Next morning, got up at 5AM, and by 5:30AM, we were on the way to the cave. This is actually a conical cave, with the top of the cave open (about 50m wide), and thousands of swallows nest inside the cave (320m deep). These swallows leave every morning en masse, to forage for food, and come back to nest in the evening. The swallows leave the cave anytime between 6:30AM and 9AM; depending on the noise (or threat) level they hear from the outside.
So we drove uphill about half an hour in the pitch dark to get to the entrance; paid the entrance fee, and with about 20 other people, started climbing down 600 steps to the top of the cave (still pitch dark). Arrived there in the dark, and waited patiently for the swallows to come out at 8AM.
The swallows come out by flying inside the cave in a counter-clockwise direction, and slowly fly their way up the cave flying conically by the hundreds. Once they reach near the top, they fly off in one direction to forage for food for the day. This goes on for over an hour; literally thousands of swallows fly out of the cave in this fashion, making a whooshing sound, like a gentle wind. The Park ranger arranged for people to lean over and see the bottom of the cave after getting properly secured by ropes to anchors to the solid rocks at the top of the cave. See video Golondrias
By now, the sun was coming up, and it was a bright clear day. Headed back to the car by climbing the 600 steps and headed back to the hotel.
After checking out, we started driving to a place called Xilitla, stopping at a roadside place for breakfast of egg, nopales, and ground chicken gorditas breakfast. This place was popular so should be safe.
Back on the highway, we turned off the main road, and the road started climbing up the mountains to the idyllic town of Xilitla; which is built upon the sides of hills; looked like a town in Switzerland. Very picturesque and a little cooler since it was in the highlands. After asking around we found the hotel we were looking for. Settled in, explored the town. Found the centro, which had a 500yr old convent and church, located in the town square, lively with food/vegetable/fruit sellers and people generally enjoying the day in the sun. Explored around, and found a barber shop and got my $3 haircut from the local barber.
Dinner was at a restaurant overlooking a river for fresh fish and shrimp dinner, cooked in the local cuisine. With Beer and water, the meal (with 3 entrees) in this mid-scale restaurant came to $12 for both of us.
Visited the Edward James gardens and surreal sculpture park called “Las Pozas”. Apparently, this Englishman had settled in Xilitla in 1947; grew orchids here, and when a frost killed all his orchids in 1962, he decided to build more permanent sculptures that would not be at the mercy of the weather and be much longer lasting. So he built a number of surreal architecture concrete sculptures & buildings which left a lot to the imagination. All these concrete structures are within dense vegetation and streams running through.
Next day, went back into the Xilitla town center, and after a local Huasteca breakfast at a nice family restaurant in the square and headed back to SLP.
Stopped for lunch at a roadside local restaurant where we had khima curry (local “picadillo de reys); made with ground beef, diced potatoes, carrots and onions. Delicious. Especially with the excellent local green salsa, and corn tortillas.
This area of Mexico was always clean wherever we went; streets were always clean with no litter in sight. Even the very small street-food and roadside food eateries were basic, very clean, with clean outhouses. We ate in such places, had great, tasty food, and did not get sick. The valleys in the Huasteca had a lot of citrus fruits (oranges, mandarins, tangerines) growing everywhere, together with sugarcane. Many juice stands everywhere for fresh squeezed jugo natural.
Drove back to RioVerde where we stayed at the converted sugar mill B&B again, and drove to SLP for our flight. This time, we drove back on Toll roads, which were extremely well kept, straight roads and not much traffic; saving a lot of time. Cost was about $8 for a 1-2hr drive. Not bad at all.
We highly recommend this Huasteca region of Mexico; it very beautiful, clean, and with very nice people everywhere.