On March 22, 2007 we were set on reaching Oaxaca. Somewhere along the drive we were now on Mexico Highway 190. Apparently, the highway randomly changes numbers from 160 to 190 without reason. The first town we hit was Acatlan and their town mascot is a bandito complete with large sombrero.
We could not resist the opportunity to stop and snap a photograph. As we continued on, the roadside scenery became quite different. It changed from rugged rocky mountains to red clay covered hills. The latter hillsides were lined with large coniferous and deciduous trees. We snapped a ton of photographs to try and capture the experience, but not all of them turned out. Michael considers this drive through the mountains the best scenery in Mexico to date. We really should have snapped more pictures, but at higher elevations there were no roadside pullouts. The road is narrow enough without us reducing it further by parking on the side of the road.
We stopped in Tamazulapan to stretch our legs and as luck would have it we parked right next to the liquor store. Geraldine was out of Gin and this was the perfect place to have a look for more. We found the Gin without effort and the price was right at $7 CDN for a
26oz bottle. We could not pass up a deal like that. Now back to stretching our legs...we walked to every store in town searching for tonic, but there was none to be found. The best part was that every store was certain that the place they suggested would have it, however none of them did. We laughed it off as we needed the exercise. Luckily for us it was approaching lunch and we wanted to try a local dish called 'pozole'. Pozole is traditionally served on Thursdays, and we had been waiting all week for this day to arrive. We headed to the market and looked around at the pots of pozole bubbling away atop the counters at every food vendor. Pozole is a hearty stew that is well known for its substance and healthiness. Pozole is made from hominy, which is dried corn kernels boiled in water. The name pozole means froth, which describes the foam created during the traditional lime and water treatment used to remove the skin from the kernels. Once the skin is removed, the corn expands into the easily digestible hominy. Over the years the ingredients have changed and now it can be found resembling a rich stew with meat and vegetables added. As rookies, we asked for a blend of the hot and not-so hot to make a bowl of standard pozole at medium heat. We topped the dish with diced onions and cilantro before walking to a nearby park to scarf it down. The spice level was perfect and the toppings added just the right amount of extra flavour. For a first experience, we certainly enjoyed it.
After our early lunch, we hit the road again to keep on pace to reach Oaxaca. Again we were distracted by roadside scenery along Mexico Highway 190. This time we spotted a massive church in the middle of a tiny village. There was not much around the church except farm fields and the structure stood out like a beacon on the otherwise empty landscape. The
church appeared well kept and under some sort of renovation or preservation. It did not appear open and we did put much of an effort forward to get out and see the place close up. Back on the highway we started to see purple flowered trees light up the landscape. The trees appeared similar to the yellow flowering trees we says days before. It was nice to see some colour splashed in with the varying shades of green and brown. Time flew by as we gawked at the scenery and before we knew it we were pulling into Oaxaca.
We immediately drove downtown and were awestruck with the cleanliness of Oaxaca. The town was absolutely gorgeous from the buildings down to the sidewalks and streets. There was not a piece of trash or debris anywhere. This was one of the cleanest downtown city cores we have been in anywhere! The streets were narrow and bustling with traffic, so we quickly found a parkade for 'Nilla. We asked the owners if we would be able to spend the night in the parkade and were told that would not be an option. With this knowledge, we ventured off to the tourist information office to grab some local maps and get some suggestions on camping. At the information office, we found out that there was an a trailer park in Oaxaca. Bus transportation to and
from town was a mere $3 pesos and we decided to park the van and return later to explore Oaxaca City. We returned to 'Nilla and pulled from the parkade headed for the campground. On the way we witnessed a car accident. A guy in a small pick up truck whipped past us in the left turn lane and drove right into the intersection on a red light. The car on his left smashed into the passenger side of the truck. The best part was that no-one was seriously injured. It was as if the entire accident was in slow motion as we were the lead car at the intersection. We saw the whole incident unfold before it actually happened. People jumped from their cars to help and before our light even turned green there was a police car on the scene. When the light turned green, we putted away toward the trailer park. The Oaxaca trailer park was only about 1/3 of its original size and there was construction of an office building on the perimeter of the property. Yet another trailer park nearing its last days. The trailer park was equipped with cold showers and free internet. The free internet was not advertised, so we figure that we were pulling a signal from one of the office towers adjacent the park. Anyway, it gave us an opportunity to catch up on e-mails and call a few people on our internet phone account. We took full advantage of the connection. We reached the campsite late and decided to settle in for the night and explore town the following day.
While reading about Oaxaca City and the surrounding area, we found that there were lots of things to do and see in a relatively short distance. It is a bit cumbersome to navigate 'Nilla around town, so we decided to check into renting an alternate mode of transportation, namely motorized scooter. We had read about a place that rented scooters and found that it was walking distance from camp. On the morning of March 23, 2007 we walked down to the main drag near camp and searched for the rental business. After walking up and down the street searching out the address for the rental shop, we finally found the place, but the building was empty. A nearby store vendor told us the place went out of business months before. We were a bit disappointed, but decided to walk back to the campground and figure out the bus route. On the walk back we passed an oil change shop and stopped in to enquire about pricing. The clerk was very helpful and agreed to complete an oil and filter change as soon as we were able to bring in the van. The price was comparable to the last oil change and we agreed to return. We also asked the clerk if there were any other scooter rental places since the one across the street was closed. With a concerned look on his face he warned that driving a scooter was "muy peligroso", which translates to 'very dangerous'. He cautioned us not to ride the scooter; however his concern did not stop there. He whipped open the newspaper and flipped through the first few pages to show us the carnage from three recent accidents between cars and scooters. All three scooter operators were pictured dead on the ground. We heeded the advice of the clerk and decided to ride the bus instead.
The afternoon was spent dealing with 'Nilla. First the oil change was completed and then we headed out in search of a place to fix the broken seal in the raised roof. The roof repair proved a bit tricky as we were not able to find a shop that had any real knowledge of sealing fibreglass to metal. After driving around checking in with a few places, we found a shop that was willing to work with us. Michael jumped out and got to work with one of the shop guys. They cleaned out the old silicone and scraped the scraps off the roof. A new flexible RV silicone was put on and we decided to wait a while to see if it cured. On the way home we stopped in at a local market that featured flowers. It was much different than the other markets we have attended, but with a little searching we found some fruits and veggies we needed. Back at the trailer park hours later, the silicone had not even started to cure. There was something wrong. As Michael was examining the roof repair, the neighbouring campers came over to say hello. Enter the Arnolds! Waymon approached Michael and with his southern Georgian accent offered some assistance. The two guys worked on the van roof by scraping off the silicone from the most recent repair effort and then installed some two-part epoxy to the seam. As the roof dried,
the two guys focused on diagnosing the problem with the sink drain. With plumbing parts flying off the van, the clogged line was located and the problem was found. The only thing required to fix the problem was parts, not likely to be found here in Mexico. This job was put on the side burner as night was settling in. During the repair time, Geraldine had a chance to meet Waymon's wife Marina and their two kids Sebastian and Isabelle. We immediately connected with our new neighbours and joined them for dinner at a nearby taco stand. After tacos, we walked the streets around the trailer park to work off dinner. Back at camp we spent the rest of the night chatting and sipping on wine. We all stayed up a bit past our bedtime and decided to call it a night after making plans to hit the market the following morning.