[Part 5] An incredible insight into our Mexican Zapotecan Village Trek tour in its early stages of discovery.
After a quick breakfast we said goodbye to Claudia who gave us our picnic (even eating time was at a premium today!) of ham and cheese sandwiches, yoghurt and an apple. Carlos, our guide for the first half of the trip, met us at the tourist office and we were on our way. Actually we weren’t – as Carlos had to drop into one of the houses we passed. It was his own it seemed and he untied a donkey and brought it across to the other side of the path to tie him up there. I was reminded of my housemate getting up to move his car on the weekend to avoid a parking ticket! So donkey parking ticket averted we were on our way for real.
Carlos set a brisk pace which I was happy with as I was concerned about missing our only bus of the day but Karla was not so happy. We followed along by the river for almost all of the way. Karla got used to the pace after a while and before long we were at the halfway point where we met with Oscar, a guide from Amatlan who was waiting for us.
Oscar was only twenty but had already been a guide for seven years, Amatlan being one of the communities that had paid, professional guides. Oscar was very pleasant and had even started learning English it seemed, though we found out later he was in a very early stage of his lessons. As we had already descended a fair but already today the nature had changed. Dense moss hung from the trees, looking like hair in a shampoo commercial. He pointed out a cactus that they call “Cabeza de Bruja” (Witch’s Head).
Then he started to tell us about the festival of San Miguel in Amatlan (whose real name is San Miguel Amatlan). This 5 day festival starting on November 26th sounded like quite the spectacle with people returning from all over Mexico and the US to attend. At present about 600 people live in Amatlan but the Diaspora numbers about 2,500. Those who have left have done so in search of work, and those that remain appreciate that they have the opportunity to live here. The festival involves plenty of singing, dancing and drinking as you would expect but even a philharmonic orchestra and of course a couple of basketball tournaments! Prizes are given for the best traditional dress, the best headdress, the best dancer and for the basketball tournaments.
The scenery we were now passing through were absolutely incredible. My camera barely stop clicking but I couldn’t do it any justice. I have travelled a lot but this scenery was beyond anything I had seen. Sheer cliff faces covered with trees, themselves laden with lovely moss. In the midst of it a waterfall tumbles down. We were passing through the descent of the jaguar Oscar told us, though jaguars only came to the river to drink, then left this area. We ascended on the other side through the less exciting sounding “Ascent of the Donkey”. The area now was dense with cactuses, and such a range and variety as we had not seen anywhere else. Tiny blue butterflies and small and large butterflies filled the air. I was sure I was dreaming (though not jogging!).
As we reached Amatlan Oscar explained the origins of the village whereby the original spot chosen was tormented by an enormous eagle that stole chicken and from which babies and small children were not safe. Their ancestors had no weapons and so moved to a more protected spot (which came to be known as Amatlan) while they worked on a solution. They made a form of crossbow and one brave villager went to take on the eagle and returned victorious. As we walked into the village an eagle appeared on queue and glided lazily over the village. We walked into the village, found the centre where the bus would pass, and said goodbye to Amatlan. Our bus came after a short while and we were back on wheels through the Oaxacan countryside.