After a few hectic days traveling in and around the City of Oaxaca, we planned on heading through the mountains towards the Oaxacan coast. We took one of the small minibuses that leave for the coast every hour or so from different points in the city centre. We made our way up into the mountains and stopped off in a truly magical village little village called San Jose Del Pacifico.We got dropped off by our minibus in what seemed to be the centre of the tiny little village. There were very few people around part from 3 or 4 other travelers and a few local people. We walked up the road a little bit to ask around for a place to stay, and the first person that I spoke to recommended that we look for a woman called Catalina. What a stroke of luck that suggestion would turn out to be! We followed the directions we were given which meant walking up the steepest hill ever to try and find Catalina’s house. Due to the altitude, the air in San Jose is extremely thin and loaded with the weight of our bags, it was a real struggle climbing up. We finally got to the top of the hill and found Catalina’s house.
We were greeted at the gate by a French guy who spoke quite good Spanish, and another Korean. We made our way into the house and were introduced to Catalina. We enquired about staying for the night and luckily she had enough space in her house to let us stay. It cost 50 pesos to stay the night, or 70 pesos(just under 4 pounds) with food included. Even by Mexican standards the price was ridiculously cheap, never mind with three meals a day included. Where I live in Ixtepec, one meal costs around 50 pesos!
Her house is definitely the coolest I have ever seen.Its been frequented by a lot of travelers over the years, who go up into the mountains from August to November to eat the mushrooms which the town is famous for. The walls of the house were covered from top to bottom in psychedelic drawings and messages, as well as wood carvings and gifts that people had left over the years.
Throughout the day we learnt that Catalina is well known in the region for being a 'witch' or magical woman with healing powers. She has several rooms in her house and runs it as a type of hostel. Catalina is without a doubt one of the most fascinating people I have ever met. Initially she seemed to be very cold towards everyone, but once I struck up conversation with her she became really talkative and affectionately referred to all the younger folk in the hostel as 'bebe'. She has to most intense gaze that makes you feel that she is looking right into your soul, and according to everyone we met that knows her, she probably is.
Everyone in the village spoke very highly of her. We heard tales of how she has cured many people over the years, using a mixture of witchcraft and knowledge of ancient alternative medicines. She is a Spanish woman who came to Mexico around 25 years ago. She had a lot of stories to tell, and we got some insight into the many adventures that she has had but I feel that we would have had to stay for a lot longer to even scratch the surface of her colourful history. From what I gathered she has always been the traveling type, and has traveled through a lot of South America, making money reading tarot cards and curing people.
A few other foreigners were staying in the house along with us, three French guys, a Belgian, a Spanish couple and Korean who had been staying with Catalina for 6 months. The atmosphere was really chilled out and relaxed. We spent part of the evening sitting on the porch outside which overlooked the beautiful valley below. While we were hanging out on the balcony, a few Mexicans arrived that had spent a year living in Ghana learning about percussion instruments. We spent a few hours chatting and listening to them playing their instruments. In the evening, the clouds slowly drifted through the mountains until we were under a complete blanket of fog which made the whole experience more surreal. Due to the altitude the temperatures at night drop way below what I’ve become accustomed to in Ixtepec. The normal 40 degree heat that I am used to was reduced to less than 10 degrees.
When we headed to bed, we spent an uncomfortable night sleeping in freezing cold and slightly damp beds. The house is quite old and at night time it doesn't hold in a lot of heat in or keep all of the moisture outside.
The plan for the next day was initially to head straight to the beach and then make our way over to Chiapas, but Catalina convinced us to stay another day as she wanted to teach Ciara and Roisin how to read Tarot. After having traveled and walked around so much we were all kind of glad to chill out for another day so we agreed to stay. We spent afternoon talking and learning how to read tarot cards as well as hearing about what Roisin's future has in store for her. She told us tales of her experiences reading the cards, curing people while traveling and her experiences living in Mexico. My translation skills were tested as she didn't speak or understand any English so I spent the day translating so that everyone could understand each other.
Her house doesn't have the same atmosphere as a hostel or hotel, it was more like going and staying with a friend or relative. Every is expected to help out, preparing the food, cleaning the dishes and chasing the pesky chickens out of the kitchen.
After spending another night freezing to death in the cold and slightly damp beds we made our way out of San Jose del Pacifico at 6 o’clock in the morning and got the bus to Pochutla, which is on the east coast of Oaxaca. From Pochutla we traveled another hour to Huatulco were we planned to stay the day before travelling overnight to Chiapas.............