Tag Archives: Zipolite

Mazunte; or the Congregation of Turtles and Hippies

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View on Punta Cometa

I have been in the province of Oaxaca longer than I had been travelling through Mexico 19 years ago and I have been in Mazunte, where I have my yogic training, considerably longer than expected. Apparently that is the story with Mazunte, as it is with Zipolite.

Too Hot to Leave

People plan to stay for a few days or weeks and end op staying weeks, months or even years on end. Zipolite has a very laid-back vibe, which makes lying in a hammock and getting intoxicated rather appealing and its far easier maintained for several weeks or months than one thinks. Sure, you can do so some yoga or other activity, but in general, that is not what people come to Zipolite for. Mazunte, less than 10 minutes-drive towards the west, attracts a different crowd. The village is officially certified as Pueblo Magico, or magic village, and the locals are very keen to tell you that. The tiny town of around 1500 inhabitants contains no less than four yoga schools, a centre for turtle conservation and a natural cosmetic store, the latter selling products across Mexico. You can imagine therefor that the village attracts a fair amounts of yogis, hippies, spiritual seekers, and those interested in animal conservation.

What Magic?

 

Located in the province of Oaxaca, Mazunte has the land tip Punta Cometa in its borders, which is considered the southern-most tip of the North American mainland. It is argued that this piece of land emits large amounts of bio-energetic vibes and has therefor been an important breeding place for sea turtles.

Mazunte got inhabited only recently. While nearby Zipolite started to develop as a hippy mecca in the 1960 and ’70s, people of the close by larger town Pochutla started to have a closer look at the jungles of what is now Mazunte. They came over with their machetes and claimed the land as theirs. The first Mazunte-born person in modern history is only in their early forties, meaning that Mazunte didn’t become populated until the 1970s. Due to the abundance of sea turtles, the town became the country’s main centre for the slaughter and trading of turtle meat. Although Mexicans were keen consumers, the US greatly encouraged this trade.

From Killing to Keeping

sea turtles

Somewhere in the early 1990s the turtle population started to dwindle considerably and somebody saw the light; rather than slaughtering animals one can preserve them and so the town became an eco-tourist destination, rather than a place of certain death for a prehistoric species. As neighbouring Zipolite already had a hippy-reputation, Mazunte reasoned it could be a bit ‘alternative’ as well. In 1995 the village got an official government certification labelling it as pueblo magico, which involved some government corruption I was informed by an insider. This certification entails that no big tourist developments like large hotels or resorts can be constructed and big corporations like MacDonalds or Starbuck are not allowed to settle in town. This means that whichever private person or entity- with perhaps some good connections to government- owns the land can rest assured that they won’t be forced to sell or donate it.

I haven’t visited the turtle conservation centre, which is a very short walk from the school. I have been informed, however by a local guy who works there, that if you don’t like a zoo-like environment, which I don’t, you won’t enjoy it, so I am likely to give it a miss and I’m rather occupied travelling along the yogic spiritual path. Punta Cometa draws dozens, if not hundreds of people in high seasons, every evening, who come and enjoy the sunset. There are several routes taking you there through the local forest and along rocks offering stunning views over the Pacific Ocean.

Visitors and Water Challenges

The town draws the Mexican middle classes and national and international alternative people. Many of which stay longer than expected and/ or make it their home. Despite the national and international attention and the magic, the town does have its challenges. Like more places along the Oaxacan coast, it’s very much prone to storms and hurricanes, that do some considerable damage. Still, concrete constructions are build right at the seafront, and you wonder how long it will last. Water shortage is an issue as well. Pretty much everyone uses water tanks, that only get refilled when they completely run out, so being soaped-up under the shower ready to rinse yourself only for no water to appear from the tap is a common phenomenon.

I too have been staying longer than previously anticipated, as I have gained so much wisdom at the Hridaya yoga centre and met such wonderful people. After I have finished module 2 and the 10-day silent retreat I will be doing straight after that, I think I’m ready to move on. There so much more of Mexico that I haven’t seen and that needs to be explored.

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Zipolite: Stormy Weather, Intoxication and Inactivity

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Beach Bumming at Dusk in Zipolite

After a monster journey of more than 24 hours, during which I took a shuttle bus from Xela to San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico and a proper bus from there to Puerto Escondido, I arrived in the beach-bum town of Zipolite, Oaxaca around midday. The sky had been overcast since arriving in Oaxaca and it rained on the way from Puerto Escondido to Zipolite. I had been wondering how the driver of the small bus could actually see the road through the downpour. But in these parts of the world when travelling by public transport, you just have to surrender to the circumstances and/ or pray you arrive in one piece. It had stopped raining when I arrived in Zipolite, but that was only the proverbial silence before the storm.

Mexico Travel and Zipolite: Past and Present

I had visited Zipolite 19 years ago, almost to the month. I travelled with a friend I’ve known from secondary school. We arrived at Houston International Airport in the US from London Gatwick airport on the day that France won the world cup football. I remember it was terribly hot in Houston. We took a bus to the border and travelled for four weeks or so. It was our first time in Latin America and neither of us spoke a word of Spanish. It was a formative trip for me. I still love the colours corn yellow, terracotta and deep blue, which are very popular in the country and I really liked the people and felt rather frustrated I couldn’t communicate with them at the time. After that summer I did several Spanish language courses for about two years.

Of course Zipolite had changed, but the same beach-bum vibe was still there. The posada my friend and I stayed at 19 years ago and the American owner, Daniel, were still there, to my surprise. I was treated to some herbs upon arrival and after doing a tiny bit of work I got intoxicated and did nothing, as one does in Zipolite. The town is slightly off the beaten track about an hour from Puerto Escondido, yet it tends to draw considerable crowds during Holy week and in December and the first half of January. Zipolite was our first experience of tropical beach 19 years ago. The sea was blue and warm and not grey and fresh like the North Sea. The ocean at this part of the Oaxacan coast is wild and tends to have strong under currents, which doesn’t make it very suitable for swimming. When there is good swell surfers and body boarders can be found in the water. Zipolite is also known for having one of the few nude beaches in Mexico, but just like 19 years ago, only a few people bare all, so travelling to Zipolite just for the nude beach would be a bit of a disappointment.

Zipolite: Beach of the Dead

According to some stories Zipolite means beach of the dead due to the sea’s strong and dangerous under current. Besides the under current, Zipolite can also be considered the Beach of Dead due to its invitation to do absolutely nothing. The town is not a party place, yet there is considerable alcohol and drug use and herb consumption is ubiquitous. As much as I was attracted to Zipolite again for the sun, sea and herbs, I was also keen to do some work. The latter however, totally didn’t happen for both superficial as well as deep-seated reasons. The day I arrived it was drizzling now and again. The days after, Zipolite and the wider region experienced a proper storm and it was pouring down for days on end. I had no idea so much water could come from the heavens and with considerable winds and thunder, the whole ordeal was terribly dramatic. I changed rooms three times because water was pouring in and electricity was cut several times. When the storm had finally eased off, phone lines were cut, the roads out of town were blocked and the waves and beach were covered in tree trunks, branches, coconut skins and other natural debris. There was considerably damage to some properties and roads, but luckily no casualties. People were drawing comparisons to the hurricane of 1997. It was most peculiar when the sun finally came out, as if the rain, winds and thunder were all just a dream. It might be low season and the place a beach bum location, the community quickly got into action clearing the roads and cleaning the beach, which I found most admirable.

The Action after the Storm

I felt rather annoyed with myself that I didn’t do an awful lot more than nothing in Zipolite. But then, that is Zipolite and perhaps the necessary stage to move to another level, like the period after the storm. Next up is a yoga retreat providing plenty of tools to keep me mentally, spiritually and intellectually entertained.