16. Oaxaca

Mexico

After two flights, one hour each, we arrived in Oaxaca. We were used to spending at least 6-8 hours on a bus.  What do you do when you arrive in a city in the middle of the day?

 

As it turned out, you get started on cramming in some of the guidebook suggestions. We strolled through Templo de Santo Domingo (I have a soft spot for great architecture, despite knowing nothing about it), ate street food on the Zocalo (empanadas and "elote loco" - literally translates as "crazy corn") and tried to visit four art galleries but only one was open (graphic art museum; small, not bad). We talked to several tour operators about tours for the next day, but nothing really grabbed our attention so we bailed on that idea. Plus most were stupidly expensive and involved a whole lot of extra "attractions" (read: money-sucking opportunities) that we weren't interested in.

Cathedral.

Elote loco. Crazy, isn't it?

Zucchini flower empanadas.

At night we caught up with an Australian couple that we had met on the plane at a huge, semi-fancy fusion restaurant. Modern food, craft beer - we could see straight away that they weren't holidaying for six months. We reasoned that we could splurge occasionally, so we sucked up the extra cost. Once I had downed a not too bad quesadilla and some average sangria, we all headed around the corner for a mezcal tasting in a tiny, hole-in-the-wall bar. I could have stayed and drunk the añejo all night, and probably would have if the others didn't drag me away. Next stop was an extremely loud, lousy bar, which obviously no one else liked either so we left in a hurry. We then ventured to a live music venue that looked like someone's house, with tiny rooms located all over the place Somehow we landed a prime seating position, right in front of the live jazz band. We sat and watched for about an hour,  all of us mesmerized by the incredible drumming skills. Absolutely one of our best nights out in Mexico. 

 

It took a bit of time to roll out of bed the next morning, and first priority was breakfast. We have developed a taste for smoothies, made at street or market stalls, that consist solely of oats, banana and milk - NO azucar. Often they are served in thin plastic bags, tied off at the top and a straw stuck through the side. So simple but so effective (although not exactly environmentally-friendly). Such a good start to the day when we get our hands on one of these. Particularly great on hangover days.

Happy with our morning smoothie.

After visiting the three art galleries that were shut yesterday and a touristy market, we jumped in on another flavoured-mezcal tasting (that's normal before lunchtime, right?). This time we weren't so stingy and we bought a few small bottles to take with us on our travels. Our morning smoothie helped absorb the alcohol nicely.

 

As we had no luck with finding a tour yesterday, we commenced our own mini-excursion out to Tule. We caught a painfully slow bus that took us through outer Oaxaca (i.e. not the old town part). I felt like I had been transported to another city, where regular, non-touristy life went on as usual. Old town, where there was a restaurant and bar for every person in Oaxaca, was definitely the place to stay as a short-term visitor (or an alcoholic). 

 

The only reason to visit Tule is to see Arbol del Tule, the world's widest tree (who knew that was even a thing?). The sign says the diameter of the trunk is around 11-12 metres, but that number changes depending on who is measuring. Can't say I know a whole lot about trees but I guess it was impressive. It was almost impossible to get it all in one photo. The only other attraction was a manicured garden next door, with shrubs that had been sculpted into animal shapes. If that's your sort of thing, I recommend heading to Tule.

Arbol del Tule. Well, as much as I could fit in one photo.

Back in town there were more mezcal tastings, but only because we had a long night ahead of us and we needed to take advantage of anything that would help us sleep (yes, I know, it's a poor excuse). Overnight buses are no fun, even though Mexico does a good job of making it as comfortable as possible. Reclining seats, tea/coffee stations, TV screens (all in Spanish), pillow and blanket. Unfortunately the mezcal didn't help and I only managed about two hours of shut-eye for the whole trip to San Cristobal de las Casas. Looooooong night. 

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