15 Jun Trekking Oaxaca: A Night in the Mountains
I arrived in Benito Juarez, trekking Oaxaca, by foot. The second class bus dropped me at a fork in a curvy road with nothing in sight. Yet I was not only relieved, I was overjoyed. Nausea from the tightly-enclosed space, sharp turns, and lack of moving oxygen had nauseated me. When the bus driver yelled “Benito Juarez,” I squirmed out of a sea of stagnant, sweaty bodies. The tonic of fresh mountain air rushed over me. I strolled up the winding road with leaves the size of my open hand and a cacophony of colored flowers. Pine trees mixed with enormous agave cactus.
When I started to unpack, it hit me. I forgot the tent on the bus. I ran frantically to the ecotourism office where the attendant, Aleno, called the bus station and the nearest town: Cuajimoloyas. He said we would meet at the office at 5:30 a.m. the next morning to sort everything out. As I set up the rented tent, I layered up because it was already getting cold. I ate at the comedor, one of only three buildings that made up the town center. I then made a fire, which smoldered all night. Deep in the lush woods, I heard only the sounds of giant flying beetles. Even in July, I could see my breath. At 5:15, I wore two sweaters, two pairs of socks, and a big coat. I waited until 7, teeth chattering and legs shaking, I chatted with passing locals bound for work. The ground was thick with frozen beetles. I watched them come back to life in slow-motion with tai-chi movements.
Finally Aleno arrived; he’d gotten thru to the station the night before. After a hearty breakfast, I hiked a several kilometers of steep switchbacks to the mirador: purplish grey clouds above dim mountains, valleys and cities, as if someone had turned the lights down, color-splashed green mountains behind me, grazing sheep, goats and donkeys, rows of corn between patches of wild blue flowers, the occasional shanty, and the sound of turkey gobbles. Slender raindrops began to fall as I trekked down. When the tap of precipitation on the rain fly stopped, I set off again trekking Oaxaca. I was out to find waterfalls, but got lost. In such beautiful scenery, I didn’t mind traversing the unknown. After ten km of aimless wandering, I heard the water, felt the humid air, and a plethora of insects had gathered around me, but couldn’t locate the cascades.
After a day of trekking Oaxaca on foot, you eat everything in sight: Chichilo (a brown sauce with chicken, peas and mushrooms) and zucchini flowers stuffed in cheese lined tortillas. In the morning I packed up, saying goodbye to the woods, the tai-chi beetles and the comedor. I walked back to the main highway and hitched a ride from a truck that flashed its lights in the cold, cloudy morning, the blue-grey sky melding with the mountaintops. I rode in the back, looking out, watching the forest disappear behind me.