Our original interest in Oaxaca stemmed from a mushroom cultivation operation that we planned to tour outside of Oaxaca City. This didn’t work out but we continued to be interested in visiting Oaxaca because friends recommended spending time there. And we knew that Maria Sabina lived in Oaxaca. Gordon Wasson, a US banker with interest in ethnomycology discovered Maria Sabina, and shared her life with the world. Ethnomycology is the study of fungi used by people to survive. Elder Maria Sabina was a Mazatec Indian shaman. She ingested the sacred mushroom hallucinates as a part of her healing ceremonies called agape. We wanted to visit the state where Maria Sabina came from. This sparked our interest in visiting Oaxaca in 2015 and being exposed to the culture of the area so influenced by plants and fungi used by Indigenous people.
December 8—on deplaning the heat hit us—80-90 degrees—which stayed with us the whole time in Huatulco, Mexico. We’d go out and then return to our cool tiled room at the Balcon Guella, a Spanish style hotel with 14 rooms opening into an outdoor courtyard with lots of flowers—hollyhock, bourgevilla and a light pink feathery blossom bush. Our hotel clerks took good care of us picking us up at the airport, giving us directions, asking us what we wanted to do and helping us do it. Language was a challenge but we managed to communicate. “Habla Ingles?” “Poco” but many knew more English than they said. So with our little bit of Spanish and their bit of English, we got by.
We began our first day in Huatulco with breakfast at Café Juanita about ½ hour from our room. We first lingered at a city park called a plaza with water fountains and greenery.
Sitting on the porch of the café near a marina, a breeze blew off the ocean to cool us off. After some talk in bits of Spanish and English, we ordered food looked fit for royalty. A big bowl of frutas– bananas, cantelope and papaya. I ate scrambled eggs and spinach, tiny fried potatoes and black bean mole. As we waited for food, a small black and orange bird flew in and out of our sight.
Back to the hotel where we talked to Biannka at the desk who helped us plan our day. We walked ½ hour to the bus station in Crucecita trekking down a walkway with trees that offered much needed shade. After we purchased our tickets for our bus trip in two days, we walked around Crucecita. Many tiny closet sized shops with places to eat, flea markets and “mercados.”
Afternoon we headed to the beach near the hotel. The aquamarine water and white fine sand greeted us at Chacue Playa. We walked into water with a strong current. The beach was low for 4 or 5 feet and then dipped down enough to swim laps back and forth in warm water. We couldn’t stop swimming it felt so luxurious. Finally we came in and walked on sand to a cool spot near the rocks, rested and looked out at the turquoise water and island rock formations in the bay.
After a quick stop in the room we headed back down to Crucecita to eat at Tosado Grill. Pete ate enchiladas with a choice of numerous sauces that sparked his interest in finding what peppers used in Mexican cooking. He now cooks with these peppers at home. I ate fresh shrimp in a salad with avocados. Darkness brought some coolness as we walked back to our room.
December 9—on waking we ate our yogurt and fruit breakfast from nearby grocery we purchased the day before and spent time in the room relaxing and making plans for the day.
At 10:30 we left in a van to go to the Excursion Office in Crucecita with Sigalfredo, our naturalist guide. From here a taxi dropped us at Huatulco Nacional Parque on the Zicara Trail to began our ethnobotanical tour of the Parque. We learned Huatulco means “Bowing to the Trees.” Sigalfredo knew all about the vegetation in the park and what it was used for. He called the area a jungle which was dry as a bone, usual for the season. The intense heat was not.
We learned from Sigalfredo as we walked through the parque
****Tiny snails covered a low open sandy area. Wild pigs grubbed the sand to eat the snails. We could see scratch marks.
**** Gringo tree or Indio desnudo— flaking bright red bark, used for dying cloth
****Agave– succulent plants common in Oaxaca were woven into material for clothes many years ago
****Kopok tree with big roots above ground. Seeds used for incense by royality in pre-Spanish days. Pleasant pungent smell
****Large cautus plants with tufts of cotton growing from limbs. Cotton used to make pillows. Trees grew cotton there, too. I thought cotton grew only on tiny bushes like in Southern USA
****Palo Santo or holy wood(bursera gravelens)—used for incense and essential oils for the calming effect
****Pipe tree—fruit in the shapes of little pipes
As we trampled through the dry jungle we saw a cuckoo in the trees and on leaving the jungle we saw a small cat running away. In the soil we found a tiny piece of terra cotta from an old plate or bowl. Many tree roots set above ground to make use of the moisture in the air.
Shade brought relief when inside tree spaces. After walking 1½ hours, we came to an opening in the dry jungle and saw the sparkling Manguey Bay. More island rock formations setting in the aquamarine water. One formation looked like a turtle. Pete swam in the bay. After water and fruit snack, Sigalfredo showed me a turtle nest burrowed in the sand. We could see turtle footprints rolling over in the fine white sand.
Back through the parque we saw old friends on our way as we passed the vegetation that we learned about. A taxi took us back to Crucecita. We were glad to learn lots about the jungle which we couldn’t have done going to the parque by ourselves. Most outings to Huatulco Nacional Parque are with guides. We questioned whether to go alone or with a guide but were glad we made decision to go with Sigalfredo.
After a rest in the room we headed back to beach one more time before leaving Huatulco. I swam once more in this warm turquoise water. On way to room we stopped at the grocery to get food for supper, breakfast and lunch and packed for bus trip to Oaxaca City next day
Travel Log to Oaxaca, Mexico Part II—Oaxaca City to be published next