Oaxaca started for us as a beautiful drive through the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountains, stopping at a tiny hamlet and beautiful convent in Yanhuitlan, appearing out of nowhere along the road.
We stayed in a little town just out side of Oaxaca called Santa Maria Del Tule, famous for its 2000 year old Arbol del Tule, a rare Montezuma Cypress tree and the national tree of Mexico. It also had a number of very good restaurants, as we were to discover.
The van needed some work, having sprung an oil leak, so off to the local VW garage, which also gave us a few days to look around Oaxaca proper, a beautiful town with lots to see and do and to try our hand at making Mole Negra - a dark sauce with chocolate. Only for the dedicated, as it took some 6 hours to make under the guidance of our very patient teacher, Delfina, roasting off the many herbs, spices and other ingredients before pulverising them into a paste and melting chocolate into it.
After a week hanging out in El Tule, it was time to head south. We managed to visit the ruins of Mitla, magnificently decorated with elaborate stone mosaics.
Oaxaca is also the region where Mezcal is made, so we found an artisan producer driving out of town, they had just finished piling the pina on the outside fire pit, while the horse was crushing the previously cooked pinas, getting them ready for fermentation and then distillation. Of course, a stop without a tasting would have been unheard of....
As we headed down the Valle de Oaxaca, south to Salina Cruz, we camped one night on the Benito Juarez Lake, before heading into Salina Cruz - a renowned kite-surfing spot. It will be remembered for more than just its beautiful beaches: getting stuck in the sand; and a horse called Pepino (cucumber), who ended up chasing us on to the roof of a partially built house to cook supper and who eventually, not wanting a beer, decided to take a bite out of my shorts! An eventful 24 hours.