Much as we do in any other city, we eat and drink our way through Oaxaca. Cheese, chocolate, fruit, tamales, ice cream. New things appear. Brightly colored textiles and clothing. It’s all a feast for the eyes and stomach.
From Oaxaca, we aim for the coast. We want to see the ocean again, but are wary of the heat and wind we have heard about. A circuitous route through the mountains promises a couple nights of camping again. We haven’t slept outside in ages. I don’t know if the moon is waxing or waning, or how the stars have changed as we have moved south.
We have our sights set on a pass, just above San Vicente. Near the top, the small dirt road turns into a big gravel one. It’s been a victim of what seems like a classic Mexican road improvement project. Instead of going over or around obstacles, the road engineers blast through them. Regardless, we find a quiet place on the edge of a corn field with a view.
I wake to a few meager drops of rain in the night before dozing off again. Packing up in the morning, a pickup truck pulls up. There’s people everywhere all the time and it doesn’t register on my radar.
A man walks up and asks the standard question: where have you come from? That’s when I notice his companion has a gun. He explains there are problems in the town and that there’s been an accident. Again, where have we come from? We slowly explain we have come from Oaxaca and that we slept here last night. Another truck, two more men, the same questions. A request for our identification. We oblige. We wait patiently. Walkie talkies crackle back and forth. Tyndall asks one man about the new road, trying to find out where it goes. It’s not on our map. He answers, says it goes around the town and that it’s two hours by bicycle to the next town. Soon, we’re told we can leave. We do, curious about the accident and the problems.
Popping out of the field onto the road, we catch the attention of more men in trucks. Where did you come from? Where are you going? We start to explain, but then are relieved from our explanation by the previous group. Again, we’re told we can go. Tyndall politely asks what the problem is. A stabbing, we’re told. These men are all out, policing their own town. Out here, they are the law. There are no Federales in sight.
We evaluate our food and water supplies and decide on the new road. There’s not much desire to descend into a town in chaos.
Past the big cuts through the mountains, the old road prevails. It climbs steadily through pine forest, twisting and turning with the contours of the land. It’s peaceful, in contrast with our hectic morning.
We scout another campsite, relishing the cool mountain air and crickets. We know things will change tomorrow.
Our shirts are soaked through before 10 am. The air is muggy and hot. The heat opressive. Moving provides relief. Bananas provide fuel. Locals lounge in hammocks drinking light beer. Who’s idea was this, anyway?
I cycle through the thick air. New England summers can be humid, but this is a new experience for me. A side road takes us down to the ocean. Locals surf. Rain clouds threaten. We find temporary relief from the heat in the ocean. But then face the challenge of drying off. Without a towel and without a breeze, dampness lingers. Sand sticks. Who’s idea was this, anyway?
Behind the dune, we set up the tent. Mosquitos make camping here tricky. They start swarming at dusk, taking cover from the rain beneath our tent fly – they are cheeky little buggers. We lay side by side, sweating through the night. Who’s idea was this, anyway?
Our curiosity satisfied and 500 kilometers of highway riding stretching out before us, we look for the quickest escape option to a more desirable climate. A day later and we’re on a bus, bound for San Cristobal. We’ll be there in 11 hours.
Where we went: Oaxaca – Yogana – San Vincente Coatlan – San Pablo Coatlan – San Baltazar – Santa Maria Colotepec – El Tomatal – Mazunte – Puerto Angel – Pochutla