Well, after exploring the zócalo in Oaxaca City, having an adventure touring Mitla and shopping in Tlacolula, Cantimplora Travel continued to guide us to spectacular spots.
We roused casually for a short drive from Hotel Azul to a morning hike at the infamous Hierve el Agua. For those in-the-know this natural rock formation resembling a waterfall welcomes adventurers with numerous hiking trails and two restorative pools. This was the perfect opportunity for Bernie to capture some stellar vacation photos.
After having a quick soak in the springs we strolled back to the top for a lunch filled with traditional favorites and refreshing piñas locas – fresh pineapples with the fruity flesh muddled with mezcal and returned to the hollow pineapple and finally garnished with fresh pineapple slices dusted with chili powder.
Our day of discovery continued with a quick drive just minutes from the pools where we toured, learned and tasted from a local mezcal master, Alberto Martinez. The group ambled through the agave plants chatting with Alberto as he described his journey from seasons of strawberry picking in Central California to earn enough money to buy the land we were walking on.
He detailed the time and steps taken to distill the organic mezcal he has become so proud of. From the deep ground oven, they cook the heart of the agave plants in, to the large stone used to grind the cooked agave and the deep wood barrels used to ferment. The production is all done in Alberto’s facility and now with the help of Bernie and Samantha of Cantimplora Travel it’s being bottled, getting him one step closer to fulfilling his dream.
On our way back to the city proper our guides arranged for the group to experience a traditional Temazcal. The steam bath ceremony took place inside a small, domed stone igloo with a Shaman detailing the symbolism, rejuvenation and healing benefits of each dose of natural treatment we poured on ourselves. The air was heavy and hot as we applied honey, chocolate, crushed flowers and more on our arms and legs, creating a spiritual spa treatment to rival any luxury resort. After a full day of discovery, our group returned for a final night at Hotel Azul refreshed and relaxed.
Our next morning, we said goodbye to Oaxaca City and followed the valley road to San Martin Tilcajete to delve into the artist community and cooperative of Jacobo & María Ángeles. We were able to wander amongst the local artisans while they engaged in the creative steps required to create alebrijes (copal wood sculptures). We were shown how the bold paint colors are created from natural dyes, allowed to try our hand at the meticulous pattern painting and educated in the ways of determining our “spirit animal”.
This stop provided the perfect opportunity to see true Oaxaca Folk Art and purchase direct from the artists.
After browsing the gallery and choosing our favorites to take home we continued across the road to the restaurant managed by the same community. The local artisans continued to educate us with a selection of authentic mole and aqua frescas.
Soon we were on the road again and headed to the top of the Sierra Madre Mountains and beyond.
Cantimplora Travel’s tour of Mexico: Oaxaca/Pacific continues through the Sierra Madre Mountains to the iconic surf spot of Zipolite, see more from my week with them in Part III next week or snag your own seat with them for their April 23rd and get your OWN photos from Bernie along the way.
All photos taken by Bernardo Buendia, Co-founder of Cantimplora Travel.
Travelers in photos: Samantha Calzada, Co-Founder of Cantimplora Travel; Dan & Casey of A Cruising Couple; Cacinda of Points and Travel; Ashley Colburn; Patti of Luggage & Lipstick; Gil Arellano; Manuel Vargas; Hosanna of The Open Series and Nikky of The Pin the Map Project