After deciding on a new path (a week of Spanish language schooling in Puerto Escondido), all that remained, was how to get there.
With a little research completed, we discovered a couple of options. There was a first class bus that took about 11 hours, as it went around the surrounding hills, or some much faster colectivos which did the trip in about 6 hours, was about half the price, but went directly over the hills.
Being the thrifty backpackers that we are, it was a no brainer.
The colectivo it was, saving us both time and pesos!
We booked our tickets the day prior, meaning we just had to turn up half an hour early on the actual day for our 08:30, morning departure.
What followed was a combination of 140km an hour on the flat roads, followed by a ride through some ultra winding mountain roads (we were fine with it, but discovered from some Argentine friends who did the same journey, that everyone on their colectivo got sick).
All was going well until there came an unnatural sound from one of the vehicles tyres… we had a flat!
Incredibly, in a completely un-Mexican display of speed and efficiency, in around 20 minutes, our driver had the wheel changed and we were back on our way!
Throughout the journey, our driver exemplified one of the few things we have discovered in Mexico that has really gotten our noses out of joint.
Being a lengthy journey, there were plenty of occasions where we would stop and he would grab a new bottle of juice, or can of drink.
As soon as each was finished, without a moments thought, it would be tossed out the window to land somewhere along the side of the road.
Mexicans, like peoples of many countries we have visited, seemingly like to decorate their countryside with piles of rubbish!
In the early afternoon, we did eventually arrive in the seaside town of Puerto Escondido, and in the heat of the afternoon sun, we decided to walk (as usual) to our accommodation, which was also the school.
Puerto Escondido is world famous, at least amongst the worlds surfing fraternity, as the home of Mexico’s ‘Pipeline’, purportedly the best and most reliable surf break in the country.
It was also here that our language school, Instituto de Lenguajes Puerto Escondido (otherwise known as Puerto School) which sells itself with the motto ‘Study Spanish in Paradise’ is to be found.
By the time we made it to the school (where we entered via the back gate after following a sign that took us into a drainage culvert), we were lathered in sweat, slightly regretful of our decision to walk, and considered crazy by our host for the coming week, Brian.
He showed us around the place (we’d arrived a day ahead of classes), before letting us settle into our bungalow where we would experience many great views over the coming week.
After letting our bodies cool somewhat, it was the crazy matter of retracing our route back towards town to purchase some groceries for the week, cooking ourselves some dinner before finishing the evening off with a couple of beers and a stroll along the beach at dusk.
Then began our classes proper.
We’d committed to 4 hours of study per day, and this was broken in to two 2 hour blocks, each with a different teacher, Irene and Betel.
Our hope was to be able to have morning classes from 08:00 onwards, giving us the afternoons free for revision as well as a little local exploration.
By the first afternoon, things were not looking good (for me at least) as I sat there on our balcony’s couch feeling completely overwhelmed!
Thankfully, I got past that mental hurdle (realising that with such an intensive study course, I’m not realistically going to retain it all), and the days did improve from then on, and I think we both walked away with a greater vocabulary and a better understand of how to speak and especially read and write the Spanish language.
It was always going to be interesting to see how the teachers would approach our two different levels of starting proficiency, as Sarah had some existing knowledge from past studies, but I think they did an incredible job of floating between us with the challenges and conversation we held (the majority of which was in Spanish).
We did make sure we had a bit of chill time as well (the first study in a long time could be pretty taxing at times on the mind), the balcony hammock with a cold beer a particular favourite for Sarah.
The school also offers additional activities, ranging from surfing lessons, salsa dance lessons (which others at the school did claim were great), climbing excursions and cooking classes.
We did partake in one of the cooking classes, a particularly tasty sounding lunchtime session where we joined several others, Mikey & Tab (the couple from New Zealand, who’d tipped us off as to the schools existence) and an American called Kris.
The classes were conducted by the mother of Brians girlfriend, an elderly Mexican lady without a word of English called Luisa.
Luisa was lovely, but unfortunately her cooking class was a disappointment… it wasn’t even the fact that it was less instruction, and more Luisa doing the preparation for us (although we did each get to do a little chopping), it was more the ceviche that promised so much, was unfortunately incredibly bland.
It also didn’t appear as Mexican as we’d expected, with two of the key ingredients being tomato ketchup and the other Salsa de Ingles (Worcestershire sauce).
The fact that the cost for this single cooking course ended up being over $30.00 US for the two of us to participate, was also a bit of a shock!
Still, we had a pretty good week.
Met some great new people, caught up with a few friends we’d already met along the way, but most importantly, took the time to learn some more Spanish!
* Several companies in Oaxaca run colectivos from depots on Calle Galeana to Puerto Escondido. We did some preliminary work the day prior searching for the best priced option (which for us was $180.00 pesos per person).
* If you suffer from a weak stomach, perhaps try the slower 1st class coach which (taking 5-6 hours longer) actually goes around the mountains, but costs slightly higher.
* The one week of Spanish schooling plus accommodation cost us $420.00 US (I believe this was a low season special rate)