7 Million Mosquitos and The Bridge of God
As we pulled out of San Luis Potosi at 8 am, we were quickly confronted with rush hour traffic. Ky handled it like the driving pro he is, and the crazy ebb and flow was similar to other places we’ve been. He actually enjoys driving like that. Maybe that’s why we get along so well – he puts up with (and I think secretly likes) my crazy ebb and flow ;-P .
As we zipped along on the toll road, the scenery quickly changed from the flat valley to a verdant, lush tropical landscape, that seemed a bit unusual in that there were still quite a lot of joshua trees and cacti mixed in with more tropical type trees.
We approached a sign that said “Aeropista” and Ky asked if I wanted to go. What a silly question – of course I wanted to go see what was there! We pulled off down a small one lane road and approached this friendly fellow.
After we explained why we were there and what we wanted to see (essentially, we were just being nosy and wanted to check out their airport), we had to show our driver’s licenses and my pilot certificate. After he went to get his superior, and after going through all the same questions again with the new fellow, they were extremely friendly. The higher honcho told us that although the military guards the airstrip, it is mainly used for agricultural purposes. He said “the” pilot would be landing within about 20 minutes (apparently there is just one pilot to head up the whole operation). The runway is about 100’wide x 4500′ long and it in great shape.
Sure enough, within 20 minutes (they keep a tight schedule), the Cessna 207 landed smoothly and easily with the windsock hanging limply.
We watched for a bit as some large box was being unloaded from the plane and placed in to the back of a pickup truck. We figured if it was something we were not supposed to see, that the armed guard would not have let us in to see.
The pilot climbed out, and as we approached the plane, he smiled broadly, and clearly didn’t mind us being there. For the next half hour, Fausto told us all about his work.
There is a lot of citrus grown in the area and there is a type of mosquito that lays it’s larva in the fruit and destroys it. His job is to fly above the citrus groves at about 300′ AGL (above the ground) with a large metal, temperature controlled box in the back with seven million mosquito “souls” on board. He releases them out of the bottom of the plane through two ejection chutes. The mosquitoes are specially bred sterile insects that do not bite. It is a technique that is an environmentally nonpolluting insect control called Sterile Insect Method (SIM) which has been successful in eradicating other types of infestations. He does about 18 flights a week. The cockpit was still crawling with leftover passengers that had decided they preferred to leave the flying to the pilot. Clearly they don’t bite, or who would be willing/able to stay in the plane with them!
Fausto patiently answered all my questions about flying and licensing in Mexico. He clearly loves his job and said he usually starts at about 6:30 am. He was done for the day when we spoke at 9:30. Someone else did all the work of unloading the empty box and refilling it before the next flight. We joked about the difference between being a commercial pilot and and Air Transport Pilot (ATP) and the advantage of having mosquito passengers rather than human passengers. He’s able to dump them out! I know there are times my professional pilot friends would like to dump at least some of their passengers!
It was a fantastic way to start to the day. We continued on our merry journey to a very small town called Tamasopo, still in the state of San Luis Potosi. This location was suggested by our new local friends at our Airbnb – knowledge from locals is really helpful. As much as I love visiting any airport, and this one was really interesting, our trip to Puente de Dios (Bridge of God) was the highlight of the day. It is just a short drive outside the small town. Oh My Gosh – talk about a beautiful area!
It is about 400 rock steps down to the river and at the bottom there is cavern about 50′ x 50′ that has been formed in the rocks by the water. After donning my wetsuit and water shoes (I’m a cold water wimp, and I was happy I had it), I jumped in. Ky was a gentleman to let me go first (and tell him if he was going to be cold – but he’s not a cold water wimp at all, so he was wetsuit-less ). You can swim all around in the crystal clear water, and there are ropes crossing it to keep the waterfalls that nearly encircle the cavern from pushing you around. There are rocks around the edges though, where you can stand up and look around at the beauty of the hanging plants and the water dripping from the edges that glisten like diamonds falling from the sky.
That was all great and there were never more than 6 or 7 people total in the water. Then we noticed a small hole with a rope going in to it…. well, we had to go in that small hole, of course! Sun rays enter in to a crevice from the far side of the tunnel and illuminate the water, creating a crystal clear blue glowing pool, a blue grotto! There are stalactites hanging from the ceiling (stalactites hang tight – that’s how you know they’re not stalagmites). It was not a huge area, probably about 20′ x 20′, but we had it completely to ourselves. There was a big school of small fish in it, but no Gollum, not dark enough. No waterproof camera with me today though, so if you want to see the grotto, you’ll need to go yourself – I recommend it!
Beautiful, just beautiful!