Going loco not that far from Acapulco. Doesn’t really have the same ring to it does it? Going loco in Acapulo was the original plan, but this was quickly changed when, from a number of different sources, we learned that as well as being famous because of the Four Tops song, Acapulco is also famous for the dirtiness of its water, the corruption of its local police and its staggeringly high murder rate*. The song is a banger, the place itself, it would seem, not so much.
Fortunately, exciting and interesting alternative destinations are not going to be hard to come by on this trip, and we quickly settled on a Plan B of travelling to Oaxaca**. So, after a couple more days exploring Mexico City, including a brilliant evening in a local bar sampling a little bit too much Mezcal***, we jumped on the Mexican equivalent of National Express (ADO) for the seven hour journey.
Oaxaca is a medium-sized city about halfway between Mexico City and the Pacific coast, and is the capital of the Mexican state of the same name. Our hostel, booked on our strict criteria of not-awful Hostelworld reviews and possessing a roof terrace, turned out to be another winner, centrally located and filled with young, friendly travelers. They also had beautiful, imaginatively-named yellow Labrador called ‘Doggy’. He was apparently taken in by the hostel staff after being found hanging around by the back door. The fact that he had all the physical signs and personality characteristics of a pedigree working-strain lab made me laugh, thinking about paying £500-£800 for a puppy with good ‘hip scores’ in the UK, as opposed to just having one turn up in your garden.
The next day we set out for a stroll, and had quickly taken in the main church and the large, leafy Zocalo (square) that are the city’s sightseeing highlights. We could only peek at the ornate interior of the church though, as it was being used for a wedding, and did get briefly harassed by non-nonsensical old man in the Zocalo, whom we later concluded probably mistook us for Americans, and this was the day after the inauguration of ‘The Donald’.****
The culinary celebrities of the city were the seven different types of mole (a thick, typically chocolate-based savoury sauce), tlayudas (two huge, semi-crispy tortillas filled with beans and meat) and also chapulines (fried and spiced grasshoppers). We did suck it up and try the latter, even if only to say that we had. Verdict: very salty, a hint of lemon, and definitely not something I’ll be buying big bags of to take home and sprinkle in my sandwiches or season my salads. Ben’s pretty sure he had a tlayuda, but as it was on the way home from one of Oaxaca’s finest clubs at 3am, he can’t be sure it wasn’t another of the seemingly interchangeable Mexican dishes involving tortillas and mystery meat.
The day after, we had booked onto a tour to Monte Alban, some nearby pre-Hispanic ruins. They were beautifully preserved and at the top of a large hill, so the panoramic views of the surrounding valley were spectacular. The sun was out in force though, and we were both carrying fairly potent hangovers, so this may have distracted from our enjoyment of proceedings. The tour guide was extremely enthusiastic and most certainly a charmer. He was also the type to beef up his explanations of the site by drawing maps in the dirt with a little stick, so obviously Ben absolutely loved him.
I’m just about managing to type this from the back seat of a minibus as it careers down some windy mountain roads on the way to our next destination – Puerto Escondido; a small town located on the Pacific South coast of Mexico and famous as a white-sanded, clear-watered surf spot with amazing seafood and vibrant nightlife.
Sounds rubbish doesn’t it?
* Fourth highest in the world, if you were wondering
***A white spirit made from the same cactus as, and very similar to tequila. I enjoyed it much more than any tequila I’ve ever had because it has a lovely, smokey aftertaste and didn’t leave me sprinting to a nightclub toilet to throw up
****He was also shitfaced