April 08, 2006

Oaxaca and More

During our final week in Cuernavaca we got just a bit busier. We drove into Mexico City on Sunday. Traffic was light and it was easy to get there and get around. We spent most of our time at the anthropology museum. I had been there before, but Betty had not. It is one of the best of these types of museums and well worth visiting. The quality and quantity of the artifacts makes it a must. It is so large that we quit after about four hours. We probably saw a little more than half of the museum. After our visit, we drove to the historical center of the city. It is an amazing and beautiful part of the city. Visitors to Mexico should try to spend some time in Mexico City, because of its beauty and age. While we were there, the youth of the city were beginning to gather for a huge rock concert planned for on the Zócalo, or central square of the city. We left just before dark, taking the free road to back to Curernavaca in a little over one hour..

On Tuesday we drove to Taxco, the silver capital of Mexico. It is a pretty little town that hundreds of tourists visit everyday. We walked from shop to shop to shop. When we got tired we stopped to lunch at one of the many rooftop restaurants. I picked up a straw hat and Betty bought a present. It is a nice day trip when you are in Cuernavaca.

Press HERE to see a slideshow from Oaxaca and more.

Oaxacan Ladies
Grasshoppers Anyone?
Market Shrimp
Chickens to Eat

A week-ago on Friday at midday, we picked up Megan Cowell and headed for Oaxaca. We had invited her to join us for a few days. It is about a seven hour drive to the city of Oaxaca. It was a typical Mexican two lane road that brought you through the center of every little village. The country side was interesting with huge cacti and mountain switchbacks. We arrived just as the sun was setting. We looked and looked for an acceptable hotel, finally finding one about nine. Tired and thirsty, we walked to the Zócolo for some refreshments.

On Saturday, we concentrated on shopping in the city markets. There was an artisan market, mostly with clothing. We all bought something: I got a Mexican dress shirt; and Betty got a pair of shorts; and Megan bought some gifts. Then there was the general market with flowers and food and more clothing and stuff for the house. The ladies tasted the local popular seasoning of ground up grasshoppers. Later we all bought some of the famous Oaxacan chocolate. I got a kilo of coffee, which we prepared for our breakfasts. There were a large number of stores that we visited. There was supposed to be a large cultural event that we could not seem to connect with. We visited one of the many beautiful cathedrals in the city. In the evening Megan and I went out to a club. She was salsa dancing and I enjoyed the crowd.

On Sunday we did the free things that can be done on Sundays. First we visited Monte Alban. It is one of the most spectacular archeological sites in Mexico. Most of its structures are about 1000 years old. We spent three or four hours roaming from one building to the next. After that it was to the free museums. The modern art museum had the works of single artist. It did not do much for me. It consisted of hundreds of clay nearly life-size statues of people that represent the migration of people. Then it was Oaxaca's history museum. It had some fantastically good quality pieces, especially the ancient Zapotec Indian artifacts. There was also a great garden that we could see from the large open windows of the museum. We were exhausted, and the day was coming to an end. We walked down to the Zocolo for beers and a bite to eat.

Photographs from Monte Alban

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On Monday we did a driving tour of the city and a trip to Tlacolula, a small town 15 miles east of Oaxaca. There was a small market with a few things for sale. Betty bought a bag of fresh cumin. The main point was to see a bit of the city and then a bit of the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately for Megan I choose the wrong direction. We should have headed south. When we got back we took a break, and about 8:00 we went out for dinner. After dinner we said our good-byes to Megan. She caught the midnight bus to Mexico City.

Tuesday: We headed south on highway 175 toward Puerto Angel. It is a much better road than the one to Puerto Escondido. Before we got clear of the area, Betty and I took a little side trip to San Antonio Arrozola. In this little village, the bulk of the Oaxacan wooden carvings are produced. They are wonderful and fanciful. I am not sure how much cheaper they are in this village, but for sure the variety is grand. We bought a few items from a workshop where we saw pieces being carved and painted.
From here we got back on 175 and stopped at the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec, where much of the Oaxacan black pottery is made. We went to a factory store for Donna Rosa and bought eight to ten pieces for about $27 USD.
Five or six hours of hard driving later we drove into Puerto Angel. It is a much smaller and quieter town than Puerto Escondido, but this is where we planned to spend the next three nights. We had a good sea food dinner that night.

Carvers at Work
Painting the Piece
Beautiful Results
Carvings Galore

Wednesday was the first of several days on the beach. We stayed at a Hotel La Cabaña on the west side of the bay. It was nice and cheap for Mexico at $30 USD a night. We only had to walk across the road to the beach, all of 40 meters. We spent the entire day swimming, reading, eating and drinking on the beach.

Mazunte Beach
And Its Restaurants
The Coast of Huatulco
Bahia de Santa Cruz

There are several small villages just east of Puerto Angel. The furthest one is Mazunte, a six mile drive. We drove there on Thursday, passing through the other two towns, Zipolite and San Agustinillo. We planned to visit them as we made our way back to Puerto Angel. But the best laid plans never see the light of day. Again we spent the entire day watching the waves roll in. We had brought a liter of rum and were soon downing it with a pitcher of fruit juice I ordered. As the day wore on some American students sat at the table next to us. They were studying Spanish in Oaxaca, but were also seeing much of the country. We like them all. There was Megan, Kylie, Zach and Daniel Thurston Grant - what a moniker. Near the end of the day a couple from St. Paul sat down at another table next to us. They were Jan and Jim. From what we could tell they are regular visitors to Mexico, coming down at least a couple of times each year.

Friday we drove thirty miles east to Bahías de Huatulco. The furthest west and most inaccessible is Bahia San Agustin. We heard that it was a real Mexican place that was quiet and nice to visit. So we drove the 8 miles down the dirt side road. It is beautiful, but there are no rooms in this village. We had a drink and head back to the main road and into La Crucecita, the main town that is the gate way to the Bahías. We quickly got a room in a posada. Compared to the rest of the rooms in the town, it was cheap at $50 per night. Prices have exploded in the area in the past two years. It is very clean and well set up for handling lots of tourist. Still in 2005 there were only 1800 flights into their international airport. In years to come, I expect that the prices and number of tourists will soar. We headed to the closest beach and had lunch. I never had tough fish before, but I did there. Still it tasted great. After eating we decided to drive to all the little bays along the coast. We got to most of them, and saw some huge and beautiful resorts. Places that we would never stay at - but still it was fun to look.

Saturday, the 8th of April, Betty's birthday
It is clear that Betty is getting tired of traveling. The Plan was to spend the next three weeks winding our way back the 3000 kilometers back to Minnesota. This plan may need to change.
In any case in is our last day in Bahías de Huatulco. Again we spent the day on the beach. It was absolutely lovely. The bays are small, so the people seem to fill the entire beach. We drank and swam and enjoyed ourselves. In the evening we had pizza and went to bed early. Tomorrow we would be on our way to the province of Veracruz.

Posted by bill at April 8, 2006 11:24 PM

It was so nice to see your picutres of Oaxaca, I was there in 1992 with Northwest Medical Teams and I thoroughly injoyed my time there. In fact I thought of moving my family there at one time. Thank you for bring back great memories. Esther

Posted by: Esther Goodwill at April 10, 2006 11:03 PM

Great pictures? Did the grasshoppers taste "a bit like chicken"? :-)

Posted by: Ingo at April 11, 2006 12:17 AM

HI! Is always a breath of fresh air to receive and read your log.

Posted by: Daniel Grimberg at April 13, 2006 07:25 PM