Oaxaca - Tropical Storms, Free Bread and Hot Chocolate

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May 2nd 2008
Published: May 3rd 2008
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I´ve escaped!!!! (Hahaha not really!) We have a super dooper mega long weekend this week thanks to the Dia del Niños (yesterday), Dia del Trajabo (today), a random day to bridge the gap (tomorrow) and it being the 5th of May on Monday...almost as special in Mexico as the 16th Spetember as I can gather. Unfortunately the Battle of Puebla sounds so boring I haven´t had the will power to read up about it and find out exactly WHY we have this fantastic spate of holidays.

On Tuesday the Dia del Niño celebrations in the camp were fantastic. It was all kicked off with an entertainer playing games with the children, a sack race and one where they had to tie a balloon to their ankle and the last one with their balloon intact won. I should mention this was heavily sponsored by Nestle, or should I?! I just don´t know weather I buy into their good work! The food for the day was pretty good too, mole tacos (the first mole I´ve actually liked!), sandwiches, cake and jelly as a mid afternoon snack and pozole and tacos dorados for cena, yummy! The older becarios, the ones who have been released from the camp, arranged an assault course after the jelly and cake. The insult course was the best I´ve ever seen, it involved making the kids run to different places in the camp and once there crawl through mud and then roll in dry grass or dry mud. It was hilarious!!! Though they took a fair time to clean themselves afterwards! In the evening the monthly annual disco for special occasions was captained not by DJ Jorge but Adrian so we got some electro dance music thrown in with the essential Cumbia. The crowd went wild!

Yesterday morning I planned to get up mega early, but when my phone alarm went off at 5:30 I lost the will to live and had another hour in bed. I still made it to Mexico and across the city to the TAPO bus station by 9:30 in time for a bus to Oaxaca at 10. The 6 and a half hour bus journey was marred only by an aged hippy who came and talked to me for about an hour everytime he went to the toilet. In the end I feigned sleep when I saw him coming. Anyway he wanted me to join his cult...I don´t remember it´s name and he didn´t refer to it as a cult but it blatantly is. They´re all into electrical vision and faries and dragons and a load of crap. Apparently I have a lot of light in my eyes which is a reflection of the energy I have inside and I´d be a great lady of the cult. B*ll*cks. Whatever. I think EVENTUALLY he must have seen my aura turn red with his finely tuned electrical vision and got the message.

I arrived about 4:30, navigated my way to the city centre with the help of a non-cult affiliated Australian named Francis, lost the will to live looking for the hostel from the Lonely Planet and stopped off at the first one I saw after this point. I think I´m the only one there atm which is quite strange but the man, Lalo, is very nice and even let me use his internet for free last night. Wahoo!

Oaxaca is lovely, its very quaint and pretty in a kind of Cornish/French way. All the buidings are brightly coloured and that always makes everything nicer! The Zocalo is closed off to traffic as well which is nice, and always seems to be full of people. The town is absolutely full of exhibitions and art galleries. I tried to go to a free museum of Graphic Art but they specifically asked for a donation before I could go in which I hate and wanted to keep my bag (with my passport, purse, cards, phone, camera...) at the reception so I gave that one up. I did succeed in going to the Museum of Contemporary Art which is in a really nice building and funnily enough quite a lot of the art works there are very similar but smaller and more abstract to the things my mum does. I also failed in going to the Rudolpho Tamarindo (or something like that) Museum of Prehistoric Art as it was closed for the Dia del Trabajo. Again success was found elsewhere in an exhibition of photographs of the forgotten people just off the zocao.

After getting rid of my stuff I went for a burger and the heavens opened with a torrential tropical thunderstorm! I ran from the restaurant to what looked like a tourist info centre but was infact a tour info centre. I sheltered from the rain and was talked into going on a tour today to Monte Alban, an indigenous market, a place where they make animalitos and a place that looks to me like Clapham but isn´t where they have a monastry.

I hate tours.

Firstly I forgot I´m white and forgot to put on suncream. Bummer. Secondly the people are always middle aged couples and suspicious of traveller types travelling alone. Thirdly the tour guide talks about what he finds interesting for as long as he wants and it´s rude to wander off for a sit down or to look at something more interesting.

I feel I ought to talk about Monte Alban what with it being an amazing city, but I really lost the will to live. It was big, it was on 4 hill tops, and the largest of which, the one I visited was flattened into a tableau. I´m not quite sure why. The pryamids are in the words of my Grandad Shop "a pile of old bricks". On the other hand the view´s spectacular. I think I´d have enjoyed it more had I not arrived at 12pm in the blazing sunshine and been talked at about the types of trees for AN HOUR before we were allowed to round the corner and see the dam pyramids. Another thing about these so called thoroughly interesting archaelogial sites is the total lack of imagination used when naming the edificios, so you go from edificio E to look at something supposedly thoroughly interesting in edificio H and you don´t have a cue what it is you´re actually seeing.

I had a chat with Lalo, the friendly hostelier about the stone cities, in particuar the habbit they had of routing sacrifice which the tour guides and officia information seems to gloss over nicely! The winner of the game Pelota was aways sacrificed and now I understand the reason for this. The reason is that the winner was believed to be so mighty a person to win that he must be a God, therefore was destined to join them. Morbid but true.

This morning something quite funny happened, I was standing in the bathroom putting my hair into a ponytail when someone on the roof swished a whole load of water off to the road below. Quite a lot of it came flying in the window and unsuspecting I got soaked!!! I didn´t dare stay much longer!

Other interesting things from today:

1. I had hot chocolate and sweet bread for breakfast from a street vendor for $8. I tried to get over my fear of tamales and try one as well but they had JUST sold out.

2. More about food. I ate a torta, more sweet bread and had an Agua de Jamaica at the indigenous market, before realising next stop was a posh restaurant for proper food. I had to wipe the crumbs from my face and pretend I hadn´t eaten because I felt stupid!

3. I saw a heard of cows and goats and baby cows and goats in the middle of the dirt road we went down to one of the villages. The man in charge threw a stick and they moved to the side to let our Jose-Luis mobile pass.

4. The villages and smaller towns in this state have the best taxis I´ve EVER seen. Imagiene a Robin Reliant x VW Camper Van made mini x Rickshaw. Or the funny little car Jeremy Clarkson had made big. Then picture one coming down the road towards you and feel the pleasant feeling of amusement!

Tomorrow this intrepid traveller is going to a big tree and a petrified water fall (El Tule and Hierve El Agua to be precise) then travelling on to the coasta for the weekend.

Most of this was in fact typed yesterday on a properly functioning computer keyboard but when I tried to add my photos it gave up the will to live so I gave up. Just realised I don´t have my lead to add photos today so they´l have to be added at a later date. (Grrr dam Llllls!)

So information from today...Friday. I got up super early to catch the 8am bus from the second class bus station to Hierve el Agua. It doesn´t exist. So I got the bus to Mitla and then had to wait one there an hour and a half later for a pick up truck to fill with at least 6 people each paying $25 each or pay a "special price" of $300 to go sola. You do the maths. I wasn´t having that! Eventually some people arrived on a bus and we set off.

Hierve el Agua is absoutely spectacular. It´s located about 50 minutes down (or up) a dirt mountain track from Mitla above hills hills and more hills. I now understand why that one of the first explorers of the Spanish when asked to describe the terrain crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it on the table. It´s a wonder anyone ever found Oaxaca in the first place. The water does in fact bubble from the ground and into some natural pools where you can and I did swim (or wallowed). From there it goes over the ciff edge depositing some kind of whiteish mineral so that it looks like the water is frozen or petrified. Beware the basilisk! We weren´t allowed to leave until 3 hours later on the same pick up we came on...strange. But the Japanese girl I´d been talking to suddenly disappeared and it turned out she´d picked up a lift from some more Japanese people. That´s the second Japanese person in 24 hours that´s disappeared from my life without explination! The first being the one in my hostel who was gone at 4am when I woke up..strange!

Back in Milta I decided to go and see the ruins seing as I was there and I get in free with my Guad student card. Well it wasn´t worth it. There were some quite nice carvings but nothing special. Rocks bah. So I set off to walk back to the bus station, was given a free peice of bread by a man in a bread shop. To be fair it was hard as a rock so I licked off the icing and left it on a wall for a dog. Lost I was picked up by a man on one of the crazy moto taxis, this one a motorbike pulling a cart, and taken to the bus station. So here I am! My bus goes in a couple of hours and I´ve still not decided exactly where I´m going!

The cake for the dog story has reminded me...I think I saw a dead man this morning. I´d like to think he wasn´t dead but I don´t really know how long you actually would survive with a plastic bin bag over your head pulled down to your waist. It was really horrible actually. I didnt really know what to do and if he was in fact dead. And I don´t know the Mexican emergancy number and was a bit scared of trying to see if he was ok and finding out he WAS in fact dead. So I´m sad to report I was a bad Samaritan and walked on by. Maybe he had airholes.


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