The time came, after 3 month living on the beach we had to clean up our babies and pack them up. It was tough but worth it. Exploring the seaside of Oaxaca was stunning and spoiled us with some epic waves.
Our first stop in the countryside was near Oaxaca City. It took us a good five hour drive from Salina Cruz through a very windy road to the city. Wow what a scenery! We decided to stay just outside of Oaxaca City in a small town called el Tule. There we had our first experience with traditional Oaxacan food. We found this amazing campground called Overlander Oasis http://www.overlanderoasis.com
Calvin and Leanna really created an Oasis for overlanders. We were lucky, the evening we arrived they cooked a delicious Oaxacan dinner. I forgot the name of this amazing dish, but it was a very welcomed dinner invitation after such a long drive through the mountains. The Canadian couple built a beautiful little campground and it is very important to give them a heads up if you choose to stay with them. Spaces are limited and therefore the atmosphere makes you feel cosy and at home. Calvin is a jack of all trades. He can build everything and can fix anything. Him and Kenny have been chit chatting about old cars and sooner then later they started building things for Hänsel. Leanne has all the other knowledge you need (fluent in Spanish, where to buy what and how to get where). With all this knowledge and experience your stay and adventure time in Oaxaca will be a full success.
Exploring el Tule was fun and unexpected. Tule has the biggest tree in dimension in the world, which was very impressive to see. The town market offered beautiful Oaxacan goods and at Mercado el Tule we had another local dish; Tlayuda, which is a large tortilla baked on a hot stone with a bean paste or mole and Oaxaca cheese, the rest of the toppings you can choose. Super delicious! Free Mezcal tasting was of course included.
To get from el Tule to the city of Oaxaca you take a collectivo. A collectivo is something like a bus, as they drive a certain route, but you are in a regular car, like a Nissan Sentra. You have to wave them down like a taxi as they do not have bus stops. They squeeze as many people as possible in and you have to tell the driver which street corner you want to be dropped off. So make sure you figure out which route your collectivo is going so you can avoid going the wrong way. Thanks to Leanne it was a piece of cake. She told us what signs in the collectivo we need to look for and on which street corners it is the easiest to wave them down. It cost around 11 pesos per person and definitely worth it. It takes only 15-20 minutes from Tule to Oaxaca. The biggest plus is that you can relax and do not have to participate in the crazy driving chaos of Oaxaca. In the city we decided to explore one of the many markets. The Friday market was amazing and we found a lot of handicrafts, pillow cases, blankets, stuffed toy animals, and traditional Zapoteca clothes. All these things hand-made. We also indulged in delicious street food and Oaxacan specialities like mole (chocolate based sauce with chile) and chapulines (fried grasshoppers seasoned with lime, garlic and chili).
We adventure through some museums, crowded market places and colorful streets. Tasted oaxacan coffee and chocolate and watched vendors selling whatever they can. At the main square of Oaxaca we listen to a local band playing traditional music. Be aware during the month of July as Oaxaca city gets a lot of rain in the afternoon. As it had to happen, we got a beautiful summer shower. Besides the fact that we got soaking wet, Kenny was still struggling with his stomach bug and we decided to head back to the beautiful Overlander Oasis. Over the next few days we discovered our first Maya Ruin, Monte Alban. Climbing over thousands of years old ruins and diving back into the ancient world of the Mayans was one of the highlights of Oaxaca.
In Titotlan del Valle we learned how to dye wool and make carpets. We, of course could not resist and bought three from El Tono de la Cochinilla a Zapotec weaver family. If you are interested in their work check out http://www.eltonodelacochinilla.com
Another awesome thing about Oaxaca city is that mezcal is made around this part of the region. Of course, after learning about tequila and visiting the beautiful town of Tequila, we had to learn the procedure of making mezcal. Mezcal is made from agave plants as well, but for mezcal they use different species of agave and mix different species together. True tequila is only made from blue agave. The process is different too. I know it would be interesting for some people to read about how mezcal is made, but I forgot most parts of it, and to be honest the entire time our guide was talking, I was wishing for the taste testing to begin. I was truly surprised to find out that Mezcal does taste different than tequila. It was a little bit smokey tasting. Kenny and I agree that we prefer tequila over mezcal. Well, I do not really fancy either, but I love a good margarita and that is made with tequila. Kenny on the other hand loves sipping it, so he is the true taster here and I’ll take his word for it.
We decided to leave the overlander Oasis to explore the sides of Hierve el Agua. Hierve el Agua is another highlight found in Oaxaca. Hierve el Agua is a set of natural rock formations which resemble cascade of a waterfall. These formations are created by fresh water springs, whose water is oversaturated with calcium carbonate and other minerals. I skip the boring part of the whole chemical process and come to the fun part. We camped right at a cliff with an amazing scenery of one of the waterfalls and the beautiful mountain range. The parking lot guards let you spend the night for a small extra charge. The advantage of camping in the parking lot is that you can start your hike early the next morning right before the gates open and you have the entire place to yourself, except of one of the parking lots guard dogs decided to join us and lead the way. The hike around the waterfalls and the valley took us a good two hours and was really easy to manage.
Don’t forget to bring some warmer clothes. Oaxaca city and the surrounding area is higher in altitude and it definitely gets fresh at night. Another advice I can give you is to take your time and explore the area of Oaxaca City. There is so much to see! We ended up staying one week and could have easily spend more time there.