We need nature. All of the Spanish Colonial cities and Pueblo Magicos in Mexico we’ve seen have been great but we’re kind of outdoors people so we wanted to get out of town. Oaxaca Centro is perfectly located close to so much to do in the countryside. The Pueblos Mancomunados (Commonwealth of Villages) are eight remote mountainside villages of indigenous peoples. These villages have worked together pooling their natural resources and sharing profits in the thickly forested territory for centuries. They have cooperated together to reduce economic difficulties and population decline. Over the last couple of decades the communities entered into the ecotourism business offering cabanas, meals, guides, horses or mountain bikes to rent, zip lines and more. This would be the perfect wilderness escape we needed.
We booked a four day trek through Expediciones Sierra Norte with a helpful staff in Oaxaca Centro. By paying up front for everything we would need for four days we got a break from constantly having to research and make decisions about our travels. A four day 25 mile hike with significant elevation gains and descents between 7,200 feet and 10,500 feet above sea level was our version of the All Inclusive. We drove our vehicle up the steep elevation gain to the first pueblo, Cuajimoloyas were we left the Suburban in the secure parking lot in front of a police station.
The first day was mostly downhill on a significant collection of tree branches, pine needles and some fallen trees due to a recent severe storm with high winds. That was a tough 7 hour beginning on my knees and we waddled into our cabin for our first night in Latuvi. Due to the length of this trek we had two guides. Our first guide Soledad, walked with us for 3 hours, handed us over to guide number 2 who was patiently waiting for us in the middle of the forest at a predetermined meeting place. She then turned around and walked back to her home in Cuajimoloyas for the evening. Soledad was incredibly knowledgeable about the local flora showing us several edible plants and several which were used for medicines. One called hierbe de borocho (literally herb of the drunk) is good “if you drink too much tequila one night and you are sick the next day this herb can make you well again.” Another plant makes a tea that can cleanse the liver and another is for stomach ailments. At the end of the day each village has at least one Comedor (restaurant/ kitchen) where the selection of the day is available.
On day two we made our way to La Neveria, the smallest of the pueblos with about 200 villagers. Of the four villages this turned out to be our favorite. The cabins were on a high plateau and spaced with ample room between them (although we were alone in camp anyway).
Josephina, was personable and a gifted cook. Lunch was Pollo Amarillo- absolutely outstanding and we chugged two pitchers of guava juice.
Dinner was Tlayuda, a large folded tortilla with lettuce, avocado, Oaxacan cheese, grilled beef, chilies etc. Yum. A fire was built and lit for us in our adobe brick cabin providing a warm glow for the evening.
Day 3 we trekked to Benito Juarez and on day 4 we hiked back to Cuajimoloyas. This day we saw some spectacular scenery as we wound through the forested mountains and passed through farm and ranch land where tilled fields on steep slopes awaited the plantings of the three major crops, corn, beans and squash. The same crops that have sustained indigenous peoples for thousands of years throughout the Americas.
At the end of the day we were alone in the cabanas so we ate at the Comedor in the kitchen of the owner along with her children. It is so amazing to watch women cook delicious meals for strangers so efficiently with very little notice and few of the kitchen gadgets on which we’ve come to rely north of the boarder. Earlier in the day before she cooked us lunch and dinner we observed her hand washing dozens of linear feet of drying line worth of laundry. Just all in a days’ work!
Over all we felt very privileged to experience the mountains of Oaxaca, inhaling the fresh exhaust free air, viewing and hearing the flora and fauna, eating delicious locally grown organic food and experiencing the workings of successful cooperative economies with a community based model in an environment deserving of pride in their villages and natural resources.