The journey from Oaxaca City to San Jose was a quick three hour drive through rolling mountains, weaving in and out of low clouds clinging to the hill tops. The views were stunning as we passed tiny villages with local people selling plants and knik-knaks by the side of the road. In true Mexican style I arrived at the tiny village east of San Jose - San Sebastián - and no one had any idea who I was or which direction I should go to find the Khadi Eco Retreat I had booked a few weeks prior after discovering it on google. Through broken Spanish with some helpful villagers we figured out there were two options of where I should be heading. Just at that moment a friendly women walked past who spoke perfect English and was more than happy to help me. We wandered down a very steep lane to find what looked like the retreat centre, but there was no one around. A bit further down the hill we reached some houses, most of which were home to my new guide's friends and family. They were a mixture of American and German expats and native Mexicans. I quickly realised this was tight knit community and management of the retreat was a joint effort.
We finally found someone who had been expecting me and she showed me to my room. It was beautiful. Perfectly decorated, cosy, clean and the best part - my own fireplace. It gets very cold in the Oaxacan mountains at night so a wood burning fire is a must. I dumped my bags and got to grips with my surroundings, taking in the beautiful view and gardens. I immediately felt relaxed and at ease. There's something so therapeutic about the mountains and this place is truly a slice of heaven. I took up camp at the dining table overlooking the mountains with my book, and was presented with tea and then, shortly after, an unbelievably delicious home cooked vegetarian meal.
As soon as the sun set the air grew rapidly colder and I realised I wouldn't be leaving my room after 7pm unless I absolutely had to. I decided to have a quick shower to warm up but soon discovered there was no hot water - it's heated with solar (everything about Khadi has been developed with sustainability in mind) so I guessed it would only be warm during the day. When I went back to my room someone had already lit my fire for me and it made the space all the more inviting. I layered up and settled into bed with a book. I hadn't had much time on my trip yet to actually dedicate to reading so I was looking forward to utilising this opportunity. I fell asleep around 9:30pm to the sounds of the crackling fire and the wind chimes outside.
I woke at 7:30 and boy, it was cold. I ventured straight up to the yoga space and did my own 15 minute yoga session. I love doing yoga first thing in the morning as it sets me up well for the day, starting on a relaxed and intentional note. Afterwards I joined my host in the kitchen by the fireplace as she prepared breakfast for me - coffee, fresh fruit followed by delicious chilaquiles. Another family joined me in the kitchen but I couldn't work out whether they owned the place, lived nearby or were just visiting.
After breakfast I found a sunny spot and tried to heat up while catching up on my journal. Something about being here and completely offline sparked my creativity and productivity, so I planned some content for the week. At 11:45 I attended a yoga class along with other women from the village. The yoga class was exactly what I needed, especially after so much sitting on buses and endless walking around new cities. The yoga teacher invited me to a women's circle which was in honour of the blood moon and lunar eclipse (year of the pig - the perfect time to travel and slow down apparently - how fitting!). I accepted the invitation and wandered along in the afternoon. It was a beautiful experience. I met so many strong woman (mainly young mothers) who welcomed me into their ceremony and opened their hearts to us all. It was truly magical and I'm honoured I to have taken part. By then it was the end of the day so time to have a lukewarm shower, eat dinner and get the fire going.
My time at Khadi was definitely one of the highlights of my trip in Mexico. I loved gaining an insight into mountain life, getting to know some of the community and completely switching off for a few days. Unfortunately, the owners were not there while I was, so despite my curiosity about the place, I didn't have the chance to talk to them more about their project. From what I gathered, on top of the ethical textile production and retreat space, the owners also run a not for profit school for the local children.
I've been learning more and more about the dangers of tourism and the negative impact it can have on a country’s infrastructure and local communities. I felt confident that my staying at Khadi benefited the local community - whether through extra income for my taxi driver, the in-house chef and yoga teacher or just simply through supporting a small business that values slow travel, sustainability and runs two social enterprises. I'll admit I was a little disappointed I couldn't have a tour of the actual textile factory, as there was no one there while I was who could speak English (I say that knowing that English should not be expected and that I could have made a bigger effort to learn Spanish). The whole set up is very relaxed and I was lucky that there was a yoga class and women's circle on during my stay. My suggestion would be to research in advance what activities are happening, or even enquire about volunteering as I learnt that there is the opportunity to do so in the village. If you want to completely switch off, soak in the beautiful surroundings and visit an authentic, thriving community then Khadi is well worth a visit while you're in Oaxaca.