moment came in 1821, when Spanish forces
were defeated here by the Mexican insurgent army. That
same year the Treaty of Córdoba was signed, finalizing Mexico’s independence from Spain. Interestingly, the
Treaty set up a Monarchy in Mexico, that survived until
1824 and a new Constitution (closely modeled after the
American Constitution) was ratified.
Head first to the Plaza de Armas, a spacious main square
fringed with arched porticos and outdoor cafes. The tancolored La Parroquia Church is an 18th century wonder, with two tall bell towers and an impressive 24-carat
gold altar. At the opposite side is the handsome Palacio
Municipal, the city’s striking city hall. The town hall was
built in 1905 on the Plaza Central in a Florentine Tuscan
style, with French touches. Also around the square is the
Hotel Zevallos (not really a hotel, but a former residence, and
now a restaurant). It was the site of the signing of the Treaty of
Córdoba.
Take time to see the church of Amatlán de los Reyes. It was
built in 1557 and it was here, on April 26, 1618, that a high mass
with choir was celebrated for the Thirty Knights who founded
Córdoba. The Museo de la Ciudad exhibits major archeological
findings from the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, Teotihuacán, and Totonac
cultures.
Interesting historic and nature attractions are found in the outlying area. These include the Cascada de Atoyac (waterfall of
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Pico de Orizaba Facts
Elevation: 18,491 feet (5,636 meters)
First Ascent: First known ascent by William
Reynolds and G. Maynard (US soldiers) in 1848 during the Mexican American War. It
was probably climbed earlier by locals.
Fast Facts:
• Orizaba is also called by its Aztec name Citlaltepetl, which means “Star Mountain.”
• Orizaba is the third highest mountain in North America, with only Denali (Mt.
McKinley) in Alaska and Mount Logan in Canada being higher.
• Orizaba is the highest peak in the world between 10 and 20 degrees north latitude
and the highest volcano in North America.
• Orizaba is located 120 miles east of Mexico City on the border of the Mexican
states Puebla and Veracruz.
• Orizaba is a huge dormant volcano that last erupted between1545 and 1566.
• The volcano formed during the Pleistocene epoch, over a million years ago.
• Orizaba is visible on a clear day from the Gulf of Mexico and the city of Veracruz
over 60 miles to the east.
• Orizaba is relatively easy to climb, but requires competence with an ice axe, crampons, and rope. The climb crosses snowfields and a small glacier. The high altitude
can also affect climbers. The traverse along the crater rim to its high point summit is potentially dangerous—a slip leads either into the crater or down the steepsided volcano.
• Mountain climbing season is in winter, which is just the opposite of the other
North American climbs. This makes Orizaba a very popular destination from
November through February. The climbers (and tourists) come from all over North
America with some from Europe and beyond.
Source: www.climbing.about.com
Atoyac). Two old railway tunnels built in the nineteenth century are
used to reach the waterfall. Remains of the Chapel of the Hacienda
de Guadalupe, located 4 km from Amatlán de los Reyes, is believed to
be where the first coffee plant, brought from the island of Cuba, was
planted on the American mainland.
As for accommodations, Córdoba has over 1,800 rooms in some 50
properties. Most are of the two-three star variety. However more modern facilities (four-star) cater to businessmen, tourists and travelers.
See Lodging Directory.
FORTÍN DE LAS FLORES
A ten-minute drive (7 km) toward the northwest is this fragrant and
relaxed village. On clear days Pico de Orizaba towers above the village. From April-June the town’s many gardens, nurseries and plazas
blossom with gardenias, orchids, azaleas and camellias. Apart from
this, the town has little to see or do. There is however, a restful, wellkept hotel (Hotel Fortín de Las Flores) and a pleasant main square.
A winding two-lane road (Highway 125) leads north from Fortín
through the deep carved foothill of the Sierra Madre Mountains.
Although somewhat treacherous, the drive is scenically stunning.
Along the way, you’ll drive through the city of Huatusco. On the outskirts of town is the modern yet oddly located hotel Los Cocuyos
Hotel Resort & Golf Club. From here you can continue to Coatepec
and Jalapa (both covered in an earlier chapter).
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ORIZABA
In a region richly endowed by nature, Orizaba is
home to unrivalled landscapes and the highest
mountain in Mexico and Central America, Pico de
Orizaba. At 1,285 meters (4,216 feet), Orizaba City’s
climate is temperate and wet with an annual average temperature of 18° C, and heavy afternoon rainfall in the summer and early fall. Vegetation here is
diverse and abundant, with cold pine tree forests,
and the Río Blanco with several tributaries. This location, at the bottom of the ascent into the mountains,
is an important transit point. Since pre-Hispanic
times the main trade route between Mexico City and
Veracruz flowed via this valley. Today, corn, sugarcane, oranges, bananas, and cattle ranching
are major activities
pelling, and mountain biking. From the Cerro de Las
Antenas, one of the most exhilarating sports -- paragliding - is popular.
The city center is a bit disheveled, with an industrial veneer that serves mostly to support the surrounding agricultural economy. Parking downtown can be difficult to find. The city buildings,
especially its churches and temples, are full of the
Baroque and Neoclassical architecture. A very
beautiful Art Nouveau building made of iron was
brought from Belgium and is now one of the most
important buildings in the city. It houses El Gran
Café de Orizaba, the Museo de la Cerveza (Beer
Museum), and municipal offices.
A companion peak lying
about six km to the
southwest of the Pico de
Orizaba is Sierra Negra,
at 4,640 meters (15,223
ft). This subsidiary peak,
though far lower than its
massive neighbor, is still
higher than anything in
the 48 contiguous states
of the U.S. And on its
summit, serviced by the
highest road in North
America, is one of the
world’s premier astronomical instruments,
the Large Millimeter
Telescope.
Orizaba is an ideal place for adventurers and lovers of extreme sports.
The beautiful scenery of the Pico
de Orizaba Natural Park is Mexico’s
answer to Costa Rica: perfect for activities such as hiking, climbing, rap-
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