Indigenous Culture, Beaches and Adventure
Oaxaca is one of the most amazing regions of the world that we have ever been to. From beautiful beaches to indigenous communities to sophisticated colonial cities to rugged mountain ranges, Oaxaca has it all. We were very excited to get to Oaxaca. And we were not disappointed.
We started our trip to Oaxaca by spending a day in Oaxaca City, a beautiful and sophisticated colonial city in the heart of Oaxaca. In Oaxaca City, we were introduced to Mezcal, an alcoholic beverage made from the piña or heart of the Agaves (except blue Agaves from which all Tequila is made). At first, we found Mezcal to be smoky and strong, but it grew on us and by the end of our trip to Oaxaca, we had each developed an appreciation for specific types of Mezcal including Espadín and Tobalá, which is made from wild Agave. We also explored Monte Alban, an impressive ruin city close to Oaxaca City that was the center of Zapotec civilization for thousands of years.
A Zapotec Danza De La Pluma in Teotitlán del Valle
These Campos or clowns represent the Zapotec sorcerers that were used to spy on Spanish Troops. They were able to turn themselves into different animals which is why their masks aren’t well defined.
Chapulines in the Tlacolula Market
Chapulines are grasshoppers cooked in garlic, lime juice and salt containing extract of agave worms. They taste great (but are certainly an acquired one).
Tomatillos on a Traditional Oaxacan Fire Oven
These were tomatoes we picked up from the local market to make the mole in our cooking class. They were roasted, then boiled, and later mashed into a paste to make the mole.
Leah shopping for Aguacates (Avacados)
We learned something while shopping for ingredients in the Teotitlán del Valle market. It turns out that avocados are ready to eat when you shake them and can feel the seed move inside.
Oaxaca contains several rugged mountain ranges and we were determined to get into them, especially since we knew the next few months of our trip would be hotter and more humid. Fortunately, we found Pedro (http://www.bicicletaspedromartinez.com) who led us on several days of enduro mountain biking in the Sierra Madre Mountain Range above the Oaxaca Valley. The cross country and enduro mountain biking in this mountain range is awesome (even in comparison to Colorado and Utah). We biked through the Pueblos Mancomunados a group remote Zapotec villages in the range. Like most things involving two adrenaline charged guys, the downhill runs became a competition. I think Pedro was impressed by my skill descending rocky, technical terrain (which is common in Colorado) but much less impressed by my skill crossing deep, slippery rivers. If you are a mountain biker, I’d highly recommend a one week trip to Oaxaca, spending a few days in Oaxaca Valley, using Oaxaca City as a base, and then spending a few days mountain biking and staying in the Pueblos Mancomunados.
The Oaxaca Coast is just as good as Oaxaca Valley. Over 10 year ago I did a surfing trip from Saylita to Puerto Escondido with a group of friends. The beaches were beautiful and wild and the surfing was world class. Fortunately, although there has been some development on the Oaxaca Coast in and round towns like Puerto Escondido, it’s still very easy to get off of the beaten path on the Oaxaca Coast. And the surfing is still world class.
Having a four wheel drive vehicle is helpful on the Oaxaca Coast. It enabled us to get to some completely deserted beaches. But a 4WD vehicle isn’t necessary to get off of the beaten path. For example, we parked in a campground in Lagunas De Chacahua Parque Nacional (http://www.lagunasdechacahua.com) and had a beautiful, 7km long beach entirely to ourselves. The only person we saw on the beach was a group of park rangers who let us help them release hundreds of baby turtles that had hatched onto the beach at sunset. We didn’t go to the island in Chacahua since we didn’t want to leave our vehicle unattended on the mainland, but it looked and sounded like a great place to spend a few days.
We wrapped up our trip to Oaxaca with a few days at Zipolite, an awesome beach town that has definitely been discovered, but is still off the beaten path. One of the cool things about Zipolite is that it’s a haven for alternative, creative people from around the world who have chosen to live or stay there for a long time – not just backpackers in search of the places with cheap drugs and hostels. It’s also the only beach in Mexico where nudism is common and legal. Eventually we had to leave the nudists behind and head to Chiapas, land of amazing coffee, Tzeltal and Tzotzil indigenous communities and, of course, the Zapatista rebels!