Tuesday, June 26, 2007
A wall of pork rinds, and a swim in the mountains
Have you ever seen a wall of fried pork rinds? I hadn’t, until I went to the big weekly Sunday market at Tlacolula, a pueblo about 25 minutes east of Oaxaca City.
As soon as we got out of our “colectivo taxi,” a shared taxi, we saw two Zapotec women walking with turkeys tucked under their arms, like they were footballs. This market also sold everything under the sun, from big tin buckets
to large metates for grinding corn
to pink kernels of dried corn. I have no idea how or why they are this way.
I’d eaten an enormous breakfast of eggs cooked in salsa, then wrapped with beans in tortillas, so I couldn’t work up much of an appetite, even for the wall of chicharrones but I did buy some tamales de elote, which turned out to be basically sweet corn bread baked in corn husks. Smokier than American-style cornbread, but not the mushy texture of other tamales. Very hearty and satisfying.
And I saw the most lovable dog. Look at his face!
But I had to admit, it wasn’t as much fun to go to a market when I didn’t have any reason to buy a plastic bag full of nopales (cactus salad), or a big loaf of pan de yema. And I felt badly just taking pictures of everything without buying much.
So the highlight of the day was moving further east to Hierve El Agua, which translates as “boiling water, which is quite an overstatement. It’s actually a slightly lukewarm spring on top of a mountain. But it’s not as boring as it sounds! It’s a lovely place to get away from the big bad city, and to swim in what looks almost like a fancy infinity pool on top of a mountain.
We had taken a “coletivo taxi” or a shared taxi from Oaxaca to Tlacolula, and from Tlacolula to Mitla, where we found a pick-up truck with a covered back taking people to Hierve El Agua. It turned out Hierve El Agua isn’t actually that far from Oaxaca, but it takes an hour and a half to get there because from Mitla, you have to climb a steep, curvy, unpaved road.
Once you enter, you see a fairly bare hilltop, a few spare brick buildings on top of one hill where they serve snacks and drinks, and a few half-constructed buildings that seem to be hopefully anticipating more tourism. Like the rest of Oaxaca, though, Hierve El Agua seemed to be hurting for tourists.
We walked down a stony slope strewn with cacti and other dry plants to find the spring itself, enclosed in a little metal fence as if it were in some danger, and then a beautiful pool facing the mountains across and the valleys below. There were a few families with children splashing around, three Asian tourists with cameras slung around their necks, and us. The water had a slight smell of sulfur and it was warm from the sun, but it wasn’t anything approximating a hot spring. Still, I was so happy to jump in the water and do a few awkward crawls.
I would have liked to take the footpath around the mountain, but we didn’t really have time since we wanted to eat lunch, and I didn’t really care, it was that kind of day.
(Admittedly, it didn’t feel so relaxing when we started making our way back on the same curvy, steep road in pouring rain. I saw the driver cross himself before we started, and then at one point instruct his compañero to put rocks behind the tires so we wouldn’t slide backwards, but hey, we got back just fine. Such are the joys of public transportation!)