If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives. - Lemony Snicket
Backtracking is never the 'same old'...
February 18, 2015
Being sick when it's cold is the pits! So we packed up the jeep and headed south/west from San Cristobal de las Casas toward the coast. Our ultimate destination: Playa Zipolite, but that's a long, long drive, so we stopped at Puerto Arista and stayed for a night at Jose's Campground. Jose is a Canadian fella who's name is actually Joe. He's in his late 50's, kind of disgruntled (in a good way), good for a couple of chorizo quesadillas, a few (or a lot more) beers, and interesting conversation.
Joe and a group of his friends used to visit Puerto Arista "back in the day" and really liked the place. (Supposedly, it was one of the most visited beaches on the Oaxacan coast, but not so much these days). So Joe, being the adventurous spirit he is, decided to purchase some land and set up an RV Park where he and his friends could spend their winters and, eventually, retire. Except Joe and his wife are the only ones there, which is kind of sad. He seems happy, though. So cheers to you, Joe. He loves Puerto Arista. Hates Zipolite.
The beach at P.A. is long. Really long. And flat. That's about it.
This place was a hot, abandoned ghost town, and we were headed to paradise.
Or at least, that was the plan. About two hours west of P.A., we hit traffic, lots of it. A group of Taxi drivers had set up a road block and were making some demands on the local government. They had held the road for over 24 hours already, and claimed to be ready to stay until their demands were met. Time for a reroute.
Unfortunately, both the GPS and the paper maps, indicated that the blocked road was the only road. We pulled off on the shoulder to discuss a plan-B. Carley scanned the Guia Roji (THE paper map for Mexico), while Brian chatted up a local mechanic. According to the mechanic, there was another route. All dirt for about two hours, but it should get us past the road block. He showed us satellite images of the area on his computer, and the basic route that we should take. He wrote down the names of the villages that we would pass through, and did his best to remember if we should turn left or right before or after each town. We were off! Luckily, about a third of the way into our reroute, we found the rest of the traffic that had decided to brave the unofficial, unpaved, detour.
Semis, delivery trucks, tour busses full of passengers, and collectivos in both directions, all barreling down a very bumpy, washed out, single track in the middle of nowhere. New traffic jams were created every few miles, when rocks had to be piled into washouts, busses had to make five point turns at switchbacks, or when trucks would pass too close and both would lose mirrors. The villages that we passed through were clearly experiencing several years worth of traffic in one day. Every person, young and old, on the roadside with a bandanna covering their face to shield them from the clouds of dust and diesel, but not wanting to miss the strange parade.
Two hours later, we were back to pavement, and beyond the roadblock. Adventure! and we were loving it!
Until we hit roadblock number two. This time, it was a local village that had taken a bridge to demand the release of two prisoners. There was an ocean to our left, and a mountain to our right. This time, there would be no alternate routes, we would have to wait like everyone else. The only other option would be to turn back, head north, and drop into Zipolite from Oaxaca, thus turning a 3 hour drive into a 12-13 hour drive. No, we would wait like everyone else.
Being from the U.S., it was strange to observe the casualness with which the locals handled the situation. Instantly, truck drivers delivering oranges became orange salesmen, locals from the nearest town took to the street to sell snacks and drinks, and local tourists emptied from their busses to sit huddled around a CB radio taking in the latest news on negotiations between authorities and the roadblockers. Everyone smiling and chatting without a care in the world.
When it started to get dark, we decided to turn back, and find somewhere to sleep in the nearest city. We found a decent hotel (although a bit overpriced) with secure parking, and an attached restaurant. We would try again tomorrow.
8 am. and we were back at the roadblock with high hopes. No dice, though. They had held the bridge through the night, and were still in negotiations. We sat in the miles-long line of cars until about 5 pm before deciding to retire to the the same overpriced hotel, with secure parking, and attached restaurant.
The next morning, we took our time, had breakfast and coffee, and then headed off to sit in traffic for another entire day. Except, this time when we rounded the turn, and the bridge came into view, there was no traffic! The bridge had been opened! Third time's a charm, I suppose. Zipolite, here we come!
[The view every morning from our camp spot at Zipolite]
Zipolite, oh Zipolite. How do we love thee. Let us count the ways... Seriously, we really like it there. Not much had changed since the last time we were there; less french hippies, more aging gringos. Other than that, the food, the pina coladas, and the afternoon beers were all still there, just as we had left them.
To be honest, we spent almost two weeks there and we can't remember if anything significant happened. Lots of swimming, eating, drinking, etc. You get the picture.
We are headed north.
As we mentioned a few posts ago, the road between Oaxaca and Zipolite can be pretty rough on those who get car sick, and since Carley does, we decided to split up the drive and stay a night in the beautiful mountain town of San Juan del Pacifico. Known for their medicinal/traditional/religious magical mushrooms, this town, like Zipolite, is a big draw for traveling hippie kids. Oh, and it's breathtakingly beautiful. At roughly 8000 ft., the clouds roll in and momentarily disappear the landscape. It would be a bit spooky if it wasn't so quaint.
[The clouds disappearing San Jose del Pacifico]
We were interested in trying their magical mountain medicine, but upon asking a couple of local construction workers/"hongo" salesmen, we decided it was a bit out of our price range due to it being the off season. Not really our thing, anyway. Plus, we had a spare bottle of wine and some bourbon that needed drinking (Kentucky medicine), so we rented a cabin on the mountainside, propped our feet up next to the fireplace and enjoyed the beautiful gardens and the drastic change of scenery.
[The view from our cabaña at San Jose del Pacifico]
[Beautiful gardens at La Puesta del Sol at San Jose del Pacifico]
Onward to Oaxaca! The northern half of the Pochutla-Oaxaca Highway 175 is a lot less "throw-uppy" than the southern half. Once we arrived at the Overlander Oasis, we were excited to, once again, be in familiar territory (Carley already knew where she wanted to get tacos) and see some familiar faces (Calvin and Leanne are always welcoming and friendly). Spent a few nights there, planning the route home, before heading north to Cholula.
Mexico is full of ruins. FULL. They say that only a fraction (less than 10%) of the ruins that exist in Mexico have been excavated, and already it seems like there are so many. We'd heard about a pyramid with a church built on top that sits at the base of an active volcano. History. Religion. Danger.
[Volcano Popocatépetl near Cholula]
Cholula is a beautiful little town that sits on the edge of Puebla. Puebla is an enormous city, with a population of about 6 million, but Cholula still feels quaint. The largest pyramid known to man (yep, even bigger than the great pyramid of Giza) sits right in the middle of town, facing a 17,000 ft. volcano, thats been puffing smoke since the mid 90s.
[View of the Volcano Popocatépetl from Cholula]
It's only fitting then, in the true Catholic fashion of trying to usurp anything historically or religiously significant, be it holidays, sacred grounds, or ruins, that on the very top of the largest pyramid in the world, sits an elaborate catholic church.
[Catholic church built on Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as Tlachihualtepetl]
[The Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers), or Palo Volador (Pole Flying) - mid flight]
From Cholula, we headed further north, and made our way back to the most photogenic town in the world, San Miguel de Allende.