When people from five different nations gather together, great things happen. When I say great things, I mean that we used our limited precious time and actually made the most of our trip. In this trip, a Canadian, a Brazilian, a Russian, a British and an Argentinian really conquered the land of healers: Oaxaca Mexico.
When I arrived at the airport of Oaxaca City from Monterrey, I was supposed to meet up with the rest of the group for a bike tour that starts at 1:30 pm. My flight landed at 12 pm, which should give me ample time to reach my hotel at Oaxaca City. When I ordered for a taxi service in the airport counter, I was escorted to a van (problem #1). Then after sitting inside the van, the driver refused to drive (problem #2). The driver had to wait for more passengers to fill up the van for the van to depart. I keep telling myself "vamos!". Then, the driver began to drop other people off and drove to the opposite direction of my destinatoin (problem #3). Eventually, I arrived at the hotel in which Kirsty, my friend, was anxious about my arrival. Anyway, I made it to the hotel but we had to postpone our bike tour by 30 minutes.
Our tour guide Eric was really nice and was able to give us many stories and insights about Oaxaca. This tour costs $95 USD per person, but it was well worth it. In this bike tour, we had to bike for 25km through multiple small villages in the outskirts of Oaxaca. Our first town was Teotitlan del Valle. Our biking trail in Oaxaca wasn't the smoothest road, but rather a trail of small rocks, sands, puddles and a corn field (which I will explain later).
In Teotitlan del Valle, the village is famous and well-known for making rags and candle lights. We entered a house of a family who specialized in making rugs. The rugs were made completely of sheep wool. The basic original colour of the sheep wool are white, grey and dark grey. The family has its own family secrets to dye the wool into different bright colours using natural ingredients. Afterwards, the family transformed the wool into yarn, and then weaved the yarn into rugs by using a weaving machine. We tried to make the wool into yarn, but it was very difficult.
Afterwards, we biked through the village and entered into another family house, a family specialized in making long candles. Since the Day of the Dead is fast approaching, the demand for long candles is high. These long candles were traditional decorations that were put on top of tomb stones. The making of these candles comes in various shapes and colours.
By mid-day, we biked to other small villages in Oaxaca. On our way, Eric explained to us the significance of healers in this state. Healers are quite famous and important in this region of Mexico. Healers believe that when a person is sick, a part of his soul leaves his body. As such, in order to get the soul back, the healers perform cleansing ritual and give the "patients" mushrooms.
One such famous healer is Maria Sabina, who died in 1985. When Maria was little, she was a shepherd and often struggled with the lack of food. One day, she went out to the mountain and ate some mushroom. In that incident, the mushroom caused Maria hallucination and gave her a vision. Afterwards, she became a healer and began giving treatment to the locals. Eventually, she became famous and more foreigners traveled across countries to ask for her "cure". People say that Maria has the vision of the future. One such seeker is the famous vocal singer, John Lennon from the Beatles, whom came to Maria in the 1960s. Urban legend also claims that Walt Disney himself came to visit Maria, and that the Disney Studio produced the famous movie "Fantasia" after the visit.
On our tour, we biked through multiple villages, which included Teotitlan del Valle, Macuilxochitl, Tlacochahuaya and Santa Maria del Tule. While we were biking, we saw cows, sheep and goat crossing through roads, which was absolutely normal in Oaxaca.
We also came across an archaeological site in Oaxaca. Oaxaca is the first settlement of the Zapotec civilization. Archaeologists believe that the Zapotec culture is the first original culture of Mesoamerica, and all other cultures were branches of the Zapotecs. The Zapotecs were famous for playing a sport of ball games. This sport consisted of two players (one from each side). It was believed that the players were supposed to throw a ball to the other side, a ring. Does this sound like Quidditch to you? At the end, the winner of the game will be sacrificed to the gods. I did not make a typo here, because apparently it was an honour to be sacrificed to the gods.
While we were biking to different towns, we had to go through a corn field. The thorn from the cactus, trees and branches caused huge problems for us. It was incredibly painful to bike through fields because of the various bumps. At the end of the day, I had at least 20 scratches and mosquito bites on my legs. Also, amongst us, we had three flat tires on our bike tires. Thankfully, Eric was a bike doctor.
We even biked through darkness. Even though it was dangerous, it was adventurous and fun. We could see the Milky Way and the stars on the dark sky. When we went back to Oaxaca City, we had dinner and tried the famous mezcal.
As what Silvio said, the mezcal can "relax" our muscles. Unfortunately, we ordered too much mezcal for the night and we were not used to the taste, or I should say it tasted absolutely awful.
We didn't finish the drinks.
On the next day, Eric gave us a ride to Santa Maria and we visited the largest tree by width in the world - Arbol del Tule.
This tree is about 2,000 years old. It has a circumference of 42 metres and it takes 35 people holding hands together to surround the tree. Scientists believe that the roots of this tree connect with other trees nearby. Legends say that a Zapotec king stomped his walking stick into the ground, and became the roots. The king became the tree.
We took a cab from Tlacolula de Matamoros, bypassed Mitla and went straight to Hierve del Agua (carro sardina style). At the top of the mountain, we saw the beautiful rock formation of Hierve del Agua. The natural rock formation resembles cascades of water. These formations are created by water springs, whose water is over-saturated with calcium carbonate. As the water flows over the cliffs, the excess minerals are deposited, which form the beautiful cascade formation of rocks.
One of the cliffs has multiple natural pools that became a main tourist attraction for swimming. Of course, we took the opportunity to dive into the water and swim.
On our way back to Mitla, we had to take a truck to go down the mountain. We sat at the back of the pick-up truck and had to endure a lengthy bumpy road (it was fun).
Before I departed Oaxaca, we went out to a restaurant to try some famous local food, one of which is called chapulines (grasshoppers). Elena and I certainly did not enjoy the sight of cooked grasshoppers in our dish. However, we endured and tried the crunchy insect. To be honest, it didn't really taste anything but I won't go for it the second time. Been there, done that.