Last Stop Before the Beach
Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
187Trip End Ongoing
Eventually we found ourselves climbing out of the city, with panoramic views back over the 'cosmopolitan megalopolis', until we were at about 8,500 ft on the mountain rim. The subsequent descent into Cuernavaca seemed to go on forever, until we reached the outskirts at about 5,000 ft - accompanied by the acrid aroma of scorching, smoking brake pads! We were happy to have the offer of a real bed and a roof over our heads for a couple of nights with Bob and Marlene (part of Sharon's extended family). They were involved in supporting a local NGO working in the primary health care sector, so it was a good chance for us to meet with some of the young voluntary workers and enjoy their infectious enthusiasm and dedication.
We spent some time exploring the colonial centre that has long served as a retreat for the wealthy and famous from the nearby capital city. The climate in Cuernavaca has been described as 'eternal spring', but even here the recent cold spell had resulted in snow on the surrounding hills - but luckily for us the days were now sunny and the nights mild. The city has many beautiful examples of architecture from the bygone era of Cortés, but is now slowly succumbing to the influx of tourists and language students, vehicles and industry, and is gradually becoming overcrowded and slightly down-at-heel. Outside of the busy city centre we found a haven of peace which was more to our liking, and spent the afternoon exploring the 'Jardín Ethnobotánico y Museo de Medicina Tradicional'
After a couple of enjoyable and relaxing days in Cuernavaca, we hit the road again, heading south-east for our next stop in Oaxaca. We soon found ourselves back in the familiar territory of semi-arid mountains, mostly populated by an ever changing variety of cacti and flowering desert shrubs, interspersed with occasional small towns and agricultural valleys wherever a river cut its way through to the pacific coast. From Huajuapan de Leon we were suddenly on top of the world, driving along a ridge with gradual drop-offs on either side, looking across at serried ranks of mountains extending into the hazy distance in all directions. Oaxaca itself turned out to be another large and bustling colonial city with many handsome stone architectural highlights, but the shady plazas and outdoor cafés seemed to give it a more relaxed and leisurely atmosphere .... or maybe we were just lucky to have arrived for the weekend festivities!