I arrived in Oaxaca, the city everyone and their madre had been raving about since I arrived in Mexico, late at night. A bed! A real bed free of bugs and old snoring men! Glorious!
In the morning I explored as much of the town (the typical Mexican beauty: churches, dancing, parks, cafes, etc.) as I could on foot and then returned to my hostel. I started talking to a "Southern Charm," a guy that stayed in my room the night before, on his way out. He was wearing a tattered straw hat and carrying a backpack that could have held 14 penguins, a ninja, and 2 kilos of oranges...he seemed like a winner. Thirty minutes later I was freshly showered, packed and on my way to Sierra Norte with him and his 2 amigos, Z Dawg (from Belgium) and E Tank (from California).
Southern Charm is originally from Ecuador but currently resides in Oklahoma; he carries a wink and a bit of that southern charm with him wherever he goes. He is confident, packed to the brim with adventure (perhaps that's why his straw hat is coming apart) and loves to inspire. Z dawg is one of the most positive people I've come across and always reminded us to appreciate the little things. E Tank is a disgruntled teacher who has deep sense of ethics (mostly rooted in the values of defensive martial arts). Our crew was quality.
The hike from Latuvi to Amatlan was a beautiful walk mostly along the river through trees and cactus. When we arrived at Amatlan, we found out that it wasn't Amatlan; we were in a village just before it. We had made ourselves comfy in the grass outside the church (i.e. passed out from exhaustion) after the 13 km hike so there was no debate about staying put. We were able to find a family to host us for the night and shared laughs over hot chocolate and tortillas. My favorite woman had to be the grandma who, every few minutes, would point to the bowl of salsa and say "saaaltsaah" and nod in agreement. I agreed. The old ladies giggled as they taught us how to say "big butt" and "small butt" in Zapotec (ranaren and ranatoe). I wonder what I will teach strangers when I'm their age. The next day we took our time walking back to Latuvi on the same trail, dipped our feet in the creek and then drove back to Oaxaca to eat tortas and sleep in beds with a Ninja Turtle and star sheets.