Mezcal, markets & Maya- oh my!

An hour and a half east of Oaxaca City, we followed a 13 km twisting goat trail of a road that led us to Hierve El Agua, a small mountain village that is nestled proudly protecting this natural wonder.
Calcium rich water bubbles up from the earth cascading down a hillside creating a series of pools before draping dramatically down the cliff for hundreds of feet like a frozen waterfall.  Or perhaps a melted ice cream cone.  But also kinda like a bridal veil.  Your choice.

For twenty pesos ($1.75), we got a “piña loco” to enjoy waterside, which was an entire pineapple, cored and cut, reassembled into the shell, seasoned with spicy apricot sauce and chili, topped with a dose of locally produced mezcal. The combination of slippery cliff with no guardrails + cheap booze must be handled carefully.

Her insights so simply put, Colette called the small pools “clouds,” perhaps because of their shape or the clouds reflection in them.
Unable to contain her utter joy, Colette has a new trick that when she gets SO excited she can’t handle it, she flaps both hands vigorously and giggles!
We reached nature’s best infinity pool just in time for a dip in the cool water before a spectacular sunset illuminated the canyon in a soft glow.

Atop the hill, with sweeping views of the pools below and the gentle valley far, we set up camp, jaws agape that we were the solitary witnesses to this majesty.
Adam crafted a small fire and we dined in the glimmering lights on Emily’s stewed soyrizo & zucchini leaf green mole atop brown rice.
The moonless night revealed twinkling galaxies far away, a few stars falling thru the darkness into oblivion…
Adam hiked down the dusty trail to set the morning’s first rings into nature’s goblet before departing.
Emily glimpsed a sign reading “fabrica de mezcal” and thru the bushes, we spotted a donkey pulling an enormous wheel.
A 4th generation family business, they kindly showed us their process. 1) The maguey cactus’ must grow from 7-10 years to reach maturity.

2) They are harvested, trimmed to the core, then roasted in an underground pit for 3 days.
3) The roasted cores, called ”piña’s”  are mashed by stone wheel pulled by donkey.

4) Mashed pulp is fermented for 15 days in giant vats.
5) Boozy pulp is boiled in brass pot over fire, stirred constantly, with more of the fermented juice filtered thru, water added and pulp removed by pitchfork.

6) Mescal is bottled or further distilled with herbs or fruits (we got cedron, lemon verbena and pechuga, which is fermented with wild mountain apples and plums.)
7) Bottled liquid is poured, and consumed.
“para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también = for everything bad, mezcal, and for everything good, as well.

We took the majestic mountain route passing thru San Jose del Pacifico, famed second hometown of curandera, shaman, Maria Sabina whom introduced magic mushrooms to the greater world.  The clouds rolled up the valley climbing the lush walls; as Colette said “touch clouds.”   Adam guided the Westy thru the windiest portion of our trip thus far.  The endless switchbacks only offset by a vista of the setting sun thru the trees.
We arrived late into Puerto Escondido, The Mexican Pipeline.   Adam awoke early and ready to get wet, unbelievably having not surfed since Baja.  He threw on his trunks, then stopped to look ponderingly at the waves sharply rising from the sea and smashing not so far from the caramel sand.  It is a heavy, fast wave.
Adam scored some big birthday barrels!  Emily & Colette jumped and cheered from the shoreline.  

You win some!
… and you loose some…
Our beachside basecamp.  Putting all of our GoWesty  accessories to good use.
Mazunte is a tiny cove that is well established on the patchouli route.  Tucked out of the scorching midday sun, we sat beneath the palapa, sipping celebratory birthday mojito’s and cerveza, watching the waves lap the shore and listening to the local travelers that assembled for a jam sesh.

The narrow streets were lined with coconut palms and bouganvilla, bakeries, comedors (little restaurants) and hostels.  We built sand castles and swam in the gentle waves.
San Augustinillo was a sleepy nook with gorgeous swath of beach nestled between Mazunte & Zipolite.  Zipolite had some fun waves that Adam traded with a solitary local.  The beach is also dotted with a plethora of nudists mainly of an older set, perhaps the last of the hippies.  We rambled down the beach and up to the retreat Shambhala, which hosts meditation courses and has a sweatlodge, as well as sweeping views of the beach.Giggling at the sight, we spotted a beach vendor that knows a good customer when she sees one – selling pants to nudists!
Barra de la Cruz is yet another epic surf location.  With no surf to be had, we had a drink on the beach, explored the lagoon and hit the road.
Our friend Jeff in Los Angeles is a frequent visitor to Oaxaca, both city and state.  He insisted we call his good friends when we reached Salina Cruz.  Karla & David met us at the coffee shop and arrived with their 2 year old son Dylan, that Colette became fast friends with.  We chatted for a few, then they were like “Ok, you wanna head back home now?”  The thought of a shower in a real bathroom was exciting for Adam & I, so we gladly accepted their generous offer.  Our room had two queen beds, and we excitedly each took our own bed to sprawl out in.

David & Karla run Las Palmeras Surf Camp .  Their lovely hilltop house serves as the basecamp from which they host an international roster of pro-shredders and surf junkies alike.  Kelly Slater, Dane Reynolds and many more have stayed with them.  The best of the surf season had ended, so there were no visitors.

Las Palmeras is the large white compound on the left overlooking the beach break and three point breaks in the distance.

David invited Adam on a dawn patrol surf so they awoke at 5:30 A.M. and set off into the dark, reaching Punta Conejo for the sunrise out of the ocean in the east.
The tide wasn’t right for a surf yet, so the guys decided to try their luck with some fishing down at the jetty.  Emily’s grandfather gave Adam a deep sea fishing pole before his passing and he finally had a chance to give it a go.
No luck on fishing but the tide was just right for a surf back at Conejo.  The swell angle was a bit steep and the wind wasn’t quite right but Adam went out and managed to tuck into a few while David fished from the rocks.  Adam surfed his 5’10 fish he made, the materials supplied by the good folks at FoamEz .
A wild dog feasted on the remains of a fallen sea turtle.
Adventuring out through the deep sand in David’s 4×4.

Many thanks David, Karla & Dylan!  We had a wonderful visit and hope to see you next year!

Down the road is bustling Tehauntepec, still the heart of Zapotec culture, which is filled with traditionally dressed women, the style of which was adopted by Frida Kahlo.
Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico, with a reputation that precedes it.  The Zapatista stronghold is a political center for the movement that fought to bring basic access to education, clean water, sewage and electricity to many rural farmers and indigenous.   
San Cristobal de las Casas is perched high in the pine forests.  We arrived in the evening, and witnessed the breathtaking release of candle lanterns into the dark night sky.  They danced upon the gusts, swirling like fireflies higher and higher into the atmos, creating a chain upon the current into the distant silhouette of the hills.

A sandwich board offering daily special of quiche and red wine for 30Pesos ($2.50) was right on budget, so we perched ourselves at an outdoor table to watch the people stroll by on the busy promenade.  We had some pizza, but it didn’t fill the craving we have for some legit slices from Pizzanista.
We struck up conversation with the table next to us- an international assortment from Belgium, Italy and South Korea- that we chatted with then followed to the next bar.  Tucked in a back street, the tiny enclave had a fantastic vibe- dim candles and low ceilings in the centuries old brick building, packed with young progressives- a collection of those that work for the many NGO’s based in San Cristobal.   We ordered the local specialty ponche– a corn based liquor flavored with Jamaica, the strong sweet flavor reminiscent of port.

Colette snoozed peacefully thru the laughter and pulse of the night.

We woke late, having enjoyed our night out and set out into the many markets.  Plywood partitions draped with plastic sheeting of different colors, the sunlight filtering thru creating a soft glow.
Tzeltal women were adorned in fluorescent colored embroidered box tops, tucked into black wooly aline skirts folded into large box pleats in the front wrapped with wide belts.  A large portion of the women keep to traditional style, while most men have adopted a western style of dress.
Sorted into hombre assortments multicolored beans, polka dotted or solid, in shades of purple and magenta, white, lime and yellow, burgundy, orange , freshly shelled rest in large plastic bags.

In the midst of our mid-day market wandering, a parade stumbled through.  Flatbed trucks reenacting the ‘stations of the cross’ were followed by throngs of Halloween costumed ghouls and trannies drinking cervezas.  Sunday’s are commonly known as the Mexican drinking day and this Sunday was no exception.

Judy Duby worked as a journalist and photographer, Frans Blom an explorer and archaeologist . Thru 50 some years they worked side by side to preserve the indigenas culture.  Na Bolom is a wonderful guesthouse, museum and library housing one of the worlds largest libraries on the Maya.

We would have loved to be a guest at this magnificent table during their heyday. 

Bundled in the frosty mountain air, the early morning alarm told us our time in Mexico had come to an end.  We gathered ourselves and set off for Guatemala!