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  • Writer's pictureCassie Stockamp

Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

I just spent two glorious sun drenched weeks on the beaches of Puerto Escondido on the Oaxaca coast in Southern Mexico. Even though it is on the Pacific side, the water is warm (83F/21C) and holds that same Caribbean Blue color found over on the Yucatán side, sans the sea grass.

And what will seal this small pueblo of 44,000 in my mind are the people and experiences. It’s always that. I’m not a great tourist, so seeing the gorgeous playas  (beaches) engulfed in rocky coves gets lost in my memory bank. But what I will remember is arriving the first night and while waiting for a table for dinner, getting paired with Harry - a retired politician from Canada. I learned a lot about Canadian politics and his very complicated marriage that night. LOL Several days later I found myself on a hike with 10 other expats from Canada and the US crossing streams and literally, over and under barbed wire fences a dozen times, quickly moving out of way to avoid colliding with skidding cows being chased by a barking dog all on the quest to find a great swimming hole. It was worth it. While on that sweaty hike, I was befriended by women who, of course they did, lived on Vancouver Island (where I had last lived and fell in love with) and invited me for a night out - dinner, mezcalitos (margaritas made with Mezcal which is prolific down here!) and a wee bit of dancing. A wee bit only because the twisting gives my arthritic hip a headache. Geeze….

I swam most days at Playa Carrizallilo though I always had to psyche myself up to leave as it was a work out - 168 steps up! Upon arrival, I would scan the beach for a friendly face and approach asking, “Habla Inglis?” Depending on the answer, either  English, Spanish or pantomime, I would ask if they could watch my backpack while I swam. The answer was always yes. And one day I found myself in conversation with a young woman who was living in Vancouver, Canada. We had a wonderful round about the beauty of the Pacific Northwest and everything Canada, after which she admitted she was from Vegas but had extracted herself at the age of 18 and moved to Canada for school. She never left; I get it. We shared cooking recipes and book recommendations. And of course, Instagram accounts. It will be great fun to follow her and her partner on their 6 month travel adventure.

And the random people that came and went in the little bungalow enclave in which I stayed was lovely and it started with the 4 Aussies. What a delightful group of young people: 2 sisters and their partners who had coordinated sabbaticals from their teaching, arborist and engineering jobs to travel together for 6 months. They were great question askers and I marveled at their kindness to each other.

The group that replaced them was also a quad set, but this time from London. Four young, professional, smart women that take holidays together. They too were quite delightful and the diversity of the group was lovely to see. That’s the kind of stuff that gives me hope for the future as the skin color of each was a nonsequitor. 

And the trip to my next destination was quite entertaining. I love public transit, and here in Mexico there are tiers of buses. ADO is the Greyhound equivalent catering to backpackers and tourists offering AC, non stops and higher prices. I often vie for the next tier - the colectivos. This is the mode used by the locals and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes: buses without AC, small vans with AC, pickup trucks covered in tarps complete with wooden benches lining the bed of the truck. The route from Puerto Escondido to Mazunte consisted of a colectivo bus filled to capacity. And the Mexican (and South American buses in general) allow for a variety of merchants and entertainers to jump on for several stops and do their thing. Today the entertainment was poignant; we listened to a blind man with an accordion strapped on his chest singing and swaying as we wound our way east. 

Those of us heading to Mazunte had to jump out about an hour into the trip and pick up a second colectivo at an OXXO store (the equivalent of a 7-Eleven) at San Antonio. I was waiting with three women from Estonia who now lived all over Europe working for the EU. When the next colectivo came (a pickup truck with a blue tarp) we quickly clambered aboard and found ourselves standing and holding on overhead for the 5 mile ride. The wooden benches were filled shoulder to shoulder with10 locals, and one was kind enough to offer to take one of my bags and hold it on his lap so I could wrangle my suitcase so that they wouldn’t knock his knees. The sweat dripping from the tip of my nose had me smiling… The whole trip cost 75 pesos = $4.


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