Delicia and I decided to take a trip out to the renowned mushroom mountains of Oaxaca. The hills of San Jose Del Pacifico are famed for their naturally growing mushrooms and the lax laws surrounding them. We felt that visiting the mountains was the break we both needed from the sound and smells of a city, so we looked at what we could find.
The little house we found, nicknamed “The Boob,” was right out on a mountainous ridge. The earth ship style ‘house’ was built of the local earth and constructed in slowly narrowing concentric circles. It was just about big enough to fit a bed, a wood burner, and us in it. The little window buried into the bedside wall looked out over the enormous, endless mountain valley. It was perfectly positioned to catch the sunset in the evenings.
The area itself is tucked way back into the side of a mountain, hidden by the trees that cover the hillsides. The silence was only broken by the sounds of animals and the odd car firing its clutch into the stratosphere as it struggled up the almost sheer ‘roads.’ The air was clean, the views were unbroken, and the sun shone on a little paradise tucked away in the mountains. It would easily be possible not to see anyone for a week.
We whiled away the days smoking, drinking fine wines, and laughing well into the night. I hadn’t realised how much I needed to touch ground again and escape the smog of cities filled with unrestricted exhaust. Simply sitting on a morning and witnessing the sunrise over the mountains was bliss. As it broke through the crisp morning air, it flooded the valley that lay before us with light and pushed away the low-lying clouds far beneath us.
We took advice from the couple who had built our tiny home and ventured out in the heat of the day to enjoy his personal favourite walk. His directions were to “go to the left of the café and then follow your heart.” These directions led us along a winding river path right through the deep and luscious valley of the mountain. He said it would take 2 hours at a good clip to reach the next town; it took us a conservative 4.
The walk was stunning. Trickling mountain rivers were lined with vegetation I thought had become extinct along with the dinosaurs. Ferns the size of trees, agave you could possibly build houses in, and monolithic trees crowded out the blue skies above. The air was rich with pristine mountain air, laced with nature’s deep, green smells. Birds and other noisy creatures filled any brief gap in the conversation that kept us distracted from the miles we were covering.
Each new stage of the walk was filled with another little delight to become distracted with. We crossed the river numerous times. Despite the unpopulated path, the rivers were always equipped with a brief puzzle of stepping stones or bypasses. We would pause for a minute and take it in turns to try to figure out the path. Flocks of butterflies of every size, colour, and flavour followed us around for a good mile or so, only adding to the wonderful colours of the forest. We often took a short time to have a little toot, sit down, and take in the surroundings. We had nowhere to be in a hurry.
We finally realized we had made it to the next town along when we started seeing people again. The first man we came across was about 90 years old. His job was to sell breezeblock. He had set up on the side of the road with a big pile of the grey construction material and was happily flogging it to anyone who might happen to need it. Honest work for honest folk. Probably not the best souvenir to take with me, though.
As we walked our way through the final mile or so, we came across a wealth of quartz buried in the ground. Various shapes and colours were protruding from the mud all around us. We scraped together some choice chips and pocketed them for the memories.
The final slog up into the tiny village was a monster. It had been easy to forget the walk along the relatively flat river, but our metal was finally tested once the climb started. The slope was not just brutally steep; it also went on for miles, climbing us higher and higher into the mountain. All of a sudden, the altitude was evident. Thin air and thinner legs don’t make for upwards marching; luckily for Delicia, she’s been gifted with thighs that could crush diamonds, and she outpaced me significantly.
The reward was more than worth it. The town was tiny, silent, and built deep into the mountainside. We located a little café to grab a drink and food and settled our tired legs. The food was all very much homemade from local produce and tasted like heaven after such a long walk; he even had some incredibly fresh local pulque for me. Finally, we paid our tab and looked for a lift home.
I located a collectivo: a pickup truck with a tent over the back. They usually cost no more than 10 pesos no matter the distance and are the transport of choice for locals all over Mexico. The driver told us to hop in and spun the truck around the local village market.
This market consisted of no more than three stalls, all selling produce. We sat in the car for a solid half an hour as they loaded an entire fruit and veg stall into the back of the truck, I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t regretting getting a taxi at this point, but patience is a virtue. Unfortunately, the journey didn’t get any less delayed.
He then took us on a whistle-stop tour of this mountain location. The trucks they drive are Toyota Hilux or something similar; they’re made for war and have unbelievable torque. This didn’t stop the van from having a hard time around the town’s tiny, unpaved, near-vertical streets. At one point, he pulled a three-point turn and absolutely hammered the truck in reverse up the steepest road I have ever seen. As it rolled up, the sky disappeared, then the forest, until all I could see out the front window was the road we had just burnt rubber up. He put it in reverse because the weight of the woman’s stall in the back would have caused the truck to roll over backward otherwise. He didn’t make it up the hill, not for lack of trying.
Eventually, after picking up everyone the mountain had to offer and all their luggage, barrels, produce, children, livestock, and contraband, we made it back. The day had been a success, and we were rewarded with another stunning sunset watched from our heavenly bed through the open window of The Boob.