San José del Pacífico in a Nutshell
Located about half-way between Pochutla and Oaxaca City in Mexico’s state of Oaxaca, San José del Pacífico is the perfect place to get away from civilization for a few nights. As San José in the mountains, you will find yourself watching sunsets from above the clouds. The name “del Pacífico” comes from the fact that you can see the Pacific Ocean if you climb to the top of the mountain (I gave up only partway up). By the way, you won’t find this place on Google Maps, so don’t bother trying.
A collectivo from Pochutla to San José costs about $80 MXC, takes about 3 1/2 hours, and puts even the strongest stomachs to the test. Travelling along the windiest roads I have ever encountered (with sharp turns every few seconds for hours on end), I strongly regretted eating a $10 MXC doblada immediately before my departure.
We were told that “Casa de Cata” (Cata’s House) is the place to stay in San José. After a relatively short climb up a mountain (although a breathless one, due to the altitude), we found ourselves at a cozy little house covered in hallucinogen-induced wall art and complete with a terrasse that offers a magnificent view of the sun as it’s setting. The cost to stay at Casa de Cata was $50 MXC, and included free coffee and drinking water. There was no hot water, so bathing was either quick and painful, or involved heating water on the stove.
Casa de Cata is the type of place that will restore your faith in humanity. Travellers from all over the world – Korea, Switzerland, France, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Germany . made Casa de Cata their home away from home. Conversations flowed in a mix of Spanish, French and English, and somehow everyone understood each other, if not by the help of a bilingual or trilingual friend.
Many of Casa de Cata’s guests spent their days smoking and working on hand-made jewelry that they sell to fund their travels. In the evenings, we took turns cooking meals for the entire crowd, which ranged in size from 8 to 15 people. In the evenings, the sun set drew us outside. With everybody putting in a little work and a little money for ingredients, we ate like kings and had plenty of time to relax while enjoying the fresh mountain air and the warming sun. Proof that life can be good when people work together!
One night, something that doesn’t happen very often (or so I’ve been told) at Casa de Cata finally occured: a fiesta! It all stared with some innocent drinking game involving copious amounts of mezcal. Before you knew it, the furniture was being moved around to make room for a dance floor. The rest of the night was a blur…