Making use of spare time
Trip Start Mar 26, 2009
58Trip End Jul 18, 2011
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Where I stayed
Oaxaca had very much a reminiscence of we had just been in San Cristobal de las casas. A city set in the valleys full set alive by the brilliant colours of the crumbling buildings that splayed out from the main plaza with no real sense of order. Again a strong indigenous heritage was more than present but this time mixed in with a more bohemian charm with many galleries and craft stores tempting you in with every window display that you past. Here again as in san cris the many churches crept out of the sky line normally indicated where there would be a grand plaza but this time instead of being as bright and colourful as some of their neighboring houses they were grand magnificent structures of a much more European style. These were not just a show of size buy more so of power and wealth. Setting them instantly apart from the rest of the town more brilliantly inside with grand high ceilings covered in magnificent paintings and sculptures, mostly in gold and other rich stones.
So we set off around the city to soak up what it had to offer, setting off from the main square of where we had eaten breakfast next to the large cathedral with the tree lined plaza and the by now obligatory band stand in the middle we made our way up towards the large hill that looked over the city. Passing through street markets and exploring the city threw out many treats such as the graffiti that is all over many cities and if done well (not just the infamous "i wos ere 98") can be a real insight as into who lives there and whats actually inspiring them. There was a lot of cool stuff, the most impressive was a guy who seemed to have claimed a street as his own and we found him working on his latest masterpiece of a portrait of dalí looked down on him in a way on dalí could as he sprayed away. At the summit of the hill you are able to grasp the size of the city and make out the various places using the cathedrals or the build up of trees around their accompanying squares. Behind where we were stood up the hills there was a large stadium that annually housed a local festival that they had which looked, true to Mexican style, a lot of fun. From the photos of all the floats and traditional costumes being paraded around in the sun with the backdrop of the coloulful city it would be an obligatory visit if you happened to be there amongst the festivities. The other striking thing from being up there as well is to see the other types of houses that make up the city, As more towards the outskirts the houses begin to change into more of a shanty town feel, with all sorts of materials thrown together to make some sort of shelter for literal whole families to live in. Its a hard sight to swallow but that is a part of life down here and not something that i can really understand as i see myself in the same situation doing all i could to get out of there but then again i suppose you have to realise that is what people do but they are seen through much richer eyes as being beggars or free loaders trying to jump the border to the states which makes you feel completely different about them, it just depends which side of the fence you are on... its not right but thats the way it goes.
From there on we set off into town to partake in our new favorite pastime whilst being in mexico, that being off eating at the local markets. Now some of the best food that you are going to find in mexico is sold in these places and for price that is unbelievable. You see in these kind of places that have a pull of tourism it is normally reflected in the bars and restaurants from the selection of food or drinks on the menu. However if you go a little off the beaten path and you are not too bothered about eating off a bar with bustling people pushing past you then you are laughing! What you find is a crowded sweaty market with every one of the doing their best to get you to eat at their store. Its pandemonium but always great fun. The food that they normally serve is a selection of burritos, tacos or enchiladas all super delicious, super spicy as and super super cheap. So after our first visit in Mexico city we were hooked from when we were took by saydee to such a place and since then we have been always searching for something like that where ever we went and we have never been let down yet.
Most of our time in Oaxaca was spent as always exploring the city and finding the best that it could offer us. This normally happens when ever we just had seen lets say one of the "must sees" and then just taken ourselves for a walk to basically get lost and try see what we could find elsewhere. In such one of these occasions after waking around for most of the day and dying in the heat we dived into a one of the local taverns that although had a look that would keep most people walking by it was just too hot to turn down the 50 cent beers boldly on offer. Its a good job that we did as well because it was one of those places that are totally unplanned but, as they usually do, left you with the best memories. The bar was possible the darkest place that you could imagine only made more apparent by the intense light from the street and was full with all sorts of would be unsavory characters avoiding the afternoon sun whilst washing down a few ice cold coronas. When we walked in there was that uncomfortable silence that normally happens when you walk into a "locals" bar and you are not a known face that left us doing the normal cheesy grin to every one to try and give ourselves a friendly group welcome... this fell on blank looks but what the hell it was too hot to go back out at least we had a bona fide Mexican with us (i should explain at this point saydee is whiter than me). So with bee lined it to a free table all the same and every one else seemed to go back to whatever they were doing. The beers went down as good as promised and after sinking a couple of the enormous pitchers that eased the hard crowd and soon were on first name basis with the bar staff. So much so that we were soon bowled up some local broth and presented it as a free tapa with the essential tortillas. It was as hot as was the beer cold, but after the first fire ball spoonful hit the old taste buds with the very large and intimidating land lady standing patiently at your side to wait for the thumbs up decisions were made all round to fight through the pain barrier to stay in the friend zone. Reiterated with the small crowd that were now looking over to see if the tourists could handle the locals choice.
After managing to leave the place, as by now fresh pitchers would be placed on the table before we had even taken the head off the previous one, we staggered out into the street waving goodbye to or new amigos promising to come back for the evening session... something that we all knew we were never gonna keep due to not playing our luck too far. Not long after though i thought that now would be a great to get a haircut in the town as after the old locks were getting a bit out of control after 5 weeks on the road and the shag needed to be kept trim in this heat. The solution would not come as easy as we first though as from the few hairdressers that we came across they were split between blue rinse salons, bob the butchers and hairspray queens... oh no they would not do what we needed was something special. Not too long after wards what we were looking for presented itself in the shape on a trainees open day salon that had thrown its doors open for a free haircut bonanza. Oh yeah we were all over that. Coming out of there with a lot less locks styled by the very lovely Maria Jose and with even Alex in the end succumbing to a hair and beard trim was another big tick in the experencia mexicana.
One of the final things that i had to do before leaving was to get myself a gift. We had seen so many really beautiful things in the street markets in both San Cristobal and Oaxaca but i was still yet to purchase anything. The thing that i had to bear in mind was that anything i brought would have to carried for a further 4 months on my back so what ever it was going to be had to special. What it was not going to be was one of the many tshirts that were thrown my way with OAXACA splashed across it garishly nor was a going to be one of the local open breasted shirts that i found pressed up against my chest regularly when ever pondering on what to buy which although i could have been tempted into buying i knew that it was not gonna be casual wear back in Madrid. In the end i had to set led on the thing that had caught my eye on the very first day. A thing that they call a "zarape" which is basically a large blanket that has been hand weaved and has just about as many colours in it as to make even Joseph jealous and being as it was sold to me by the smallest indigenous women in the world it had to be mine. She assured me that i would not regret the purchase as i knelt at her side and after some hard bargaining we managed to meet at around $12. Which for me has to be up until now the purchase of the trip as it has been a real good beach companion with ample room for us both to get some rays with the added bonus that when it gets cold it can be worn in a clint eastwood style poncho always demanding a sneaky glance from passerby where ever you go.
The last night of our 3 days in Oaxaca was spent chilling in the town centre with the locals watching the world go by as yet another local fiesta cranked into life. I thought Spain had the crown for this but it seems that Mexico can give them a good run for their pesos as at the drop of a hat a large crowd can be bought together compete with band (standard practice in these parts), traditional dancing galore, a plethora of street vendors selling every thing that you could ever want (i mean who ever has enough plastic rings with blinking lights on them) and more importantly a big ear to ear smile on everyone face.
I was beginning to really like Mexico and even though we had to take yet another over night bus to get to our next stop i really didn't care because
A. we were going to the beach and
B. i would be able to experience yet another corner of this fantastic country.
with rings held aloft we made away towards another night on the road.