Rancho Pint - The Mexico Page
Superadobe, Dry Toilets, Bici-Máquinas and more

Text and Photos ©2014 by J. Pint

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Igloo Kokolo

Salvador “Chavo” Montaño welcomes Susy Pint to the small Superadobe house where he's presently residing.


Bicycle power in action. Check out this video made at Igloo Kokolo.

Dry Compost Toilet at Igloo Kokolo
“Just throw in a few handfuls of sawdust when you're finished,” says Chavo Montaño who gives workshops on how to build your own indoor or outdoor Baño Seco. Clever solutions eliminate odor and bugs and, of course, not a drop of water is needed.

Green House at Igloo Kokolo
Green House

Sleeping space
Chavo Montaño in his Superadobe bedroom.

Igloo Kokolo kitchen
Igloo Kokolo Kitchen: Igloo Kokolo's Superadobe kitchen features a thatched roof.

Trail to Igloo Kokolo

In case you don't have a high clearance vehicle, you can park inside the gate and follow this trail to Igloo Kokolo.

Superadobe house: detail

Chavo Montaño show last stage of completing igloo shape. “I'll turn this opening into a skylight,” he says.


Caves beneath the dunes? Check out our Saudicaves page:







Chavo Montaño's quest for a better world on Lake Chapala's south shore

By John Pint

Pepe Herrera is a good dentist and as such usually distracts me from dental discomfort by talking about subjects he knows I’ll find interesting. “This weekend,” he said, while taking an impression of my teeth (the few that remain) I’m working on a new project at my rancho. I’m building my own house out of Superadobe.”
Pepe Herrea starting Superadobe house
Somehow I managed to mumble the question, “Wad iz Fooper-um-dob-um?” And I must say, the answer was fascinating.

 Superadobe, Pepe replied, was the idea of Iranian architect Nader Khalili for constructing houses on the moon using local materials (in this case, Moon dust). Khalili demonstrated his technique by showing refugees in war-torn parts of the world how they could easily build strong, weather-and-earthquake-proof houses using nothing more than sacks of sand or dirt mixed with a quantity of cement powder. The gunny sacks, feed bags or a long polypropylene tube are laid in a shallow circular trench. One layer is placed upon another, each time using a slightly smaller diameter, to eventually form an igloo shape. Barbed wire is laid between each coil to act as both mortar and reinforcement. The competed structure is then plastered over with a mix similar to that inside the bags, now called earthbags.

Well, I visited Pepe's rancho to see for myself the first stages of building a Superadobe house and then searched the web for fully completed ones, hopefully somewhere in this area.

Chavo Montaño's new home at Igloo KokoloLo and behold! I found Igloo Kokolo's page, showing lots of fully completed and functioning Superadobe constructions right on the shore of Lake Chapala, halfway between Tuxcueca and Tizapán. We contacted the owner, Salvador “Chavo” Montaño, who kindly invited us to visit Igloo Kokolo, located in the middle of “the last tract of virgin land left on the lakeshore.”

We headed for the lake and easily found the entrance to the place, just six kilometers past Tuxcueca. Montaño welcomed us with open arms, took us on a tour of what seemed like a Pitufo (Smurf) Village of igloo-shaped houses made of Superadobe, and gave us refreshments under a large palapa beautifully constructed by experts from Sayulita.

While taking in a stupendous panoramic view of the lake, we learned that Igloo Kokolo has been principally used over the last few years to welcome and shelter members of various volunteer organizations and as a venue for workshops on the following ecologically significant themes:

  • Superadobe construction
  • Dry Composting Toilets
  • Permaculture
  • Bici-Máquinas (bicycle-operated machinery)
  • Organic Gardens

Montaño gives the first two of these workshops himself and subcontracts leading experts for the others. After hearing about Montaño's involvement in so many fascinating fields, I asked him: “So just what is Igloo Kokolo after all?”

He gave me a dreamy look. “Igloo Kokolo is really a place for experimentation in alternative ways to live in equilibrium with our environment... and with the creatures we find in it. We are learning through doing, and sharing what we are learning.”

“How do you pay for all this?” was my next question.

In response, Chavo Montaño raised his arms in exasperation. “I don't know... I really don't know. Maybe I will have to sell part of this land, but I hate to, because I inherited it from my father and it's unique. It's really big: 160 hectares, with two kilometers of virgin waterfront. No tree has ever been chopped down here. The entire shoreline is rocky and the water's muddy, just the way Mother Nature made it. I 'd rather see this place preserved as a sanctuary for birds and animals.”

Chavo Montaño has a long-range plan eventually to rent out some of the Superadobe houses, but that's not possible at the moment. Camping, however, is possible and the fee is very reasonable. This would give you a chance to explore the place and, of course, to test out the ingenious Dry Composting Toilet as well. Solids and liquids are cleverly separated at the toilet seat. The former all end up as compost while, says Montaño, “The urine makes a great liquid fertilizer when mixed with 9 parts water.” Speaking of water, at Igloo I learned that in a year I flush away the same amount of water I would normally drink during 40 years. Wow!

Check out Igloo Kokolo's web page   Here you'll find info for contacting Salvador Montaño in case you would like to visit the place. They are also on Facebook. Note that you'll need a high clearance vehicle to drive from the highway to the “Pitufos Village.” You can also park inside the gate and walk along along a scenic footpath 450 meters long. You'll find this trail on Wikiloc.com here.

How to get there
From Guadalajara, take highway 54 toward Colima for about 36 kilometers and turn off onto highway 15, signposted Morelia or Jocotepec. Go around to the south side of the lake and head east until you reach Tuxcueca, which is also the turnoff point for Mazamitla. Set your trip odometer at zero here and continue east along the lake shore for six kilometers. On your left you'll see the gate (N20 09.690 W103 07.870) for Igloo Kokolo, marked with a big sign.  Driving time is just over an hour from Guadalajara and less from Ajijic and Chapala.

Large Superadobe home in El Roble

A large, nearly completed Superadobe house in Fraccionamiento El Roble.

Lake Chapala seen from Igloo Kokolo palapa

Panoramic view of Lake Chapala seen from under a huge Sayulita-style palapa which serves as a workshop and dining hall.



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