The Pueblos Mancomunados (United Villages) are found in the Sierra Norte mountains of Oaxaca at around 10K ft. (3,000m). We were surprised to find that each of the eight small Zapotec villages has an ecotourism office and offers cabanas and camp sites to visitors.
After looking at the map and elevations we decided to hike a portion of the 100km worth of trails, and chose a loop through four of the surrounding pueblos. We took note of the distance and elevation change between towns and loaded our packs for a four day walk in the woods.
The initial path looked more like a forest road as we climbed out of the first village, Cuajimoloyas, and were eventually swept into the pines. Streams filled with watercress, strange mossy trees and the large agave made for a hike like none I had seen. After a solid first day we found ourselves camping at a trucha (trout) farm and comedor in the middle of the forest. We grabbed warm beers from a dusty box on the porch, toasted to our out-of-shapeness, and watched with anticipation as they prepared our plates of garlic fried trout, rice and salad. A good meal and campfire closed out a great first day. I may have also fallen into a muddy stream that night, but let’s move on.
Unfortunately, day two was a preview of things to come. Lots of elevation change and rechecking of the maps. The downhills were steep, long and covered with a heavy layer of dry pine needles; falls were frequent. The trail split in multiple directions with some resembling faintly trotted game paths; old markers conflicted new ones. The provided maps appeared nice enough and listed the distance and elevations of the trailheads/pueblos. Unfortunately, they neglected to include that these trailheads were short, very short, of the actual destinations/camp sites.
Over the next few days we repeatedly reached trail end-points to find ourselves at the bottom of a mountain we needed to climb to find camp. Likewise, we would reach the following day’s trail head well into the next hike. Overall this probably added an additional 30% to our total distance and much more to the elevation profile. It was either up or down, without much in between and we cursed the stupid map.
Nevertheless, we reached our destination each day; we built a fire each night; and we found cold beer, in pueblos numbering next to nada, each and every time. Small mountain comedors opened just for our group, serving single plate menus cooked over wood-fired stoves. We sipped Mexican hot chocolate, sampled local bread, took in the views and slept under the stars.
I’ve found that hiking, camping and sitting around a fire leads to stronger friendships; and I’d like to think this group got a little closer while cursing and complaining on some mountains in Mexico. (HereUntilThere & TheGlobeTrol)
There are people who will never choose to sweat up a mountain, sleep on the ground or enjoy a rainy night in the woods. So why do we do it? Even when things don’t go as planned, our memories have a way of filtering out the frustrations; and our sore muscles and blistered feet heal and are forgotten. I say, if in the end you’re left with nothing but good friends and stories to tell, how could you not?
So if you’ve never ever been camping, do it! Grab some friends, a mess of cheap camping gear and get into the woods. Not the deep woods, but the national, state or local camping type woods; we don’t want you getting lost on your first tango with nature. Fumble through setting up your tent, take a “look at me camping” selfie (then put away the damn phone!), make s’mores, laugh, drink, and cook over the fire. You’ll probably sleep like crap and wake up too early, but if you’re lucky you just might come to realize that a place to sit, a fire to warm you, something to eat, a friend to talk to and a shelter to sleep in are all you really need. Try it!
“A great many people, and more all the time, live their entire lives without ever once sleeping out under the stars.” ~Alan S. Kesselheim
Teotitlan del Valle
The state of Oaxaca is known for their hand made textiles and goods. We stopped into Teotitlan del Valle, known for their hand woven rugs and were amazed by the quality and detail. A walk down an alley led us into a family run shop full of the most beautiful, intricate weavings. The sweet wife and grandmother walked us through every step of the process down to making the handspun yarn and dying it into various colors using plants, fruits and even insects foraged for in the nearby mountains.
Before heading to the Oaxacan coast we made a stop into the notorious Overlander Oasis. Calvin and Leanne have been hosting overlanders since 2008 when they settled into the town of Santa Maria del Tule after their own overlanding adventure. They’re famous for their hospitality and the fact that Calvin can MacGyver a paperclip into a ten ton winch, but we found their commitment to helping the local community to be the favorite part of our stay. They even passed down a dutch oven that had been left by previous overlanders, and Calvin and I oiled and seasoned that sucker til’ it shined like new. Thanks for the hospitality!
Next up…Naked People and Croissants 🙂
Keep the blogs coming. It is amazing to be able to travel with you through the pictures and posts about your trip. Love being able to hike with you right in my recliner
Working on it! We’ve got a few more in the que…coming soon!
Thanks for this gem. We to love getting lost camping. Your adventure sounds amazing
Thank you! Getting lots is 95% of the fun! 😉
So glad you are posting more items. I enjoy it so much. Would be an education for unfamiliar with the joys of Mexico?
Thank you, Nancy! We are working hard to catch up on the blog and will hopefully have more adventures posted soon. We’re so happy that you enjoy it! 🙂 Thank you.