“Mezcal” el elixir de la vida


Oaxaca is the hottest place we’ve been to so far, we went out to breakfast at 8:00, the temperature was just right for me, we came back at 8:30 and it was just right for Florence, after that it’s hot! In the evening, it takes a long time to cool down because the buildings are radiating their heat from the day.

Most of today was a day out at a number of sites around Oaxaca; first was a very large and very old tree. We were all a bit sceptical about this but it’s actually very impressive – 42m round, 16m wide, 2000 years old. It’s remarkable to think of everything it’s lived through. About 20 years ago, the tree wasn’t looking good, the town got some experts in, they removed a lot of parasite plants, pruned it and re-routed a road that was too close and now it’s fine. The town only has one tourist attraction so they were pleased.

Next stop was Mitla, the most important Zapotec site in Mexico. In their usual role as cultural vandals the Conquistadors destroyed a lot of the original town and built churches on it but they were so impressed with one part that they left it in place. The temple has proved to be resitant to earthquakes that have flattened most other buildings in the area. The secrets are in the quality of the stonework – all the stones fit together precisely like a huge jigsaw, also under the main structure is a thin layer of flat smooth stone that the structure can move on. These things combine to make the temple just flexible enough to survive any tremors – clever stuff.

Our third stop was the petrified waterfalls, formed of calcium deposits from springs in the mountains. The falls look they are cascading down the mountain side but are actually solid with a very thin trickle of water over them. It was a steep and hot walk down to the base of the ‘falls’ and an ever hotter one back up. At over 2,000m the air is getting a bit thin and this was a hard walk but at the top, we were rewarded with a dip in some cool pools – very welcome.

Our last stop was the least interesting one. A Mezcal factory where a perfunctory explanation of the process was followed by a tasting and gentle sales pitch. Its not a bad flavour and the variations between different plants and processes are interesting but we resisted the temptation to buy a bottle.

A Mexican Poem
For every bad, drink mezcal
For every good, mezcal as well
If there is no remedy, mezcal is a medicine
Because if cure you don’t get, at least you forget

A lot of the route today was on parts of the Pan-American highway, this stretches from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego with only a small break in Panama. If you count it as one road its the longest in the world.

Back to the hotel for a quick shower before heading to town. We don’t have nearly long enough in Oaxaca but managed to squeeze in the textile museum and the Santo Domingo church before dinner.

We had dinner at Los Danzantes. Another excellent meal, more lovely flavours and interesting combinations of ingredients. We tried to convince the Maitre’d to open a branch in London – it just isn’t possible to get most of the food we’ve had here at home.