Leaving San Cristobal and the Oaxaca Coast
I arrive in Puerto Escondido on a night bus from San Cristobal de las Casas. It was a long, windy ride and between the frequent stops and the smooching, pillow-talking couple seated directly behind me, I slept very little. I spent much of the ride reflecting on my previous 6 weeks. I let the images of the hostel, the city, my favorite spots, amazing people I had met, worked with and explored Chiapas with occupy my thoughts. It was definitely a needed and appreciated stop.
Buses in general have a therapeutic and intensely reflective effect on me. Night buses make things a bit more trippy–promoting the usual reflection but allowing the brain to flow in and out of consciousness. It’s easy to get hypnotized by the dark landscape, like an old black and white movie flashing by.
It´s 9:30 when I stumble out of my night bus in Puerto Escondido (Puerto, meaning ¨port¨and escondido, meaning ¨hidden¨ however the port part is the only thing accurate about the name), the sun already intense, and walk in the direction I–for whatever reason–believe my chosen hostel to be. After a few minutes carrying my especially heavy pack (San Cristobal added quite a few new knick knacks to my possessions), sweat beading on my forehead, I hail a taxi, and am dropped at the doors of Losodeli Hostel. A clean, cheap (US$8 a night) spot, with a swimming pool, hammocks, and clean bathrooms. I appear to be the only guest. I have the dorm room to my self. At this point, I´m fine with the fact. Six weeks living and working in a hostel left me little time alone.
I spend the next 2 days wandering the city, the air hot and heavy with moisture; the sun, alone in the blue sky. I walk for hours, stopping periodically for a paleta (fruit popsicle), or to sit and read my book by the sea. The city appears to be divided by the main highway which slices it in two–on one side the industrial, working, living, real; on the other the tourists, the expensive, the sea. I walk to Zicatela, a long road facing the sea, lined with coffee shops, overpriced fish taco shacks, bars, hotels and surf shops. Though I´m tempted to move to a hostel here, where there is much more life, something seems unappealing about the place. Maybe too many ¨surfer bros,¨ maybe the lack of shady trees, or maybe the state of the sea here–massive, angry waves crashing along the shoreline–leaves me feeling slightly uneasy.
I spend nearly an entire day at a nearby beach. I buy a fresh lemonade from a seaside restaurant and am granted the luxury of a cushy lounge chair. A man walk by selling homemade ice cream. For about US70 cents I buy some of the nicest ice cream I´ve ever had–smooth, creamy, vanilla ice cream made with coconut milk rather than cows. I read and watch Mexican families play in the water. In the evening I take a colectivo to Zicatela for overpriced, though delicious fish tacos.
On my third day, I wake early and walk to the city market for breakfast. The market is large, clean and impressive with organized stalls, selling produce, herbs, fresh meats and fish, along with the cocoa and mole sauces Oaxaca state is famous for. I pick a friendly looking comedor with happy floral table cloths, and order enchiladas verde. They aren’t as tasty as the ones Sara, the receptionist from the hostel, made for my last dinner, but they satisfy nonetheless.
I return to the hostel, pack up and head for the Oaxaca shuttles, but make the last-minute decision to instead try another hostel. Not ready to give up on Puerto Escondido just yet, I check into a place recommended by a friend. Hotel Mayflower is located on the steps heading down to a main pedestrian street in town. It’s a multilevel hotel-hostel hybrid, with breezy interiors decorated in traditional Mexican folk art. There is a nice kitchen and two terraces overlooking the sea. It is run by a strange German Canadian woman who seems to talk to guests like they are children.
Almost immediately upon checking in I meet a British woman and we agree to walk to the beach. Things are already looking up for me. It’s a long walk down shadeless roads, then many steps down to Carajillo beach. We buy a lunch of fish tacos and are allowed to use the restaurants lounge chairs. The rest of the afternoon is spent chatting, and reading under the shade of an umbrella. We split the rental of a boogie board and take turns riding the fierce waves.
I run into a friend I met in San Cristobal and we agree to a boat ride to see dolphins for the following morning. It´s funny how quickly ones social situation can change in the traveller world.
In the evening, we meet a friendly Russian guy and the three of us walk to Zicatela. Not wanting to fork out the money for a drink at the seaside bars, we head to Oxxo (Mexicos 7-eleven) and buy beers, before finding beached driftwood to rest our bums and watch the sun set. After a shot of mezcal and yet another fish taco, we head for home and bed early.
My alarm rings at 6:30 the following morning and I awaken and head up the hill, where our boat guide is waiting to take me to the port on the back of his scooter. I´m whisked away to meet my friend and a friend of hers from her hostel. As it turns out we are the only ones on this boat tour. As we leave shore the sun rises over the craggly seaside cliffs, the already busy fishing boats and the city of Puerto Escondido. What follows is 3 glorious hours on a calm sea spotting sea turtles, rays, sea snakes and hundreds (literally hundreds) of dolphins. I´m excited when we first spot the dolphins–mere splashes and shapes jumping along the horizon. I´m stunned as we approach and the dolphins play around our boat in every direction I look, swishing through the water, in a synchronized fashion, and often jumping and flying through the air. I had never seen dolphins before and it seemed the species was making up for it by giving me a spectacular show.
I end my last day in Puerto on the rooftop of my hostel, sharing beers with some fellow hostel guests as the sun sets; and having the sort of deep, and thoughtful conversation not-unusual among travellers. I leave Puerto Escondido a tad burnt by the sun though feeling quite relaxed and positive.
Next stop–the beautiful colonial city of Oaxaca. A place famous for its regional food and stunning market. Needless to say, I´m excited