A visit to Earth’s “widest tree”, and the new Oaxaca warning by the U.S. State Dept.

We went to see what some people call the widest tree on the planet. Here it is.

El Tule back view width

That’s one tree – one base. I wanted to hug it, but it’s just not possible because the tree is gated off, and visitors are not allowed to touch any part of it – not even its droopy branches.

El Tule branches

There is a great energy at Arbor del Tule, in the Santa Maria village, about six miles from Oaxaca City. Great energy. After we walked around the trunk of this ancient beauty, I told my spouse Tedly let’s just sit and ponder stuff awhile. And so we did. I enjoyed taking in the energy there, and I wish I could have given some back.

El Tule’s diameter is 46 feet, and it’s supposedly all one tree – not several together. Mexicans say this makes it the widest tree in the world. This giant is a Montezuma Cypress, a kind of evergreen that is native to this region, and also found in Guatemala, and as far north as southern Texas.

El Tule is said to be anywhere from 4,000 to 1,400 years old, but most people agree it’s about 1,400 years old. The Zapotecs believe it was planted by a god some 1,400 years ago. It thrived for centuries, and even survived the Spanish (a marker by the tree states as such). No one cut it down. No one cut it apart. This kind of strong wood is used for construction and furniture. It may have escaped man, but age and pollution and water shortages may do it in, according to what I’ve read about El Tule.

El Tule side view

Tedly thinks if El Tule was in the U.S., people wouldn’t be allowed to get anywhere near it. He’s probably right. We were lucky enough to sit on a bench for awhile under its branches, in its shade. It was peaceful.

It costs about 50 cents to enter the area. A sign says the fee is needed to help keep up the tree. In front of the church is a well-kept flower garden. To the side of the church is El Tule’s little brother, another tree but nowhere near as large or old.

Here is a view of the tree from across a nearby park. Note the sizable tree next to the church. El Tule is on the right. Little brother is on the left, only half pictured.

El Tule sign

Several restaurants cater to visitors on the main road. Tedly wanted to try La Guelaguetza Restaurante y Bar based on reviews he read. (No restaurant is a runaway hit from what he saw.) This was a family-owned place, like so many in Mexico, and tortillas were made over fire while we watched. Just know that your food is made to order, so don’t be in such a rush. About $3 to $4 USD a plate, give or take. It was decent food, and I’d go back.

A few words about local travel methods, and the new U.S. State Department warning

The easiest, cheapest way to get to the village is a colectivo, or a shared taxi. You could take a bus, but it would take longer with many more stops.

A word about colectivos in the Oaxaca City area – they look different from other parts of Mexico. For example, in the Riviera Maya and Costa Maya regions, they look like white passenger vans. In Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, colectivos are pickup trucks with people loaded in the back on benches.

colectivoHere, colectivos look like cabs, just regular cab cars. Colectivos are white and maroon. You will share your ride with at least three other people, unlike a yellow taxi where you don’t share, which is what most Americans are used to. The colectivos will have the name of the village or the location where it’s running to, written on the side of the door. There are places around town where people tend to wait for them, for example – a supermarket or the big market. But you can wave one down anywhere.

Our ride to El Tule cost us about $.60 each, or 11 pesos. The ride back was the same. A bus ride might be 7 pesos (that is the cost around town – I don’t know if the price increases on the way out of town to a village – sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t). Just always have small bills and coins when going on a trip like this. That’s what we do and we’ve managed to get around pretty well, despite this week’s new warning from the U.S. State Department on Mexico.

Apparently, U.S. government personnel is prohibited from using public transportation with Oaxaca City. There is no additional information on why government employees are not allowed to use public transportation. We haven’t had any problems, and we haven’t heard of any problems. The new warning also is vague about what kind of public transportation – all? Colectivos only? Buses only? Taxis?

The August 22, 2017, warning also prohibits U.S. State Dept. employees from leaving tourist areas. Here’s the verbatim for Oaxaca State:

Oaxaca (includes Oaxaca, Huatulco, and Puerto Escondido): U.S. government personnel must remain in tourist areas and are not allowed to use public transportation in Oaxaca City. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling on Highway 200 throughout the state, except to transit between the airport in Huatulco to hotels in Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, and they are not permitted to travel to the El Istmo region. The El Istmo region is defined by Highway 185D to the west, Highway 190 to the north, and the Oaxaca/Chiapas border to the east and includes the towns of Juchitan de Zaragoza, Salina Cruz, and San Blas.

We are staying just outside a “tourist” area in Oaxaca City and the neighborhood is great. We are technically one block from the Centro District – practically in the Centro District. Also, we’ve ventured further into non-tourist neighborhoods with no problem for things like the grocery store, my near-daily trip to the gym, local restaurants where the locals go, etc.

While I’m always careful, I must say that I have felt safe in the city and on its different kinds of public transportation. We’ll continue to use caution – as we always do – while we continue to enjoy the many sites to see in and around Oaxaca City.

El Tule us.jpg


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