La Sierra Norte

A trip within a trip

This weekend we took a little trip within our trip: we went to a teeny tiny village in the Sierra Norte mountains that surround Oaxaca. Actually, they’re not mountains. I know this because I used ‘montañas’ in class and was immediately corrected. They’re ‘cerros’, or something between a hill and a mountain.

Whatever they are, they’re freaking beautiful and I need to get me up there. Kids and husband tagged along for the ride.

So, two hours of windy mountain roads, some on tarred road and some on dirt (road signs inform me it was 15km on dirt road but we later discovered that a kilometre means very little in the mountains – one kilometre to the waterfall wasn’t completed in the hour and a half we walked yet the, ‘mas mas mas’ was completed in one hour), and we arrived in a cloud. Yup, for all of Friday and some of Saturday we were well and truly in a cloud. No matter, it was beautiful.

So, we were shown to our cabin (double bed, bunk beds and a hammock outside) and given wood for the fire Colin was instructed to light for us. We were also informed that there was hot water but NOT informed that the hot water is solar powered unless we specifically ask for the gas to be turned on!

First stop: lunch. Sort of. The first comedor we found was deserted and the second offered us breakfast at 1pm. Coolio. So the kids had quesadillas while Col and I tucked in to huevos mexicanos and frijoles. Yummy yum yum. It was accompanied by hot chocolate and coffee. By the time we’d finished brunch the cloud had turned to real rain that disappeared as quickly as it arrived so we decided to explore the village.dsc_3851

We ended up walking for an hour and a half after seeing a sign claiming the waterfall was 1km away. Yeah. It wasn’t. The walk was lovely though. We walked along a path through the forest/rainforest. We saw amazing flowers, trees and even some wildlife – well, we found a dead snake that the kids had a great time examining, and a dung beetle that we watched for a while.dsc_3879

We eventually gave up on the waterfall because it was getting late, starting to rain and continuing would have taken us past some fairly aggressive looking dogs that we knew the kids would hate. So we turned round and took ourselves to the ‘café’! We told the kids it was going to be a café knowing full well it wasn’t going to live up to their expectations. SB’s, ‘oh goodie, can I have carrot cake, please?’ was not quite fulfilled. We found ourselves in a tepucheria. This seems to translate as ‘some old woman’s house where a teeny and friendly dog lives on the roof. She will invite you in, serve you a disgusting drink in a coconut shell and watch you to ensure you drink every drop while the kids loudly, and correctly, proclaim it to be disgusting’. Actually, the drink itself is called tepache and is a prehispanic drink made from the heart of the maguey plant (from whence comes the far tastier mescal). It tastes of slightly fermented orange juice, I guess. Vile. When the kids refused the drink the kind old woman offered them atole de mais – equally disgusting but gelatinous rather than liquidy.dsc_3888

We left and continued our long walk home.

Once back, Col made us a fire and I discovered I’d not packed him any pants or socks. My apology might have gone down better had I not been laughing so much when I told him (and yes, I’d done the packing for everyone – it is a feminist act, ok? I get to tell him what to wear if I pack his clothes!). Luckily he’s super skinny right now so I just loaned him a pair of my pants for Saturday and he washed the one pair he did have for Sunday.

Supper was actually surprisingly delicious in a tiny comedor by the cabin. We had cream of broccoli soup followed by rice, meat and veg. We enjoyed it so much we arranged to have breakfast and supper there on Saturday.

Then we went home, the kids played in the hammocks in the dark while Col made a fire again and we got ready for bed. SB decided the top bunk was far too high so took my place in the bed and I was relegated to the top bunk, which was actually fantastic as I got to read while Col had to talk to SB until he fell asleep! However, it was also out of reach of the fire so I was pretty bloody chilly all night long.

Saturday morning was one of those perfect lazy mornings. Col lit yet another fire and we mucked about, just enjoying being together until about 10am when we wandered over for breakfast. After breakfast we took a stroll down a hill then up a hill to reach the small church. Nothing doing there but we did find a huge dead lizard, which the kids loved. The police watching them thought it was hilarious that the kids could be so interested in a dead lizard so I didn’t take a photo as I didn’t want them to die laughing at us.

Back down and up hills before we decided we’d go and find one of the few techerias (trout farms and restaurants) in the village. After a few people shook their heads in horror that we’d want to do this with kids we finally got going. An hour there, an hour to eat and an hour back they said. Well, it was an hour there, that’s true. We walked down, down, down for one hour. Finally found the place (after passing a small house with dead guinea pigs hanging from the roof!) but it was entirely deserted so we had a quick snack of whatever crap was in my bag (fruit roll up, marshmallows and raisins – can you tell I have kids?) before marching back up, up, up. SB informed us that he had really enjoyed this adventure, particularly the food.

Face palm.

So, we didn’t need an hour to eat but it was good we had that extra hour as the way back was much slower going as SG had decided she was entirely done with walking and most of the route was extremely steep.

We got back just in time for Col to go for his temezcal – a local tradition where you take off all your clothes, wrap a sheet around you, sit outside freezing to death while a bored looking woman smacks you with rosemary and mint until you smell like a leg of lamb. Then she opens the door to a large pizza oven and tells you to get inside. Luckily for me, I went second so I know Col had emerged uncooked and uneaten from his experience so I did as I was told. I got in the pizza oven.

It is extremely weird to be inside a pizza oven. I was placed on a chair, handed a torch and a bottle of cold mint tea and told to chuck water over a lump of mud regularly. The mud was obviously over a fire as the pizza oven was clearly meant to be some sort of sauna. She said to stay in there for forty minutes or so but knock on the door if I wanted to get out early. It’s pretty hard to judge the passing of time in the dark in a pizza oven so eventually I knocked as she hadn’t come to get me. Then she lay me down on a bed and proceeded to badger me all over whilst yawning and telling her son to turn the tv down. I only laughed once when she grabbed my tummy. I thought that was pretty good of me.

Then it was time for supper. Only this time the lovely old abuela who’d cooked and served the previous day wasn’t there. Instead there was a surly young woman who chucked two plates at Col and me and then looked really surprised when we suggested the kids might like to eat too. I then had to go and get her back because the food was cold and I had been given two forks instead of a knife and fork. She was pretty pissed off and tried to tell us that tourists to this freezing cold little village normally like their food cold. Ah hah! One step too far my friend, one step too far! Col took even more umbridge at this than did I and immediately told her we were leaving. She looked terrified and reluctantly agreed to heat up our food and cook for the kids! Sadly, by the time my food was warm, SG needed a poo so by the time I got to eat it was cold again!

Sunday was crisp and clear so we just hung out in our hammocks outside, SG had small tantrums anytime anyone suggested her dolly was less deserving of a hammock space than an actual human and SB went in to a shop on his own to buy biscuits, in Spanish!


And then it was time to return to warm, warm Oaxaca.

The cerros were just as beautiful as I’d hoped and we all loved our trip. Both kids have been asking when we can return. I can’t believe that SB walked as much as he did with no complaining, or that he bought biscuits all on his own, in Spanish. SG, well, she’s cute and stroppy at the moment.


One thought on “La Sierra Norte

  1. What a wonderful story. And how smart to have a word for something between a hill and a mountain. Wish there was an English one….or maybe there is but I don’t know it. Love reading your blogs; just wish you did more of them. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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