Oaxacan adventures from a month ago

As you can tell, regular updates are not my forte…

About a month ago Ellie and I got up super early for a morning flight from Mexico City. We waved goodbye to that neverending concrete jungle and arrived a few hours later in Puerto Escondido, a little city on the Oaxacan coast (south Mexico). As we stepped off of the plane we were immediately engulfed by the heat and humidity of Oaxaca and no sooner had we found our hostel than it started absolutely tipping it down… Turns out we’d come during the rainy season! Thankfully the weather improved over the next few days and a lot of time was spent chilling on the beach.

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One day, whilst happily walking along the beach, we were stopped by someone yelling ‘OI GIRLS!’ Rather ironically, especially given how much I’ve complained about Mexican men shouting things at me in the street, it turns out they were English! I guess you find idiots in most countries…

A few days later we were joined by Emma, a friend from Southampton. In the evening we went on a trip to a nearby lake which is full of a special and rare kind of fluorescent plankton (from what I understood) which glows upon contact. It was an incredible and pretty surreal experience to be swimming in a lake in the middle of the night, and be able to watch your hands and feet sparkling as you move them.

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A day later we got up early to go on a boat trip to ‘swim with dolphins’ (or so we were told). The main thing that I learnt from this excursion, and much to my dismay, was that I get sea sick. Fun times. We spent a good 2 hours (or what felt like it) going round on this tiny little fishing boat searching for said dolphins. However, when we did eventually find them I was much to eager to return to land to be able to fully appreciate it. We also got to see a turtle up close, or rather, at one point one of the guide suddenly leapt from the boat and hauled the unsuspecting turtle back onto it with him.

Later that day we got a bus to a little town called Zipolite, where we stayed in a hostel right on the beach! As we came during the off season, we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves, with the exception of a few people walking up and down the beach. However unfortunately for us we didn’t realise it was a nudist beach, so the few people we did see weren’t leaving an awful lot to the imagination!

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After a few days we got the bus back to Puerto Escondido and said goodbye to Emma. We spent a couple more days in the city, in which I had my very first surfing lesson! I did manage to stand up, if only very briefly.

For the second half of my trip I got a bus through the mountains to Oaxaca City. Ellie had got a flight back to Mexico City, meaning I would be going it alone for a few days. Needless to say, given my awful sense of direction and questionable common sense, I wasn’t exactly overly enthusiastic at the prospect!

 The bus journey proved to be an interesting, if not somewhat terrifying experience. Everyone had warned me that the winding mountain roads and sheer drops would make me feel pretty sick. However, this wasn’t the problem and I actually really enjoyed that aspect of the journey. We went so high up that at times you could hardly see for the mist and the views of the mountains and jungle were truly breathtaking. It all went slightly downhill on the descent when the driver suddenly turned into some kind of crazed boy racer and started absolutely belting it down these steep mountains at what felt like 60 mph.

Upon arriving in Oaxaca I managed to find the hostel without much trouble, and armed with my map, I decided to spend the evening wandering around the city. What most surprised me was how fun it is to explore a new place all by yourself. Oaxaca is such a lively and colourful city, the kind of place where there’s always something going on and something to see or do. The centre was full of market stalls selling all sorts of traditional crafts, and unlike Toluca, there were lots people and families sitting in the zocalo, even late into the evening. That night I stumbled across a kind of traditional dance show in the zocalo. What most impressed me were the amazing outfits the performers were wearing. The women looked absolutely incredible with amazing, brightly coloured dresses covered in intricately embroidered flowers and patterns.

On Sunday I went to a little pueblo just outside Oaxaca City called Tlacolula with two of the girls from the hostel, where we spent a few hours wandering around one of the biggest and most confusing markets I’ve ever been to. It was HUGE and sold literally everything. My favourite street was the one full of women selling chickens and turkeys, and baby rabbits for £1.50. I was very tempted… It was very nicely untouristy.

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The hostel I was staying at had a free bike rental service, so I decided to make the most of it and spent a day cycling around the streets of Oaxaca. This was made significantly easier by the fact that all the roads are one way! I wandered around lots of different markets and had tamales oaxaqueños whilst people watching in the zocalo.

The following day I went on a tour with the girls from the hostel. We visited some ruins in a town called Mitla, a shop where they weave traditional rugs and a Mezcaleria, where we were able to learn how they make mezcal and try lots of different flavours (it’s not something I’m going to miss from Mexico). However, the main highlight and the only place I was particularly keen to visit was Hierve el Agua, a set of natural rock formations, which resemble cascades of water flowing down the cliffs. At the top there were several pools of water, so we were able to have a swim whilst taking in the amazing views of the mountains and valley.

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For my last little excursion in Oaxaca I went to visit the ruins at Monte Alban. They are slightly outside of the city at the top of a huge hill, for this reason it’s pretty impressive they were even able to construct them. Unfortunately by this point I had managed to break my camera, so here’s a photo I borrowed from a friend.

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Anyway, it would be very unlike me if I didn’t dedicate a considerable chunk of this post to weird and wonderful foods I’ve tried… So beginning with the weird; grasshoppers are a delicacy in Oaxaca. In the markets there are women selling huge baskets filled with them. They are dried or toasted (not sure) and can be eaten plain or with a chilli/lime coating (of course). As I was in Oaxaca I felt obliged to try them, however it’s not an experience I’m in any hurry to repeat… Moving on to a rather wonderful food experience, Oaxaca is also known for the different kinds of mole you can find (again, not the animal, it’s a kind of sauce), so I had a fun time in the markets trying a few of them! Another Oaxacan speciality are the tlayudas, which, like most things, involve a tortilla and like most things proved to be quite difficult to eat… They are basically HUGE tortillas with various things on top, or folded in half like calzone.

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 All in all, Oaxaca is a wonderful place, and one I’m very glad I managed to visit during my time in Mexico 🙂

 

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