July 14, 2009
Sierra Norte, Oaxaca Mexico

*This post is being posted out of sync with linear time…

I take a bus into sierra norte to a town called cuajimoloyas at elevation 3180m. I am surprised by the cold as the temp just drop at least 15 degrees from Oaxaca. I throw on another tank top, a t-shirt and zips my light water proof shell tight. I did not pack very well for this journey, I packed for the tropics and heat and where I am headed will be cold. My trekking partner is a 26 year old french Canadian idealist named felix who came to mexico to monitor the election for the OAS. We set off around 10:30 with our local guide (whose name I didn’t catch). It is so beautiful here, so lush, so green, the sky so blue. Never in my life would I think that this is what Mexico looks like. There are green meadows with wildflowers everywhere, alpine trees and streams. We stay more or less at this altitude for the next couple of hours. Our guide tells us that there are 8 remote zapotec villages here and they are self sustaining as they grow everything they need. they have collectively pooled their resources and share the revenue from the logging and eco-tourism program. Each person has to do something to contribute and so some volunteer as guides and other work once in a while in logging and etc. They are not paid individually, the money is shared by all the villages.

Our guide walks us by this three pools (about 15 feet in diameter each) and tells us that his brother is farming some kind of fish in there, using the water from the near by stream. I ask what the sling shot hanging on the fence is for? To shoot at the hawks that come for the fish.

We reach a look out point and peer into the valley down below, there is a guy waiting for us, we are switching guides. Our new guide’s name is Salvador. He points to the base of the valley and tells us that is where he lives and where we will have lunch. Half way up the opposite side of the mountain is a town called Latuvi and that is where we will spend the night.

We now start our descend, its steep and slippery but we are in the middle of alpines and I just couldn’t be happier. By 3 we make it to Salvador’s house where felix and I watch them catch fish out of their ponds for us for lunch. Meanwhile, felix and I fall asleep on the table waiting for lunch. This is me and felix’s first fish here in mexico, a nice change from the non-stop parade of meat.

We ask salvador how much more do we have to go and he looks at me and says maybe an hour. We set off and starts climbing up. Felix and I covered the ascend to 2400m in 35 min. I don’t know the altitude of salvador’s house but its a bit ways down. I haven’t had any trouble all these days here in the higher elevation but I could really feel it on the ascend. As we climb, we stop at one point and salvador points out where the look out is where we meet him. Wow, we have covered quiet a bit of distance here. An elder lady w a burro carrying vegetables comes along side of us and we chat with her as we climb. She asks where we are headed tomorrow and felix tells her that he will be turning around to head south while I continue north. She says why are you leaving your girlfriend? No, no, we are just friends.

We finally arrive and gets all the logistical details settled. Felix and I are sharing a cabin as we both only paid for a shared room. The cabin is super nice, better than any hostel I have been in.

As I write, I am swinging in a hammock watching the cloud formation change a top the mountain range, the goats are settling their unfinished business in the background as the day is about to end. I could not be happier.

We watch the sunset, share a great meal made for us by the lady running the store. We share a beer and a smoke and talk about the 14km that we covered today. Its been a great day, its been fucking perfect!

Oh, before I forget, sierra norte does not observe day light savings, so there was much discussion as to when we will head out tomorrow, 8am Oaxaca time? 8am sierra norte time? What the hell? I don’t understand!

Day 2, I have another 14km ahead of me and I need to cover that distance by mid day as I have a bus tonight. We poke our heads out of our room and everything is shrouded in white. We are in midst of clouds and its beautiful. Another great meal, another smoke, a handful of advil, before felix heads south and I north.

My guide is salvador again and he really likes to stop to tell you about the local flora and faunas. Both days we see what is left of where the villages used to be as they shift and relocate with the moving river. I think salvador really enjoys being a guide. The scenery is different today, different vegetation and a different vibe.

For part of the trek we are down by the river and parts of it we are along the side of the mountains. Its up and down all 14kms. Every now and the, we stop and my guide points to where we are headed or to where we have been. Its quiet a bit of mountain range I have trekked. Felix and I both agree that there is no way we could have done is by ourselves as the trails are poorly marked. I switch guides again and he is young and not very talkative.

I arrive at my final village Amatlan just before 1pm, 14km in 4 hours, not too bad. Now I am just waiting for a collectivio so I can get to a bigger town where I can then find my way back to Oaxaca.

I could easily do another day of this, but at last, there is a bus with my name on it tonight. So I must leave this very simple life, this very amazing scenery, walk out of the woods and reclaim my camera, film and the best of my belongings and keep heading south.

*PS. No jaguar sightings, so sad…

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