At the risk of sounding like a complete dilettante, I wrote this post from a hammock in Puerto Escondido, which is located on the Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca. In the 5 days I have been away from Oaxaca, I have missed approximately 15 festivals, 350 cohetes (exploding firecrackers) and 1500 chances to buy everything imaginable from the pop up artisan markets and street sellers capitalising on the Christmas tourists.
After spending the afternoon in the communities of Teotitlán and Abosolo, near Oaxaca, I raced home via the supermarket, threw clothes and various electronica chargers into a bag and walked back up towards the Periférico to the first class bus station. In an effort to avoid travel sickness, I was taking the 10 hour overnight bus ride from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido. Yes, it certainly wasn’t my first choice of transport, but the other option was a 6 hour drive in a van nicknamed the vomit comet, over the numerous mountains between Oaxaca and the coast characterized by switchbacks, topes (speed bumps) and hairpin drop offs; the van accompanied by its own loud rock-music soundtrack. As a Christmas present to myself I bought a flight back to Oaxaca – with a scant 30 minutes air time.
For the last 5 days I have alternated between my hammock and the swimming pool, with brief walks along the beach and down to the café. I have read 5 books – they have a massive library where I am staying – beach reads donated by Canadian and American guests who don’t want to take the books back home with them.
Puerto Escondido means hidden port, and is definitely a beach town – much the same as you find the world over – full of sunburnt tourists, hippies, yoga classes, fruit and vegetable juices, sun-loungers to rent and expensive surf gear. PE does however have one of the top 10 rated beaches in the world, so it’s not uncommon to see surfboard racks strapped to VW beetles and off the side of motorbikes, and well as finding surf repair shops all over town. You can also skydive in PE, with flights and jumps offered all day, the skydivers zooming into view as you lie on the sand watching, and landing one by one right on Zicatela beach.
Other than relaxation, the highlight of my time in Puerto Escondido has been whale watching. January and February are the peak months for humpback whale migration who winter in Mexico to calve. The humpbacks stay close to the shore to protect their young from killer whales, and as such it is actually possible to see them surfacing in the ocean from some areas in Puerto Escondido.
I got up early to catch my ride down to the boat, expecting that we were taking a launch out into the bay. I forgot this is Mexico. For around $40, our boatload of 4 (me, a German couple and a Canadian guy) were ferried out into the ocean on a small skiff with a guide and someone to operate the outboard motor.
We were busy watching spotted dolphins ride the waves when our guide heard behind us the loud exhale of water made by a surfacing whale. We zoomed over to where the whales were now visible as black almost-islands and spent time just marvelling at the size and the ease in which they slipped beneath the water once they had taken another deep breath. These humpbacks had babies with them and so were coming up for air more frequently than normal – about every 10 minutes – before going back down to feed on small fish and plankton.
We watched a couple of whale family groups surface, and then as it was starting to get crowded with 5 other boats also on the water, our skipper took us off to look at other marine life in the ocean. The locals really do care abut the ocean and its creatures which was really great. They are much more focussed on being sustainable and protecting what they have rather than exploiting the heck out of it. Our guide even managed to find a (protected) Olive Ridley turtle swimming along for us to view. I have no idea how he managed to see that in the entire ocean surrounding us. We also saw (protected) iguanas sunning themselves on the cliffs while pelicans flew with air force precision across the horizon.
I had New Year at Puerto Escondido as well, flying home on the 1st so I missed all the festivities that Oaxaca de Juarez would have put on. My New Year celebrations were very tame in comparison, with only loud cohetes, fireworks and the next door neighbours starting a disco which finished around 2am. It was definitely a relaxing stay and I am happy to have spent time in Puerto Escondido – and I was even happier I sprang for the flight home (even if it was on a uninspiringly named Cessna Caravan)!