Dominic Bonuccelli travelled to Mexico on assignment for Lonely Planet. You can follow his adventures on Lonely Planet: Roads Less Travelled, screening internationally on National Geographic. As part of his trip through Chihuahua, he explored the 800-year-old adobe cave ruins at Ranchería, west of Madera.


A perfectly camouflaged desert serpent slides across the dirt track on our entrance to Sírupa Canyon. It is noted for the whip-like strike of its tail, rather than its venom.


A somber donkey is persecuted by tiny flies in the creek-bed just below the ruins.


David from Umarike Expeditions charges the ATV through one of the many creek crossings as we reach our campsite near the ruins of Ranchería.


David washes kilos of dust from his hair in the continuous thermal pools (Agua Caliente de Sírupa) downstream from the ruins at Ranchería.


An ATV showboats across the rickety suspension bridge which crosses the river Sírupa en route to Ranchería from Madera.


My guide Concepción surveys the distant stone walls at sunset from the main plaza in the ruins of Ranchería. In the background is the ancient adobe circular vessel for storing seeds and grain.


The grandest casa in the Ranchería complex, this two-story structure features ancient painted wall reliefs and was likely the abode of the shaman or chief.


The iconic T-shaped doors at Ranchería identify the settlement as part of the Paquime culture. One theory for the portal’s unique shape is that any enemies would be forced to enter with one foot forward and looking down, leaving themselves vulnerable to a clubbing on the head from the defenders inside.


Around 100 persons lived in the entire gorge system, while the main complex at Ranchería was home to 30-40 people at its peak, between 1000-1400 A.D.


Dominic Bonuccelli, in desperate need of a shower, departs the main cave at Ranchería.

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