Oaxaca de Juarez - road trips try 2

Friday, July 27
We woke up at 7:30ish for a road trip south of Oaxaca - out passed the airport.  This time we actually made it out of the city. 

I have always admired the black glazed pottery from this area so we drove to where it originated from - San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca. It appears to just be a town with wonderful fountains and an outdoor market, of course selling black pottery invented by Dona Rosa back in 1934. I made a purchase of pottery and a beaded bracelet and hair clip.

The Barro Festival was just starting when we sowed up.

Santo Tomas Jalieza Festival was on in full colour

We drove to the small town of Santo Tomas Jalieza famous for their textiles. We ate our packed lunch. The town was having their festival with mezcal being one thing they were selling. We tested it, I know it is a bit early to drink, but when you are offered free samples it is hard to resist. Ken enjoyed this vintage that he could not resist purchasing some. We also bought little woven, zippered bags. The people were so friendly. After we shopped Ken was interviewed by an English Language TV station.

Santo Tomas Jalieza Festival

Being Friday we wanted to go to the market in Ocotlan de Morelos, which continues on south of the city of Oaxaca. The venders sat up at tables or were on mats on the ground selling the usual fruit and veggies and other goods.   

Taxis were little roofed cars with just three wheels. 

You could also purchase things like a donkey saddle, cal (lime for corn), sugar cane, huge woven baskets, pineapple, lots of huge bundles of roses, etc.

Google maps took us on a bit of a wild goose chase through rural farm county where we saw people driving horses, pulling  carts. 

We came across a huge, old, stone building in Cuilapan de Guerrero. The building being the Ex-convaento de Santiago which was started in 1535 but never finished. Even incomplete it was impressive.

We tried the dirt roads in Mexico for the first time.

Back to town we caught up with the concert in the nearby square of the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad, aka Soledad.

Concert at the Soledad

Saturday, July 28
Another road trip day!  We got going a little earlier today since we already did this road trip thing yesterday. 

We went east on Mex 190 toward Santa Maria del Tule - "El Tule" the gargantua Mexican ahuehuete (cypress). It is 15 stories high with a house size trunk. El Tule is one of the world's largest trees and is likely over 2000 years old.  It takes over thirty people holding hands to surround the tree.  Its buddy is over 1000 years old. Both tower above a colonial church and a wonderfully clean town. It was awe inspiring with all the bird action and bird sounds. 

El Tule's neighbour is also impressive

Next, on to Teotitlan Del Valle a town made famous for making tapetes or woven rugs. The people who live there are Zapotec and have lived there for generation making these tapetes. 


They invite you into their homes to see the dyeing process (natural dyes with cochineal, etc.), spinning and weaving with looms. Everyone we spoke with was very welcoming and friendly. A few even spoke English along with Spanish and Zapotec.

Their festival was in progress so there was a full market of rugs - I finally experienced rug overload.

Teotitlan Del Valle feria del tapete.

Most people kept turkeys.

Our last destination was the ruins of Mitla. It was started by the Zapotecs and known for its unusual ornamentation in stonework. The Spanish built a church on the site using stone from some of the palaces.

In the town of Mitla we saw a horse tied to a stone which grinds the Maguey for making mescal.

We ate street food for supper.  My supper consisted of tortillas grilled over a type of barbeque, over carbon. The tortillas had fried mushrooms and squash blossoms with stringy, Oaxacan cheese on top.  It is folded in two and grilled for many minutes.  It is worth the wait for the cheese alone. 

Ken's supper was different.  The stuffed pocket shaped like a potato had a crust like an East Indian pakora. It was filled with big chunks of potatoes, some kind of sauce and meat from a goat.  Ken said they were delicious.

Without a doubt, our best food in Oaxaca  has been on the street as opposed to restaurants. We will keep trying though, it's a tough job, but we're up for it.

Sunday, July 29
Tlacolula's Sunday market was our first destination once out of Oaxaca. It is one of Oaxaca state's biggest and oldest markets, likely the oldest, continuously running market in Meso-America. It draws tens of thousands of people each week. It was huge (biggest we have been to), clean and organized or well managed. Us pair of zebras were spotted almost immediately and dispatched to the church with local maps and instructions on some event happening at noon. 

Ken bought copal - an incense and really the solidified sap of a tree. Plus he bought corn seed.  

Copal - for sale by the kilo

The women were dressed unique to the area; long braids and ribbon in them with long, flowing scarves.  The people were very friendly. Shortly after lunch we came upon another small mescal festival.  

The parade leader was blowing a conch shell. 

We walked for hours with nothing more then mescal ice cream to keep us going.

I haggled over rug prices, but bought nothing. I decided I had better try chapulines before we leave the area.   They are salted and spiced miniature, grilled grasshoppers. I actually enjoyed them. Ken later bought mezcal salt with ground up chapulines.

We had to return to Teotitlan because Ken accidentally left his Soriana backpack and umbrella there at a coffee shop. I wanted to return for the rugs. I went to another family run rug workshop on the road into town. 

One family member explained the whole natural dyeing process, carding, spinning, using patterns and weaving with informative  demonstrations. 

Natural colouring is falling out of favour with the next gen of weavers.

I went to the Artisan Market and found a rug I liked from yesterday and purchased it. I bought the rust coloured, cochineal rug from Rofina Bazan Vicente. It felt good to finally and actually buy a tapet (the Zapotec word for rug). I ran back to her booth, from the car to have her write down her name and take her picture. I should have given her my business (artist card), but I never thought of it until it was too late.

Rofina Bazan Vicente artist weaver

We wandered the streets... with the rest of the locals...

... until we found more ice cream.

We headed home. Ken wanted to get the oil changed in the van, but the place was closed. We drove to the hills of San Felipe del Agua.

While driving around some proud father stopped us in front of his home. The yard was all set up for a party, music blazing away, people dancing. The father was so proud, we couldn't tell if his daughter was just married or turning 14. Anyway, he wanted us to stay for a drink and dance. Ken was driving and thought drinking this late was not a good idea. I did accept a taste of the mezcal before we drove on...

... and that is when we found junior playing in a vacant lot.

The other burros didn't really seem bothered.

Mom was happy her baby came back safe.

We drove to the top of San Felipe to enjoy the view.

Monday, July 30
Last day in the garden house in Oaxaca.
We actually went out for breakfast (a first this trip) at a fancy restaurant we had noticed the night before. It had a courtyard with birds and plants. We returned to meet with Maria Sosa (the landlord) for the return of our damage deposit and load the van for our trip to the hills of the Sierra Norte.

First some serious rug shopping.
We found shaded pay parking for cheap and Ken took me to the same artist I was to on Wednesday - Manuel Lopez Gonzalez. It was so hot that day in the market I had trouble really caring or concentrating on buying rugs. Manuel told me what made the dyes in the carpets I liked. He then showed me what made the dyes in the carpets I was interested in. He showed me nearly all his carpets - I picked the best ones that would go with our house - two bigger ones, four smaller ones and one table runner (not enough, I wish I had purchased a hall runner from someone yesterday in Teotitlan). He was very patient and I believe gave me fair prices.  His little daughter was at his booth.  She stared intently at the strange, English woman conversing with her Father.

We headed to the street vendors in the Biznaga area for lunch. We found a good looking booth and I was saying to Ken that I knew what I wanted to eat, but did not know what it was called or how to order something "to go". We heard boldly, "I can help with that." A young Texan lady seated at the booth,  assisted me with my order of a huge quesadilla with beans (frijoles), onions (cebolla) , squash blossoms (flor de calabaza),  and stringy, wonderful Oaxaca cheese (queso). I did get my food to go, thanks to the young lady from Texas. While we waited she explained she was here for the festival,  visiting family and her grandfather was from a village in the Sierra Norte.

Driving through the mountains was very curvy or twisty depending on your perspective. There was traffic, but really few settlements.  The area became treed, lush and much cooler.

We decided to camp as opposed to staying in the somewhat rustique cabanas. It seemed to get dark faster out of the city. 

Tuesday, July 31

Sierra Norte and Monte Albon
We were just about ready for our big hike and Ken saw a huge cow sauntering in the basketball court, just below our campsite.  We walked two easy trails as that is all there was.  It was more strenuous walking up the hill from the end of the second trail then it was walking the trails. 

We saw a few birds and butterflies and few unusual wildflowers and mushrooms. 

The wildlife we encountered was more huge cows of some unknown variety, with horns more or less intact - very calm and slightly curious about us. 

The trails were well mapped.

Bug screens came in handy, mosquitos.

4 leaf clovers only allowed.

On the way back to Oaxaca we stopped to view the scenery, it was beautiful, maybe the pictures will give you a bit of an idea. Ken noticed our brakes were smoking - that was a concern. We headed on our way to cool the brakes, Ken remembered to use a lower gear and we made it out of the Sierra Norte in good shape with the brakes intact.

Once down and back to Oaxaca we needed to find Monte Alban to the east of the city. I found it on a street by the same name. Up the mountain on a narrow twisty road we went to the famous ruins.  We were not on the regular main road there, but we made it. The ruins covered a huge area with much to explore. Many people must have lived here many years ago. I was thankful for the shade trees as it was very hot. The museum attached to the site showed many rock carvings, etc.

We changed clothes, ready for one final supper out in Oaxaca. We found a suitable restaurant with its own pond, vines inside, tall adobe walls, etc.-pretty funky!

I went shopping for a few final items.  It was hard to leave all the arty shops and tasty food venders downtown.

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