Horses And Hot Springs

Hot Springs And Horsepower

Seaside getaways in Oaxaca are a welcomed escape from the dreary winters in the north. Long lazy days at the beach nursing a margarita can be fun but if you are like me and need to get up and do something every now and again. Things like hot springs and horsepower are just a few activities to show you the real Puerto.

More Than A Two Horse Town

The city of Puerto Escondido along the coast of the state of Oaxaca in Mexico is a major hub for travelers searching for a beach escape during winter. It is a great place to get to know. The people are very friendly, and the beaches are of course stunning. However, during the winter months, it can become crowded with everyone coming to party and lay on the beach. So you have to get creative and find ways to get out of town to see all Puerto has to offer.

Renting motorbikes is a great way to see the city and get out to see the surrounding hills and small villages. There are only a few places in town to rent bikes, and prices range from 400 pesos per day (that’s 24 hours, not just the daytime) for a scooter to 500 pesos for an actual motorbike. A few of my travel companions and I thought it would be a good idea. We soon realized that it was our best decision all week.

After only a few hours of riding the streets of Puerto, we felt like we owned the town. Going wherever we wanted whenever we wanted and with great speed. We even formed a bike gang to seal our friendship in the history books officially. My name was Boxer. Chica Roja, Burger, La Chef and I were kings and queens of Puerto for the day.

Video Here: Every now and again I am having way to much fun to be taking pictures. I did, however, have my GoPro strapped.

We had so much fun, and we didn’t want it to end, so we searched for something else we could do that would show us what Puerto Escondido was all about. On our way out of town, we ran into a man named Javier who was offering a horseback riding tour to hot springs up in the mountains followed by a day at his family’s beach compound and a late night boat ride on Laguna de Manialtepec to see phosphorescent plankton. So, of course, we signed up.

The Team

The Team

It had been a long time since I’d ridden a horse. Ten years in fact. My nerves as well as the horses’, were a bit high as I hoisted myself atop the saddle. As we set off down the trail passing behind small village homes with smoke billowing from rusted out stovepipes and roosters boastfully ringing in the morning light, I began to hear the faint roar of a what could only be a nearby river.

I started repositioning my feet in the stirrups and making sure my camera was firmly attached to my side. As we rounded the corner, we were cut off by a barbed wire fence forcing us to stop and wait for our guide Javier to grant us passage. In the meantime, we just sat and stared at what would be our first river crossing.

River Crossings

River Crossings

We slowly made our way across the fast-moving water. The horses in line nose to tail, each staring down carefully choosing their next step. The cold river water splashed up from the horses stamping hoofs was a huge relief to my hot sunburnt feet. Getting up the bank of the river was by far the most difficult. Breathing heavy and bucking, the horses struggled to make it up the sandy slope, and I struggled to hold on.

Get 'Em In Line

Get ‘Em In Line

Like characters out of the Game of Thrones, we trotted through the Oaxacan countryside. Sun high in the sky casting rays of light through the trees and onto the beautiful multicolored horses. A small breeze offering little relief to the midday heat. We were all enjoying the moment too much to speak a word.

After about an hour and a half and a few more river crossings, we finally arrived at the hot springs. We hitched the horses stretched out our sore backs and carried on on foot.

Hitch 'Em Down

Hitch ‘Em Down

The Hot Springs

A narrow sandy path lead us to an old rickety wooden gate covered in rusted barbed wire that guarded a small paradise deep in the Oaxacan hills. A small family sat at a grand table without a roof eating brunch. Next to them was a collection of pools that looked like any ordinary cement pools apart from the clear blue water streaming into them from the mountainside.

We made our way to a small, unassuming natural pool in the ground bordered by stones that looked like a puddle compared to the others. Our guide Javier instructed us on the proper way to experience the hot springs. Warning us that yes it is very hot, but you do get used to it.

Way Too Hot!

Way Too Hot!

Up until the moment I dipped my toes in the water, I was under the assumption that hot springs were generally warm calming pools to swim in, often best in colder weather. Boy was I wrong. A hot spring does, in fact, mean HOT! I felt like my feet were being deep fried. It took some serious willpower to continue subjecting myself to the painful needles shooting all over my feet.

After a few minutes of storytelling from Javier, we were ushered out of the pool and into the next pit of pain. I made sure to ask beforehand if it was going to be just as hot because I could clearly see we were going in further than just our feet this time.

Still Too Hot

Still Too Hot

Javier assured us that each consecutive pool would be cooler as I sat on the wooden plank stretched over the pool, I once again I dipped my toes in and once again was shocked at how hot it was. I looked at Javier and called BS. It seemed just as hot as the one before. He just laughed.

I wasn’t feeling extra daring that day, so I just submerged waist deep which as a male was quite a shock in itself.  My travel companions, however, proceeded to dunk themselves head and all. After a few minutes of adjusting to the heat (not really), we were again ushered to the next pool.

That's Tolerable

That’s Tolerable

A small shimmering pool with water bubbling up from the center under a makeshift palm tree oning was our last stop on the pain train. It was significantly cooler than the ones before. However, I still wouldn’t call it a nice calming temperature. We sat there for a few minutes and just talked about the pain we had just endured.

Javier had one last surprise for us. We walked down a dirt path to a small stream that looked like it was just the remedy we needed.

Now That's Good

Now That’s Good

The water was such a relief. It reminded me of the cold refreshing water that I was dowsed with in San Jose del Pacifico during my Temazcal ceremony.

There was a spring adjacent that created a pretty cool effect combined with the fresh stream water. As the warm hot spring water clashed with the fresh mountain stream, you could have one foot in a hot spring and the other cooling off in the fresh water. Nature is pretty awesome sometimes.

Of course, a trip to any coast in Mexico is not complete without a trip to the beach. So we made our way to the horses and headed home.

Words of Advice: Make sure your camera and backpack are strapped on tight when riding. The horses tend to get excited when going home for the day and a random off sync gallop is not uncommon. Mine were not secured properly.

As we pulled into town, we hitched up the horses and headed to our next destination. Javier’s family’s compound on the Pacific coast named Puerto Suelo.

Puerto Suelo

Puerto Suelo

After a semi-short trip across Laguna de Manialtipec, the boat slowly pulled into a makeshift dock where a man with a big grin on his face, yelled Bienvenido.

My first impression of the place was that of an ill-fated business that went bust a decade or so ago. However, once we sat down at our beachfront dining table and were presented with some of the best prawns I’ve ever tasted and incredible hospitality to match, I realized that I was sorely mistaken.

Beachside Eats

Beachside Eats

Mexico’s beaches often have a reputation of being overcrowded and very touristy. While some hotspots in the Carribean are like that, many of the beaches along the Pacific are expansive and lack any civilization at all, with Christmas and New Year’s being the exception. It just takes a bit of looking around and asking locals.

Playa de Puerto Suelo

Playa de Puerto Suelo

We were the only ones on the beach. It was just 30 minutes outside of the busy beaches of Puerto Escondido, and there wasn’t a soul around.

Sunset In Paradise

Sunset In Paradise

As I sat there leaned against the beachside hut watching the sunset, it took me a moment to realize where I was exactly. I was in paradise. That’s the funny thing about paradise. You often have such an amazing time that you forget to stop and really think about where you are at that moment.

After the sunset, we grabbed our things, loaded up on the boat and headed towards the phosphorescent plankton. The ride was pure magic. The dying light casting perfect palm tree silhouettes on the smooth mirrored lagoon.

Words of Advice: The phosphorescent Plankton are hardly visible when the moon is out even with cloud cover. Try to go on a night when the moon isn’t in the sky.  

We swam with the plankton for about half an hour, which was fun but not as bright as I had seen in pictures. I’ll just have to come back another time.

The whole trip in total cost us 750 pesos each. 500 pesos for the horseback riding to the hot springs and 250 pesos for Puerto Suelo and the Phosphorescent plankton. This is usually more than I would spend especially on a tour. However, I had a blast, and I feel I received more than I paid for and it is a better deal than most places in town.

If you are interested in the tour, Javier can be reached on Facebook.

Thanks For Reading!!

Have you been to the hot springs?

If so tell me how you felt about the heat. Maybe I’m just a wimp.

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