Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Final Days Of Travel

NOTE: I have actually been in the Huatulco area since last Saturday. I am just telling how we got here before starting posting about this area itself.

I was quite surprised by how easy it was to get out of Tuxtla Guieterrez and onto our chosen route south. I had planned before we even left the island to take 4 days to drive to Huatulco. Even though I knew I could make it in three. I planned for 2 days of grueling, petal to the medal and then 2 days of leisurely driving. If driving in Mexico can ever be called leisurely. Also, putting in the extra day of travel allowed for any emergencies that may have come up. Thankfully, none did!

My planned route was to take us in generally southwest direction with the ultimate destination being Juchitlan de Zaragoza. Mostly referred to simply as Juchitlan. (hoo cheet lan)

Most of the trip was along and through the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range. But we were now entering the "foothills" and the driving was not as steep. Although just as winding. The road was in very good repair and we were making pretty good time. Until we came to the cutoff where MX 190 joins with MX 200, the Pacific coast highway.

We both missed the sign directing us to exit for Juchitlan. We saw it but it was too late to make the turn. It was about the size of a piece of typing paper, stuck onto a stick on the side of the road. Strange signage. We were forced to continue on for another 25 kilometers before we could turn around. We were on a fast, divided highway and made pretty good time. Despite the wind.

This road traversed through some really flat country and was the windiest stretch of road I have driven. I would have hated to be a large vehicle. Both sides of the road were also full of rows of wind power windmills, turning so fast you could hardly see the blades.

We got back on the right path and actually enjoyed the last 167 kilometers into Juchitlan. We travelled through some low mountain stretches and long straightaways with views of the Pacific to our left. Really a pretty stretch of road. Despite the unmarked speed bumps that were painted the same color as the road! I was particularly watchful for these type of speed bumps. While travelling the day before, the day of stress, I had hit one of the speed bumps going way to fast. After that, it sounded like my brake lining was rubbing every time I made a right turn. And there are lots of right turns in the mountains!

Just before entering Juchitlan, maybe 30 minutes out, we stopped for gas. While I was craning my neck looking out the back window to make sure that the gas pump had indeed been reset to 0 before the pumping started, I heard a loud crack. We both looked at each other and said "What was that?" I turned to look at the windshield to discover that a lovely little crack had started in the upper left corner of the windshield. As we watched, it continue to creep its' slow way across. It finally stopped after about 10". I have no idea what made it crack. Excessive over heating in that hot sun? Had I knocked the windshield out of alignment when I hit that speed bump? I guess I will never know. I worried the whole rest of the time to Huatulco that the windshield was going to fall in on me.

After only 5 hours of driving, which seemed like a really light day, we arrived in Juchitlan, found a pleasant hotel run by some very pleasant people and set out to explore a bit. We had the whole afternoon and evening available to us!

Juchitlan is famous for two things: its' market and its' tolerance and acceptance of muxes, boys that dress as girls. (not to be confused with drag queens) While we did not see any of the latter (that we could tell) we did get a good chance to explore the market.

The market is huge and takes up an entire city block. I think the architecture of the building that houses it is wonderful.

Vendors are also set up outside it. I think these may be the people who can't afford to rent stall space inside.

Mostly they were selling a local smoked fish. It did not look or smell terribly tasty.

Just inside the arches, the first thing you come to are the food vendors. Since we were in Oaxaca state now, we could not resist the local specialty, tlayuda. It is a large tortilla, covered with beans, shredded meat, hot sauce, onions and shredded, stringy, salty Oaxacan cheese. This is then heated and gradually folded over onto itself, forming a kind of sandwich.

Crunchy and delicious!

In this heat, flavored waters are a big seller. For some reason, they never seem to have limonada.

Colorful hammocks are piled everywhere. I wonder about the authenticity of these though. During our travels we saw huge trucks parked along side the road, unloading piles of hammocks to smaller pickup trucks. Probably to bring to markets all over the state. Of course, the big truck could have just been the wholesaler.

The town square was filthy. All the benches were thickly covered with bird poop. Some of it looked ancient, although I am by no way an aficionado of bird poop. We watched people take the wrappers off Popsicles and just toss them to the ground. Even though they were mere steps away from the overflowing garbage bins.
The town gazebo was nothing to write home about either. It was full of garbage and broken furniture. I don't think it was used much.

Most of the streets downtown were built up like the picture below. One had to be very careful getting up and down from the true sidewalk portion. I thought it strange until later that night.

We got caught in a thunderstorm that came from nowhere while downtown that night. We sought refuge under an awning along with as many other people as could fit. It took about 5 minutes for the streets to fill up past those steps. We quickly learned why the sidewalks were elevated!
All in all though, we enjoyed our stay in this little town. What better way to take a break from the heat but to stop at the local Italian Coffee Company and have a cold glass of tea!

The next day, Saturday, was an uneventful, leisurely drive on into the Huatulco area. We had arranged to meet our rental agent at noon. She escorted us here to the condo we would call home for the next month and we settled in.
Life is good right now.


Steve Cotton said...

My tires have done battle with similar sidewalks in Melaque.

Life's a Beach! said...

I'm glad you arrived safe and sound! Mexico never ceases to amaze me. Such a traditional Catholic culture with a town known for acceptance of boys who dress like girls! A friend took a bus trip to a mountainous area in Chiapas and had some wonderful oddities to relate. Loving your trip posts!

AHealey said...

Wayne - I am so enjoying the tale of your adventures! Thanks for taking the time to let us live vicariously through your experiences. Andrea.

Anonymous said...

I'm fascinated by the variance of civic pride exhibited from one town to the next ... not unlike the Good Ole US of A ..... this had to be an amazing experience .... one that truly justifies digital cameras as opposed to 25 rolls of film.

O Robert

p.s. I'm still Hot For Cuidad del Carmen....

Islagringo said...

steve: i don't remember elevated sidewalks in Melaque. I could see why they would be though.

LAB: Mexico is a country full of contradictions. Despite the rampant Catholism here, I do find it to be a very tolerant country.

Andrea: you are so welcome. Have you checked out my other blog? It is nothing but travel adventures in Mexico.

O Robert: My blog would be the most boring piece of shit imaginable without my digital camera! And explain your p.s. please.

Anonymous said...

Well, of all the places you've recorded, Cuidad del Carmen (based on your amazing photographic and literary skills) stands out as a place that deserves further exploration .... seems clean, well-attended-to by it's inhabitants, and gives me a "why the hell wouldn't I wanna go there?" reaction.

I mean, seemingly nice shoreline, civic conscientiousness, no obvious signs of "Off the Gringo" sentiments ......

Am I missing something???

O Robert

Islagringo said...

O Robert: you are totally correct. This city is so off the tourist/gringo map that it is difficult to even find anything about it on the net. There is actually a nice beach just out of town but I never write about it. The town is super clean, the people genuinely friendly and it has a great infrastucture and bus system. There are large department and grocery stores. (Soriana, Mega, etc) There are some Gringos around that are there to work the off shore oil rigs. To me, the only drawback is that it is a dry city. Meaning the sale and consumption of alcohol and beer is forbidden in the city. You will not be able to get a beer with your meal. Out of the city proper and on the beach you can though. It has a zoo and several museums. Definately worth a look-see.

Calypso said...

OK well I won't mention Puerto Escondido. Glad you made it hombre - have a GREAT time!

Babs said...

Good series Wayne. I sure want to head to Hualtuco this winter! Or Isla........