Somewhere above the flat highlands of South Oaxaca an old pickup with a covered cabin climbs methodically through the mountains, approaching an elevation of 2 miles above sea level. Vapors rising off the road mingle with passing clouds as the driver navigates hundreds of winding turns on his way to the next town. Looking out the back from under the tarp, two travelers catch glimpses of the green ridged mountains sloping downward, giving way to the plains below.
Through the slatted light of the late afternoon sun passing through pine trees, two powerful columns of clouds are seen looming over the mountains, the entire sky infused with a golden hue in the failing light. Finally, at a single fork in the highway, the truck slows down and the travelers hop out. A small town is introduced by a few small shops and restaurants, decorated with colorful paint and adorned with toadstool mushrooms. This is San Jose del Pacifico.
Small groups of cabins and hostels are strewn about and around the town and its lush green vegetation. Some lodgings are located right on the highway, and others are a short hike below; there are more cabins above the highway, but they require an additional climb in elevation.
The people of the town stay dressed in sweatshirts most days; although this is rare in South Mexico, the warmer garb is necessary. The temperature and climate change rapidly, and this shift is not limited to the nights. Some days are bright and brilliant with seemingly unfiltered sunshine; others are drab, dreary, and rainy, the perfect type of day to stay inside the cabin or by a fire. While the town is often covered by a powerful sun during the day, the high elevation keeps temperatures down--even cold--during the night.
The town is rife with beautiful vistas, but the higher one's lodging is, the better. From a high vantage point the mountains stretch away from the cabin in a series of ranges toward the Pacific Ocean. Depending on the lighting and the clouds, the sky framing these mountains may appear in a variety of colors. Whether the sky is golden or bluish-purple, the beauty of the mountains never changes.
At the center of town lies a small internet café and travel depot, the only place containing any kind of a connection to the outside world. So far above the plains and far away from other towns, travelers feel isolated in a self-contained world, one of the few places which makes one feel "off the grid."
There are rumors floating about the Oaxaca mountain towns that famous musicians and artists have visited this part of Mexico for over 4 decades. But the fact that people have sought his destination from afar downs not make it seem less otherworldly, less fantastical, or less mysteriously beautiful.
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