For my little travel-break I chose Manzute, which is a sleepy little place on the Oaxaca coast. The bus from Oaxaca city took ten long hours to get to Pochutla and from there I was told you can cross the road and do the remaining 20 kilometres by collectivo (basically a pick-up truck). However I’d had enough by then and so I spent out 200 pesos (around $10) on a taxi (the taxi driver stalked me around the station until I gave in. We then stopped to pick up his pregnant wife and his sister-in-law before he sped off enthusiastically down a pitch-black road in the direction of Mazunte).
Mazunte has only been populated for the last sixty years or so. Originally it was a small community of turtle hunters, complete with a slaughter house. Then turtle meat was banned and the town moved on to develop as a centre for eco tourism. There are now around 700 permanent residents and a plethora of accommodation options, mostly in the budget/backpacker price range but with a few more luxury options with AC.
Mazunte is a quiet place. The relative difficulty of getting here keeps it that way (the unlit road down only got tarmac 5-6 years ago). There isn’t a lot to do really, which was fine because I wasn’t looking to do much anyway. There were some guys taking people out in their boat to look for dolphins or turtles, and somewhere else offering rafting trips, but I kept my feet firmly on land and used my time here to catch up on sleep (something I have been severely lacking in due to the over-stimulation of travelling and my desire not to miss anything), read a couple of books and catch up on emails.
I booked my accommodation online a couple of days before, since I knew I’d be arriving in the evening and didn’t want to be wandering the streets after dark, following a 10 hour bus journey, pulling Señor Albatross, my overstuffed wheelie-bag, behind me looking for somewhere to sleep. I think this was a wise choice; I forgot that these places have no street lighting so it was hard enough arriving in the evening with accommodation already booked. However you can probably get a better deal turning up ‘on spec’, particularly out of season like this.
The town that was at one time a slaughterhouse for turtle-meat now boasts a turtle conservation centre. For thirty pesos you can go in and have a look around; there is a small aquarium and some bowls where they look after the baby turtles. ‘No flash and no touch’ the man told me. It was ok, nothing spectacular (and no English subs) but probably a good thing to spend money on.
Another place to visit is the co-op selling natural cosmetics. Fifteen families run this co-operative, making cosmetics from natural, local ingredients. Anita Roddick, of Body Shop fame, travelled here in 1993 to source local ingredients for her products. This co-op came about as a result of local people realising they could make this stuff themselves.
For evening entertainment there are a few restaurants and bars. I enjoyed a couple of movies. A film (normally english language with Spanish subtitles, sometimes other way around) with a beer and a snack cost 60 pesos (around £2.50) in one of the nearby bars. Most of the bars ran an early evening ‘happy hour’ although many of them seemed to be empty. There weren’t so many people visiting on short breaks like me, and the longer term people tended to buy beer from the shop and make their own entertainments. You could get some amazing accommodation deals for a month, or three month, rental so a lot of people who were visiting seemed to be there longer term.
Few (read: no) places accepted card here and really it’s best to bring all the cash you’re likely to need with you, although a new ATM machine has appeared in the town, over by the turtle centre. I brought 1,000 pesos with me, which sounds a lot but it was only when I started calculating I realised that was about £40. So mid-week I had to trudge pessimistically towards the ATM, really not expecting it to work. Amazingly it did and I drew out another 1,000 pesos, which was more than enough to get me through the week. There’s nothing to buy (other than the cosmetics). There’s also no supermarket though, and all the meals out, even at 60 pesos a time, do mount up. The long-termers catch the pick-up into Pochutla for supplies and then do their own thing. You could live here very cheaply if you wanted/needed to, however a week was more than enough for me.