I would like to advise that because of the lack on fast and reliable Wifi signals on the road, it is becoming more and more difficult for me to post my blogs, particularly uploading pictures which take forever. This post for example has been ready for over a week and I’ve tried 3 times already to upload pictures without success. I am now in Belize and have yet to post 2 more blogs on my stay in Mexico. For this reason I have decided to post my articles without pictures just to get them out as soon as possible. Should I have a fast signal allowing me to upload media, I might then go back and add the pictures I had originally selected for that blog.
I think that it is more important to stay current as much as possible than wait two weeks to post the “perfect” blog. And so, an extremely visual person myself, and having received so many compliments on my pictures, I apologize in advance to my readers for the loss of the accompanying pictures.
I am going to try one more time to upload a few more pictures for Oaxaca but then that would be it dear reader.
Everywhere you go in Mexico you find beautiful handcrafts and artifacts from the States of Oaxaca and Chiapas. Oaxaca in particular is rich in cultural heritage and traditions. Potteries, exquisite hand woven rugs and embroidered garments can be found in market places and inevitably the answer to “where is this from?” will be “Oaxaca” so I knew I was in for a treat and possibly in great danger of breaking the piggy bank on a shopping spree! I also hoped that the prices would be more reasonable in the region itself as I would be buying from the local artists themselves and I was right.
First of all, I had a bit of an unsavory adventure on my way down from Puebla to Oaxaca and then, when I arrived into town I discovered that I couldn’t manoeuver the narrow streets up the hill to the campground I had selected. I had to turn around and search for the RV park downtown, only to find out, after 2 drive-bys, that it no longer existed! Google Map (did I already mention that I L.O.V.E. Google Map?) informed me of a new park just outside of town, in the village of San Francisco Lachigolo – but, as fate would have it, the boulevard heading out of town was blocked by a strike against the recent increase in gas prices. After driving around in the blistering heat for 4 hours, and still shaken up from my bad experience of the night before, I decided to park in the street as soon as I found a spot long enough for my rig and in the shade to boot!
The next morning I showed up at the Oaxaca Campground. Where did you spend the night? They asked in surprise. On the Oaxaca streets, I couldn’t get past the bloqueo, I answered. They just laughed. Apparently it is a common occurrence. I guess as a French person I shouldn’t criticize, I understand the power of a strike and it is for a good cause, after all the increase in the price of gas is affecting me greatly! May be I should strike too!
The owners, Dell and Kate, took me in immediately and made me feel at home. My neighbors were a wonderful couple from Quebec. Chantal and Gaël became instant friends! We had a spontaneous “apéritif” that night and decided to visit the town of Oaxaca together the next day.
The touristic center of Oaxaca is rich in beautiful churches, colourful squares with locals selling their handcrafts directly to the tourists. I bought a small naturally dyed hand-made wool rug from the weaver himself. (I’ve been eyeing them ever since San Miguel de Allende). He started his price at $1,000p and when I was about to leave, he told me he needed money right now and lowered his price to $600p. I was still unsure that he was the real deal, until he showed us a picture album of himself at his loom in his village. I was then sure that I was buying genuine quality (I had been warned about “fake” commercial and artificially dyed carpets). I ended up paying $500p for a rug that I saw selling for $1,200p in a store nearby!
My visit of Oaxaca was mostly marked by the wonderful time Chantal, Gaël and I had together. We wandered the streets and sampled Tecate, the local Aztec cocoa drink, a well as fried plantain. For lunch we had a set menu on the main square, being interrupted every 2 minutes by people wanting to sell us something. It was wonderful! We even goofed around with a street sweeper’s broom – he looked at us smiling, thinking: “These gringos are doing my work for fun, this is great – may be I should charge for this!” LOL
The next day Chantal and Gaël left and I found myself strangely depressed – but only for a short while as my friends Dudley and Sheila arrived at the campground that very evening. We had met in San Miguel de Allende a few weeks earlier and had celebrated New Year’s Eve together. What a blessing! I needed the distraction and the company and their timing was perfect. Together we went on daily excursions to discover the amazing state of Oaxaca. From Monte Alban, the big archeological site in the region to lesser known sites such as Atzompa and the jewel of Yagul.
Check out my video of Monte Alban: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w4PJ4Vy4QU
We hooked up with Lindsey who is riding her bike through Mexico. Together we went to the famous Sunday market in the nearby village of Tlacolula de Matemoros . All the natives from surrounding villages come down to sell the fruit of their labor, be it fresh fruit and vegetables, handcrafts, art. It was incredible to see the costumes and to sample many exotic fruits and dishes. I had a hard time not to buy everything in sight!
The next day we were off to see the Hierve del Agua, natural pools of water on a plateau way up in the mountain. It was magical. The water was a bit cold, but the view was incredible!
We then decided to visit Teotitlan del Valle, famous for its loom woven carpets and its natural wool dying process. We were in for a treat: our first stop in the village, we met Ernesto who showed us the beautiful work he does, the designs special to his region, to his Toltec heritage and the ones specific to his family, passed down from generation to generation. One rug proudly hung on the wall of his shop displayed an accolade for first prize in a national award! When I asked if he did his own dying, he took us to his workshop, at the back of the house and amazed us with all the natural herbs, roots, minerals and such used for dying.
I will be posting videos about our visit with Ernesto on YouTube, so please watch for them.
We then strolled around town, enjoying the beautiful hand-knitted sweaters and ponchos from virgin wool, hand stitched garments and fun hats for tourists!
A true visit of Oaxaca could not have been complete without visiting the Mezcal producing region around Santiago Matatlan. Every house it seemed had a wheel to grind the roasted pinas and make their own artisanal mezcal. It is the same process as for Tequila, except that the blue agave has a protected designation for Tequila only. Every other type of agave will then produce Mezcal. We discovered the creamed, liquored and aged Mezcal – we sampled it all!
The next day we left for the pacific coast. We had just spent 10 beautiful days in Oaxaca!
Until next time my new road amigos!
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Au plaisir de la route!