Put together five bored cruising yacht crews and you have the makings of an adventure. Anjuli, Avant, Adagio, Adios, and Finte were all tied to the dock waiting for a Gulf of Tehuantepec weather window which appeared to be at least a week out. What better to do than go on a road trip! Especially with the beautiful colonial city of Oaxaca just a 6-hr drive away…
We rented three cars and headed north on Hwy 175. The road climbs quickly up into the Sierra Madre del Sur, through hairpin curves, steep drop offs, and tiny towns perched on ridge tops with sweeping views. We stopped for lunch in San Jose del Pacifico, a sweet little town in the cool pine forest at about elevation 9,000 ft. The town was full of dreadlocked, barefooted young people – who had come for? Why magic mushrooms of course! Apparently this is the magic mushroom capital of Mexico! We skipped the mushrooms and got back on the road, arriving in Oaxaca City in mid afternoon.
The hotel I booked turned out to be charming and within walking distance of the historic town center. The neat, colorful rooms surrounded a leafy courtyard complete with tropical flowers and parrots. The roof-top courtyard was perfect for relaxing at the end of the days wanderings.
Oaxaca City is located in the center of Oaxaca state, at the intersection of three valleys rich in pre-Hispanic archaeological sites. As I often find in Mexico, it was not what I had expected. I guess I don’t know exactly what I expected, but what I found was a
charming, cosmopolitan city full of historic buildings, leafy squares, bookstores, museums and coffee shops. People stroll along pedestrian-only streets filled with street performers, food carts, and artisans. We spent hours in the Museum of Oaxacan Culture which is housed in the historic monastery buildings adjoining the beautiful Templo de Santo Domingo which dates to 1570. The museum houses Mixtec relics recovered from the tombs of Monte Alban.
Monte Alban, situated on a hilltop just outside of Oaxaca City, is one of Mexico’s most spectacular ancient cities, complete with temples, palaces, an observatory and a ball court. The Zapotecs ruled the surrounding area from Monte Alban from about 500 BC until about 700 AD
We also visited the ruins at Mitla. Mitla lies about an hour and a half east of Oaxaca City on the Pan American Hwy (a road which extends from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to the lower reaches of South with the exception of a 190 mile break for the Darien Gap in Columbia). Mitla is not as old as Monte Alban, dating from the final two or three centuries before the Spanish conquest in the 1520s. It was interesting to note that the Spanish
church was built right on the foundation of the much older temple – a common theme among conquerors apparently.
We returned to Huatulco via a different route which allowed us to view the infamous Gulf of Tehuantepec from the road. When you can see white caps on the water from miles away, you know it is no fun out there! It looks like our weather window may be coming in a few days. We are planning to leave Saturday morning along with the rest of the group (well except Adagio, who made a run for it a few days ago and has safely arrived in Puerto Chiapas). After crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec, we will rest a few days in Puerto Chiapas, the last Mexican port, before heading for El Salvador where we are signed up for the Cruisers Rally to El Salvador.