Thanksgiving, 2012 – Our walk through the exotic tropical flowers at Hagia Sofia had been exciting, but when our host Armando led us to a group of hammocks hung from trees by the riverside, they looked so inviting we just had to lie down awhile. What a spot!
Armando has rigged these hammocks up with pull-strings, so as you lie on your back you can lightly tug on the string to get yourself rocking a little. Such bliss.
The river lazily trickled by us as we rocked in the hammocks. One day there will be cabins near this part of the property where guests can overnight on these lush grounds. I can imagine many a happy afternoon spent lolling in those hammocks by the river.
Armando even had a little table set out with fresh, chilled juice-water ready and waiting for us. This water is lightly spritzed with juices from mangos and limes and sweetened with honey, all from his orchard. It was so refreshing in the heat of the day.
Mark spotted a leaf catching a ride downriver, and a dragonfly alighted nearby on a twig. There was a peacefulness here that warmed our souls.
Refreshed from our rest in the hammocks, Armando led us out onto the crest of a hill where many of the fruit trees grow. Groups of papayas, avocados, and other fruit trees we’d never heard of before studded the hillside. Similar fruits were being grown together, but rather than being lined up in GPS-perfect rows, as we’ve seen so often on large commercial farms, the trees were scattered about.
Of course, different fruits grow at different times of the year, but a bunch of pineapples that looked ready for picking caught our eyes.
Off to one side there were rows of potted baby plants. Over the years Armando brought bags of seeds back to Mexico with him from his many trips to Asia, and he carefully planted and nurtured them. As we walked along he would proudly point out, “I grew that tree from seed, and that one and that one too.” We said he must have a green thumb, a phrase that didn’t seem to have an equivalent in Spanish, but when he caught our meaning he gave all the credit to the men who work his land.
He has often consulted a Zapotec farmer (from the local indigenous culture) for his wisdom about the natural world and his great skill with plants.
At one point we passed a group of bee huts where he keeps his own bees for pollination.
Hopping into his truck once again, he drove us to a spot in the river where there is a beautiful waterfall.
The water was cooler than the ocean water we’d been swimming in lately, but it felt really good on our hot feet. There are changing rooms for visitors to change into swimsuits, but we had forgotten to bring ours (darn!).
Armando dove in with gusto and got a massage on his back from the rushing water.
As we drove back towards the flower trail we stopped at the plateau where the cabins will one day welcome guests. What a beautiful view they will have, overlooking the orchard and the distant mountains beyond.
Back at the beginning of the flower trail, Armando’s chef Blanca had been busy all morning preparing a Oaxacan feast for us. Working in a fabulous outdoor kitchen under a palapa in the cool shade of the woods, she made tortillas, fried up prickly pear cactus leaves and made some wonderful hot sauces.
To one side a spread of exotic fruits lay waiting, each labeled in Spanish and English so we’d know what we were eating. Some of these things, like kumquats, we recognized but had never tried. But the plate of bananas — tiny ones just the length of a ballpoint pen — really surprised us.
There were three different varieties, one quite red, but the bright yellow “apple bananas” had a sweetness and tanginess that was intoxicating.
We sat down for our meal in the outdoor dining room, a charming group of tables and chairs hewn from tree trunks and shaded by tall trees. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and what a feast we had.
At the end of this magical day we made one final stop with Armando as we were leaving. The biggest tree on the property is a Ceiba tree, an ancient wonder that is covered with spikes. Armando gave it a big hug, showing us just how big around the trunk was. The branches soared into the sky.
When these trees are young they are covered with thorns, making them extremely difficult to climb. But as they age they have fewer and fewer thorns, and this big old guy was very huggable.
We left Hagia Sofia in high spirits after an inspiring day close to nature.
We weren’t sure if the better part of the day was the scenery and our wanderings among the tropical plants or our time spent with such a fascinating entrepreneur whose a beautiful vision for profitable farming and eco-tourism in the hills of Oaxaca resonated so deeply within us.
On our drive back to the marina, Armando made a quick stop in the small town of Santa María de Huatulco for an “ice cream” sold from a cart in the street. This tasty treat is called a nieve (snow) and is something like a snow cone but made with natural flavors. The one I got was very milky and was topped with shavings of carrots and nuts. It was called Beso Oaxaqueño or Oaxacan Kiss.
Our few days of land-based living in the marina had come to an end, and we soon sailed out into the Bays of Huatulco once again, this time anchoring alongside the little village of Santa Cruz.