Mexico Trip Report Part 12: The Beach Towns of San Augustinillio & Zipolite

Beach Drinks in Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Well, it had to come to an end eventually, and it would be hard to argue that we didn’t have a good run while trekking across Oaxaca, Mexico. So, what better way to forget that we had a flight to catch in the morning than to spend the day walking aimlessly through beach towns, eating the best seafood (probably in the world!) and drinking plenty of mezcal all day long.

After wandering through the now familiar Mazunte, we kept going a little further and over the hill until we stumbled upon the small fishing town of San Augustinillio.

Walking to San Augustinillio, Oaxaca, Mexico.

San Augustinillio, Oaxaca, Mexico.

We walked the beach as far as it would allow us, then found a path that took us back to the road.

Sun beaten and starting to get a little worn out, while hiking between towns we found this grocery store. Perhaps she was a bit delirious, because for some reason, Jessica felt the Corona’s were calling her name…

Corona Beer. Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico.

And then we made it to Zipolite. Which meant it was finally time to find something to eat! We walked along the beach and stopped at San Cristobal Restaurant to get some seafood, the one thing we had surprisingly not done yet during this trip. We were both really excited to try the seafood while in this part of Mexico, especially after seeing the fishing boats coming in every day with the fresh catches.

Zipolite Sign. Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Seafood on the beach in Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico.

San Cristobal Sign. Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico.

After re-energizing with delicious fishes, we were off to wander again. We saw plenty of naked people on the beach in Zipolite, which made sense, being that it is a nude beach. We didn’t get naked, but there wasn’t anything uncomfortable about visiting either. Before heading back to Mazunte to watch the sunset, we left the beach sand to go see some of the town in Zipolite as well.

Mural Street Art in Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Streets of Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Mexico Trip Report Part 11: Laguna de Ventanilla

Sign for Ventanilla. Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.

We had seen plenty of dolphins the day before, as they demonstrated their sheer force of power by majestically flying through the ocean waves requiring seemingly no effort at all. Logically, it was now time to visit their opponents, the slow crushing and deadly crocodiles of the local wetlands. Two creatures of the water, fighting it out on the beaches of Mexico, and only one would leave victorious… or at least if I were in some sort of weird Mad Max dystopian future, they’d probably make them fight it out to the death with some sort of robot laser armour…

However, in actuality, we would be partaking in the opposite of all that rambling for this trip. We were going to visit Laguna de Ventanilla, a wetlands area and conservation site dedicated to the care of all the plants and creatures of the local ecosystem, an all around nice place and still a pretty darn exciting thing to do!

Just a short walk, in the morning sun, down the road from where we were staying. We spent about thirty minutes on the cracked and dusty pavement outside of Mazunte as we got chased by dogs, dodged local traffic and enjoyed the Mexican scenery.

Road to Ventanilla. Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.

We eventually came back around to safer paths on the road, away from the fast cars and back to the beach. Overall, a nice walk, but we were the only people we saw trekking by foot the whole way and would recommend the colectivo to save the time and to be more safe. Besides, it’s only ten pesos, when we got back, we weren’t really sure why we didn’t take it either…

Path to Ventanilla. Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Beach at Ventanilla. Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.

No Swimming. Ventanilla Marsh, Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.

When we arrived, we booked a guide and hopped in a row boat to be given a tour of the lagoon, the plants and creatures that dwell within. It was surprisingly long as we were taken pretty deep into the wetlands. We had seen other boats turn around after much shorter distances than we covered on our tour. However, despite there being the odd other boat out in the lagoon, we were still lucky enough to be isolated with nature for the majority of the time.

Some of the things we saw were birds, turtles, iguanas and crocodiles. Our guide talked to us about the different seasons and water levels of the marsh and spoke about the mangrove restoration efforts. Everything was very up close and personal and would be very easy to touch or grab at, if we were stupid.

Exploring Ventanilla Marsh. Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.Ventanilla. Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.Ventanilla Marsh. Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.Ventanilla. Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.

We took the tour with Lagarto Real (aka the “red shirts” group) Visit the link for more information of Laguna de Ventanilla and the conservation efforts being made to help restore the areas damaged by hurricanes.

Mexico Trip Report Part 10: Mazunte

Mazunte Beach. Oaxaca, Mexico.

Time to flex our muscles, we made it to the beach!

When we arrived, we did the usual of settling in and finding a place for some food. Mmmmm, more tlayudas and beer while watching the sunset over a magic beach town of Mexico.

In the morning, bright and early, we rushed down the hill to jump in a fishing boat for a whale watching tour. We didn’t see any whales, but did get to see sea turtles swimming along leisurely in the ocean and more dolphins than you can shake a stick at. Like a machine gun load of dolphins jumping out of the waves! Despite the lack of whales, I was satisfied. Plus when the tour was over, we got to hop out of the boat for snorkeling!

Instant beach bums transformation.

Beach Bum. Mazute, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Dirt Path and Flowers. Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Dirt Path. Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico.

 

Mexico Trip Report Part 9: Hagia Sofia Botanic Park

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Always a good morning with coffee.

We ate breakfast and started the drive to our final destination of Mazunte beach, but first there was one more stop along the way down the mountain. A place called Hagia Sofia Botanic Park, a privately owned nature reserve dedicated to the passion of all things plants, animals and good.

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Hiking through Hagia Sofia Botanic Park.

We got to walk the grounds, seeing the collection of jungle flora and fruits native to Mexico as well as an assortment from Southeast Asia.

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A butterfly posing.

After wandering through the jungle, we arrived at the fruit orchard and got to sample fruit directly from the trees. The star fruit was amazing and not something I’d ever thought I’d ever be plucking from a tree and biting into like an apple. Among other tastings, we chewed on cinnamon bark and crumbled the remains in our hands to fill the air with its scent.

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Still don’t know what these are, but now I know how they grow next time I see one at the market.
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Starfruit, ripe for the picking!
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So that’s where they come from…

After touring the gardens, we then hiked down to the river for a swim in the natural rock formations and waterfall. The water was a bit cold, but I guess that was to be expected from a mountain runoff. Fortunately, the weather was a lot warmer down the mountain, making it easier to dive in.

To end off the tour at Hagia Sofia, we were then picked up in a truck and driven back to the entrance for lunch. Naturally, all the food was grown and prepared on site. Also it was delicious, especially the honey.

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Cooking our lunch in front of us in this outdoor kitchen.
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Out to lunch.

All fueled up and ready for the beach next…

Mexico Trip Report Part 8: The Coffee Hills of Pluma Hidalgo

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Pluma Hidalgo or some sort of Jurassic park?

We made it to Pluma Hidalgo, the land of coffee and that’s about it. Not a problem, that was exactly what I was looking for, because I love coffee! As we drove through the hills on our way down the mountain, we were teased with the sights of the valleys where the coffee grows. Upon arriving in town, we were finally given the opportunity to try some too. Now that I was fueled up for the day with caffeine energy, I was totally ready to do a whole lot of nothing- and this time I meant it!

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Streets of Pluma Hidalgo.

However, to not let that caffeine spike go to waste and before settling in for my lazy day, we took advantage of being in town to visit a cactus and flower garden at the house of one of the local ladies.

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The foliage and climate seemed to be more lush and tropical now that we were a bit lower in altitude on the mountain. A perfect day for hammocks and laziness by the swimming pool.

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After a very relaxing evening, we woke up to watch the sun rise over the mountains without having to even leave our bed.

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More majestic sunrises than you can shake a stick at.
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Making a note of all the hammocks I plan to lounge in.

Mexico Trip Report Part 7: San Jose del Pacifico

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A beautiful day to hike San Jose del Pacifico.

A short ride through twisting mountain roads can end up seeming way longer than it actually is when you are on the morning after a mezcal tour and are prone to motion sickness to begin with. Oh yeah, not to mention the altitude, that’s a thing too, and one that also messes with me, apparently. Our final destination for the day was at a height of about 2500 meters, not exactly something to sneeze at, or perhaps I would, because I am starting to feel a bit funny from all this adventure.

We jumped out of the vehicle with great excitement to be done with moving for the day. The place was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. We got settled in with our bags in the cabin, used the washroom, got drinking water to hydrate and generally took good care of ourselves, etc, etc. After our short break to catch up on all that stuff, we then headed straight for the waterfall hike down the mountain. We were in a bit of a rush since we needed to give ourselves enough time to get there and back before the sun went down.

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Still feeling alive, but maybe just barely.

The hike was smooth sailing on the way there, other than a few slippery, steep spots that I slid down from totally not wearing the right shoes for the trek. However, Jessica assured me that I looked good in my blue suede shoes, as I dangerously hiked through the mountainous Mexican terrain. Surprisingly, I managed not to fall on my butt or hurt myself on this trip.

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A cabin we passed on our mountain hike.
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I’m pretty sure these woods are haunted…
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Strange things grow on the trees.

When we made it to the waterfall, we were a bit disappointed because it was pretty much dried up by this time of year. We were hoping to get to jump in, but instead we just caught our breath and enjoyed the scenery. Despite the waterfall lacking in water falling, the views along the pathway of the mountains were massive. The hike down more than made up for the lack of prize at the finish line.

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A massive view.

Heading back up the hill was a bit more grueling. Like I mentioned earlier, I think this altitude stuff was getting to me. I swear, I’m not getting too old for this, but at the same time… nah, definitely the altitude making me huff and puff so easily…

We got back and it was almost time to eat. All the food is all either grown on site or as local as possible.

By the time dinner was served, the sun had already long been down. We ate our food by candle light as the surrounding scenery had made its transformation into opaque darkness. Although a surreal experience to be there in person, any images or videos to show you at this point in the night would just be of black rectangles and probably not at all very interesting.

After eating, we were asked if we would like to try the steam bath. We grabbed our flashlights and made our way down the hill to where the small wooden hut was setup. We spent a while stewing in a small dwelling that was dug out of the side of the mountain and lit by a fire and candles. Fresh herbs, hot stones and steaming water in a pot over the fire provided a familiar and comforting scent. Likely, some of the same herbs I am used to using for cooking with back home. My guess was thyme or lavender with other local plants from the garden.

After making ourselves tender and tasty for any local mountain trolls that may be wandering by that night, we returned to our cabin and settled in for the night with a fire and some cozy blankets.

At around 4:00am I woke up feeling a bit weak with the chills. It was for sure some sort of sickness I had been feeling all day. I really needed the rest. I wanted to just curl in deeper to the wool blankets and go back to sleep, but as I was checking the clock, I caught a glimpse of light outside the window. I oozed out of bed, hobbled over to my hoodie, unlocked the door and went outside…

With no light pollution in sight, I did not want to miss out on seeing the night sky from the top of a mountain. Earlier in the evening, although black with darkness, there were clouds in the sky preventing me from getting to see any stars. As I was standing outside in the chilly night air in awe, I realized I had never seen anything like this before. If I had been shown a photo, I would not have believed it was real or an untouched image.

Standing in the crisp mountain air, staring at the infinite layers of stars dancing with glowing celestial gas clouds that were expanding across the galaxies, suddenly, a shooting star flew across the sky to complete the perfect storm of night watching conditions. Feeling satisfied and grinning like an idiot at what I was witnessing, I headed back inside to finish getting my needed rest for the night.

In the morning, I watched the sun rise and listened to the birds from the bench outside our cabin. The only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been a cup of Mexican coffee, preferably in my hand and moving towards my mouth. However, breakfast would not be served for another couple hours. Instead, we woke ourselves up and refreshed our minds by doing yoga in a studio overlooking the mountains of San Jose del Pacifico.

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Morning view in San Jose del Pacifico.

We only spent an evening at this spot, but it was packed full of things to do. A bit contradictory for such a relaxing place perhaps, but we didn’t want to miss out on any of the experiences during our short stay there. Despite all that, we were still left with that feeling of wanting more (even if that feeling was of wanting to do less). I know we will be back one day to do a whole lot of nothing in the mountains of Mexico.

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Room with a view.
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Pyramids and mountains.

Time to jump back in the car and head to Pluma Hidalgo for some coffee…

(P.S. For those wondering, this is where we stayed: Refugio Terraza de la Tierra)

Mexico Trip Report Part 6: Barro Negro & Alebrijes

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Wooden masks hanging in a Mexican workshop.

We kept ourselves busy and used every waking hour (and some extra hours that we shouldn’t have been awake) to the fullest, but alas, it was time to leave the beautiful city of Oaxaca.

For our next journey, we opted to take a tour van through the mountains to the beach town of Mazunte. Normally, if we were just going directly to the beach, we would have caught one of the public buses there. However, I really wanted to see all aspects of Oaxaca state and the mountains were especially calling to me. Coffee farms, cabins in the woods, roaring fires under starlit skies, all the good stuff was waiting for me at the top. I definitely didn’t want to risk messing it up with the stress of catching all our connecting rides on dusty roads, in the middle of nowhere.

The first stop on the ride to the beach was in the black clay (barro negro) pottery community of San Bartolo Coyotepec. We visited a small family run business and were educated on the history of the area, it’s unique clay and shown the processes involved in making a decorative clay pot.

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Creating patterns for a decorative pot. The clay turns black after a visit to the kiln.

We finished our tour and I bought a black clay cactus statue to place on our piano back home. As we exited the village, we were stopped by a parade of marching musicians. To recap, we were now on on a dusty road, in a small Oaxacan town, surrounded by desert, under the hot sun and we had just been forced to pull over for a parade crossing. This seemed so “Mexican” and we had a bit of a laugh about the unexpected experience…

That was, until we realized no one in the procession was joyful. All the locals adorned frowns on their faces, as the instruments rang through the streets. This was not a happy celebration, rather a celebration of a loved one’s life recently lost. So, a bit of a bummer, but it was still a marching band parade and I am not going to act like I didn’t think it was totally a cool thing to get to see. I don’t think that makes me heartless.

Next we headed to the village of San Martin Tilcajete to visit the Jacabo y Maria workshop. This is the crafts village known for very colourful, carved animal made from wood known as alebrijes. We saw both the students working and the masters. The masters have earned their title and their craftmanship creates something that is much more than just a cheap souvenir. It is a real piece of art. The details in the patterns, designs and the overall intricacies of the work is mesmerizing to stare at. Sadly, I could not afford one on this visit.

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The masters at work painting alebrijes. Zoom in to see some of the designs she is working on (right side, deer and owl)

Finally it was time for some lunch and after eating we kept the party moving. Not bad to have already seen so much and it was only early afternoon. Definitely beats taking a taxi or the public bus and we hadn’t even made it to the mountain cabin that we were going to be staying at for the night yet!