We returned yesterday from a wonderful three-day trek in the mountainous Sierra Norte, north-east of Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico. Not only did this excursion allow us to explore the gorgeous scenery of the region and learn about the plethora of plants growing here and their respective usages in traditional medicine and cooking, but it also gave us the opportunity to sample some delicious Mexican food in a particularly remote setting.
We passed through three of the "Pueblos Mancomunados", a community of eight Zapotec villages cooperating in an excellent ecotourism program: Benito Juárez, Cuajimoloyas and Llano Grande - all three situated at around 3000 meters above sea level. In each village, we were greeted with comforting home-style cooking at the local canteen or "comedor" - all the more appreciated after hours of strenuous hiking at such elevation.
We were offered nothing but wholesome food, though I especially enjoyed the tostadas which were served to us for dinner in Benito Juárez - lightly spread with pureed black beans and beautifully garnished with shredded lettuce, crumbs of queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese) and chunks of delicious avocado.
What better way to start a day in the mountains than with a bowl of Oaxacan-style steaming hot chocolate, where cinnamon and ground almonds wonderfully round off the primary mixture of ground-up cocoa beans and sugar? I have been lucky enough to taste some of the finest chocolate drinks through my work or in famous salons de thé in France, but I have to say the rustic Oaxacan recipe enchanted my tastebuds and my heart just as much and maybe even more…
Our meals in Cuajimoloyas were livened up by the presence in the comedor of Joana and Leslie, four-year old little angels quietly keeping themselves busy while their mums were cooking for the whole neighbourhood. Not to mention our admiration when we saw Joana devouring green beans along with a bowl of coffee for breakfast! - while I had declined the full Mexican desayuno that morning and given myself up to the simple pleasure of dipping a bread roll into a frothy hot chocolate, a very frenchie brekkie you would think but the traditional way to have it here too!
We came back a bit sore but delighted by our wilderness escape, one that we would highly recommend to anyone looking to experience the indigenous village life up close. We organised our tour with Expediciones Sierra Norte and were very happy with everything - their website is quite unclear and very incomplete though so you're better off visiting them directly at their office downtown Oaxaca.