Oaxaca

The state of Oaxaca offered a very welcome change from the heat of the Pacific Coast. We drove narrow, winding mountain roads with breathtaking views, enjoyed the food, coffee, markets, and culture of the city, found a great climbing area, and mingled with rural villagers.

Along the highway to Oaxaca.

Along the highway to Oaxaca.

The Mex 175 from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca is an amazingly sinuous highway, winding from sea level to over 8000ft along exposed ridges and cliffs.

Our route (purple line) along the Mex 175 (yellow line).

Our route (purple line) along the Mex 175 (yellow line on left).

The scenery changed drastically almost immediately after turning north from the coast. The dry brush was quickly replaced by lush forest and before long the road was winding through deep jungle, then as the highway climbed even higher the deciduous trees were replaced by pines.

We thought we had died and gone to heaven when we spotted this perfect little pool right off the highway. Even Hobie jumped right in and swam around and he's usually pretty shy about water.

We thought we had died and gone to heaven when we spotted this perfect little pool next to the highway. Even Hobie walked right in and swam around and he’s usually shy about water.

Awesome beetle that landed on Emily's foot.

Spotted beetle that landed on Emily’s foot.

View along the ridge tops.

View along the ridge tops.

One of the many many curvas peligrosas (dangerous curves) along the Mex 175.

One of the many many curvas peligrosas (dangerous curves) along the Mex 175.

About halfway to Oaxaca we came to the colorful little mountain town of San José del Pacifico, near the highest point on the highway. We had heard that this little town is well known for mushroom hunting, given its location high in the cloud forest its a great place for fungus to grow. We drove through the town and out the other side in a few minutes, in search of somewhere to camp. Just as we were climbing out a dirt road into the hills we came across an older gentleman walking along, who flagged us down and asked for a ride. That’s how we met Aristeo. When we dropped him off at his house a few windy miles from town, Aristeo offered for us to camp right there on his family’s land and we gladly accepted. For the next two days we hung out and chatted with Aristeo’s large extended family, who all lived in the nearby houses, hiked in the lush forest, and played with the children.

The colorful little town of San Jose del Pacifico.

The colorful little town of San Jose del Pacifico.

Cloudy pine forest.

Cloudy pine forest.

Our sweet camping spot in the yard.

Our sweet camping spot in the yard.

Lush forest canopy.

Lush forest canopy.

Bromeliads along a pine trunk.

Bromeliads along a pine trunk.

Emily enjoying the canopy view in the woods.

Emily enjoying the canopy view in the woods.

Bromeliad on a pine trunk.

Bromeliad on a pine trunk.

Everyone was very kind and quite curious about (and impressed by) the van, especially the children, who kept asking “What’s this thing? What’s that thing?” pointing to various things in the van that were mysterious and magical to them. Once they got comfortable with Hobie they were thrilled when he chased a ball and returned it, and when we showed them his trick of flipping a treat off his nose and catching it they squealed an wanted to see it again and again (to Hobie’s delight). This was our first experience really mingling with the rural locals Mexico and it was a touching and enriching experience. As we bid our farewells to Aristeo and his family we were asked several times when we were coming back and told that we would always have a home there.

Danny, Freddy, and Jocelyn (left to right) hanging out at the van.

Danny, Freddy, and Jocelyn (left to right) hanging out at the van.

This is Jocelyn, she loved us and the van and ran over to us at every opportunity. She was thrilled when we gave her some stickers of Mickey Mouse and Goofy.

This is Jocelyn, she loved us and the van and ran over at every opportunity to stare and chat and point at things. She was thrilled when we gave her some stickers of Mickey Mouse and Goofy.

Jocelyn and Freddy.

Jocelyn and Freddy.

Danny flying his homemade kite. When he learned that we had a kite (which unfortunately there wasn't enough wind or room to fly there) he ran off and made his own from a string and a piece of paper. Then he ran around like crazy pulling it behind him giggling the whole way.

Danny flying his homemade kite. When he learned that we had a kite (which unfortunately there wasn’t enough wind or room to fly there) he ran off and made his own from a string and a piece of paper. Then he ran around like crazy pulling it behind him, giggling the whole way.

Jocelyn's mom knitting a hat (that she later sold to Tim) and dad laying in her lap.

Jocelyn’s mom knitting a hat (that she later sold to Tim) and dad laying in her lap.

The next few days were quite a contrast to our peaceful rest in the hills as we explored the city of Oaxaca. Despite both of us not being city people we really liked Oaxaca. Our campground was right in the city, in a rather yuppie neighborhood. We were surrounded by fancy coffee shops (with local, organic coffee!), nice restaurants, upscale office buildings, and grocery stores, but the area was quiet and it was an quick walk to delicious taco stands and downtown. For the first time in Mexico we found it easy to find everything we were looking for within easy walking distance. We spent one day exploring the old churches, plazas, and bustling mercado of central Oaxaca, and of course eating mole, one of the specialties of the region.

Colorful hills in the valley surrounding Oaxaca.

Colorful hills in the valley surrounding Oaxaca.

Broken glass on top of the wall surrounding our campground.

Broken glass on top of the wall surrounding our campground.

Tim spotted this flycatcher in our campground in Oaxaca.

Tim spotted this flycatcher in our campground in Oaxaca.

Street view in Oaxaca.

Street view in Oaxaca.

Tim strolling in central Oaxaca.

Tim strolling in central Oaxaca.

Basilica in Oaxaca.

Basilica in Oaxaca.

Mole in the Oaxaca central market.

Mole in the Oaxaca central market.

 

Looking down a busy street in central Oaxaca.

Looking down a busy street in central Oaxaca.

View of Oaxaca from hill above the city.

View of Oaxaca from a hill above the city.

We also managed to find a great climbing area called San Sebatián Tutla, and met some local climbers.

Tim cleaning a route at San Sebastián Tutla.

Tim cleaning a route at San Sebastián Tutla.

Fun easy slab route to the right of the wedgie rock.

Fun easy slab route to the right of the wedgie rock.

Tim checking out a the graffiti at the base of his next route.

Tim checking out the graffiti at the base of his next route.

View of Oaxaca from San Sebastián Tutla climbing area.

View of Oaxaca from San Sebastián Tutla climbing area.

Near Oaxaca we visited the small town of Santa María del Tule, home to the famous Árbol del Tule, an amazing giant cypress tree over a thousand years old.

Árbol del Tule

Árbol del Tule

Árbol del Tule

Árbol del Tule

Burl on the Árbol del Tule.

Giant burl on the Árbol del Tule, it’s about the size of a golf cart.

Very aptly named plant.

Very aptly named plant.

From Oaxaca we headed southeast towards Chiapas, winding down another mountain highway. All along the roads throughout the highlands are agave farms and small mezcal distilleries.

Looking back towards Oaxaca through the agave.

Looking back towards Oaxaca through the agave.

Emily in the agave.

Emily in the agave.

Along the road from Oaxaca.

Along the road from Oaxaca.

View on the highway heading out of Oaxaca.

Highway view.

We had a tough time finding a good place to camp along the narrow highway out of Oaxaca, so we ended up parking for the night (with permission) right next to the municipal building in the little town square of El Gramal.

Our camp spot in the square in El Gramal.

Our camp spot in the square in El Gramal.

Our camp spot in El Gramal.

El Gramal

Church in El Gramal.

Church in El Gramal.

Church puddle reflection.

Church puddle reflection.

Basketball hoop with festive decorations in El Gramal.

Basketball hoop with festive decorations in El Gramal.

From the cool, fresh air in Oaxaca we descended into the lowlands of the state, back into the heat. But not for long, we booked it through the wind farms in the breezy valleys of the isthmus (the narrowest part of Mexico), and climbed back up into the mountains on the other side, into the state of Chiapas, where we are now again enjoying the crisp air and rain.

4 thoughts on “Oaxaca

  1. Sounds like some wonderful times as you sink into your new life on the southern road. Thanks for posting. We really enjoy the photos, and the really great writing!

  2. What a beautiful journey! We love reading about your travels…especially enjoyed hearing about Aristeo and his family and the children’s love of simple pleasures like Hobie entertainment and kite making. Wonderful!

  3. Em It’s looks like an amazing adventure . Stay safe and keep sharing its fun to vicariously experience your days.
    I just came back from three weeks Travelling Italy. You inspire me to share my photos . Love you guys.

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