On Thursday, April 7th, we headed inland to Oaxaca City
(as opposed to Oaxaca the state, of which Oaxaca City is the
capital) via first class bus from Huatulco. The buses
are actually quite nice, air conditioned with on-board
restrooms and comfortable seats which rival most business
class airline seats. After 9 hours of twisting,
mountainous roads, we arrived in Oaxaca City Thursday
evening and checked into a bed and breakfast (Casa Adalma,
450 pesos per room night - about USD$40) located near the
center of town and recommended to us by other
cruisers. That evening we walked the several
blocks from our abode through town to the Zocalo, or Central
Square, where many good restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream
vendors and other activities awaited. We enjoyed real
milk shakes and the many street performers and general
hustle and bustle of a thriving city before heading back
exhausted to our beds.
Friday morning, we caught a taxi to
Ocotolan, perhaps 15 miles outside downtown Oaxaca, to
experience the Friday Market (photos on the
previous page). Each day of the week, one of the
smaller towns outlying central Oaxaca City holds their
market day, each on a different day of the week.
Friday is market day in Ocotlan and the market is huge!
Literally covering acres and acres, one could wander for
hours through the crowded, narrow avenues between the
covered stalls and never pass the same vendor twice.
All manner of goods are available, from meats and produce to
brand new Nike shoes, furniture and even pets. We saw
several "bird men" walking around with a dozen bird cages
strapped to their backs, hocking colorful finches and
parakeets. Steve from s/v Trinity actually bought a
blender at the market! (Which we used for margaritas
back at the B&B.) But the most colorful aspects of the
market are the huge piles of produce and seafood .
Giant hills of tomatoes and pineapples seemed to be on every
corner and the vendors selling chili peppers, dried shrimp,
fish and even dried grasshoppers were always interesting.
At first glance, there seem to be goods available in such
large quantities that they could not possibly be purchased
in a single day by the individuals roaming the market.
But then we realized that many of the restaurants from all
around must also shop here and indeed we did see many people
carrying away whole crates of tomatoes of hard trucks full
Now, I would be remiss if I didn't say a
few words here about height. A large percentage of the
local population in this area have native Indian ancestry
and most of the crowd and the vendors in the market are
women, few of which are taller than 5 feet high. We
felt like giants. We were always hitting our heads on
the tarps strung up to protect vendors and goods from the
sun. Height in men is likely not as remarkable, but
Melissa and Roma in particular, felt like blond Amazons,
towering well over a foot taller than most of the other
people in the market and received many looks, even with the
amount of tourism this area receives. Even Kelsey, at
8 years old, was taller than many of the older women and
good natured cries of "Chica" or "La Nina'" followed her and
her very blond hair wherever she went. Everywhere we
go in Mexico, people want to touch her hair and she can
understandably get a little claustrophobic about it at
times. She learned early on how to say "No tocar mi
pelo, por favor."
Saturday morning we rented a car and drove out to several
places where taxis and buses don't venture. The
cheapest car from Hertz was a VW Bug and even though it
lacked air conditioning, the kids just loved the idea of
touring Mexico in a Slug Bug. Admittedly, we also
found the idea somehow appropriate, one of those things you
have to do once in your life. These little cars are
ubiquitous in Mexico (all the taxis in Acapulco were VW Bugs
for example). The simple, air-cooled engine must do
well in this hot climate and we are pretty sure that Mexico
never stopped manufacturing the original VW bug.
Our first stop was Hierve de Agua, or Mineral Falls, a
huge natural formation of limestone near the top of a
mountain that has been built up over the years from a
mineral spring, rich in lime. As the water evaporates,
it leaves the lime behind, forming limestone.
This is similar to how stalagmites form, but it happens much
more quickly due to the hot sun and rapid evaporation rate -
cinderblocks that were placed around one spring not too many
years ago to form a wading pool have already been coated
with several inches of lime.
I have to mention that we had
a little adventure actually getting to Hierve de Agua.
We followed the directions in our Moon handbook (a very well
done and useful resource by the way) until we saw a sign to
a turn off saying Hierve de Aqua, 12.5km. Little did
we know that this turn-off lead to a short-cut of sorts - a
one-lane, switch-back dirt road which climbed thousands of
feet up the side of a mountain before heading back down the
other side and eventually arriving at the falls via the back
way. We thought of turning back several times, but
didn't have the room to turn the car around! Needless
to say, on our return, we took the more passable dirt road
which leads around the mountain instead of over it. I
guess that is what rental cars are for!
Our next stop was
the town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla and the Mitla
Archeological Zone with its ruins left by Mixtec-speaking
peoples from the north. Mitla means 'Place of
the Dead'. It is smaller and less extensive than Monte
Alban and was much more recently created and occupied
(beginning around A.D. 1350). It remained occupied for
generations after the Spanish conquest until Catholicism
took over. Indeed, Catholics built a church from older
temple stones right on the foundation of one of the Mixtec
buildings. This continuous occupation and re-building
have left the site less intact that at Monte Alban and
various inaccurate restoration attempts around 1900 have
complicated matters. Still, one can explore the
various buildings including the Palace of Columns, which
appears to have been a residence for the rulers or other
persons of importance. Several tombs are also
accessible, though they were looted and long empty by the
time of the Spanish conquest.
Next, it was on to Teotitlan Del Valle, a village east of
Oaxaca known for its artisans who create beautiful rugs and
other products from wool on their hand looms. Although
the larger rugs were wonderful, we only purchased a small
rug for the boat and some other small items. The kids
were very intrigued by the weaving and we had a hard time
pulling them away. A last stop in Santa Maria del Tule
for dinner at a local barbeque joint and to see one of the
world's largest trees completed this long day of sight
seeing. Back at the B&B, we kicked back with some
Kaluhua and Leche (milk) drinks made in Steve's new blender
and snacked on deep fried grasshoppers. Really.
Melissa even ate one!
We caught the midnight bus back to Oaxaca Monday evening,
arriving around 8:00 am Tuesday. The weather in the
Tehuantepec doesn't look favorable for heading South until
perhaps the 19th or so, so we will be spending another week
here in the Hautulco area before crossing the Gulf to El
Salvador. Oh darn!
As always, click on the images to see a