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Peregrinations Mexico and Central America on Motorcycle: Open road, open heart, open mind.

Week 11: Oaxaca and the road to Chiapas

MEXICO | Friday, 3 June 2011 | Views [12833] | Comments [2]

View of Santo Domingo from a lovely rooftop Italian restaurant. Aren't the fireworks amazing?

View of Santo Domingo from a lovely rooftop Italian restaurant. Aren't the fireworks amazing?

What can I say, Oaxaca was all it was rumored to be. The city had an entrancing combination of lovely people, thriving markets, lively bars, delicious food, and a chilled out feel. I caught it at an unusual time, when droves of teachers on strike held the entire city center under siege. But instead of being miffed about this, and feeling like I missed out on "real Oaxaca", I feel lucky to have caught the city with her pants down, so to speak. 

The tent city engulfed all the downtown streets, blocking up traffic for blocks in every direction, and making walking the streets nearly deadly with the likelihood of clotheslining yourself with a perfectly placed tarp-suspending cord. The tents lent an colorful aspect to the stone streets and walls, and often one had to duck through tunnels of alternating blue, green and red. The one downside that I found was that the presence of the view-obstructing tents made it difficult to know both where you were, and where exactly was that restaurant that was supposed to right around here...

The best part of Oaxaca was the friends I made there. It was one of those places where the group at the hostel clicked so well that saying goodbye after mere hours was truly sad. There was a small group of us that hit the streets every night for three nights running, finding delicious food and rhythmic music to pass the night away. The best night involved an Italian dinner, followed by a hole-in-the-wall Mexican bar with unlabeled "house" mezcal, then a wine bar owned by a Minnesotan girl that actually served good, microbrewed beers, and topped off with salsa at the local, kind of slummy dance bar. We walked home through lines of teachers sleeping on the sidewalks, trying all day, every day, to battle their pay cut.

I made a day trip out to a neat site called Hierve el Agua one day. I think the name, which means "the water boils" is extra cool because it's a verb (the water boils!) instead of a noun (boiling water, ho hum). We spent a lovely day chasing buses, riding in the beds of pickup truck colectivos, soaking in the chilly water with Mexican families, eating tlayudas at a little shack, and riding home again, sleepy from our long day out.


While in Oaxaca I made a few modifications on the bike that have me running ship-shape. See the previous blog entry if you're really that curious.

On my third to last day in the city, my old travel buddies Patrick and Charlie arrived in town. It was perfect timing, because we were able to leave town together and travel on to the next destination. On the way, we stopped off at this little mezcal "factory", where everything was made by hand.

The owner gave us a lovely little tour, from growth to roasting to mashing to soaking to distilling, and he allowed us to taste the various mezcals produced there. For the most part, they tasted like serious fire-water. I still don't know what kind of mezcal I drank in Guadalajara, but to date it's the only one that tasted good!

Alcoholic scorpion, anyone?

The drive to San Cristobal took two days, one very long and scenic, the other very short and scenic. The forest-type changed dramatically once we entered Chiapas, from the same sort of dense-semi-tropical forest of the past few weeks (granted, it was all draped over utterly different landscapes, and never once got boring!) to legitimately tropical forest full of creaking and chirping and twittering of all sorts. No jungle yet, but there's plenty of time and latitude yet!

Here we are stopping for a map check and the best mango juice I've ever had:

Here is a town we gawked it; it looked like it came straight out of Jurassic Park!

We are now in San Cristobal de las Casas, a chill little town with not much going on, but with a sweet artisan trade going on, and excellent food on every corner. I might just get my first curry in months tonight! The streets are really nice to walk along, too, although there are more tourists here than locals, I think.

But the locals are great. The women all dress in local, traditional clothing, which consists of a skirt (either dark floral or black shag), a colorful blouse, and a wide, stiff belt of shiny, satiny fabric. Some of the older, more traditional women wear a headpiece that looks for all the world like they folded up a small rug and balanced it on top of their heads. No kidding.

Tomorrow we head off to Palenque, then it looks like I'm on my own again. It was really fun traveling with Patrick (Charlie lost us for most of the trip!) but I can see how I already have gotten into my own solo groove, and despite how nice it was to eat lunch and swap road-stories with a fellow traveler, I'm keen on setting my own pace again. I've always known it's difficult to find someone you travel well with, but I'm beginning to learn that driving motorcycles with another person takes a whole new level of compatibility that seems nearly impossibly to find. Fortunately, traveling by myself suits me just fine at the moment. But ask me again when I hit Guatemala!

Until next time,

Sarah


PS. Don't forget, there are more photos in the gallery!

Comments

1

Hi alpiner84,

We really liked this story from your trip and decided to share it with our travel community on our Adventures homepage so that they could enjoy it too.

Happy travels!
Alicia
WorldNomads.com

  Alicia Jun 6, 2011 1:18 PM

2

Just checking on you. Haven't seen an update in a while and getting worried.....I know. I should have been a mom :)

xoxo

  Bobbie Jun 15, 2011 4:11 AM

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