After a very comfy ride to Oaxaca through cacti fields and mountain ranges I arrived and took a local bus to the hostel that had been recommended to me - Casa Angel. I had not booked because on hostelworld it showed as fully booked, so it was fingers crossed! After getting off the bus at the wrong stop and having to walk back up the street I was pleased to find they had availability and not just in any form but the LUXURY dorm! It is very cool, the room has 6 beds all within there own cubby hole, with power point, light, shelf and curtain! Just perfect!! I also discovered they had a film night on at the hotel tonight with free popcorn - just what I needed! So I headed out for supper and had a delicious bowel of pazole soup and then back to the hostel for the film. It's so nice to feel I dont need to rush and explore Oaxaca as I have booked three nights here! The next morning it was up and out (after the free breakfast!) and I headed to the botanical gardens and enjoyed a very good tour - I learnt all sorts about cacti and different trees indigenous to Mexico and which were stressed out or Not!! It made a nice change to a church visit!! After that I wandered down to the Zocalo (plaza) which was teeming with people, cafes and restaurants flanked then north and south side and a cathedral and palace the east and west! People were having there shoes shined, vendors were selling anything from balloons to sweetcorn! I sat for a while to check my map and make a plan. Plan made I headed to Benito Juarez market, just off the plaza. It was full of stalls selling local agua frescas, leather belts and traditional dresses and more! I could wander for hours but my tummy was rumbling so I headed one block down to the next market - a food market. I avoided the grasshopper vendors - I think trying one is enough of that delicacy! The entrance was through a grill corridor - about 10 different stalls with meat hanging in front and grills behind, trying to tout for your custom. From what I could tell you order your kilos of meat (literally kilos!) and they cooked it in their grill then gave up to you in a massive bowel and you moved down to the tortilla/salad/veg section. Great idea but made for a very Smoky atmosphere and I wasn't sure I could eat that much meat!! So I walked on in and found a nice stall selling tyaluladas - I had read about these traditional large tortillas from Oaxaca in lonely planet so now was the time, I ordered a chorizo tortilla and sat at the bar whilst they prepared it, then it arrived - it was huge!! A crispy tortilla the size of a large pizza covered in retried beans (your favourite Ash!) oaxacan cheese (a delicious stringy cheese similar to mozzarella), lettuce, avocado, tomatoes and chorizo! And now for the tricky part - how to eat it, I looked to the smiling serving lady and she laughed and said no cutlery! I looked around and hands it was - I tried to break it but that wasn't easy but eventually I managed to tear off a corner - this was gonna be messy!! About thirty minutes later I was defeated - but it was delicious! Now to walk it off, another market - the traditional Oaxacan atrisan and textile market this time! Where local woman sell and make traditional crafts and textiles from the state. A few purchases made and then I headed to the town market on the other side of the city. This was an experience- the other markets were obviously aimed at tourists and this the locals. It was huge and made up of narrow twisting corridors where around one corner you could buy toys, the next underwear, the next fresh fruit and veg and meat and the next wedding dresses!! Crazy! I have to say there were no purchases made but I really enjoyed the atmosphere! I headed back to the hostel as a lovely french girl I had met in Guanajuato was arriving tonight. She was also in the luxury dorm, so we headed out together to the Zocalo for some food and drinks!
Day two in Oaxaca we decided to walk up the hill to investigate this large white structure overlooking Oaxaca that we had seen yesterday. After millions of steps we discovered it was a very cool open air auditorium for concerts! It stands on the mountainside with a breathtaking view of the town below- would be awesome to see something here, but good weather would be a must!! We took some pics of the view and got our breath back before ambling down to town, with no plan or map, but a left and right here and there stumbling across street art, beautiful plazas, churches a plenty and eventually the Zocolo. It really is a great city, I decided Carole needed to see the markets too so we revisited those and I decided there was no space for another tyalulada so it was quesadillas with the yummy oaxacan cheese! In the afternoon we took a short bus to Monte Alban an archeological site just outside Oaxaca. We had taken one of the local buses up so knew we would be short of time but then the heavens opened!! We managed to get a couple of photos in first with very stormy black clouds in the back ground. Impressive site but Palenque are still my favourite ruins of the trip! We huddled in the visitor centre and then under a tree in the hope that our bus would come early! But no such luck, however there was coach load of french OAPs who took pity on us and took us back to town! We had been told we had to try the Oaxaca hot chocolate but it was too hot in the day we had not got a clue how we would but now was our time, cold and wet we made our way to the nearest chocolate shop!!
Day three and we decided to go on one of the many tours offered by the hostel. First stop the widest tree in the world - not sure I believe that it looked like lots of trees winding into one but our very enigmatic enthusiastic tour guide insisted it was in the Guinness book of records!! Second stop a textile factory where we learnt all about how to spin wool and the natural dyes they use to colour the wool before shaming us all and showing us a very impressive carpet made by an eight year old (apparently not child labour but the owners brother made it for a school project!) the carpets were all very impressive but I already have no space in my luggage so no purchases made! Then to our guides delight next stop was the Mexcal factory - a spirit similar to tequila with a longer fermenting process in casks to create a more smoky flavour, after learning all about the process it was time to try, try, try!! It was never ending and so where the flavours - not as bad as I had expected and I was tempted to buy some but again space is limited!! Everyone skipped back onto the bus a wee bit more merry esp. an Italian couple who were some how hammered and our guide who was seriously shouting and slurring his words now! Off to the waterfalls and natural volcanic pools now - highlight of the trip! Until.....we broke down! We sat on the side if the road for half an hour waiting for the engine to cool down, which it didn't so they called in another minibus - which had 6 seats too few, so we squidged in and off we went, not to the pools but lunch we hoped but no instead an archeological site that our guide proceeded to very enthusiastically show us around but somehow not tell us anything useful about the site, instead he tried to catch an iguana and stick a cactus to his hand to demonstrate the anaesthetic potential!! Bizarre!! Then back on the bus but this time he had two buses so we split in two and headed to lunch!
The restaurant was a large buffet, so buffet technique was back in action, as tried and tested in Xcaret! When we sat down the other bus still hadn't arrived - so we asked our guide where they were 'you don't need to worry about them' was his response, but they're people we know from the hostel we said, 'they're not here, they're gone!' Was his response he continued like this averting all our questions as to where they were - super weird!! Anyway lunch done and the famous mole sauces of Oaxaca tried and tested we headed to the pools at last!!
At the pools we came across the rest of the group - turns out they had been packed off into a van thinking they were coming to lunch with us but they joined another group of randoms in a different restaurant!! The pools were cool - literally!! A few people did not go in but we decided that was the main reason we went on that trip, so in we went! The waterfall is strange - it's not a water fall but as such as no flowing water but looks very impressive - see the pic, I can't really explain it! Back on the bus and back to hostel for a quick turn around and onto the night bus for Puerto Escondido.....