Oaxaca (wa-ha-ka) – Mexico

Oaxaca City

Oaxaca city traffic sucks…just had to throw that out there.  We found a secure parking lot for our first night in town and hoofed it to the town square, or zocalo.

At a cafe we people-watch, and are watched in return, while sipping on micheladas and margaritas.  A single scan across the plaza includes a mobile shoe shine station, balloon vendors, and men selling hats stacked in a curve to the sky a la Dr. Seuss.  Raspados or “icee” pushcarts feature massive frozen blocks to be hand-shaved into cups and topped with savory or sweet flavors…olive, lime, pina, chamoy; my taste buds aren’t ready.

Children make their rounds as well; each item for sale bundled with hard to resist smiles and gringo guilt.  We have little room for extras in our camper but mounds of money in comparison to these kids.  It’s easy to become annoyed with the constantly approaching vendors and we’ve learned to reflexively reply “no gracias” well before the pitch.  Another sip of my beverage and a quick dose of reality has me better prepared for the next.  She’s maybe eight years old, dressed in traditional clothing, and will never drive a Barbie-mobile, or have the luxury of debating the sexism of such a comment over cocktails and ungratefulness; but nevertheless she smiles bright-eyed as I buy a wooden comb.  Three more children approach, sensing the opportunity, and Jenna buys something…anything.  There are dozens more in this square alone and suddenly my drink tastes superfluous and sour.  Jenna asks if I want ice cream, breaking my gaze.  “Ice cream? Of course…let’s go.”  And so it is…

The markets in Oaxaca City are well known and a maze of sights, sounds and smells.  A wrong turn can leave those with a weak stomach begging for an exit.  Head-to-tail is no understatement; meat hanging and scattered in every form.  Textiles from surrounding villages are flanked with baskets of insects.  Within fifty feet I could fulfill a robust grocery list, grab some mezcal, buy shoes, pick up a new A/C unit for the casa, and round out my purchase with a massive sword.  It’s the type of place that has everything, but can leave you wanting nothing but pictures of the scene, fresh air and less choices.  On our second visit we put away the camera, grab some produce and find what we came for…chipolines!  These fried crickets will be protein for later 😉

Hierve el Agua

Oaxaca was an interesting and vibrant city but didn’t give our group the warm and fuzzies, and after two days we were ready for less smog, and more space…much more space.  At Hierve el Agua we set up camp and had the mineral waterfalls and pools to ourselves after the park closed.

We were also long overdue for some hiking/camping and the Pueblos Mancomunados, Zapotec mountain villages, were within a days drive.

John Muir once said “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”

And Cindy Ross once said “Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.”

It appears that Cindy better knew this group, than did Muir.  We had spent months doing nothing more than sitting on beaches, drinking beer, and overindulging on the delicious unhealthiness that is Mexican food.  Our puzzle pieces had turned into unshapely soggy cardboard, and we were definitely unprepared to “go home.”

Next up…Up Down Up Down With friends

By |2017-06-21T19:56:03-06:00August 5th, 2016|Mexico, The Trip|6 Comments


  1. Rhonda August 5, 2016 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Great pictures! We have been enjoying the smaller towns and villages more than the cities ourselves. I can’t believe you guys are in Honduras already and we’re just now in Patzcuaro!

    • Jenna August 11, 2016 at 10:36 am - Reply

      Thank you, Rhonda! Enjoy MX while you’re there. We have had a great time in all the other countries but still find ourselves reminiscing about MX. ?

  2. Rick August 6, 2016 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Great story; great insights; will be forever memories. I grew outside the puzzle a long time ago…always seeking the next adventure.

    • Jenna August 11, 2016 at 10:33 am - Reply

      Thanks Dad! It’s true…the list only gets longer.

  3. Curious in Minnesota August 15, 2016 at 10:41 am - Reply

    I can see how delicious Mexican food can force you to loosen the belt, but I imagine it’s also healthier because it’s fresh (farm to table?) so it makes me wonder… After this much time south of the border eating non-processed/non-GMO healthier food, have you noticed a difference physically and/or mentally? Were you craving doritos or other “fake” food for a while as your bodies adapted? Of course, a positive change due to food may be hard to discern from the beach and beer effect 😉

    p.s. I’m still very jealous and living vicariously through you.

    • Jenna August 16, 2016 at 7:57 am - Reply

      The food is definitely fresher in all the countries we’ve been to thus far. The local markets are havens of fresh fruit/vegetables, meats, cheeses, spices, etc. Often the vendor selling the products was the same person working the fields the day before to bring it all to market! We like to order the local dishes from each area and almost all are made to order in front of you, down to the handpressed, warm tortillas. Yummmmm Don’t get me wrong, these countries definitely have their fair share of processed foods. You can find 35 different types of hot dogs in any given supermarket, chips, soda, cookies, etc. We’ve noticed quite a few locals treating themselves to large 2 liters of Coca Cola and chips pretty frequently…When dining out we tend to go with what is cheapest which lucky for us is the homemade street food or food from the comedors. These places tend to offer some version of a tortilla with cheese, vegetable/meat and covered in sauce. Sometimes fried, sometimes grilled, not always healthy, but always delicious!

      As far as whether we’ve noticed a difference…that’s a great question that we’ve never thought about (the beer and beaches may have something to do with that)! I have noticed our meat consumption has decreased drastically, not consciously. Vegetables are just so much cheaper, easier to find and so fresh that we cook most meals using them. We’ve gotten so use to being able to find fresh/local products that when we talk about our ‘life after the trip’ we want a property where we can grow as much of our food as possible. We’ve also become so much more aware of sustainability and wastefulness. After seeing so many beautiful beaches polluted with plastic and styrofoam it definitely makes you think twice before buying products made from these materials.

      I’ll end my tangent there…

      In answer to your question, YES we have noticed a difference in our mindsets. The way we look at food, how it’s made, where it comes from has changed. While I would like to say we’ve eaten nothing but healthy food the entire trip and are in peak shape, that would be a lie. The fried fish tacos, fry jacks, quesadillas and all things cheese covered have been much too tempting to ignore and beach lounging often takes precedence over workouts. We do crave items from home once in a while and if/when we find them on the shelves we sometimes treat ourselves. (I dream of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos) 🙂

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