Oaxaca

Our night bus from Puebla to Oaxaca took double the expected time due to the closure of the highway for an unknown reason. The journey was quite tiring and stressful due to the delay, the tight windy alternative route, and the noises outside (many kids playing with crackers sounding like gunshots, even got the local passengers worried!).

We stayed 3 days in Oaxaca enjoying the layed back atmosphere and colourful streets and picturesque churches.

The zocalo (main square) was always teeming with artists, performers, musicians, and even a live orchestra one night, in preparation for the Dia de Muertos celebrations, which we were told, are even bigger in the Oaxaca region, than elsewhere.

We also tasted a few local delicaties: ‘queso de Oaxaca’, ‘memelitas’, Aztec soup, locally brewed beers and, Renaud’s favourite, Mescal, a strong alchohol made from the alguave plant, a type of cactus. For this, we went to a special bar called ‘mescaleria’ for a tasting session, enjoying a variety of flavours, colours and ages, some of which I found far too strong!

Outside the city, we decided to try and get around on our own without the tours offered by our hostel. This turned out to be a good decision for our visit to Monte Alban (we saved a little money by scouting out the bus ourselves), and a not so good decision the next day when we quick figured out how difficult it was getting around with collectivos to visit many places in a short amount of time.

Monte Alban was a definite highlight in this trip. The site in well preserved, a good size, not too crowded, overlooks the valley bellow and is surrounded by nature. It was built by the Zapotec civilization very early (from 500BC and they eventually abandoned it in around 750AD for ‘unknown reasons’, which we noticed was the case for most of the ancient pre-Aztec and Maya sites we visited).

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On the second day, we only had time to visit the ‘Arbol de Tule’, the largest tree on earth (after having seen the biggest in Sequoia National Park, in the US). At 16m in diameter, it’s even bigger than the church next to it and really ‘sticks out’ on the main square of Tule. Definitely worth the visit. Having not opted for the package tour, we did however miss out on some other local sights: a petrified waterfall and Mescal factory.

All in all we thoroughly enjoyed our time here and are starting to ‘get the hang’ of Mexico. Onwards to our next destination: the Chiapas region.

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