By Jane Bauer
The Camino Copalita was one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences I have ever had! A 6-day hike from San Juan Ozolotepec to Huatulco (about 80km). The terrain was hilly and rough but I was with an incredibly supportive group and knowledgeable guides.
The group met at a café in Oaxaca City on a Sunday morning before embarking on the 6-hour drive into the heart of the mountains to the first community we would be visiting. The people of San Juan Ozolotepec were incredibly welcoming. Before dinner we stood in a circle and each person introduced themselves and said what their hopes were for this experience. I was so moved that I actually thought I might cry as I looked at the diversity of our group and the compassion we each carried with us. In a world that is consistent in its attempt to divide us, there was a certain magic in being welcomed by strangers under the vast night sky of the Oaxacan sierra, being offered food, shelter and friendship.
The first day of hiking was like walking through a fairytale forest, blanketed in pine needles and cloud mist. The guides were patient and full of encouragement. The second day led us downhill past women planting corn on steep slopes- I’m sure we were quite a sight but they smiled and waved nonetheless. And so the days rolled on; some marked by a steep climb or river crossings. We arrived at camp and the women from the community would de preparing dinner. We would change our clothes, rest in hammocks and bask in the silence of nature.
One day it rained and we trudged through the jungle, all of us soaking wet from a river crossing, the air thick with bugs as our lead guide cut through the bush with his machete. There were moments when I thought I would cry, not merely from tiredness, but from the feeling of smallness that is unavoidable when surrounded by the mountains.
The last leg of the journey was done by raft down the Copalita river. The sun pounded down as we got closer to the ocean. When the rafts floated to the shore of the lagoon at Bocana we all stepped out and made our way to the ocean, letting the sea water wash over our blistered and tired feet.
For more information about the group that organizes this trek and the wonderful work they are doing in education and reforestation: http://www.caminocopalita.com .