March 10, 2017
We spent five days at sea sailing from Manzanillo to Huatulco, with a one day layover in Zihuatanejo. The real excitement on that trip was the sailfish that we caught. (Check out the video on our Facebook page.) But, after so many days traveling, we were happy to arrive in Huatulco and have some time off.
Our next leg of the trip would be from Huatulco to Chiapas, where we would have to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec. I’ll write more about the Gulf of Tehuantepec in a later blog, but it was really important for us to pick a good weather window to make the crossing. When we looked at the forecast upon arrival, it was clear that we were going to stay put for at least a week.
Anjuli, one of the other boats in the marina that traveled with us from Zihuatanejo, mentioned that they were interested in traveling to Oaxaca City and asked if anyone else wanted to go. Since several boats were all in the same position we were, we all decided to go on a road trip to Oaxaca!
We rented three cars and all headed out for a seven hour trip to Oaxaca. In order to get from the coast to Oaxaca, we had to pass over a mountain range that required us to travel the windiest, narrowest roads I’ve ever seen. And, there is no shoulder or guardrail on these roads, so if you screw up you are going off the cliff. I’m really glad Mike was driving and not me. It was bad enough being a passenger…
We arrived in Oaxaca and found our cute little hotel not far from downtown Oaxaca. The city has a population of about 250,000, so it is a decent size city. After dropping off our bags, we decided to walk around the city for a drink and some dinner. We passed several large cathedrals and town squares. Eventually we made our way to the Zocalo, which is the main square in town. After a couple of cervezas and margaritas, we were on a mission for some good street food which is ubiquitous in every Mexican town square. We found a great taco stand and had delicious al pastor tacos. I think we got 10 tacos for 30 pesos (about $1.50). Pretty crazy.
The next morning we got back in the cars to see Monte Alban, the Zapotec ruins which are just outside of town. It was really stunning. These structures were built over 2000 yrs ago. It is amazing that any of them are still standing! The cool thing about the ruins is that you can walk all over them and explore on your own. There aren’t rails and fences prohibiting you from getting close. There are lots of signs and plaques explaining each structure and what it was used for.
This is a pretty big tourist attraction and there were a lot of school groups there on field trip. I would guess most of the kids were probably 5th-7th grade. Several groups of kids came up to us to ask us questions. Many wanted to practice their English, and some wanted to take their picture with us.
But, the funniest interaction was when one group of giggly kids walked up to us and kept looking at each other to see who would speak first. Finally one girl spoke up and asked, “What do you think of Donald Trump?” We both smiled, gave them the thumbs down sign and said “Booooo.” The kids went nuts laughing and jumping up and down. It. Was. Hilarious. I quickly said to Mike, “You should have gotten that on camera.” So, he grabbed the GoPro and ran back over to them to get them to do it on camera again. So funny.
After seeing the ruins, we headed back into town for some lunch and then to the cultural museum. The museum is in a large building connected to the large cathedral at the Zocalo. The building used to be a monastery or convent and was as fascinating as the museum itself. The museum contained all of the artifacts that had been pulled from Monte Alban that we had seen earlier in the day. Many of them were so well preserved, because they had been found sealed in the tombs, similar to the artifacts found in the Egyptian pyramids. It took hours to get through the museum, but it was well worth it.
Oaxaca is also known for two other things: mole and mezcal. If you haven’t had mole, I’m not sure I can explain it to you. There are seven different kinds of mole in Oaxaca. I was only familiar with mole found in Mexican restaurants in the States that usually has chocolate and different spices in it. We went to a restaurant for dinner where you could a sampler off all of the different moles; it was delicious.
I think mezcal can be described as a smoky tequila. It is either made with agave (like tequila) or maguay. We drove down a highway with signs that we were in mezcal alley, with mezcal production all around and hill after hill covered with agave plants. We stopped at one small shop and got to see the maguay plant up close. It looks like an agave. The plant had been roasted (probably set in a fire) as it was charred on the outside. The woman pulled off one of the leaves and cut it into strips for all of us to taste. It was very similar to eating sugar cane. Very sweet! We bought some local mezcal which was awesome. It is funny when we mention mezcal to the locals. People look at you with a smile and say “peligroso” (dangerous). I guess we’ll have to take it easy with the mezcal.
Overall, it was a wonderful trip. And, it got us back to Huatulco just in time to prepare for the crossing of the Tehuantepec!