As we arrived in Mexico City from Zitacuaro, we received the amazing news that the lens was ready to be picked up. We made an on the spot decision to skip Puebla and head straight down to Oaxaca (wah-hah-kah) to meet up with Adam and Rach. No, we don’t love them, YOU DO. Well maybe a little. Plus Adam drinks beers, so I like him more than Alice, also who else are we supposed to play Monopoly deal with for hours and hours on end while we are in a foreign country that has nothing else to offer.
ANYWAY… we grabbed the newly fixed lens and with a very happy Alice, jumped on the next seven hour bus to Oaxaca. We arrived just before midnight after a very long, below Artic temperatures but otherwise reasonably comfortable bus. Rach had waited up for us- told you they loved us. After a quick squeaky hello and the obligatory “ we missed you guys, where have you been?” We all dropped off to bed.
Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca @ Oaxaca
Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca @ Oaxaca
The next day all of us (insert lovey face here) walked all around Oaxaca City with no boring errands to run, no printers to buy or malls to get stuck in. It was lovely. We spent some time in the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca which is housed in a beautiful monastery buildings adjoining the Templo de Santa Domingo. With such detailed and numerous displays we were a bit Mixtec-ed out. Oaxaca is a very pretty city and is home to the countries brightest crafts and some uniquely savoury food. So much so that Oaxaca is known as the culinary capital of Mexico, so we knew straight away that we were going to love it here.
One of the benefits of Adam and Rach being here a day ahead was that they had already tried and tested the good food spots (and unfortunately the “not so great”) so we headed to a local market and had our first taste of Mole Negro for lunch. We were so captivated by the taste and the rumours of how to make “Mole” (traditional sauce with many ingredients that would not usually go together in normal cooking) that we enrolled in a cooking class.
That afternoon, in true Oaxacan style, we sat on the rooftop terrace and drank some beers, we had been walking around for about 8 hours straight. For dinner that night we decided we had better try the stall next to the place we ate at at lunch, and see how their mole measured up (it was all really good).
Mole is a traditional dish and in Oaxacan it comes in seven different types;
Mole Negro, Mole Amarillo, Mole Verde, Mole Colorado, Mole Coloradito, Mancha Manteles and Chichilo Negro (the rare mole), so to say that Oaxacanians are proud of their mole is an understatement, it’s practically an art.
The next day we were all up and ready for our first day trip outside of Oaxaca city. It was only an hour later than planned but we were off! Turns out, organising four people, especially when the four people include Rach and Alice, was much harder than two. Nevertheless, a quick reminder that we are ALL on holiday, and we were off to find collectivos to take us to Mitla, but instead we ended up on a bus that seemed cheaper and easier than squeezing into a passenger car that already was eight people over capacity. (Passenger car- yes I mean a 5 person car).
We arrived in Milta on a casual Wednesday mid morning to find that absolutely everything was closed with the exception of a couple of electronic shops, one of which was blasting Vengaboys. With “boom boom boom boom I want you in my room” stuck in our heads we jumped into the back of a very uncomfortable camión truck and bounced around on metal benches for around 45 minutes, through some of the most beautiful countryside and mountainous hair pin bends to Hierve El Agua.
The Tough Life @ Hierve El Agua
Hierve el Agua which means “the water boils” are several natural salt springs and some incredible petrified waterfalls. It was much more impressive than any of us had imagined so we jumped into the very fresh waters of the cliff edge infinity pools. It was, albeit very cold, absolutely amazing with breathtaking views.
Swim With A View @ Hierve El Agua
Not A Terrible Wednesday @ Hierve el Agua
Petrified Waterfalls @ Hierve El Agua
After a few hours of swimming and a little hike to soak in the scenery, we braved the metal seats ( we pushed our way into the front of the truck, for an although tighter, much more comfier ride back).
Mitla was still completely dead five hours later so we did a quick lap and left in a taxi back to Oaxaca with a quick stop at El Tule. We spent a while negotiating with taxi drivers as we knew the price was 25 peso per person but it turns out that is based on 5 passengers so two people had to sit in the passenger seat in the front. We didn’t fancy that along the highway so we paid the extra between us and finally off we went.
El Tule is home to arguably the largest tree in the world at 14m diameter. It was such a sweet little town land is incredibly beautiful! Annoyed that we didn’t stop here earlier instead of stupid boring Mitla, we ran around the tree, took a bunch of photos and hopped back into it taxi back to Oaxaca. Another night, another mole at the market.
El Tule Sign @ El Tule
Our last day in Oaxaca, Al and I went off to do a cooking class, I mean, someone had to start cooking for Adam before the three of us started looking bad.
We were picked up by Alfonso in the morning and taken to the locals market. Honestly, this is the best and biggest market I’ve ever seen. The photos just don’t do it justice, there was fresh fruit and vegetables spilling over their perfectly crafted merchant stands, mesh bags overflowing with every type of bean and chilli you could possibly imagine and the most organised yet chaotic people traffic I’ve ever seen. There were women carrying 10 times their body wait on their heads, children vending chickens, men wheeling about merchandise from one end to the other.
Alfonso walked us through the market, explaining the different sections and answering our thousands of questions about the millions of chillies, beans and types of produce. Once we had purchased everything we needed (including the amazing delicious Quesillo, the regional Oaxacan cheese) to make our dishes for the day, we jumped back in the car and headed to his parents house just outside Oaxaca city.
When we reached their home, we were delighted to find that they had purpose built a kitchen together for these cooking classes. It was very well decorated and we even got to wear woven aprons and hair nets. Alfonso’s parents were around for the day, serving us juice, home brewed beer, the local delicacy of crickets with guacaMOLE, cracking some pretty great jokes and all in all being pretty great company.
Las Dos Cocineras @ Que Rico es Oaxaca
La Familia de Poncho @ Que Rico Es Oaxaca
In the day we learnt how to make Mole Negro, with its 27 (!!!) different ingredients, salsa verde and chipotle salsa, quesillo and squash flower empanadas and for desert, lechesilla. By the end of the day, we were stuffed! Alfonso was so lovely and his parents were amazingly friendly. They made us coconut cups which we drank Mezcal all together, it’s disgusting!!
We headed back to the hostel and had a reasonably quiet evening. We all went for another stroll around Oaxaca and planned our bus journey to Puerto Escondido for the next day.
With Alice kicking and screaming, and dragging a bag of Oaxaca cheese behind her, the next day we all jumped on a little shuttle to travel over the mountains, to the coastal town of Puerto Escondido.
We cannot wait to take our culinary finesse back home with us, or probably not, as everything we learnt to make uses specialty chillies and ingredients we will never find again. Ah well, worth a go
Ciao for now!