Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Google Earth view of Cofre de Perote

Cofre de Perote is classified as a shield volcano, a type that has broad, gentle slopes built by the eruption of fluid basalt lava. The terrain is very interesting from this vantage point. The west side of Xalapa is actually built on the eastern hills of Perote. The area immediately around the peak is designated a national park.

The summit of Cofre de Perote

At the summit we reach the end of the road. For those with the wind power and strength there are stairs you can climb to reach the very top. I say you can use the stairs, but use may be restricted to use by the technicians who live up here and maintain the communications equipment. Someone has to fix the things that get blown away or replace the navigation lights that burn out. It occurs to me though, that Mexico being Mexico, you might just nose around and ask someone if you can climb to the tippy top. Good chance they might even take you for a guided tour. Certainly, no one would frown on you for asking in a friendly tone of voice. It is not like they are hounded by thousands of visitors and I have the definite sense that Mexicans in general are very proud of their country and genuinely enjoy helping visitors.

It is windy and cold up here so we don't tarry.

Nearing the top of Cofre de Perote

We are almost piercing the cloud ceiling now. The diagonal line in the photograph is the road we have just traversed. If you click on the photo the resulting enlarged view reveals the jagged surface of this cobblestone road. There is a very narrow shoulder and a very steep drop at this point. Here we would be at about 13,000 feet in elevation and the view is looking out towards the North. You almost have the feeling of being in an airplane, don't you? From here on there are several hairy switchbacks and the road gets steeper and steeper.

The road up Cofre de Perote

Posted by Picasa Western side of Cofre de Perote

Most visitors to Xalapa are probably familiar with, and have no doubt photographed, the Eastern side of this 4 250 meter (13,943 foot) extinct volcano, but I doubt a lot of them ever see the Western face. Perhaps because natives are aware the cobblestone road leading to the summit makes for a very uncomfortable ride and warn visitors off. The road is for sure not there to encourage visitors but to serve the maintenance people who maintain the communication towers and facilities that are situated here. I use the term "road" advisedly. To be honest, only adventurous visitors driving utility vehicles or trucks should make the trip to the top.

On a very clear night from my apartment in Xalapa I can make out the navigation lights on the communications towers that stud this peak 14 miles away. Usually in the early morning the summit is clear of clouds, but by mid-morning the clouds start forming and by afternoon clouds cloak the summit from view. This condition has been true during the summer months I have experienced life in Xalapa, but winter may bring a different set of weather conditions at the peak.

My companion drove right to the base of the rocky protuberance you see in this picture. The formation is actually what is left of the rim of the volcano, the rest having fallen away over the centuries. Some imaginative person gave the Spanish name Cofre de Perote (The Coffer of Perote) to the mountain based on ete shape of this residual part of the rim. If you squint just right it does resemble a treasure chest.

Smithsonian data reveals the last eruption occured around 1150 years ago, but the data is not clear about where exactly this eruption occured. There is a small vent on the northern flank of the mountain and it may be that the last eruption occured through this vent. I guess that is a question that requires more research. The main eruptions are quite old.

La Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil del Estado de Veracruz (OSJEV)

For those interested in the cultural life of Xalapa, the important news is that Xalapa is blessed with not one but two outstanding symphony orchestras. The famous one and it's little sibling, la Sinfónica Juvenil. That's Maestro Antonio Tornero the man in charge. I think he always wears a white jacket.

Like other youth symphony orchestras around the world, Xalapa's youth symphony is composed of young musicians and serves as a training ground, but this orchestra is definitely not in the minor leagues. You won't hear any screeching violins or sour off key clarinets because these young musicians are tops in their class and they study under some of the best teachers and coaches in the business. The maximum age of a member is 29 years, but I cannot tell from the official web page of OSJEV what the minimum age might be. I doubt they would turn away a prodigy though. Here is the official web site:

During their regular season, which should roughly correspond to the academic schedule of local universities, they present concerts in the Teatro Estatal, located a short distance from the main commercial district of Xalapa.

Now you want to hear the best part? Tickets are a great bargain. The better seats are 30.00 pesos and the economy seats are 20.00 pesos. I have listened from seats in each section and can not tell a bit of difference. The higher priced seats are of course closer to the podium, but for orchestral performances, I cannot see a great advantage. As for the acoustics in this sala, they leave little to be desired, but I should say perhaps people with better hearing acuity than me might say different.

For me, the two or three dollars (rough conversion I use is 10:1) for a performance by Orquesta Juvanil is a truly a bargain and one of the blessings of living in Xalapa.

Sinfonica Xalapa de Estado de Veracruz

Doing a web search produces many articles about the Sinfonica Xalapa de Estado de Veracruz. Here is the official web site of this Xalapa cultural giant, which some critics claim is the best symphony orchestra in Mexico: