To Mexico City and Oaxaca

Friday, January 30

We spent all day in Morelia. Much of the day was work. Barb went out for some breakfast things, then did laundry while I dismantled and packed the bikes. It took until early afternoon to finish them, over four hours straight, I reckoned. Then we went for a walk around Morelia and were again pleasantly surprised by the city's historic neighborhoods.

We'd been wondering how we were going to get the bikes to the bus station for our return to Mexico City. Throughout our afternoon walk we looked for a station wagon-style taxi or van that would be able to carry them, with no luck – until the moment in front of the cathedral when I spotted a VW wagon-taxi across four lanes of traffic, driving away. I dashed across the street, weaving through cars, and caught the cab at a red light.

I explained our needs in breathless, broken Spanish, about the big bike-boxes and so on, and after all my effort, the driver said, “Sure, I'll be there, 8:30 at Hotel Allende.” He knew English! Anyway, he had been able to make sense of my pathetic Spanish, so that was good.

Saturday, January 31

This morning we went to Mexico City. The cab driver arrived at our hotel in Morelia a little early, and we had no trouble getting on the bus. At Terminal Norte in Mexico City (somewhat unfamiliar, though I think we'd been there before) there was a little confusion. Barbara stayed on the platform guarding luggage while I went into the terminal to phone Casa Gonzalez and find a cab. No problem with Casa Gonzalez, but the authorized taxi people insisted there were no vans, Suburbans, or anything else big enough for our bikes. I bought tickets anyway, hoping we'd spot someone with a roof rack. Back at the bus platform, a guy with an authorization tag came to us and insisted he could take us right from there. It cost more than it should have, but I was (typically) stressed by all the logistics of moving bikes and luggage around, so we paid. In fact, he had a full-sized pick-up and brought it right to the bus platform, so it was very easy if a bit pricey. (300 pesos, about $23.) At least we got to Casa Gonzalez with no further sweat. As usual, it felt like coming home.

Sunday, February 1

We had a full day in Mexico City. We decided to walk to the Zocalo area and were surprised to find Reforma closed to cars, full of bikes and also roller-bladers, joggers, even baby strollers. Apparently Mexico City now does this every Sunday. Avenida Juarez (if that's correct) is also closed to cars. That is, the street that goes by Alameda Central and the Palace of Fine Arts and on to the Zocalo. It was such a pleasure to see these big-city streets full of cyclists and pedestrians. When we walked back to Casa Gonzalez in mid afternoon, traffic was back, though there were still more bikes than usual around the historic district.

Reforma, crowded with bikes instead of cars

Imaginative sculptures and other art displayed on Reforma


Above: Che lives in the Alameda Park

Left: National Gallery of Fine Arts, just beyond the Alameda

Monday, February 2

We took a bus today to Oaxaca. It was a pleasure not to have the bikes to lug around – just one big suitcase and the boogie board bag. (Of course I still had a camera bag and Barbara had her little pack.) Compared to what we're used to, it was traveling light.

Above: Casa Arnel, a familiar stop in Oaxaca city

Left: from the bus window, between Mexico City and Oaxaca

It was over six hours to Oaxaca. We walked to Casa Arnel. Our cheap room (sin bano privado) was a bit small and dreary, but perfectly clean and with a good bed. The courtyard and rooftop gardens were delightful, and as usual the place was full of travelers from all over, very social and pleasant. We ended up at our friendly little taqueria for supper.

Tuesday, February 3

We stayed in Oaxaca for the day, mostly just walking aimlessly once we got moving. There are some wonderful crafts galleries in Oaxaca, and we enjoyed visiting them as usual, but also as usual we were not actually shopping, so that takes some of the kick out of it.

We came back fairly early to Casa Arnel to lounge on the roof and read. There were several memorable characters there with whom we chatted at one time or another – Laverne and son Lance, she from Virginia and Florida, he from San Francisco. Lance was a serious photographer, Laverne seemed the perfect picture of an affluent, conventional, suburban mother, but she was full of surprises – including traveling around West Africa all by herself. Young German women and their rubber chickens, ugly little yellow things that they buy in Mexico for a couple of pesos and sell in Germany for 3 euros to drivers who hang them from rear-view mirrors! There was a friendly young Danish couple with two cute little girls, Madeleine from Ottawa who may come to San Agustinillo, and an exceptionally nice couple from Maine whose grown daughter is doing aid work in Guatemala.

Also while we were at Casa Arnel, we emailed back and forth to Jose and made our final price arrangements for six weeks in San Agustinillo.

Right: Walking around Oaxaca, we entered a cathedral and were interested to watch the process of repairing gilt ornamentation: first sculpting in wood, then covering the work with gold

Wednesday, February 4

In the morning Arnel called a cab for us and we headed for the second class bus terminal. Barbara had the idea of stopping on the way to San Agustinillo for a couple of nights in the mountains. We'd heard years ago that a little mountain town called San Jose del Pacifico was worth visiting. (Right) On the internet Barbara found accommodation there that looked great, so we decided to give it a try.

We took a regular, beat-up ordinario bus, with “Viva Christ the King” over the driver's window. After a four-hour ride and miles of steep climbing, the bus dropped us high in the mountains at Las Cabanas Puesta del Sol, and it was immediately clear that Barbara's idea had been a splendid one. This must be one of the most beautiful places we have ever stayed, something like a cross between Vermont and the Vumba Mountains of Zimbabwe. Even our cabin was a wonderful surprise – wood paneling, a good bathroom with hot showers, and a stone fireplace (which we definitely need for the cold mountain nights.) We stayed a second night and most likely will stop again on our way back to Oaxaca and Mexico City.

Cabanas Puesta del Sol

Our cabin — with Adondack chairs on the porch

Above: fireplace in our room, much needed at night

Left: View from the porch of our cabin

Thursday, February 5

Dinner last night here at Cabanas Puesta del Sol was nothing special, and this place, like so many others where we have stayed, has few guests. But the fire in the evening was wonderful, and we both slept fairly late, got up even later.

When we set out for a walk around 10:30 or so, we met an American couple from Rochester – Jeff and Mary Kay – who had also come here last night. On the coast, they are staying at Posada Arigalan, just up the hill from Posada la Barca and owned by Jose's sister Rosa. They'd come up to the mountains for the night and returned to San Agustinillo today. No doubt we'll see them again.

Great walk, through the village and then up a dirt road that climbed farther and farther into the hills and seemed like it might go on forever. We walked on it for an hour or more, getting quite high (in elevation) before we turned around. It was extraordinary, I thought, to see big succulents growing in a high-altitude pine forest

Above: dirt road in the hills that seems to go on forever

Right: Not-bad views on the walk

In the later part of the afternoon, we enjoyed our porch in the sun, with its amazing view. (I doubt that the temperature in the shade ever climbed out of the 60s all day.)

We got another fire going and then walked into the village for dinner. The wind was roaring and the moon was almost bright enough to read by, even though there are still a few days before it is full. It was good to return to the cabin, out of the wind, to a warm fire. Sitting by the fire and writing this now, the wind is still roaring, almost shaking the roof sometimes, but we are warm and cozy.

Tomorrow, down the vomit highway to Pochutla and San Agustinillo.

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