The trip from Campeche wasn’t supposed to be long but it was hot in the bus and although we had booked and paid for a direct bus this one decided to stop in all the small towns along the way. The bus station in Merida is relatively central so we set off with our packs to locate a hotel or hostel. As we were in the Yucatan we now had proper hostels to choose from along with the usual budget hotel options. Along route to the zocalo we stopped in to see a hostel who’s rooms looked average to say the least (but certainly not the worst we have seen now). The next hotel we stopped at was cheap and after checking the room out we decided to stay. This hotel was 250 peso per night and was a half block from the zocalo. We aren’t sure why it was so cheap, but hey no complaints. Upstairs in the hotel was a restaurant and we ate there a LOT. It was a great price for tasty food, which had a lot of vegetables for Mexican food, and cheap beers (Tom will always check the beer price on a menu to ‘judge’ the price of a restaurant).
Heading out of Oaxaca at 10.30am in a shuttle we were off and away through some crazy, beautiful and rugged mountains on our way to Puerto Escondido on the Oaxacan coast. The trip was about six hours of roads winding their way up hills and down valleys in a bumpy van which my motion sickness just barely managed to tolerate. The trip seemed quite long but we eventually arrived to the hot and sticky temperatures of the coast. We were finally at the beach again. Finding a camioneta (more or less just a ute with bench seats in the tray and a tarp for a roof) we headed 20 minutes out of Puerto Escondido downtown to an area called Brisas de Zicatela where we would be staying for eight nights. Continue reading
So we were back in Oaxaca. I wasn’t particularly upset about having to return here even though it was such a long journey to make from Xela. I really enjoyed the ten days we had spent here over a month ago and was happy to see some more of the city and especially to eat some more excellent Oaxacan food. I think this state has been my favourite for food (and continues to be in future destinations, stay tuned) with mole, lots of delicious meats, queso, mezcal and I can’t forget the chocolate!
We had arrived by second class bus which left us at a smaller second class terminal on the south west side of the city rather than the north where the first class is. This was actually really convenient for us as the cheap hotels were all on this side of the city. We easily found a hotel which was a few blocks from the mercado and zocalo and settled in.
Our first stop was to pick up our camera. Finally it had been fixed. With that in my hands our next course of action was to find food so we ate across the road at a local comedor. Cheap and tasty food in our stomachs we relaxed and had an early night.
We stayed two nights back in Oaxaca. Really we could have just had one but we had no idea where we would head to next so wanted a day to relax and plan. After doing some internet research we had an airbnb cabaña booked in Puerto Escondido and were ready to go out for the day.
Tom had lost his sunnies a while back and we were determined to find some in another nearby market. We couldn’t actually find any there but we pretty much found everything else you could possibly need as we explored this huge mercado. The produce looked fantastic and the food stalls smelled awesome but we showed restraint and only purchased a couple of avocados to go with our planned lunch as well as some coconut agua frescas. Locating an exit we headed back to a vendor of pollo asado or roast chicken which Tom craves every week or so. With our chook and sides in hand we headed back to our hotel to scoff down a whole roast chicken, salad, tortillas, salsa and avocado. Needless to say we didn’t need dinner.
After digesting we decided to head out into centro. That night our (really my) goal was to FINALLY have a Oaxacan hot chocolate. Priorities right? Writing this it seems like this whole day was revolving around food but we did accomplish research on our next destination as well!
Entering the Majordomo store we stopped to take in the aroma, mmmm. There was eating chocolate, a few types of drinking chocolate for making at home or to drink now as well as mole. I was in heaven. We sampled a piece of chocolate, some chocolate frio (choc milkshake) and some fresh chocolate paste which had a variety of uses in Oaxacan cuisine. Purchasing my hot choc I happily took my time with drinking it as we walked towards the zocalo.
As we were walking around the zocalo the weather decided to turn on us and we were stuck out in the rain yet again in Oaxaca. This had happened a few times on our previous visit. So we wandered some covered market stalls before running back to our hotel for our final night here. The next morning we packed up and ate a quick and tasty breakfast next door at a comedor. We had booked shuttle tickets at a nearby company which would get us to Puerto Escondido quicker and cheaper than taking a bus.
We were headed to the Oaxacan coast for some eagerly awaited beach time!
We arrived again in the craziness that is Minerva bus station in Xela. However, because we had experienced it before we knew where to go to get colectivos to centro. Easy-peasy. We had our new friend Claire with us as well as two other girls who were heading in the same direction. As we found out shortly literally the same direction. By chance they had booked the same guesthouse as we were returning to. So leading the way through the insane market we were feeling pretty useful with our knowledge and made it to our accommodation without any problems.
After arriving via multiple forms of transport from the Mexican border (check out my post on that here) we had reached Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela in the Mayan language and which I will use from here on as it’s easier to type).
Doing a loop of the town centre we discovered super cheap hotels which were nasty as well as pricier ones but none seemed to fit until we reached a guesthouse run by a friendly Dutch girl. We settled in and immediately thought of food as it had been a long time since breakfast in Mexico. Walking around for about 45 minutes didn’t help us with deciding on a restaurant so we headed back in the direction of our hostel and one we had seen earlier in the day. Luckily it was open and although looked close to closing they cheerfully invited us to sit. A fish platillo (Tom) and a beef platillo (Me) with tortillas and beers to drink hit the spot and we were very satisfied with our meal.
I had an ulterior motive when convincing Tom to walk through the plaza on a detour back to our accommodation. On our hunt for a restaurant we had seen two women selling what looked like round donut type things with a warm honey syrup. They were delish and I quickly became a sticky mess from eating them.
That evening, although tired, we made friends with another backpacking couple who we discovered were also heading to Lake Atitlan to study Spanish. The night was quite cold and we woke to a miserable day threatening to rain, which it soon did.
We farewelled our new friends promising to catch up in San Pedro soon. The rain stopped and we decided we couldn’t stay in the guesthouse all day so we ventured out to locate breakfast and visit the market. Breakfast was great. Q20 each for a huge plate of eggs and beans with tortillas (standard) and we just had to order an accompanying smoothie to go with it.
With more rain threatening at any moment we made it to the market as the sky opened. It was a perfect time for Tom to decide to get his hair cut at a barber. Afterwards we dashed around the stalls picking up ingredients to make dinner and headed back to the guesthouse.
Not a hugely productive day but not too lazy either. We rounded out the evening cooking and sharing a few beers before getting a good night’s sleep. The next morning would be an early start to get packed up and back to the bus station for our trip over to Lake Atitlan.
On our way back to the station we were joined in the colectivo by two other backpackers. The van got pretty squishy with all our packs arranged around us. They were on their way to San Pedro as well so together we located a chicken bus to the lake. Locating a bus was an interesting five minutes as the locals had different ideas and we kept getting different responses about the availability of buses on a Sunday. Eventually we were called over to a bus which was direct to San Pedro. Perfect!
The bus assistant guy threw our packs up on top of the bus, strapped them on and covered them with a tarpaulin. I was impressed at this and didn’t worry about my pack for a moment of the journey. We happily chatted away with our new friends as the bus (which are the fastest vehicles on the road) sped around corners and up hills. After about an an hour and a half we started to descend some steep roads to the lake.
The roads were insane and at one point there were multiple switchbacks so sharp that the bus had to take them as a three point turns. But the scenery was gorgeous and I all but hung out the window trying to get clear photos between the bus bouncing over potholes (more often than not).
By the time we arrived we were all sore from being bounced around in an old bus for 3.5 hours and happily climbed out. There had been six backpackers in the bus and only five packs were thrown down (all but mine!) before the bus driver impatiently started driving off. Tom chased down the bus as we all yelled “Una más, una más!” (One more, one more) at the drivers helper. He banged on the bus and it slowed for long enough for my pack to be passed to Tom. We had finally arrived in San Pedro la Laguna and headed off towards the lake to locate our school for the next few weeks.
Arriving in Oaxaca meant we were finally back on track to reach the border before our visas were due to expire. As per usual we didn’t have any accommodation organised except for Google maps loaded on my phone ready to go for knocking on hotel doors. Our first stop was a hostel in the area which we quickly boycotted due to the price. Another few hotels later and we located one which was adequate right around when I was about to start complaining about the weight of my pack. We booked a week because we knew we needed time to get one of our cameras looked at. For some reason the image on the right side of our photos was becoming increasingly out of focus as time went on. Not a small nuisance when you are taking a lot of photos. But there was enough to occupy ourselves with in Oaxaca for this to be an acceptable amount of time.