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Hautulco and inland to Oaxaca City Part 2

On Thursday, April 7th, we headed inland to Oaxaca City (as opposed to Oaxaca the state, of which Oaxaca City is the capital) via first class bus from Huatulco.  The buses are actually quite nice, air conditioned with on-board restrooms and comfortable seats which rival most business class airline seats.  After 9 hours of twisting, mountainous roads, we arrived in Oaxaca City Thursday evening and checked into a bed and breakfast (Casa Adalma, 450 pesos per room night - about USD$40) located near the center of town and  recommended to us by other cruisers.   That evening we walked the several blocks from our abode through town to the Zocalo, or Central Square, where many good restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream vendors and other activities awaited.  We enjoyed real milk shakes and the many street performers and general hustle and bustle of a thriving city before heading back exhausted to our beds.

Friday morning, we caught a taxi to Ocotolan, perhaps 15 miles outside downtown Oaxaca, to experience the Friday Market (photos on the previous page).  Each day of the week, one of the smaller towns outlying central Oaxaca City holds their market day, each on a different day of the week.  Friday is market day in Ocotlan and the market is huge!  Literally covering acres and acres, one could wander for hours through the crowded, narrow avenues between the covered stalls and never pass the same vendor twice.  All manner of goods are available, from meats and produce to brand new Nike shoes, furniture and even pets.  We saw several "bird men" walking around with a dozen bird cages strapped to their backs, hocking colorful finches and parakeets.  Steve from s/v Trinity actually bought a blender at the market!  (Which we used for margaritas back at the B&B.)  But the most colorful aspects of the market are the huge piles of produce and seafood .  Giant hills of tomatoes and pineapples seemed to be on every corner and the vendors selling chili peppers, dried shrimp, fish and even dried grasshoppers were always interesting.  At first glance, there seem to be goods available in such large quantities that they could not possibly be purchased in a single day by the individuals roaming the market.  But then we realized that many of the restaurants from all around must also shop here and indeed we did see many people carrying away whole crates of tomatoes of hard trucks full of pineapples.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't say a few words here about height.  A large percentage of the local population in this area have native Indian ancestry and most of the crowd and the vendors in the market are women, few of which are taller than 5 feet high.  We felt like giants.  We were always hitting our heads on the tarps strung up to protect vendors and goods from the sun.  Height in men is likely not as remarkable, but Melissa and Roma in particular, felt like blond Amazons, towering well over a foot taller than most of the other people in the market and received many looks, even with the amount of tourism this area receives.  Even Kelsey, at 8 years old, was taller than many of the older women and good natured cries of "Chica" or "La Nina'" followed her and her very blond hair wherever she went.  Everywhere we go in Mexico, people want to touch her hair and she can understandably get a little claustrophobic about it at times.  She learned early on how to say "No tocar mi pelo, por favor."

Saturday morning we rented a car and drove out to several places where taxis and buses don't venture.  The cheapest car from Hertz was a VW Bug and even though it lacked air conditioning, the kids just loved the idea of touring Mexico in a Slug Bug.  Admittedly, we also found the idea somehow appropriate, one of those things you have to do once in your life.  These little cars are ubiquitous in Mexico (all the taxis in Acapulco were VW Bugs for example).  The simple, air-cooled engine must do well in this hot climate and we are pretty sure that Mexico never stopped manufacturing the original VW bug. 

Our first stop was Hierve de Agua, or Mineral Falls, a huge natural formation of limestone near the top of a mountain that has been built up over the years from a mineral spring, rich in lime.  As the water evaporates, it leaves the lime behind, forming limestone.   This is similar to how stalagmites form, but it happens much more quickly due to the hot sun and rapid evaporation rate - cinderblocks that were placed around one spring not too many years ago to form a wading pool have already been coated with several inches of lime.

I have to mention that we had a little adventure actually getting to Hierve de Agua.  We followed the directions in our Moon handbook (a very well done and useful resource by the way) until we saw a sign to a turn off saying Hierve de Aqua, 12.5km.  Little did we know that this turn-off lead to a short-cut of sorts - a one-lane, switch-back dirt road which climbed thousands of feet up the side of a mountain before heading back down the other side and eventually arriving at the falls via the back way.  We thought of turning back several times, but didn't have the room to turn the car around!  Needless to say, on our return, we took the more passable dirt road which leads around the mountain instead of over it.  I guess that is what rental cars are for!

Our next stop was the town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla and the Mitla Archeological Zone with its ruins left by Mixtec-speaking peoples from the north.   Mitla means 'Place of the Dead'.  It is smaller and less extensive than Monte Alban and was much more recently created and occupied (beginning around A.D. 1350).  It remained occupied for generations after the Spanish conquest until Catholicism took over.  Indeed, Catholics built a church from older temple stones right on the foundation of one of the Mixtec buildings.  This continuous occupation and re-building have left the site less intact that at Monte Alban and various inaccurate restoration attempts around 1900 have complicated matters.  Still, one can explore the various buildings including the Palace of Columns, which appears to have been a residence for the rulers or other persons of importance.  Several tombs are also accessible, though they were looted and long empty by the time of the Spanish conquest. 

Next, it was on to Teotitlan Del Valle, a village east of Oaxaca known for its artisans who create beautiful rugs and other products from wool on their hand looms.  Although the larger rugs were wonderful, we only purchased a small rug for the boat and some other small items.  The kids were very intrigued by the weaving and we had a hard time pulling them away.  A last stop in Santa Maria del Tule for dinner at a local barbeque joint and to see one of the world's largest trees completed this long day of sight seeing.  Back at the B&B, we kicked back with some Kaluhua and Leche (milk) drinks made in Steve's new blender and snacked on deep fried grasshoppers.  Really.  Melissa even ate one!

We caught the midnight bus back to Oaxaca Monday evening, arriving around 8:00 am Tuesday.  The weather in the Tehuantepec doesn't look favorable for heading South until  perhaps the 19th or so, so we will be spending another week here in the Hautulco area before crossing the Gulf to El Salvador.  Oh darn!

As always, click on the images to see a larger view.


This is our Slug Bug! We rented this beast for a day to drive to all the places around Oaxaca that taxis and buses don't go!

Mineral spring at Hierve de Agua. The water coming out of the ground is rich in lime and over the years has formed the surrounding formations.

Sula and Trinity kids in the mineral pool at Hierve de Agua.

Mel takes a dip in the mineral pool.

Dude! Your looking buff, except for those love handles...

Kelsey the fish, swimming in the mineral pool at Hierve de Agua.

The mineral falls at Hierve de Agua.

To walk down to the base of the mineral falls, you have to walk down along this winding mineral deposit.

Looking up from the base of the falls towards the cliff above. The formation on the right has been laid down by the mineral water.

Hiking down to the base of the mineral falls.

The Sulas on the mineral falls.

The Mitla archaeological zone, about 30 miles outside of Oaxaca are not as extensive as Monte Alban, but are still impressive.

The Church Group at Mitla. Catholics used the original temple stones to erect a church here in the 1700s.

Kelsey and RJ in front of the greca, fret-embellished palace wall.

The kids in one of the rooms of the palace. Wood and thatch ceilings were used as roofs and they are all open to the sky now.

Kelsey finds her own private spot out of the sun in the shade a column outside the Palace of Columns.

One of the passages which lead to tombs beneath the Second Palace. No one knows who or what was buried here, they have long been open.

Wow, it's getting hot! Exhauested explorers take a break from the sun.

Large looms at Teotitlan del Valle, a small town to the east of Oaxaca specializing in weaving.

Check out the many different colors of wool, each hand spun and dyed.

Mel and RJ on one of the weaver's show rooms. Everything is hand-made on site. Those large rugs on the walls cost well over $1000.

Another local weaver woman shows off her wears at Teotitlan del Valle.

Crusing kids enthralled with the weaving process. We had a hard time tearing them away from watching this guy!

El Tule in Santa Maria del Tule is considerred by some to be the worlds largest tree. It's certainly not the tallest, but by the other dimesions...

It's hard to get a real feel for the size of this tree, but that church next to it on the right is 4 or 5 stories tall.

Check out that tree trunk!

The girls enjoying a beverage at a great resturant in Santa Maria del Tule.

The Catherdral in Oaxaca. The buildings next to it on the left used to be convent, but is now a muesum. They were closed the day we were there.

The black bow on the Catherdral door and other symbols were in honor of Pope John Paul II, who died a few days before our trip inland.

The interiors and architecture of the many catholic churches in and around Oaxaca are over-the-top ornimental and very impressive.

Back in Oaxaca, the girls enjoy a coffee at one of the many great coffee shops. This one had free wireless internet and was next to the Hertz office!


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