Hierve el Agua – ‘The water boils’ – 1

To get to Hierve el Agua you need to drive out of the surprisingly choked outskirts of Oaxaca for around an hour and half which eventually leads to an impressive if empty stretch of toll freeway that passes through spectacular valleys of agave plantations. Then, as you begin to climb into arid mountain-scapes, you move up into narrow, winding and dusty laneways. Unlike Monte Alban at noon “Surely this won’t be a busy place, there’s no way a coach could make it up these switchback roads, I mean, there’s hardly any traffic at all. Could we even have the place to ourselves…?”

We were hit up for entry fees twice, one from the contentious local indigenous community check point and then again, a few k’s on, from the official state government barrier – no drama, but it demonstrates the ongoing struggle for indigenous communities in Oaxaca to make anything from their own land, their heritage and their ancestral rights. You see this struggle in town through the occasional rights demonstration and street blockade – vocal, but not violent, but you have to feel for these people as they struggle to make a living.

We turned a corner and would you believe… a coach park, disgorging dozens and dozens of yet more eager colourful Mexican families – again, happily chattering, clambering and sprawling – not over pyramids this time but the ‘Cascada Chica’, a small waterfall – a kind of wet amphitheatre and two large-ish enclosed pools. Not quite the serene isolation we’d imagined (and were sold) but, at the same time, a happy sight to see and experience. This time, how the coaches got there, really remains a mystery.

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