How (not) to get to Oaxaca….

After 2 nights at the Acapulco Trailer Park in Pie de la Cuesta (FYI a decent place to stop with nice beaches but nothing special – nothing nearby except a few hotels/restaurants. We paid $M200/night) we headed south again, planning to hit Puerto Escondido. That was a LONG drive… and we never did make it there.

After about 6 hours on the road we hit a snag. OK, more like a giant hole. About 25 kilometers (guesstimate off the map) past the Guerrero/Oaxaca border, the road through Pinotepa Nacional was closed. This also happened to be the only way we knew to get to Puerto Escondido. There was probably 2 miles worth of traffic of people just sitting there. So, from more recent experience we determined it was probably closed until 8pm and then reopening (we heard a bunch of things but only understood about 25%), but we didn’t stick around to find out. It was 3pm already, so we only had about another 3 hours to find someplace (a Pemex would be lovely) to stay, before it got dark. So, we took out our handy dandy Mexican road atlas (if you plan to come here you need one of these – and it even comes in ENGLISH – ours is in Spanish) and tried to figure out how to get somewhere else. We had a fellow overlander recommend a few places in/around Oaxaca (the city not the state – Thanks Neli’s Big Adventure! http://nelisbigadventure.com/), and figured we could get there by mid-day the following day.

Do not pass Pinotepa Nacional. Do not get to Puerto Escondido today.
Do not pass Pinotepa Nacional. Do not get to Puerto Escondido today.
Mexican road bible
Mexican road bible

There are few cities of decent size in the western mountains of Oaxaca. We went as far as we could to the biggest one within range (based on font size of city names in the atlas). Santa Maria Zacatepec didn’t seem too friendly when we were driving through, (we mostly got strange looks and no smiles, but that could just be because they rarely see Americans) but it was big enough for a hotel, just not one with parking. Just before town, we spotted a Chinese food restaurant that happened to have a gated lot. We figured, some Chinese food for dinner, and a free place to stay wouldn’t be so bad, and we always had the nearby Pemex as a fall back.

OMB - Oh my BROCCOLI!!!
OMB – Oh my BROCCOLI!!!

La Muralla China was not only delicious, but the owners (we neglected to get their names, however we did get the names of their three dogs – #dogpeopleproblems) were super friendly and, after they closed up around 8 PM we opened up camp and hit the hay. Something we noticed outside of tourist towns – people don’t always expect tips, even if you’re being served. Our 40 peso tip (more than 20% but still less than $4 USD) surprised the crap outa the lady.

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Camping at a restaurant – way better than a Pemex

The first leg of the trip, until we hit Zacatepec was pretty windy, and the roads had steep drop offs and whatnot (don’t look down!). This did not prepare me for the following day AT ALL. The remainder of the way through the mountains north, and then south to Oaxaca (up until we hit the last 60 KM of toll road – our route looked like an upside-down V) was INSANE. Parts of the road were missing completely (usually on my side), and we were sharing blind, hairpin turns with tanker trucks and semi’s. Holy. Friggin. Crap. In spite of holding on for dear life, and my stomach residing in my throat for most of the ride, I was still able to appreciate the beautiful scenery. We saw stunning landscapes, colorful woven pieces adorning most of the women in a few towns, and the colonial-type (no idea the actual age, but that’s what they looked like) churches were stunning and surprising in their size and grandeur.  And, considering the remote locations we drove through, the road was actually in very good condition (for Mexico).

Holy curvas peligrosos batman!
Holy curvas peligrosos batman!

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So the road wasn’t all there… its O.K. as long as there isn’t a tractor-trailer sharing the road at that particular moment….

You can’t tell from these pictures, but next to those little weeds is nothing. Like absolutely nothing but air and space until you meet the ground several hundred feet down.

Arriving in Oaxaca was a bit of a shock. Hello traffic, exhaust fumes and absolutely nowhere to turn around if you miss your turn (yeah, that’s what happens when you’re looking for a telcel: the universe works against you). We had an idea of where we needed to go (the name of a town, El Tule), but no real clue from there. Our telcel data ran out in Playa Azul, and since we had free wifi in Acapulco Trailer Park, we didn’t worry about refilling – bad move. We made it to El Tule by sheer luck. The route through the historic part of town actually forced us to happen upon signs for the small suburb. Now, most fellow overlanders know that RV parks are usually well marked, with signs all over – especially in bigger cities. Not so with Overlander Oasis in El Tule. Thank goodness for GPS coordinates, and finding a spot to refill our Telcel data. When driving down the street, don’t expect a sign or anything really. The road it’s located on (Ninos Heros) ends, and if you missed it, back up and try again. I spotted a RTT and that was what gave it away. They also have a small sticker above the mail slot on their outer door.

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Camp. On the left you see Morena, the owner’s dog. On the right is Jan and Mona’s rig and RTT.

 Calvin and Leanne run a very nice (but small) operation. They have wifi, hot showers (OMG I almost DIED), and the bathroom sink doubles as a wash sink for dishes. With 2 SUV’s sporting RTT’s we had plenty of room, but they mentioned to email ahead of time since they may not always be able to accommodate (www.overlandoasis.com). Also, if you have dogs keep in mind that they also have a dog. We ended up having to keep our two dogs closed up most of the time because their dog seemed to be territorial around Barley (might have been because he was male, or because he was the same size as her – who knows).

We took the compostela (group taxi – crams 5 passengers (or more if there are kids) plus the driver in a 90’s Sentra. It’s snug. Its also only 10 pesos per person to ride to Centro. You make sacrifices where you can. Old town Oaxaca is stunning. The Zocalo (which I didn’t get any pictures of I was too busy gawking at everything, and drinking my hot chocolate – Oaxaca is kinda famous for this, it’s like crack in a cup) is large, and surrounded by restaurants and shops. These places are a bit on the higher end but still reasonable by US standards. The rest of the historic district has huge churches (I’m sure you can go in to them, but we just admired from outside), and tons of street vendors and more reasonably priced shops. There are also a few hostels we noticed. Backpacking Mexico is something we could definitely do. There’s a great market one block off the Zocalo, where we got the best beef we’ve had in months. I even cooked it well done, and it was like buttah. Produce was expensive here (like $1.75 for 2 peppers and 2 potatoes), but I think it was either Gringo prices, or the distance from the farmers (or perhaps it was organic?). The market had everything though, from bugs (for eating) to tapestries, saddles and other horse gear, meat, dairy, produce, clothing, jewelry, etc. Best part about this market – NO HASSLES! We could walk around, browse, buy, and even take pictures without anyone so much as batting an eyelash.

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Meat Lady and her wares… I want more of this now.                 Some sights from around Oaxaca

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Market stuff – even some chili lime crickets!

After buying a few necessities (like stripey ass-enhancing leggings that are very popular in Mexico, some cigars and dinner), we headed back to camp. That evening, after filling our bellies with too much meat, we got to sit around the chiminea with Calvin, Jan (German name pronounced more like Yahn), and Leanne. Unfortunatly, Jan’s girlfriend Mona was sick so she couldn’t join us. We saw some awesome pictures, got some awesomer leftover Christmas chocolates (there was peanut butter – yeah I’m not obessed or anything), and discussed the meaning of life. Ok, not really on that  last one but we did talk a lot about a lot of things. This meant we got to bed later than usual, overslept, and didn’t leave on time… But we left with (sort of) and idea of where we were going… and that was all we needed. Right?

cliffhanger

until next time….

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