A Travellerspoint blog


The Hidden Port on The South Pacific Coast

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05/10/2008: We were looking forward to continue our journey to the south coast of Mexico and in the morning took a mini bus (fare 130 pesos pp) for Puerto Escondido (The Hidden Port). The journey of 300kms, through mountainous rustic country took exactly six hours. We left Oaxaca city at 9.30 in the morning and reached our destination at exactly 15.30 in the afternoon. Th day was hot and when we arrived at the bus station and climbed down from the bus, the heat hit us like a blast from a furnace.

We consulted the Lonely Planet and decided to stay at Mayflower Hotel& Hostel. The choice proved to be good. Our bus companions were a young man from the U.K and an Austrian girl from Vienna who told us that they also were going to stay at the same hostel. So we all walked down the road and in about ten minutes were at the Mayflower. The two travellers took a bunk bed each in the hostel section of the Mayflower (100 pesos each) and Alex and myself decided to take a double bedroom with attached bath (350 pesos).

The Mayflower is a nicely furnished clean hotel, rooms on three floors, with small balconies. Our room was on the third floor, with an open sitting area with sofas, a white piano sitting prettily in the middle, a book shelf and a small balcony with a table and chair, with a view of the sea. What a delight it was to hear the waves breaking over the rocks, fishing boats lolling on the waves. The night before our arrival it had rained and our arrival I found rain clouds gathering in distant sky.

Almost all my adult life I have lived close to the sea, I know its many moods. I have watched, thousands of times the angry sea foaming and frothing, its thundering waves breaking over the rocks, or calm wavelets lapping the shore or coming rushing to the beach and then in a slow motion spreading itself gently, soft soothing breeze calming the mind.

We chucked our backpacks in the room and ran down the stairs to have a look at the beach and the sea and breathe the fresh salty air of the Pacific. We came out of the hotel, walked down a flight a steps and were in the main street of the puerto and a few steps further down was the beach. I immediately saw that the sea at Puerto Escondido was heavy, the waves strong and did not allow an easy swim. But it was wonderful to stroll on the beach ,to lie in a hammock and sip ice cold cuba libre and a mojito and later drink a cold dark beer (Negra) and eat olives. And it was completely relaxing.

Looking at the map of Puerto Escondido, you will see a long streach of beach strip about l00kms long. Its turquoise waters heaving in the wind, I found, were suitable only for surfing and although I tried, at various points of the beach to swim, it was not without danger of getting dragged inwards. Even the seagulls hovered carefully over the waves. The fishermen had already hauled in their boats and when we went down, they were selling their daily catch. Bonito, small shark, snapper, bream (mojarra) lobsters and prawns are caught and sold to the locals and to the restaurants.

There are three large beaches, Playa Principal, Playa Marinero and the Zicatela, the long stretch of sandy beach which you can see from the Playa Principal. But the beaches are not for swimming and during our stay there, we saw a few tourists, only some travellers. We wre told that it was low season and we thanked God for it.

Posted by The Islander 07:58 Archived in Mexico Tagged mountains beaches churches boats landscape bus monuments backpacking air-travel Comments (0)


Delightful food and sultry summer drinks.

View Vamos a Mexico. (Mexico Here we Come) on The Islander's travel map.

In the great Indian civilizations of the central highlands of Mexico, Pulque was served as a ritual intoxicant for priests-to increase their enthusiasm, for sacrificial victims-to ease their passing, and as a medicinal drink. Pulque was also served as a liquor reserved to celebrate the feats of the brave and the wise, and was even considered to be an acceptable substitute for blood in some propitiatory ceremonies(wikipidia).

Pulque is a milky, slightly foamy and somewhat viscous alcoholic beverage made by fermenting the fresh sap of Maguey plant. Agua Miel (Honey water), as is called the juice of Maguey before its fermentation, which takes about twelve hours, is less smelly but after the liquid is fermented, its stench is revolting. Cities and towns as late as 1950s, were full of pulquerias (grog shops), places with colourfully painted facades , selling this sour smelling liquid to the poor peons.

These pulquerias were not different from the Gin shops in London's East End in 1600-1700s and its taste will remind you of the Moonshine brewed by the hillbillies of the deep South in the USA.

Another beverage made from distilling the boiled Maguey is Mezcal and Taquila. Most of Mezcal is made in the State of Oaxaca, where there is a saying: Mezcal para todo, para bien y para mal (Mezcal for all, good and bad). However, the Oaxaca's traditional energy drink is Tejate 'the beverage of Gods'',which was reserved for the ruling elite of Zapotec society, but nowadays you can drink it in the markets of Oaxaca. The juice is made from corn, roasted cacao beens, seeds and rosita flowers, the ingredients blended in a thick mush and gradually thinned with water, served cold in colourful gourd bowls.

In Mexico as in many other tropical countries, there is a great variety of refreshing drinks. Horchata is a traditional Spanish drink, introduced in the country by the Moors, which is elaborated with the juice made of of Tiger Nut/Sedge Nut (La Chufa), peanuts or almonds, cane sugar, cinnamon. The ingredients are blended and then diluted with water and served cold. Horchata Valenciana, aromatic and sweet, is the famous summer beverage in Spain.

However in Mexico, where the beverage was introduced by the Spaniards, Horchata is prepared with rice flour, almonds, cane sugar, lime juice/zest and cinnamon, all blended together. You can have it with vanilla or topped with rum, strawberry water (agua de fresas) or water melon or mango juice, sugarcane juice, all well known refreshing drinks.

However, cold or frozen margaritas for the hot days are ideal. We found a large variety of margaritas, made with kiwi, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, rosemary and lemon, taquila margarita and last but not least, Prickly Pear margaritas, cocktails, fruit juices with prickley pear juice. All taste divine and having time on your hands, relaxed and lazy, there is no reason why you should not have a few cocktails.

If you like margaritas or Horchata de Tuna, the traditional Oaxacan drink, then you will be bewitched by Mojito, the white rum drink made with lime juice, brown sugar, soda water, mint leaves pushed in the glass, a slice of lime, ice to cool it and Voila! A cocktail for the summer sultry days. I prepare it with Jamaican or Cuban rum with a drop of angustura to give it a little kick.

Another refreshing drink we had was Agua de Tamarindo (Tamarind water). Tamarind fruit as you may well know, is a sour fruit, its juice is made by soaking the flesh in water for about twenty minutes, then mashing the flesh with your fingers until the pulp is soft, straining it and adding sugar or cane sugar or honey, lime juice, cinnamon, vanilla etc. You can buy prepared tamarind juice in bottles and cans from supermarkets and ethnic grocery stores. It is a popular drink in South East Asia, Africa and of course in Mexico. Tamarind pulp is used in culinary dishes and in preparation of hot chilli sauce, coriander and mint sauce etc.

There is a good variety of beers in Mexico, the different beers which I had there were Sol, Dos Equis, Negra and Modelo Especial, Corona and Cerveza del Pacifico. Negra Modelo is dark beer (as the name suggests) with a taste of malt, but does not compare to brown ale or Altbeer of Germany. and the Pacifico has less gas, is light and sits better in the stomach.

So on your first or the next visit to Mexico, enjoy its culinary delights and indulge in its enticing and refreshing drinks. Salud y buena suerte.

Posted by The Islander 02:20 Archived in Mexico Tagged mountains beaches churches buildings landscape monuments backpacking air-travel Comments (0)



View Vamos a Mexico. (Mexico Here we Come) on The Islander's travel map.

When I travel to a particular country, apart from its attractions, its people, of which I glean from travel guides, photos etc, the most important thing of which I think about, is food. Culinary delights, aroma & taste, subtle and sharpness of meat, fish and vegetable dishes. And places where the locals drink and eat.

Mexican food is essentially made from Maize (Mais) flour, the basic ingredient for making tortillas, tacos, burritos, fajitas, enchiladas etc.. When Spanish conquistador Bernal Diaz del Castillo, in the year 1517 set sail from Havana(Cuba) and reached the shores of Yucatan, first at the Cape of Cotoche and then at the coast of Compeachy, he and his companions saw large fields of maize and plantations of cassava-root, and observed that the natives made their bread from the flour of these two.

Hernan Cortez, the conquistador of Mexico, whom Bernal Diaz accompanied in 1519, saw much similarity between Spain and the newly discovered country, its mountains and lakes, its temples and palaces. An abundance of all kinds of fruits and vegetables, its teeming markets reminded him of Seville and Salamanca. So he named the country New Spain and so informed his Spanish king.

Although Spaniards left a lasting legacy in the construction of buildings, churches and plazas, I did not find any similarity with Spanish food. In all the places we visited, I tried to find a place where we could have real chili con carne or Menudo (pork tripe made with Spanish chorizo, blood sausage and chickpeas (garbanzo), but failed to find it. In fact, Mexican use kidney beans(frijoles) instead of chickpeas.

Crunchy taco shells, filled with seasoned grilled beef, topped with grated cheese and crispy lettuce leaves, with guacamole and hot sauce (moles) are delicious, to eat in the morning or at noon. Cod fish fillet or grilled tuna tacos, with guacamole, coriander leaves and sprinkled with lime juice are a treat. Spicy vegetable burgers with beans, with lettuce leaves is another delightful taco dish. Mexican food, outside Mexico, is known for its tacos and tortillas, burritos and beans(frijoles).

Soft warm tortillas filled with beef and beans, meat balls (albondigas) with soft cheese and grilled peppers, or vegetables with chili, beans and tangy sauce, is another filling for a burrito. All freshly made and tasty.Chicken & Tortilla soup and sour cream chicken or beef enchiladas are worth trying. In many dishes, cold rice, frijoles, topped with guacamole and chili sauce are served, as is Mexican chorizo or stretched beef, fried and then chopped to serve as a filling for tortillas or tacos.
But Mexican chorizo is nothing but fat, so is stretched beef and I do not like cold rice. I enjoyed Nachos (tortilla chips) dripping with melted cheese, fresh tomatoes and beans, topped with guacamole and jalapenos.

Fajitas (fah-hee-tus) is yet another dish made with grilled marinated beef fillet, thinly sliced and wrapped in a warm tortilla, together with fried onions & bell peppers, topped with fresh cheese, hot sauce, sour cream and sprinkled with fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves.

Tamales are another meal, prepared with a mixture of corn dough (masa de mais) and filling is made with chicken or pork, olives and some other ingredients, wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk and then steamed. The corn dough becomes firmer when steamed, and the tamale can be unwrapped and eaten.

Similar dishes are made in Greece and Turkey, in Indonesia and India, Thailand and other south east Asian countries, with rice and bananas, fish etc. The earliest tamales were simple, made with beans and squash and roasted over a fire and was basic food of the Peons (labour class and poor Mexicans).

Mole sauce the Mexican national dish, originally associated with Puebla and Oaxaca cuisine is made with left overs of any meat, bird and poultry, together with different kinds of chilies, peanuts, almonds, old dry fried bread, plantains, lard, cane sugar, bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon and cloves. This concoction is kept boiling until the ingredients are reduced to a thick aromatic and sweet smelling sauce. This mass is then blended until smooth and served with warm tortillas dipped into it.

In Spain La Salsa Española is also made with left-overs of any meat, ham, chorizo, dried fried bread, and the ingredients are kept boiling on low fire, adding more left-overs, until the pot is quite full. Then the mass is blended until a thick smooth sauce emerges, which is poured over lamb, beef and pork and poultry dishes, eaten with thick chunks of fresh baked country bread (pan de pais), washed down with red wine.

So on your trip to Mexico, you know that there is a wide variety of food and the ingredients and prepared food is a delight to see and savour.
Buen Appetito

Posted by The Islander 07:11 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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