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Published: February 16th 2011
The morning dawned, as so often happens after the evening, and we packed our stuff, used our last breakfast tickets at the disappointing hotel restaurant, and made our way to the metro station. Last stop – Tapo, the name of the bus station servicing the south. Finding the stop posed no particular challenge, located as it was on the train line. Finding the massive bus station proved more difficult, perhaps more difficult than it should have been. It required a few random flights of stairs, strange doors and guesswork, the experience enhanced by the fact there was now four people involved in said guesswork. By the time the we found it the buses were full – only to be expected in the week before Christmas.
The bus terminal itself was very flash, a large circle with the gates and ticket counters around the outside, a food court in the centre. The first bus we could get on to Oaxaca
, our next destination, was for 1:30pm, so it looked like we would be waiting for a couple of hours.
Looking around the eatery we spotted some of our ilk – backpackers. These particular specimens looked absolutely wrecked. Mexico City is
really the start of the backpacker trail here, so they had likely flown into the airport and come straight to the bus station to get on the backpacker trail south. Slightly mixed feelings – we had seen almost no other backpackers in the north, and very very few tourists in most places, and now we had to share. On the plus side they looked way more scruffy than us.
As is usual in Mexican bus stations the toilets cost four pesos. Entry to the baños was gained by dropping your four pesos into the machine and walking through a very solid set of gates (they take their dunnies seriously here). My tight-arsedness, coupled with the not-entirely-unfounded fear that I might be trapped in the gates bleating like an unlucky goat on the way to the halal butcher, meant I decided to wait until the bus came and use that one.
This would prove to be a mistake. I had broken a cardinal rule of travelling – if you see a toilet, use it. Picture the scene – young couple alight the bus, checking tickets for the relevant number. They sit, arrange bags between their feet, the overflow in
the overhead rack. The young man speaks:
“Righto, I'm off to the ablution facilities.” He stands, chuckling at some unheard, off the cuff comment, not a care in the world – he's on holiday for a year! He begins the short journey to the back of the bus. One step, then he looks up.
The row of people sitting across the back row regard him with quizzical expressions.
“Where is this handsome young man going? Perhaps he wishes to engage in conversation?”
The young man's face crumples as he gazes at the blank back wall of the bus. He sits down, defeated.
“Ohhh, f$^%!&(MISSING)* me, there's no dunny!” The drive to Oaxaca would be long, and painful.
Oaxaca (pronounced wah-ha-ka
) turned out to be a nice little town. After the initial melee of the bus station we found the place we had booked on the net. It ended up being a tiny hotel with all of 5 rooms. Very friendly owners, free breakfast, and a decent kitchen for making your own meals. A rooftop terrace added to the appeal. The young bloke at the front desk was busy doing some uni work. I interrupted him and asked where
we might find a place to have a feed. He pointed us in the general direction of a basic taco place, which, this time, we managed to find.
Perhaps he knew, perhaps he didn't, but the young man behind the desk had pointed us to the best tacos in the world. I kid you not, they we're the best we have had, before or since, and as I write this we have spent 2 months in Mexico and gone from top to bottom. The meat was perfectly cooked, juicy, flavourful, but not too drippy. The salsa – perfecto. And the tortillas fresh. It was run by two brothers, the Cheerful brothers (not their real name). So good, in fact, we went back there for dinner on our last night in Oaxaca.
The following day we spent looking at vegies and not looking at the convent. The reason for this isn't all that complicated. Basically, there was a picture of a ruined convent on the wall of our hostel room, and it looked pretty cool. We, well, actually, I... decided that it would be good to go have a look at. We grabbed a town map, located the convent,
and off we went. Of course, as luck and lack of research would have it, the picture was taken in a completely different town. Still, we did find a convent, intact and not ruined though it may have been, so our three hour search wasn't a complete waste.
The next day we found the radishes. It so happens that Oaxaca is the place that, each December, people go a bit nuts for radishes, carving them into all sorts of shapes and sizes. I was more than a little dubious when Klaire pointed out the existence of the radish festival earlier. “Tops, it will go well with the garden salad and ranch dressing festival.”
It ended up being a more impressive than anticipated. Quite interesting the things you can do with a giant radish.
The hills around Oaxaca are home to Monte Alban – an impressive set of pre-Columbian ruins. These particular buildings were built by the Zapotec – a mob related to the Aztecs. We grabbed a round trip ticket on a bus for around 40 pesos. We could have taken a tour, but that seemed overkill. The bus drops you off and you have a few hours
to look around. As expected, there were a lot of other tourists there, but not so many that you couldn't have a good look at the ruins. A very extensive set of ruins, and a very impressive setting, high in the dusty hills overlooking Oaxaca. Apparently the elite spent their time here, playing old versions of football and generally laughing it up, while the plebs lived lower down the hill and picked corn and whatnot. Same as it ever was.
And what better way to top off a visit to Oaxaca than a meal of fried crickets. Well, actually, I can think of a few, but chose the crickets anyway. Needed a bit more garlic, and lacked the satisfying wet crunch of a good cockroach, but I'm assured they're nutritious.
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