Monday, March 31st: We tore ourselves away from the
beach and made for Oaxaca, about 250 kms north and east. We crossed some very high and
cold pine covered-mountains at 2,700 meters and had to stop to put on our heavy fleece
jackets. Our lunch stop was in a little village about 40 kms from Oaxaca, at a taco stand
in front of the local church. We looked at what some of the locals were having and ordered
that. One of the old farmers came over to us and offered to show us (and hopefully sell to
us) his homemade moonshine----mezcal. Mezcal originates from this region and is like a
smoother form of tequila. Sometimes they blend it with dried fruit or hang a raw chicken
in the distilling vats, and add a worm into the bottle. Chris could hardly say no to the
old guy so we ended up with a small bottle of the stuff. But Im a bit suspicious of
it because it has little floating bits of unidentified stuff in it.
While we were eating lunch we were also entertaining the local school children
translating Spanish words into English for them. One little boy kept saying "Good
morning!" over and over again, despite our attempts to correct him (it was 1pm).
By the time we arrived in Oaxaca (260km and 108 speed bumps) it was about 2pm and hot
again. It took until 4:30pm to locate a decent hostal. Oaxaca is not the best for cheap
accommodation as it is such a touristy place. After getting it all sorted, we ended up
with a room with 4 beds (Chris and Simi joined us as well) and no bathroom for $15 per
couple. But it was close to the center of the action and they let us park our bikes for
free at a house several blocks away.
Tuesday, April 1st: Erins Birthday! 7:00am I get my first birthday
call from the states from my parents. They are thrilled that this will be the last
birthday on the road and we can celebrate properly next year. At 8am comes the call from
Chris parents too which was really nice. Next comes a big breakfast of fried eggs,
real bacon, fresh orange juice and a cappuccino coffee set out on the roof-deck table. My
gifts include a red rose from Chris and Simi, a Newsweek magazine from Chris, and of
course birthday cards in Spanish. Who could ask for more?!?
We spend the day wandering around the old colonial part of town, watching the locals,
poking through craft shops, admiring the churches and taking lots of pictures. In the late
afternoon we all enjoy a huge chocolate birthday cake, complete with my name on it spelled
correctly. We were so stuffed with cake that no one felt like going out for a big dinner
so we settled for hot dogs and hamburgers on the Zocolo, listening to the mariachi bands.
Wednesday, April 2nd: Chris and Simi leave for the border. This might be the
last time we see them as they are headed directly for the border now to meet a friend in
San Francisco by the 10th. Chris and I relax, catch up on emails and see a
movie during the day. In the evening we meet the friendly group of motorcyclists from the
local BMW motorcycle club. They fill us in on many of the local things to see, including
the wonderfully restored Santo Domingo church and the Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán
Thursday, April 3: We get up early and visit the ruins of Monte Albán before the day
gets too hot. The site is very exposed at the top of a hill, with almost no trees for
shade. Since this is the dry season everything is brown. Im concerned that the flat
colors and heat will make me regret spending the money to see the sight. We are surprised
however when we arrive and notice the different architecture and how the brown and white
colors of the ruins contrast nicely with the absolute blue sky. Even the temperature is
moderate with cool breezes.
The Zapotec culture was very different from the Mayas, although the both existed around
the same time. You can see the differences especially in their art and sculptures, and
their use of circular columns as room supports. But they did share many similarities,
especially in their temples dedicated to observing the stars, sun and moon to determine
the planting and harvest.
After about 2 hours we returned to town and visited the church of Santo Domingo. This
church dates from 1608 and is considered the finest example of baroque architecture in
Mexico. Inside it has been painstakingly restored with a huge gold altar some 30 meters
high. In fact there is so much gold leaf here it is overwhelming. We watched a young man
delicately applying gold leaf to a column. When you observe how long it takes to apply you
really appreciate how much time and effort went into the restoration of the rest of the