San Agustinillo and Oaxaca City, 2014

Barb working on her tan on the beach at San Agustinillo -- the best part of our winter

In 2014 only 50% of our travel plans worked out. We enjoyed a fine month at Posada la Barca in San Agustinillo, with a side trip to Oaxaca City. Next we planned an early-spring bike tour in Virginia, on our way home, but we had to cancel it because of TERRIBLE weather.

Dawn, often our favorite time of day, on the beach at San Agustinillo

Posada la Barca, the yellow building just above the beach. The owner, Jose Guillen, with two of his many sisters. 

Sweet Celeste, a puppy that Jose adopted, but when he returned to Texas, we and other guests looked after her. 

Barbara walking on the beach, probably on her way to the library

Didi working with children at the Biblioteca de San Agustinillo afternoon art program.

Our 2015 trip was more successful -- amazing, in fact.

San Agustinillo and Pluma Hidalgo, 2015

This year we spent a month on the beach in San Agustinillo, with a side-trip into the mountains of Oaxaca. Then we stayed for a week in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. From there, we made our first visit to Guatemala. We liked it so well that we'll visit a different part of Guatemala in 2016.

First, more photos from San Agustinillo, our favorite haunt on the Pacific coast of Oaxaca, Mexico.

San Agustinillo village, with newly paved road, and the view from our balcony at Posada la Barca

The beach in mid-morning

Even better, another dawn on the beach

In the morning we walk around a point to reach a secluded beach. When the surf is up, it can look intimidating, but we've always made it.

Often we walk to Punta Cometa, about 40 minutes away, the southernmost point in Oaxaca. It's a popular place to watch the sun set over the ocean.

Punta Cometa at sunset

Pluma Hidalgo

It can be really hot in Oaxaca, even on the beach. We took a short break to cool off by visiting Pluma Hidalgo, a town in the mountains known for coffee production. We were there only two nights, staying in two different hotels and hiking in the nearby countryside.

Waiting for a camioneta -- a little truck that carries passengers. Getting to Pluma Hidalgo in the mountains can involve a lot of waiting!

On the first night in Pluma, sunset from the balcony of our room in the village

The trouble with walking around Pluma is that there are no level places!

Sunset basketball; Pluma Hidalgo side street

Village square; with a schoolgirl whose parents wanted her to practice English with us

Finca Don Gabriel, a coffee plantation and tourist lodging a few kilometers from Pluma, where we stayed the second night

Back from a hike and resting on our terrace at Finca Don Gabriel

Back to the Beach

Even though we liked Pluma Hidalgo very much, we were glad to return to the beach. During our last week there, we saw something we'd never seen before -- local daredevils (or lunatics) jumping from the offshore rocks.

We won't be trying this anytime soon.

In San Agustinillo we've usually stayed at Posada la Barca. We like it very well. However we decided to make a change for next year, 2016, because we want a full kitchen and a little more privacy and space. We've already booked a new cabana at the other end of the beach.

Our cabana next year is at the far end of the main beach. It's third up from the beach, in the center of this photo.

After our month at San Agustinillo, we boarded an overnight bus from Pochutla to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. It's a wonderful town.

San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas

Just around the corner from the house where we stayed

There are so many things we like about San Cristobal de las Casas. It's the cultural capital of Chiapas, one of Mexico's poorest, most beautiful, and most interesting states. There's a strong Mayan presence -- around 1/3 of San Cristobal's population of 150,000 speak one Mayan dialect or another.  Because of the Mayas, San Cristobal has marvelous crafts, especially colorful weaving and embroidery. In fact it has become a center for the arts generally, with talented photographers and graphic artists displaying work in many galleries.

The city, like Chiapas, has a revolutionary spirit, most recently manifested in the Zapatista movement. The historic downtown is nicely preserved, and there's a srong expatriate presence. However, unlike San Miguel de Allende, for example, the expatriate community is diverse; there seem to be more people of European and even Middle Eastern origin than Americans or Canadians. And at an elevation of nearly 7,000 feet, the climate is invigorating, especially in the dry winter months.

We were fortunate in our choice, through AirBnB, of a place to spend our week in San Cristobal de las Casas. We rented a small apartment, part of a larger home, on a narrow cobblestone street about ten minutes walk from the main tourist areas. From the outside, below, the house was not particularly attractive or impressive. It was number 7.

But immediately on opening the door, we were astonished by the gardens and the view. It was absolutely delightful, and the owners couldn't have been nicer.

Our apartment was through the French doors.

We had an excellent kitchen and a living room with a fireplace that we used every night -- that invigorating climate!

We spent a good deal of time just walking around the city, and there was always something to see.

There seemed to be a demonstration around the central square nearly every day. The women below were protesting some government program that they believed would harm the environment. The "defense of mother earth" is an ongoing theme of the Zapatista movement, though this particular group calls itself the National Organizaion of People's Power.

Poster on left said "Women of Dignity" (bandana is a Zapatista trademark); also "I am a woman, not a maid!"

Sidetrips: Chamula

Outside San Cristobal de las Casas are smaller towns whose population is entirely Mayan. One of the best known and most visited is Chamula. Below is the town center, and the main door of Chamula's church.

We didn't take many photos in Chamula. Photography is strongly discouraged. Many Mayans do not like to have their pictures taken. Perhaps because so many tourists visit the town, Chamula is unusually strict about use of cameras.

The interior of the church, where photos are forbidden, is lit entirely by hundreds of candles. The floor is covered with a carpet of evergreen needles, and Mayan families congregate around various statues or arrays of candles laid out on the floor, praying, singing, and performing quiet rituals. We enjoyed being in the dim interior; it was cool and restful, and refreshingly non-Christian.

Sidetrips: Cañon de Sumidero

Cañon del Sumidero, about 45 minutes from San Cristobal de las Casas, is a popular attraction for Mexican tourists. Boats run up and down the Rio Grijalva, which formed the deep, narrow canyon. In some places the walls tower a kilometer above the river's surface!

The canyon and its surroundings have been made a national park. However, the capital city Tuxtla Guttierrez borders the park, and pollution from the urban area is a serious problem. It's disheartening to see eddies of rubbish at places along the river. Still, wildlife flourishes, below, and it's a beautiful place.

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