Saturday, December 13, 2014

Huatulco and our inland trip to Oaxaca

The first stop after catching up on our sleep was to walk into the town of Las Crucecitas. We love this town for the coffee, food and walk ability. It was good to be back and seeing lots of fresh vegetables, good meat markets and cheap street meat (taco stands). The last time thru we missed the opportunity to travel to Oaxaca. We contacted Joel Hoyt, a cruiser who lives here permanently now, to baby sit the furry crew. He was happy to help out and enabled us to book a bus ride and hotel for 4 nights.

The bus was premier class and had an estimated 6 hour run to Oaxaca. There are two roads to this colonial town. The main road (six hours) and the mountain road (8+ Hours). The mountain road is much shorter, but reportedly 100% likely to induce motion sickness and most probably a need to rid oneself of the last meal. I felt good about our decision to take the “good bus”. It was good up until we entered the hills about 90 minutes outside of Huatulco. We encountered standstill traffic and not a lot of information. After about 30 minutes Paul got off the bus to stretch. A Mexican man got off and asked Paul if he wanted to walk with him to see what the problem was. I saw the two of them going off on a mini adventure. They returned to report a student demonstration and road blockade with no chance of passage. The bus was stuck as there was no way for it to turn around on the narrow road with no shoulders. People started bailing off the bus and walking. We joined a group of 3 Mexicans and the five of us plus luggage shared a cab ride back to Huatulco. The taxi was very small; the driver was heavy on the pedal and slow on the brakes. When he did brake hard the wheels locked up and it felt like we were going to be ejected onto the road. While we were holding on for dear life the driver kept telling us he could take us all the way to Oaxaca for $1200 mxp. Can you imagine….8 more hours in an ongoing near death experience? We respectfully declined his offer and requested that he just take us to the bus station so we could get out money back.

The bus company asked us to contact the manager in Oaxaca for a refund. The Mexican group returned to the taxi and headed to Oaxaca without us. We went to the option B bus which takes the mountain road to Oaxaca. We were able to book two seats in the vomit comet over the rear axle and grabbed some Mexican tortas before we departed. I was wishing I had brought large zip lock bags……..but, as luck would have it we both survived without incident.

We stopped for a breather when we were past the jungle and almost out of the mountains. It was really cold and totally beautiful. I’m not sure of the elevation, but probably in the 5-6,000 range. There were lots of pine trees and the bus stop / diner was log cabin style with great vistas. We finally loaded back up and within a few more hours arrived in Oaxaca.

The hotel, which was recommended by Ramona was fantastic. It was colonial construction with lots of exposed rock walls, domed ceilings and beautiful patios and views. It reminded me a lot of Italy as the outlook was of church domes, red tile roof tops and small narrow streets. We had some tapas in the hotel bar and collapsed.

Our time in Oaxaca was spent walking the historical section, doing the museum, touring Monte Alban, the outlying historical/artesian communities and going to Hierve de Aqua. It was a full 4 days. The food was great, coffee plentiful and Monte Alban was a top pick for the both of us. One piece of unfinished business was the bus ticket refund and a bus ticket back to Huatulco. The bus company would not refund the ticket but did offer to sell us a return ticket for half price. We most certainly did not want to take the vomit comet back to Huatulco! We bought our discounted return tickets on the premier bus and got really choice seats right in the front. The ride home was definitely more comfortable.

We are now back in Huatulco and starting to do some brightwork on the aft portion of the toe rail and the starboard rub rail. We do our work first thing in the morning while it is cool. By mid morning we are done and head into town. Paul found a swim club a short walk from the marina. It is private and has a really lovely lap pool with 5 lanes at 25 meters. The coach allows us to use it for a small fee. We have been going a few days a week and the other two days we go to the hotel across the street for pool volleyball. Otherwise our days are spent about town by walking and doing our shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, taking lunch at the taco stands and hanging out.  

Janet enjoying breakfast from the rooftop cafe at the
Hotel Sotano.
The Oaxaca church.
The Oaxaca pedestrian mall.
Hotel Sotano.  It was a great place to stay for only $65 per night.
Our room at the Hotel Sotano.
Part of the museum in Oaxaca.
We popped into this alley to take a few pics.

Touring the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban was a highlight
of our trip to Oaxaca.
Like the Mayans, these guys were really into pyramids.
We also visited the Arbol de Tule.  They
claim it is the largest tree in the world, but being from California
where the giant Sequoias are, I was quite skeptical.  It is also
known as the tree of life as you can see various animal
figures in the wood if you look really close.
Just up the road was Teotitlan del Valle.  Everyone
in town is trained from their early childhood
to weave rugs the way the Zapotec's did.  This
is the yarn they make from sheep's wool and
color with natural dyes from local plants.
Janet of course had to buy one.  This is the brother of
the weaver who made the rug.  He is finishing it
off under her careful and watchful eye.
Paul looking a bit rugged at Hierve de Aqua.  The minerals
in the water create amazing travertine pools and flows.
Heirve de Aqua.
To not stop at the Mezcaleria would have been some kind of
crime.  They make the mezcal the same way the
Zapotec's did.
The last stop of the day was the Zapotec ruins in Mitla.
Janet was quite taken by the site.
Back in Huatulco, we made a one day trip with
Jan and Ramona from sv Jatimo to
Hagia Sophia, an amazing botanical garden.
The tour started with breakfast made from
the various tropical plants grown in the gardens.
Sharing a moment together at Hagia Sophia.
Half way through the tour we took a little break.  Paul
seems to be enjoying himself.
What would paradise be without its own private swimming
There was a secret cave back behind the waterfall.
Janet got some cooking tips from the cocinera while she
prepared our lunch.


It was really great the see Enrique and Memo, the marina operators up at the Marina Chiapas office. They work really hard to keep the facility running smoothly. There were about 8 other sailboats here, some had arrived from the north and some were re-commissioning after the summer. As the days went by more and more boats were leaving to head south.

Our departure to Huatulco was dependent on two things.  First, the winds and weather in the Tehuantepec and secondly our radar was not working and, as we had access to a marine electronics technician who did all of the electronics maintenance for the local Naval fleet, it made sense to make those repairs before continuing on.

A weather window was opening on Monday and we thought we had our opportunity to depart, but unfortunately the repair for the radar was going to take a bit longer than anticipated. So here we are in Chiapas waiting for the radar and the next weather window.

The delay gave us the opportunity to explore Tapachula, the closest city to the marina (about 20 minutes by a collective van) in a bit more detail than last spring. I am glad it worked out that way because my impression of the town last year was not favorable. Last spring the city streets were ripped apart and it just felt as if the whole place was in decline.  It was not a very pleasant place, or so we thought.  This time the repair projects had been mostly completed on the roads, the main city square was a place you might choose to hang out, and we discovered several good restaurants and an organic coffee café.

The radar repair set our departure back by at least 2 weeks. The extended stay allowed us the opportunity to travel with Linda and Jim from sv Liebling up to the coffee plantations. We went with a tour guide we met last spring and had a wonderful time seeing the mountains after the rainy season. The workers were gathering at the fincas with their families for the harvest. The fincas took on a whole different look with the children, couples and single men milling about. The mobile medical clinic was having a Sunday clinic at one of the fincas. The military police were there helping to transport supplies and provide security. It was an impressive turnout of patients and medical staff. Afterwards the police went up to the restaurant for coffee…unfortunately we advised them there were no donuts…..they let us take their picture anyway.

The weather window opened for passage a day after the radar was fixed. We ended up getting a used unit from Guatemala with the help of the naval technician and his Guatemalan friend. We didn’t ask questions about customs, importation or how it arrived across the frontier. The tech did not volunteer much explanation on logistics except that it should be a good unit. He installed it and it did indeed work!

We departed Chiapas on the second day of a 4 day weather window. Conditions were unsettling with confused seas at 2 meters but very short period swells which we went up against like a brick wall. We worked our way closer to the shore to get into more settled water at about the 40 – 50 foot depth. The accepted practice for transiting this section of the coast is to either stay “on the beach” or go direct. The conditions were too unsettled for the direct route. The passage took about 40 hours. We arrived a bit before dawn at the Marina Chahue entrance. There are a couple of really nasty reefs just off shore so we waited until we had daylight to enter. When we tied up it was good to see Ramona and Jan from sv Jatimo greet us.

A day or two later Jim and Linda arrived on sv Liebling. As luck would have it they reported their passage was absolutely flat water the whole way…..

Even though we had gone to see the coffee fincas last spring,
we enjoyed it so much, we made another run up with
Jim and Linda from sv Liebling.
It was great to escape the heat of the marina and get up into the
We ran into these Federales at the Hamburgo Finca.  They were
offering free medical services to some of the locals.
We posed for a picture with some of our new friends.
Talos IV the morning of our departure looking like she
is ready to be underway.
The Chiapas fuel dock.  We elected to fill our jerry cans and
haul them back by car rather than pull up to the barnacle
encrusted pier.