On Tuesday, April 30, we woke up in port on NCL’s Pearl. It was our ninth day on the cruise, so we must be in Huatulco (Wa-tul-co), our second stop in Mexico. The area, after being plundered by pirates in the 17th century, survived as a fishing village. In the 1980s, the Mexican Tourist Agency, (FONATUR) decided that the area’s pristine beaches and natural beauty would make an attractive tourist area.
Though not as popular as Ixtapa, Cabo San Lucas and Cancun, other resorts developed by the same agency, Huatulco holds its own as a beautiful place to visit. There are lots of tourist options, from simply hanging on the beach to renting a bicycle, boat or taking a tour bus to visit the area.
Our choice for a shore excursion was titled, “Old Huatulco & Mexico Traditions,” which turned out to be a very popular venue for the tourists on the Pearl and her sister ship, the Sun. As it turned out, we were some of the last people to be herded onto a bus, the last bus and apparently the backup and overflow bus.
The excursion would wind its way through the local shopping and hotel areas into the countryside. We would visit the town of Santa Maria, tour a facility that makes Mezcal, and walk through a herbal medicinal garden. As it turns out, the bus we were given had no functional audio system. The poor tour guide had to resort to delivering his story twice, once at the front of the bus, and once toward the rear.
My wife, Lynn, and I ended up near the very back of the bus. We couldn’t even sit in the seats directly behind the people in front of us as the window in that seat was, shall we say, less than perfect.
Our tour inland to Santa Maria was a pretty drive, but we only heard part of the narration. Fortunately once we got to our destination and left the bus, our tour guide became much more easily heard. The small town we visited featured a town square, and a Catholic Church. The church is the only one in the village, which should come as no surprise to anyone as Catholocism is the religion of 85% of the Mexican population.
The church, our first stop on our walking tour, is a typical example of the beauty of Mexican churches. The ceiling in this church is what struck me as most beautiful. One of the more recently built churches, it was constructed in 1908. Inside the church was a plaque documenting the legend of Quetzalcoatl, a bearded white man who wore a white robe, a Christian who arrived long before the Spaniards.
From there, we visited Ciudad Centro, the government building. Except for a mural painted on an inside wall, there was really not much to see there. Continuing our walk, we visited a local blacksmith shop where we saw a demonstration of smithing.
Soon we boarded the bus to head our next stop, an artisanal mezcal factory. Mezcal, like tequila, is a product of the Agave plant. Actually, tequila is produced only from the blue agave. Mezcal, on the other hand, is made from any of many varieties of agave plant. I was disappointed that we would not actually see any production. Instead, we were shown the round pits where large round stones were pulled by mules, crushing the agave cores to create the Mezcal.
We were given various samples of Mezcal, some of which were very flavorful. We were also given a small snack. Neither Lynn nor I could actually eat the grasshopper laying on the chip, all dead and all. I’m sure, though, that after removing the offending bug, we still probably consumed some insect parts. We were not impressed.
After leaving the Mezcal sampling area, it was back on our bus, headed for a medicinal garden. The garden was a beautiful and peaceful place to visit. Prior to entering the garden, we were given a demonstration of tortilla making as it is still done today, from scratch, on a tortilla press and cooked on a wood fired oven.
Once inside the garden, the guide pointed out many plants used for medicinal purposes, able to cure everything from gout to cancer, so they said, anyway. If this medicine is as good as he described, it’s a wonder there is any illness or disease left in the world. In other words, I was skeptical. I was most interested in the flora found in the garden, especially several types of plants that appear to be similar to pitcher plants. Unfortunately our guide didn’t know anything about these specific plants. When I searched for photos of pitcher plants, I could find none that look like these. If you know what any of these specimens are called, please leave a comment. I am interested in knowing. A small gallery of these plants will close this blog post.
Leaving the garden, we headed back to the cruise ship dock. When we arrived at the dock, we wandered through some souvenir shops. On our way back to the ship, we rounded a corner near the dock entrance and noticed several people from the cruise ship, smart phones out, iPads and laptops open. Apparently hungry for free Wi-Fi, someone had found a free access point and a cluster of “geeks” were getting their Internet fix.
All in all, the tour was interesting, and except for the condition of our tour bus, we had an enjoyable tour. We headed up the gangway toward our room to get ready for a well deserved dinner. One gets hungry when all there is to eat is a shared tortilla snack. Of course, it was our fault that we didn’t eat our only source of protein for the day.
Our next stop on the cruise is Puerto Vallarta.
What follows is a gallery of unusual plant photos taken in the medicinal garden.