As you probably know by now, I have been relaxing a bit in Oaxaca. I considered Oaxaca to be a city in the middle of nowhere, on the way from DF to Puerto Escondido or Chiapas. I was not far from the truth, but I started to like the city. At least the air is way more clean than Mexico City, and is a lot smaller, making it easier to go places. Thanks to helpx.net I found this really nice hostel looking for volunteers, people to do stuff around. And since the owners are also really nice (Helena and Marteen), I decided to spend the Christmas and New Year’s eve here. There are things to be done, but not as much as I would have liked.
Knowing the city and the nearby attractions came first. When in Oaxaca you must taste the food, the chocolate and coffee, and visit Monte Alban (old pyramids on top of a hand leveled mountain, 30min away from the city) and Hierve el agua (volcanic springs at the end of a dusty road). Of course, if you’re into drinks, you must stop on the way at a mescal factory for tasting, and even spend an hour among the smaller ruins in Mitla. Another stop on the way is the oldest tree in the Latin America, as they claim.
I met Anais, a French girl, on the bus traveling to Oaxaca, and shared together the experience of eating the first chapolines (fried and spiced grasshoppers). I can only say it’s a taste you need to develop and can’t just start eating stuff. I could only eat one of each spice (3 in total, some with fewer legs than others). During the first days I met a few nice people in another hostel (Alisson and Bob) and went together to the famous “Hierve el agua”. And since we’re not tourists, we didn’t book a tour and took the long way there: taxi + colectivo. The first part was ok, but then we had to wait for about an hour for other people to come so the car can leave (5 people minimum). This is how we met the taxi drivers around and shared a couple of beers until a couple of travelers arrived. And this is how we met Madeleine and her dad Mark, and spent a great day in their company. The volcanic spring had cold water, but that didn’t stop us from taking a bath or two. We also hiked a bit to see the ‘frozen waterfalls’. The ruins of Mitla were nothing spectacular, but I will remember them for a while for scratching my sunglasses while crawling through a narrow corridor to a tomb.
The next adventure came only a day later. The trip to Montealban was not as easy as expected. The cheap and easy way of traveling (a normal taxi shared among 7, plus the driver) turned into quite an experience. We ended up walking for the last 3km up the mountain to the entrance to the ruins but it was an interesting hike. I was against getting a guide there, but the majority democratically decided to get one. Quite a waste of time and money – he didn’t say much more than it was already written on the boards. The site is impressive as it was all cut flat by hand using only stones and primitive tools.
After all these cool trips, with nothing else left but to see the city, I found myself looking for stuff to do around the hostel, going out quite often and relaxing as much as I can. Meeting new people and listening to their stories is another hobby I slowly start to develop, and the hostel is the perfect place for that. Interesting people come and leave every day, but the stories are more or less similar. A few nice things I’ve done, enjoyed, and worth mentioning: the walk to the free observatory on top of the hill and the views of the Oaxacan sky, the concerts and dances in the city, accompanied by elotes (sweet boiled corn with mayo, cheese, lime and hot chilly), cheap cinema tickets (2$ each) and a half-empty projection of the StarWars premiere, lots of cheap fruits, vegetables and cheese I haven’t tried before.
Thanks to all the people passing through the hostel I hope I will have a better defined plan by the time I leave Oaxaca, in the beginning of next year.
And since this is my last post for this year, I wish you, my dear reader, a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a lot of inspiration for your next travels! I hope you won’t forget about your friend who went traveling