Normally I'm not into the cities, but Oaxaca we had to pass more or less on the way to Veracruz. Then book a B&B and explore the city. In the end we extended our stay a bit and we go from here to Veracruz (the place where Karel, our bus camper, arrives). There is plenty to see in and around Oaxaca to stay here for a few days. So totally fine!
One of the places where we go for a day is mitla (Location here). Mitla is an old village east of Oaxaca. It is best known for its ruins and as a gateway to Boil the water, a beautiful piece of nature with a natural source at the top of a dried waterfall.
Once in Mitla we walked (as Dutch as we are) to the ruins, when we came across a small Mezcal distillery along the way. We visited the distillery on the way back from the ruins for a small tour.
They made Mezcal (a type of distilled alcoholic drink), old-fashioned with horse and grindstone. After the Agave plant is harvested, it is roasted in an oven pit and covered with hot stones. This takes three to six days. It is then ground with a tahona stone. The pulp is fermented in wooden barrels for one to two weeks. Then the fermented mash goes into copper stills, it is fired and the distillation can begin. The distillery was more impressive than the ruins to be honest, I'm not considering whether this was because of the ruins or the distillery…
Back in the center of Mitla we managed (again) to choose just that one lunch place that turns out to be a lot more expensive than everything else.
Collectivos and taxis
Normally there are Collectivo's (or should you say full-vollectivo's) to Hierve el Agua, only because we arrived so late in the day, there were too few people for the propper to actually send a van that way. They called a taxi for us 'for a nice price', which we were allowed to share with a Mexican couple. Good, because this Mexican man had made a deal with the taxi driver to drive there and back for 170 Pesos (the taxi driver waited 2 hours on the mountain). then on the way back it became another 50 pesos per person (€2,50 pp.) to drive all the way back to Oaxaca (70km). Top!
Hereve el Aqua
Hierve el Agua was beautiful. The water stank a bit, but that didn't spoil the fun. A very special sight to see the falls stand still in time.
On some nights of the week, a local cafe and bike rental company organizes a tour of the city. We participated! Together with a group of about 60 American students.
What initially seemed to be a dubious ride for all the hysterical teenagers, eventually became a super fun ride through the most beautiful neighborhoods of Oaxaca. We thought we would learn something of the history of the city through this tour. Once we started we had to cycle behind a huge lamp with a box, which ensured that everyone moved to the side and we had a nice background music. A bit like how some young people in Oss (we recently moved here) also cycle around, only then no one gets out of the way and this was much more fun. Definitely worth checking out if you're ever in the area. Just be aware that you only see something of the city, but learn nothing about it.
Jardin Ethnobotanico de Oaxaca
A visit to the local green areas was also planned. A gigantic garden (location here) with about 900 different native plant species. The guide said that the goal is to 'house' 1200 different plant species and thus 'have' 10% of all plant species in Oaxaca (the state). The garden offers a great diversity of trees, vegetables and low shrubs and, of course, a huge selection of cacti (or cacti?)! Some were up to 10 meters high and hundreds of years old!
My Mexican 30e birthday also took place in Oaxaca, unfortunately without piñata, but with a delicious dinner with a mole (sauce) tasting. Oaxaca is known for its good mole sauce. Mole sauce is the collective name for a series of Mexican sauces varying in taste, smell and color, which are often served with chicken. Mole always contains chili peppers, an acidic component and something sweet, such as fruit or sugar. Most moles consist of more than 20 ingredients.
In addition, there was also a main present; a stay in a super luxurious hotel! In addition, there was hardly anyone in the hotel and we had the pool to ourselves. We say we are not such a luxury cat and therefore want to travel around in a van, but a hotel with a king-size bed is very nice for a day!
Unlike the ruins at Mitla made Mount Alban (Location here) definitely impressed! The day we left for Veracruz, we spent 3 hours in the morning at Monte Alban, a large ruin on (you guessed it) a mountain west of Oaxaca.
Until about 750 AD. This mountain was home to the Zapotecs, who built an impressive piece of construction there. At its peak, this city and the terraces surrounding the mountain had about 30.000 inhabitants. The pictures actually say enough if you want to have an idea of how impressive it was here.
Unfortunately we had to do it without a real guide, so with some poor internet we were able to consult Wikipedia and decipher the signs with information about the buildings.
Highlights in Mexico
Some striking and often amusing things so far:
– We regularly tend to assume 'the bad' when a salesperson approaches us. Often after you make it known that you don't want to buy anything, they still stick around for a while to just have a chat. If you do buy something, they will stick around even longer.
– People like to help with the language. If we explain that we don't master the language very well yet or ask if the person in question can speak a little slower, they often really take the time to do this. Useful!
– There is remarkably little waste on the streets in and around Oaxaca. In return, every item where you can leave trash says “I'm not a trash can”. They should also try them in NL.