View between Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido

Leisure Chronicles: Oaxaca City

Tortuous roads and snakes in a bag…

The highway from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido is a roller coaster road that will put you in touch with your mortality. Windy and treacherous, prone to washouts and falling rocks, Route 131 will beg you not to sneeze (for fear of dislodging your vehicle from the cliff edge it hangs on).

How do I know this?

When I was 19 years old I visited Oaxaca City with a group of friends. We were shoestring backpacking. My friends wanted to hit the beaches while I needed more time at the markets. I proposed they hop the cheapest bus to Puerto Escondido…Seemed sweet enough, and even though we had no way to communicate, we planned on running into each other coastside.

The food and textile markets filled my soul, and 5 hours later it was my turn to hop the bus.

I thought I’d have plenty of time for reflection over the 12 hour ride. But no. As the bus rumbled into motion, I was too busy managing one repetitive thought,…”My friends are going to fucking kill me for suggesting this bus”. That was, if they had managed to survive their ride.

I tried to distract myself by keeping tabs on the guy who had live snakes as baggage, but the undulating canvas sack was pretty nerve wracking in itself.

Horse Shoes embedded in wall
Flowers with mountains in the distance

Insights from the rearview…

Looking back on that bus ride now, I feel inspired,..even hopeful.

Clearly, my friends didn’t snuff me. The mountain wrapped valleys didn’t swallow me, and the snakes didn’t bite. But damn, sometimes we go through tough situations and survive by sheer resolve.

Kind of like these last few Covid years. Just shitty, scary, tumultuous dynamics. I don’t need to tell you- we’ve all been affected by this tenuous and straining time. Mental health issues are on the rise as humanity faces hard times.

Our world has changed forever and now we are all questioning and adapting to changes.

Loss. Gap. Pivot. Repeat.

In the wake of the first Covid-19 waves, I felt the need to draw my son Tappen towards the joy that can be found in adventure and inspired places. Prior to, he’d been in the rocketing program and drum line at school. He needed something to replace what he’d lost, so I called my friend down at Bicycle Heaven and asked him to hook Tappen up with a mountain bike.

What I didn’t know then was that an enduro bike and a passion for racing would soon follow, aaaand, enduro’s hella dangerous. But what could I do? He was happy.

Tim with son, Tappen
Tim's son Tappen having coffee

Retracing steps and finding new trails…

After sorting out the bikes, I pondered our annual mother-son getaway. As much as I crave the sea, I also love the mountains. I thought of Oaxaca, which is the food center of Mexico and home to sixteen officially recognized indigneous tribes (with sub tribal groups numbering in the hundreds).

The magic of the textile & food markets captivated me on my first trip and I never forgot. Imagine a vibrant patchwork of spices, plants, peppers, baskets, fruits, meats, clothing, mezcal, tapestries and so much more. Ah, the thought of it all!…(Can you feel that dreamy exhale slipping past your lips?)

Tim with son, Tappen, at market

The color of a culture…

When you buy from the markets you are directly supporting a craft and artisan chain.
How intriguing to be able to go and truly see the color of the culture.

For example, a stripe in a blanket might be the unique hue of a specific dried beetle from a specific regional forest. Someone went to the forest to collect beetles, dried and pounded them into a powder, turned the powder into a dye, then dyed the wool (heck, maybe even sheared the sheep), all before ever starting the weaving process.

In a world teeming with disconnect, purchasing from an artisan becomes an intimate experience, complete with closeness and connection to source.

Tappen on a horse
Tappen on a horse

An adventure for all the senses…

Turns out, this region is also home to world class enduro racing. My son went out for the day and it was love at first bike. Not me though, I learned my lesson after cracking a few ribs being ‘Miss Cool Mom’ when I took the teenagers to Moab over Spring Break. Since then, when it comes to saddle time, I stick with horseback. I was therefore stoked to come across a French Canadian woman who owns a horse ranch 45 minutes from Oaxaca City.

Giddy up!

Horseback Mexico offers multiday horseback riding trips with overnights in eco-lodging. We spent days riding through cactus groves and enchanting pine, native oak and conifer forests. We had a chance to stretch our legs on a guided hike as part of this excursion. The species of birds and plants here are incredibly diverse-many of these species had never before crossed my radar. It was amazing to have this time together, making memories.

Can a perfect trip get more perfect? Apparently, yes, it can get way more perfect.

Tim and friend
Cooking peppers and tomatoes
Pastry dish
Press

Cooking with Susanna…

Two words: Major. Highlight.

Chef Susanna Trilling’s Seasons of My Heart Traditional Oaxacan Cooking School is a dynamic culinary experience. We lucked out with the chance to attend her first class following Covid closures. It’s no shocker that Seasons of My Heart was voted by Forbes to be one of the top 5 cooking schools in the world, and is otherwise highly recognized.

If you are a human who is starved for genuine experience, and who wants to expand everything you know about flavor, head to Oaxaca. In fact, we’re going back! Because, well…

WTF not?…

My perspective on life has been forever altered by the passing of friends who were too young, and by keeping the businesses (that I’ve worked so hard for) alive during the pandemic.

Life is a lot like mangoes. Vibrant, messy, and meant to be savored.

When the mango’s ripe, peel it! (Even if that happens to be when school is in session.)

I’m letting my son skip a week of his senior year to dig into an enduro clinic with Oaxaca Bike Expeditions, where he will work with cream of the crop pro-riders from all over the world. And since we’ve already established that bikes aren’t my thing, Tappen will be dropped off with a pack of strangers to live his dream, while I head off into a magical forest. (I’ve signed up for a retreat at the mushroom forest with Coyote Aventuras).

This feels like exactly what I need right now.

How unexpected, to anticipate a Mayan style sweatlodge, silent hikes to waterfalls, and a digital detox. The idea of not having a phone or digital access for five days is simultaneously terrifying and blissful. I’m curious how it will feel. For all I know, I may be panicking and hitchhiking towards cell service, or on the flip side, I may never come back 😉

But if you have to come looking for me, it shouldn’t be hard, now that you know all my favourite places. One thing’s for certain, you won’t be finding me on the cheapest Route 131 bus!

Oaxaca City was voted by Travel + Leisure to be the World’s Best City in 2020. Wanna go?

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Oaxaca City Travel Recommendation Links

Things to Do:

Horseback Mexico

Seasons of My Heart

Coyote Aventuras

Oaxaca Bike Expeditions

 

Markets:

Mercado Benito Juarez: Craving grasshopper tacos (chapulines) This popular indoor market is brimming with various culinary delights.
Mercado Benito Juárez, Miguel Cabrera, Centro, Oaxaca, México,
+52 951 516 2352

 

Mercado de Zaachila: A traditional market renowned for pottery.
Mercado de Zaachila, San Jacinto, Villa de Zaachila, Oaxaca, Mexico

 

Mercado de Teotitlan del Valle: A friendly Monday market and a Zapotec hub.
Mercado de Teotitlán del Valle, 20 de Noviembre, Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

 

Massage Services:

Nativo Spa/Masajes Nativo Spa Oaxaca (Pre-Hispanic massage techniques): Schedule a massage right away because you may very well want to come every day! You’ll be floating on the warm breeze by the time you leave this treatment.
+52 951 123 2661

 

Places to Stay:

Casa Oaxaca: Historic lodging with an open, vibrant, cultured feel.

Hotel Casa Santo Origen: Earthy with a luxurious feel and lovely pool area.

Grana BNB: In the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

A few Cool AirBNBs:

https://abnb.me/BprLGxcenkb
https://abnb.me/p0BlgPrenkb

 

Places to Eat:

Levadura de Olla

Levadura De Olla: This place had the best meal I think I’ve ever eaten! We had a roasted egg dish in stewed tomatoes that was like clouds in heaven’s broth. White beans laced with citrus & smoke. Tortillas made of three types of ground heritage corn. Tamales en hoja Santa leaves. Quesadillas. This was all for breakfast!

Murguía 304, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., México

Check out these next eateries as well, they’re all excellent.

Los Dazantes

Pitiona

Boulenc

La Popular

Cabuche

Tim The Girl Catering offers fresh and vibrant food for private events and corporate gatherings throughout the San Antonio area. Send your inquiry here.