18
Jan 2013
POSTED BY Brad
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Blog, South America

DISCUSSION 10 Comments

Shakira Man

Nacho rests serenely at the mirador above the Valley of the Moon, the shadows from the jagged cliffs spilling like water into the dry valley as the sun begins its slow slide below the horizon. Inside, Brad and Sheena sit on the couch; Shakira is on the stereo. They both gyrate their hips to the music. It’s not a tasteful gyration either; it borders on crass. They each hold their t-shirts up to reveal their skinny bellies moving in and out like the pulsating chest of a dying fish to the snappy Latin-pop music. Brad has always been the better Shakira gyrator, and Sheena knows it. His hips don’t lie. Sheena pours Brad another glass of pisco, and he drinks it. Suddenly, she slams his head into the plastic shoe bin. Blindsided. Sheena flashes the lights on and off like a strobe light, making scary faces at Brad. All at once they both stop, look at each other, and one of them says it: “What would people think if they actually saw this?”

It’s hard to believe, I know. Shakira? You guys listen to Shakira? To understand this, we need to go way back.

In 2002 I found myself in the back seat of my friend Scott’s pickup truck, headed South. A mountain bike racing team from Mexico had scored some cash from the Mexican government, and had used it to bring some American riders down to compete in their racing scene. The local media was informed, and in true Mexico fashion they created a fictitious rivalry between one of our guys and their National Champion, Ziranda Madrigal. Interviews were held, and the radio blared promos about the clash between their national hero and the invader from the North as if it were some kind of lucha libre match. The stage was set – all we had to do was get there. And to do so, we did what any self respecting adventure seekers would do: we loaded a bunch of sweaty, totally macho dudes into a couple of pickup trucks and headed for the border.

Before we reached the border, the mood inside the truck was calm. We were composed. Conversations were had, speculations were made, and stories were told.

After we crossed the border, Scott did something risky. While surrounded by a bunch of sweaty, totally macho dudes, he slid a Shakira CD into the CD player. I waited for the side punch to land on Scott’s cheekbone, but it never came. Instead of filling our hearts with pain and our heads with feelings of killing Scott – the pansy – something else happened. Actually, it kind of worked. Shakira’s spicy accent narrated our journey Southward, forever linking her voice to the barren landscapes, dry arroyos, cinder block towns, and highway taco stands in our subconscious minds. Her voice sneaked through our open windows and into the passing desert like a nimble cat. And only dios knows how much I like cats.

That’s right, I’m a cat man, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. And I’m also a Shakira man.

The Atacama desert in Northern Chile is a vast and expansive place. We drove for three days across lands where, throughout the entire expanse of recorded history, rain has never fallen; the only substances in all directions for as far as the eye could see were sand, pebbles, and heat waves. With nothing to do except watch the hours turn into days and stare at the skinny dotted line from steering wheel to horizon, we had to find a way to pass the time. And what better way than to wriggle our hips to the sweet meowing voice of Shakira.

Need a good start to a soundtrack for your next road trip South of the border? Here are three songs that, for me, capture the very essence of Mexico and fill my nose with the sweet smell of nostalgia for my first experiences with southward travel:

Shakira – Suerte >>

Refreshments – Mexico >>

Cake – Mexico >>

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09
Mar 2012
POSTED BY Brad
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Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 13 Comments

Monthly Summary – February 2012

Month number two is in the books!  First, a look at the numbers.  Second, some evangelism.  Next: goodbye North America, hello Central America!

Countries driven: Mexico

Miles driven: 1,772  (Trip Total = 4,735; odometer reads 281,235)

Total bribes paid: 0  (Trip Total = 0)

Total Spent: $1,934 ($66.69/day)

Retrospective Thoughts On Mexico:

I’m going to be straight with you.  In America, our news outlets are all about sensationalism.  If there isn’t anything outrageously bad to report on, they’ll revisit the terrible, heinous crimes from last month.  This sensationalist attitude means that all you ever hear about Mexico is a continuous stream of negativity;  terrible stories about kidnapping, dismemberment, and murders that occur due to the movement of drugs northward to satisfy America’s own lust for illicit drugs.  Furthermore, everyone has heard about a friend of a friend with a corrupt cop story.  Let’s face it, Mexico gets a bad rap north of the border.

Before we left on our trip, people used to ask us how much money we were budgeting per day for bribes.  PER DAY!  After two months and 4,735 miles on the road in Mexico, we were never so much as pulled over by the police.  We stopped at countless police and military checkpoints, but were met with nothing but smiles and friendly small talk.  The police, by and large, aren’t crooked.  Foreigners who get pulled over and then offer bribes to “make it go away” are the real issue, as they create the false impression that foreigners are stupid, and will part with their money at the drop of a hat.  Treat them with respect and they’ll do the same for you.

As for the extreme danger due to the war on drugs, it never even crossed our minds outside of wondering “what is the media talking about?”  It never came up.  Not in a conversation, not out of the corner of our eye, never.  We felt silly safe every second of every day.  Well, except for that strange day in Chamula, but that was different.  In short, America is missing out on experiencing a truly wonderful country to its immediate south due to little more than media fear mongering.  If I sound dumbfounded, it’s because I am.  Should Europeans avoid travel to America because of gang violence in Los Angeles?  Well, unless they’re a member of a Los Angeles based gang, I’d say they have nothing to worry about.  If the Mexican media reported on every single murder in the USA, they’d be scared to death too.

In Mexico, almost every day was an absolute treasure.  The people we met were unfathomably kind, the weather was incredible, the food was life changing, and we feel that we’ve become better people for our experiences there.  In the people we found a warmth and sincerity that we’ve never felt on such a universal scale.  No longer do we dare pass someone on the street without greeting them with a smile and a “buenos dias”.  Whenever someone passes us on their way out the door of a restaurant, they invariably smile at us and say “provecho”.  Enjoy.  Not just every once in a while, I’m talking about every time.  Entire families will say this to us in turn as they pass.  Even tough-looking teenagers.  Mexico has taught us manners.

If you’ve considered going to Mexico, but have been dissuaded because of the supposed danger, stop worrying.  Just go.  You’re more likely to die from a freak vending machine accident than you are to die from drug-related violence in Mexico.  After two months, we’ve decided that the country really deserves six months in order to discover all that it has to offer.  And as you’ve seen from this monthly summary and the last, it’s cheaper to travel in Mexico than it is to stay home.  Now go and write a harshly worded letter to your local media station and tell them to be more positive.  But don’t forget to say “buenos dias” first.

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06
Mar 2012
POSTED BY Brad
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Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 7 Comments

Yucatan Training Plan

As we coasted at 80 mph on well tended roads into the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico was essentially behind us.  It was time to start our training.  After two long months in Mexico we were almost to the Caribbean.  Before entering Belize though, we had to practice laying around in hammocks, counting sand, and painstakingly ensuring that our tans were just the right touch of scorched paste.  We decided that our first stop would be Tulum.

We found a campground on the beach and quickly got to work on our new training regimen.  Sheena tested the hammock- sadly the first time we’ve pulled it out on this trip.  Meanwhile I strutted around without a shirt, and later we both went snorkeling before retiring to the beach for a lounge.  Our first day of Caribbean training was tough, but we survived.

 

Bright and early the next day we made it out to the Mayan ruins perched on a short cliff by the sea.  They sure had a knack for choosing nice settings, but the ruins themselves were a far cry from the epic ruins at Palenque.  All of the buildings were roped off, and the magnitude of the place was much smaller than our last stop.  Still, we had a really nice time walking around.

With some laziness practice under our belts we headed South.  We had to hurry up and act really lazy before leaving the Yucatan and putting our preparation to the test.  The perfect place it seemed, would be a small town that we’d seen on the way to Tulum.  The town of Bacalar sat on the shores of a clear fresh water lagoon with a nice clean white sandy bottom, only a few miles from the Belizean border.  We found a campsite right on the shore in a grassy lot.  Later we would discover that our lot was in the territory of a queen ant who decided to lay thousands of babies inside of Nacho, but who the hell could have seen that coming?

Over the ensuing couple of days we really did our best to get in some last minute relaxation training for Belize.  We practiced the essentials: paddleboarding, swimming, regular dock diving, shrimp eating, hands-clasped-behind-the-back dock diving, strutting, muscle flexing, and flipping water with our hair.

We found Bacalar to be very enjoyable and laid back.  It seemed most of the sun-seekers had skipped over it en route to the more popular Caribbean beaches farther east on the Yucatan.  The visitors we met here were primarily Mexicans on vacation.  We even ran into our first couple of Mennonite families; a group that has fairly extensive presence in Belize.  We weren’t really prepared to see people dressed like characters from Little House on the Prairie eating seafood at waterfront thatched huts.  We continually caught ourselves staring at them, analyzing their every move.  This was one thing that our extensive training program hadn’t prepared us for.

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05
Mar 2012
POSTED BY Brad
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Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 14 Comments

Happy Barfday To You!

At about 4:30 AM, Sheena woke me up in a frantic scurry.  With firefighter speed she exited the sheets, swung her legs over the edge of the upper bed, and dropped into Nacho’s downstairs living quarters.  She was sick in a bad way.  As I lay there with my ears plugged, I thought to myself “Poor little lady.  And on her birthday of all days.”

Once per year it’s up to me to turn an otherwise mundane day into a fantastic one.  Instead of sitting at home in the snow, we go to the deer farm and risk getting Lyme disease while petting the mangy deer.  Or we play hooky from work and drive up the hill to the Arizona Snowbowl for a day of skiing.  Today was no exception; I had stealthily sneaked to the cake shop in San Cristobal and bought a tres leches cake, and had successfully hidden it from Sheena.   I had planned a day of wonder, as I do every year.  “Just take some Pepto,” I told her.  “Everything will be just fine.”

Once Sheena had composed herself, we converted Nacho from living machine into driving machine and hit the road to the East.  Palenque was 130 miles away, so I figured we could make it in a few hours tops.  A few kilometers from Palenque we would stop at the Misol-Ha waterfall for Sheena’s birthday celebration.  It was to be so grand.

The road out of San Cristobal took us through incredible jagged mountains dotted with tiny Mayan villages, which, given the backdrop, looked like what I imagine one might see in the Nepalese Himalayas.  The first half of the drive was through pine forests, while the second half was through jungle.  Occasionally we came across short men carrying enormous loads of firewood out of the forest on their backs using slings wrapped around their foreheads.  Often men and women would be raking out coffee beans on tarps on the roadside as the beans dried in the sun.

In my driving time calculation I had failed to account for one thing: topes.  The ubiquitous Mexican speed bumps were placed approximately every quarter mile on the 130 mile road from San Cristobal to Palenque.  And in between the speed bumps the road would mysteriously be missing, fallen off the side of the cliff.  Several times we came upon sections of road where literally half of the road had slid off the cliff, leaving a jagged hole.  Where the road hadn’t fallen away, it was littered with sink holes in the pavement where it would soon fall off.  The 130 mile trip took us 6 hours.  But boy was it beautiful!

We arrived at Misol-Ha in the early afternoon and went down by the water for birthday cake.  Sheena, being sick, was surprised about the tres leches, but wasn’t exactly in the mood to stuff her face.  After a spot of cake we went for a swim.  The falls cascaded over the edge of a cliff and fell 100 feet into a large pool.  A pathway led around the back of the falls to a subterranean river cave.  Or, if you were totally hardcore extreme like Sheena and me, you would swim across the water to the cave.  Only if you have enough Red Bull, though.

While we swam in the pool at the base of the waterfall, tour buses made frequent stops at the falls.  A line of tourists would file into the area around the pool, then go behind the falls and take a bunch of pictures.  After a while we started to notice trends in the tourists’ photos.  It seemed that nobody could take a normal photo; rather, the person having their photo taken would spread their arms really wide and make a goofy smile (the most common), or else they would jump in the air (another favorite).  Group photos often involved several strange poses, or sometimes everyone in the group would open their arms really wide as if trying to grasp the entire place in their embrace.  We became intoxicated with this phenomenon, and eventually decided to take a few of our own, mimicking the poses we’d seen. Here are a few of our favorites.

At Palenque, a few kilometers away, we found a campsite within walking distance of the Mayan archeological site.  The area was thick with jungle, and our campsite sat in a small clearing in the trees.  As night fell, howler monkeys surrounded us and broke into their ritual noisemaking.  As we sat listening to the monkeys, fireflies pulsated in the grass next to us.  I took this audio recording of the monkeys; they were so loud that it was nearly impossible to fall asleep.

In the morning we strolled over to the archaeological site.  From the depths of the thick jungle a whole ancient Mayan community had been uncovered, including temples, a palace, residential areas, and a canal.  We spent the better part of a day exploring.  This site, unlike many of the more widely visited sites in Mexico, still allows visitors to climb up the temple stairs, go inside the tombs, and explore at will.

And so the next day, in the way we do, we got back into Nacho and with firefighter speed we made way for the Yucatan peninsula.  Our last stop in Mexico.

 

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02
Mar 2012
POSTED BY Brad
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Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 8 Comments

San Cristóbal and the Babies

For a while I’ve been wondering what baby gifts we should get for our friends Jen and Eric, who are expecting twin girls soon.  You could say I don’t really “get” kids. When I speak to them I use long multisyllabic words, I assume that they want to talk about politics, or I force them to sit through my soapbox monologues about the intricacies of proper espresso preparation.  It was thus with great joy that I discovered the two perfect gifts for Jen and Eric’s future daughters while strolling around the artisan market in San Cristobal de las Casas.

The first thing I found was this great little handmade wool monkey.  It’s a mother hugging its baby.  It seemed like a gift that would remind child #1, we’ll call her Guadalupe, that her mother, like this monkey, is a caregiver.  I don’t know a damn thing about kids, but it seems like little Guadalupe will benefit from a constant reminder that her mother will give her a hug when she gets sad about petty injustices, or whatever it is that kids get sad about.

Later I was walking by a market stall when this next gem caught my eye.  For child #2, we’ll call her Wanda, I couldn’t pass up this handsome wool figurine of the masked leader of the Zapatista rebels, Subcomandante Marcos.  He wears a black ski mask over his face and carries a camouflaged rucksack on his back to aid in his survival while camping in the mountains. His cute little wool hands tightly clasp a Kalashnikov machine gun.  In times of despair, little Wanda can look at her Subcomandante Marcos doll and find solace in the idea that one day the evils of globalization will be put down and the mountain villages of Chiapas will once again thrive.

There you go Jen and Eric.  Let me know if you ever need a babysitter when we’re done with our trip.  I’m sure I can come up with a well thought out lecture to deliver while you two go out for a nice dinner.

San Cristobal de las Casas was a beautiful town, and one of our favorites yet in Mexico.  It’s mountain location in a pine forest at 7,200 feet, roughly the same elevation as Flagstaff, made us feel at home.  Walking through the cobbled streets, through the brightly colored buildings and ample open air markets, we encountered a great number of women and children dressed in traditional Mayan clothing.  Women wore long skirts made of black goat hide still thick with unruly goat fur, and brightly colored cardigans.  Every Mayan girl over the age of 15 or so had at least one baby in tow.

We found a campsite within walking distance of downtown, yet still tucked away in the trees at the base of the hills.  By day we wandered the town streets or took short trips to the surrounding villages (like the last post), while in the evenings we fell asleep to the sound of crickets.  We spent one evening chatting with a couple from Switzerland who are on their way north from Argentina to the United States.  So far we’ve met at least a dozen groups of Europeans doing this route, but pretty much nobody else seems to be heading south like us.

After a few days in San Cristobal, the ocean started calling to us.   The surfboards were looking a little parched and the fishing poles still longed to be used for their intended purpose.  And with that, we loaded up Nacho, secured our baby warming gifts, and headed east.  Someplace warm.  A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Palenque.

 

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28
Feb 2012
POSTED BY Brad
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Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 16 Comments

Cha Cha Chamula!

We pushed ourselves into the mass of bodies while the uneasy shriek produced by hundreds of horns created a feeling as though something bad were about to happen.  In a large circle in the plaza in front of the church, men in elaborate traditional Mayan dress acted out a battle themed march whose phases unfolded throughout the day.  The first row of men would run ahead, brandishing wooden switches, then leap into the air, bringing their switches to the ground with a loud thwack!  The rest followed closely behind, using their horns to make the eerie shriek.  A continuous stream of rockets made explosions that shook the ground.  It didn’t feel like any festival we’d ever been to.  Looking around, we seemed to be the only white people in the entire town.  Around us, thousands of Mayan descendants looked on with somber, serious faces.  Nobody was smiling.  We felt unseasy.

Courtesy of www.cieloytierratours.com

A young Mayan man came over to us, looked up to me, and asked me something.  I couldn’t catch everything due to his thick Tzotzil accent, but he seemed to want to bring us somewhere.  I told him we were happy where we were.  Before he walked away he slapped the back of his hand on my chest and looked deep into my eyes, his face very serious.  He stood on his toes to bring his face closer to mine.  “Ten cuidado”, he said in a clear and serious tone.  Be careful. He turned and walked away.

We were in Chamula, a town at 7,200 feet above sea level in the mountains outside of San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas.  Chamula and other mountain towns in Chiapas are home to the direct descendants of the Maya, and to the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), more commonly known as Zapatista rebels.  Taking pictures of people, or within the church in Chamula is illegal and can get you on the wrong end of a group beating.  It is the only town in Mexico with autonomous status, meaning that they make up their own laws, and Mexican police and military aren’t allowed to enter the town.  Needless to say, I didn’t take any pictures, so all of the pictures in this post are borrowed.

Courtesy of www.mexicoenfotos.com

Inside of the church, the explosions shook the walls, while the shrieking horns were muffled into a perfect horror film soundtrack.  The scene inside the church was something from centuries past, almost supernatural.  Thousands of candles filled the floor and every flat surface, the smoke of burning pine billowed up from a fire that lay smoldering on the floor near a shrine tended by two women, filling the place with a thick haze.  The entire floor was covered in a thick layer of pine needles, giving us the feeling that we’d stepped back in time a thousand years.  A man stood in the center of the church weeping inconsolably, speaking in Tzotzil, a Mayan dialect.  He alternated his hand between his forehead and his chest, stricken with grief.

A family sat in the middle of the church floor wearing traditional tribal clothing, a hundred candles unlit in front of them.  The pine needles tangled in the women’s matted goat hide skirts, the children leaned against their mothers.  A shaman sat with them wearing a white goat hide vest, its wool poking wildly in all directions.  A chicken sat on the floor with them, a plastic bag restricting its wings.  Four glass bottles of Coca Cola rested in front of the women.  One by one the family lit the candles and for several minutes we watched them staring into the flames, speaking quietly.  Suddenly the man picked up the chicken and snapped its neck; it flailed wildly, its head limply hanging from its body.  The man held its legs still while the life faded from it, and then he placed its body on the floor near the candles.  Its body produced an occasional twitch.  One of the women picked up each Coke bottle in turn and waved it over the flames.  The sacrifice of the chicken saddened and shocked us, but the feeling was mixed with a sense that we were catching a glimpse of something ancient.  Here were the direct descendents of the Maya, still sacrificing animals and carrying out their rituals.  Dominican missionaries forced them to accept Catholicism, but it was clear today that they accepted it with their hands behind their backs, fingers crossed.

Courtesy of www.suzpaseos.blogspot.com

Feeling shaky from what we saw in the church, the billowing smoke, the candles, and the Mayan faces ringed with emotion, we emerged into the throngs of people filling the vast central square.  During the time that we spent in the church, things had intensified.  The shrieking horns were being blown with greater vigor and the warriors moved more quickly around the circuit.  New characters had joined the promenade, holding pots containing smoldering pine, which gave the zocalo the same smoky aura as the inside of the church.  The shrieks, the smoke, the explosions, and the increase in tempo created a sense of impending calamity.  The men were running now.  We pushed ourselves back into the throngs so that we could see into the center of the commotion.

Courtesy of www.todocoleccion.net

Suddenly from a side street, a long line of men wearing goat hide vests sprinted into the square pulling a long rope.  Attached to the rope was an enormous angry bull.  It kicked wildly and swung its head trying to impale its captors with its horns.  As the bull passed by in front of us it lurched for the crowd.  Everyone recoiled as it passed, while the brave and the drunk ran toward the bull and tried to ride it.  Time and again the bull would toss the riders to the ground, and at one point it successfully gouged a rider with its horn.

As time went on, four more bulls were brought into the plaza, creating total havoc.  Women and children curled up in the corners of open air food stalls as the bulls passed.  Frequently the bulls jumped onto the sidewalks and tried to impale bystanders.  Everyone remained serious and kept the emotion out of their faces.  Two boys tried walking along the sidewalk in front of us toward a waiting bull, and one of the warriors ran in front of them, striking the ground at their feet with his wooden stick.  They tried walking around and he advanced, jumped in the air, and brought his switch onto the ground at their feet again, creating a loud crack.  He got up and stared into their eyes.  There was no longer any confusion about where they were not to tread.

At the end of the day we shakily made our way back to the top of the hill on the edge of town to catch a collectivo.  Seventeen of us piled into a 1970’s Volkswagen van and then its teenage driver sped away, down the steep and twisting mountain road back to San Cristobal.  We heard later that a couple of tourists had been chased down by a group of warriors with their wooden sticks for having taken a photograph.  We didn’t hear if they got away.

This is why we quit our jobs and left the comfort of home.  To discover a world that we didn’t know existed.  To wander into Zapatista villages, to run away from angry bulls, to witness Mayan rituals, and to occasionally leap completely out of our comfort zone.  Am I happy to be out of the mountains and writing this post safely from the comfort of a Caribbean beach?  Well, yes.

 

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27
Feb 2012
POSTED BY Brad
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Blog, North America

DISCUSSION 12 Comments
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Oaxaca Pilgrimage

Before we left on our trip, people used to ask us what city in Mexico we were most looking forward to.  No brainer: Oaxaca.  In our minds it was a quaint food lover’s paradise.  We imagined strolling around, sampling mole, eating at the best street carts in all of Mexico, and giving casual high fives to Rick Bayless.  Everyone we asked in Mexico prior to arriving in Oaxaca had egged us on. “What’s your favorite town in Mexico?” we would ask.  “Oaxaca!” they would scream.

As we entered Oaxaca state, two things changed; the topes were no longer painted, making it nearly impossible to avoid the Nacho-killing road hazards, and the verb tense on the anti-litter road signs changed from the third person formal to the second person informal.  “No tires basura”.  Google Maps said the trip from San Miguel de Allende would last 9 hours, 3 minutes. A mere 19.5 hours of driving later, we arrived in Oaxaca city and staked our claim at the campground. The first thing we saw when we got off the bus at the food market in downtown Oaxaca city, after noting the eardrum-piercing noise of the place, was a very dirty Aboriginal-looking black man lumbering out of the raw meat section of the market without any pants on.

“I don’t think he’s supposed to be doing that”, Sheena whispered.

Apparently the road signs aren’t the only thing in Oaxaca that had gone informal.

To our dismay, Oaxaca was the polar opposite of our expectations.  We passed the nude-bottomed man just as we entered the market.  After swallowing the vomit from that encounter, we were met with the stench of a hundred kinds of rotting meat.  The tables were stacked high with parched, fly-laden, wretchedly stinking chicken, beef, pork, and sausages.  It’s a miracle that I didn’t ralph up the rest of my breakfast.  The city’s apparent specialty snack is the chapulin, or fried grasshopper; a food that Mexican health officials agree is a serious health hazard due to its exceedingly high lead content, but don’t know what to do about it.  The halls of the food market are packed with baskets full of the fried heavy metal insects.

Still believing that Oaxaca would pull through for us, we made for the market’s food stalls.  Nothing looked very appetizing, but we wandered over the stand with the most Mexicans at it and ordered per the waiter’s recommendation.  The pollo con mole was mediocre, and the chicken soup was palatable, but boring.  Dinner was no exception; we spent two thirds of our daily budget on dinner at a place overlooking the zocalo, or central square, but went away disappointed.  On the bright side, our dinner table was situated on the second floor at an open window, which gave us a nice vantage point to watch the very picturesque zocalo while a band played and people strolled.

After a mere day and a half in Oaxaca city things weren’t improving, so we decided to cut our losses and head out to the surrounding smaller towns.  We’re not big on complaining, but given our Mecca-like expectations for Oaxaca, I thought this was a worthy exception.  So far we’re the only people we know who have felt this way about Oaxaca.  More than anything it reaffirmed our distaste for big cities.

The surrounding towns turned out to be more rewarding.   First we headed out to San Martin Tilcajete, a town of just over a thousand inhabitants, where the locals specialize in carving and painting wooden figurines.  Ever the figurine lover, Sheena couldn’t help herself and popped for a small wooden pig.  Our beer and coffee cabinet is getting empty, so Sheena has decided that a better use for it is to store various miniature animals and other artisanal doo dads in it.  Until we arrive in a country with good beer, I’ve decided to let her go wild.

Next we made our way back into Oaxaca city to get the final installment of our hepatitis A and B vaccinations.  This involved going to a hospital, where we had to procure surgical masks in order to be let inside – quite a good idea we thought – and then had a consultation with a doctor.  He didn’t have the right vaccinations, as hepatitis shots aren’t normally given to Mexican adults, so he sent us deeper into the city where we got our shots at a vaccination specialist.

The final stop on our Oaxaca whirlwind tour was the town of Teotitlan, where the specialty is weaving.  We found a B&B that would let us camp in their courtyard, use their showers, their bathrooms, and their kitchen for around $5 per night.

By day, the air was filled with the sound of a Mexican band marching through the empty streets.  We saw them pass by a few times, apparently playing to nobody.  Later we saw that they had made their way onto the roof of the church, where they continued playing their songs before eventually coming down to eat ice cream popsicles in the shadow of the church.  The randomness of the whole ordeal seemed to be the planking equivalent of marching bands.  Teotitlan was quite nice, and we ended up staying two nights.  Oh, and in the interest of acquiring more local handicrafts, we bought a naturally-dyed and hand woven wool rug for Nacho.

While we had tentatively planned to spend at least four days in Oaxaca, we weren’t enjoying ourselves so we left.  All in all Mexico has far exceeded our expectations, and there have only been a small handful of places we haven’t liked.  If Rick Bayless had been there to give us a high five, maybe things would have turned out differently.

 

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