Greetings once again from sizzling Oaxaca de Juárez. As in much of Mexico, this is the hottest month of the year, and this year seems hotter than ever. That’s why I head for the mountains of Oaxaca to escape the heat this time of year.
We are eagerly awaiting the return of Tlaloc, the Nahuatl rain god, who was known as Chaac by the Maya and Cocijo by the Zapotecs. We have had no rain since last October, which is typical of our climate. The beautiful Sierra Madre mountain ranges, which are the stunning backdrop to every horizon around the valley of Oaxaca, are barely visible because of the dust in the air. Once the rain begins to fall in June, the air will clear, everything will cool down and the surrounding area will burst into emerald green.
To escape the heat, and for business, I recently accompanied some clients, who have become friends, to the Sierra Sur for two nights. It was so beautiful there. We stayed in San José del Pacifico at a wonderful place I highly recommend called Rancho Viejo. We rented a very luxurious two-bedroom cabin with large living room with fireplace, one-and-a-half baths, dining room and fully-equipped kitchen.
It gets cool enough there at night to enjoy a roaring fire in the fireplace and sleep with a blanket. Only 85 miles – about two hours and 40 minutes – from Oaxaca City, you will find yourself in pine-covered mountains that are 20 F cooler, surrounded by fruit trees and huge maguey cacti. San José del Pacifico is the highest point of the Sierra Sur. If you drive south from there, you begin to descend to the beautiful Oaxacan Coast.
There are fantastic carpenters there who build absolutely beautiful cabins of any size and level of luxury. Water is abundant and hiking trails are everywhere. The people are very friendly and the vast majority of the land in the area is private property and very inexpensive, at least for the moment. I looked at one gorgeous ranch of 20 hectares (50 acres) with unlimited water being offered for $2,500,000 pesos, or just US$131,000.
We ate – and this will be hard for most readers to believe – at one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever eaten at, anywhere, and I am definitely considered a foodie. It is right on the main road through San José and owned and operated by a young Italian. Superb food including many pasta dishes, grilled meat tray and portions large enough for three people. He also offered a huge selection of the local aguardiente mezcal, as well as beer and wine. Mezcal is a wonderful distilled liquor made from many types of cacti, both cultivated and wild. It is not for the faint of heart, but quite delicious for those who enjoy such libations.
San Mateo Rio Hondo is approximately 20 minutes from San José del Pacifico, farther into the mountains. Though smaller in size than San José, San Mateo is actually the seat of the municipality to which San José belongs. There is also an excellent restaurant there just in front of the entrance to San Mateo’s only hotel. We enjoyed a wonderfully prepared clay oven pizza and delicious beef fillet.
Both San José and San Mateo have a distinctly bohemian vibe that appeals to this aging former hippie. Shops selling medicinal herbs abound. In nearby San Sebastian Rio Hondo, an expat couple – though they are so integrated into the community expat probably does not really apply – have established a beautiful center for natural weaving called Khadi, which is dedicated to weaving beautiful cloth with local materials and labor.
It’s so nice that our beautiful mountains provide us with an escape from the heat this time of year. Next time, I’ll be visiting the coast of Oaxaca…join me!