Yesterday I discovered the secret to pleasurable travel in Mexico: the toll road. Well built, traffic free and with a limit of 70 MPH throughout, you can really make time on these. Southeast to Oaxaca I traversed 240 miles and paid $12.42 through 7 booths. Cars are double.
In Oaxaca I took a room at the Hotel Dainzu near the central square. Small hotels and hostels are plentiful all around the proximity of the plaza. Most have parking arrangements within a hundred yards with secure indoor lots. Two hundred yards west, a nice crowded plaza with flowering trees and shrubs provide fragrant floral scents. For the first time, the atmosphere is becoming touristy: two-tier restaurants with blue umbrellaed tables surround the square displaying photo rich plastic sheathed menus; barefoot American beatniks wander past; piped-in music sounding like The Best of American Idol – sigh. And enter the trinket vendors. During my 40 minute meal I was approached 20 times. I feel for these people. They’re on the streets all day and make next to nothing. A mother with her infant swaddled in a sling across her back; a short old woman, proud – dignified, with brown cragged skin and neat gray hair to match her simple dress; and saddest of all – the young kids, about 10 years old, with no childhood and no future. In time, they’ll become the ancient woman.
I ate light this evening, having two bowls of soup and a beer. Just as I was finishing my meal, two young men with a wooden xylophone set-up right in front of my table. Nice.
Today, departing Oaxaca, I traveled 7 miles south to the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec, famous for its black pottery shops. Ground zero is Alfareria Doña Rosa, where I observed a pottery making demonstration. A shallow saucer is placed upside-down on a stone platform held in place with four pieces of soft clay. Another saucer with a lump of clay is placed on top of the first and this is used as a simple but effective pottery wheel, spun by pushing the clay with one hand and forming it with the other. This guy was pretty skilled. He went from a pile of nothing to what looked like a pot in about 10 minutes. He spoke in Spanish so I didn’t catch the detail on any firing technique. An attached shop contains thousands of beautiful pieces at cheap prices.
Continuing south on Mexico 175, the first 40 miles out of Oaxaca are a frustrating, torturous, open umbrella up the ass, teeth gnashing, test the very core of your patience, Trail of Tears joy ride. Maybe I’m spoiled from the toll road yesterday but the speed bumps set across this decaying highway were unusually plentiful and large this day. My deepest desire is that whoever approved the wholesale installation of speed bumps in Mexico is struck by a meteorite – twice.
Just as a vein in my forehead is about to burst, the bumps vanish and the road twists like a wounded snake, up and over the last gasp of the Sierre Madre. Beyond this final range, it’s all downhill to the Pacific Ocean. Huge evergreens cast a pungent pine scent and the scenery is magnificent. Passing through the tiny mountain village of San Jose del Pacifico, I stop and backtrack. A number of restaurants and lodgings with million dollar views await. Enjoying lunch on an outdoor deck, I watched as clouds and mist were swept up from the forest valley. Basic cabañas were offered for $15.15 so I stayed. The cabañas have no heat or Internet though hot water is available but you need to inform the desk whereby they light a portable water heater and connect it to the room feed. So inform them about 25 minutes before that needed shower! The town is friendly and small but geared towards tourism. But this is the cool off-season. Business doesn’t hop until August or September when people flock from the coast to the cool heights.
Next stop, the Pacific Ocean!