We’ve long proclaimed that the best part of any motorcycling journey often has little to do with the motorcycle. In our decades of riding the corners of the planet, I’ve had the great fortune of experiencing this first hand, and even better, sharing this philosophy with so many like minded riding adventurers.
Mexico never ceases to amaze me. We began our pursuit of offering motorcycle tours and adventures South of the Rio Grande back in 1981 and while we’ve since ridden over 40 countries, Mexico maintains a special place in our hearts. And for those of us in the USA and Canada, it is a convenient destination rich with great riding, exotic cultures and a colorful history. In other words, you need not go far to experience true riding adventure.
Let us take you to Las Pozas. It is a quirky, bizarre and most unexpected meandering of 80 acres of formed concrete art, climbing up tropical hillsides in the Huasteca region of Mexico state of San Luis Potosi. Spiraling staircases that lead nowhere, stone pathways, asymmetrical structures, some several stories high, all that by design have what appears to be an organic relationship with the surrounding jungle. Surrealism or the inspiration of a psychedelic altered state experience, you be the judge.
Located off of Mexico State Highway 120, the gateway near the town of Xilitla (shi-leet-la) to what is often referred to as the Sierra Gorda (one of Mexico’s premier motorcycling roads), Las Pozas (The Pools) is accessed by a kilometer-long dirt road taking you through lush vegetation and a smattering of simple abodes inhabited by natives whose lives are no doubt woven into the history of this remote and fascinating hidden man-made creation.
If the existence of this massive undertaking is not strange enough, the backstory of the artist and his life in this remote region of Sierra Madre Oriental is just another reason why we have come to love Mexico and its treasures. Here, truth is always stranger than fiction.
His name was Edward James. An English eccentric and beneficiary of millions in inheritance, he found his privileged royal lifestyle in the West Dean House Estate, to be stuffy. In 1947 his travels would land him in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Here he would befriend the handsome Plutarco Gastelum, manager of the local telegraph office. James enticed his new friend (and widely suggested, lover) to be his Mexico guide . They would together discover the remote mountain hideaway in the Huasteca country, land was purchased and James would begin a twenty year obsession overseeing the construction of the concrete structures, gardens of many thousands of orchids and a collection of jungle wildlife. His circles would include the likes author Aldous Huxley, artists Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso and a collection of notable gentry.
Edward James, restless and possibly despondent after Gastelum, his long time friend and companion, married a young woman, left Mexico, only occasionally returning to Las Pozas. The care of the garden of art was left to Plutarco and his growing family. James died in 1984 at the age of 77 while on travels in Europe. Lacking the funds to maintain Las Pozas, the animals were returned to the wild, the orchids would wither and the jungle gradually began to consume the handiwork and creations of James and his army of workers. The Surrealist movements of the 20th century did have its fans however and a foundation was eventually created to preserve James' creations. Las Pozas continues to experience a struggling renaissance with an ongoing program to promote what is said to be the only Surrealist inspired garden of its kind in the world.
Should your two wheels ever be rolling through Mexico along the twisting, often cloud-shrouded mountains of the Sierra Gorda, be sure to make your way to Xilitla and visit Las Pozas.
It is in the middle of nowhere. That is the attraction. It will again remind you that the best part of your motorcycling adventure goes beyond just the ride. Viva Mexico!
Skip Mascorro is founder of MotoDiscovery, a Texas based operation that since 1981 has facilitated motorcycling adventures around the world. Having shared the road with motorcycle touring enthusiasts in 42 different countries, the company was knownas Pancho Villa Moto-Tours, an early pioneer in organized motorcycle travel throughout Old Mexico. Las Pozas is a frequent stop on the MotoDiscovery Colonial Mexico 9 Day Tour