11,069 KM: Monte Alban, Oaxaca

MacKay navigated me up a winding side road outside of town up, up, up into the neighboring mountainside. With the added 200 pounds of Hunter meat our clearance dropped to nada and we started bottoming out on the topes (Yes, there were still fucking topes. Everyfuckingwhere. They were the bane of our driving existence. Sweet SaChriX did we hate fucking topes. I cannot express enough how badly we hate them. Fuck topes. Fuck em).

At the top was a great archaeological site called Monte Alban. Similar to Teotihuacan, but this time Zapotec, this was a place that the culture stumbled upon and decided to take up residency. Really large and really cool site full of pyramids, ruined palaces, houses, a sundial obelisk thingy, some graves, some agricultural terraces, and a large central monument with carvings depicting the Monte Albanians victories over the neighboring villages. Nice and high up in the mountains, the site also had a killer 360 panorama of the surrounding countryside with Oaxaca sprawling out underneath the Eastern side.

And who should we run into up there but Alan! From the Baja Backpackers hostel way back in La Paz. I’d totally forgotten that he said he’d be in Oaxaca at some point and looky here. How Serendipitous. Hugs, high fives and fist bumps all around, we played catch up for a good half hour. Hunter snapped a reunion pic. Alan was gonna be in town for another day or two so we were just crossing paths really. Too bad we couldn’t hang out in Oaxaca, but that’s the way she goes.

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We spent a solid 2 and a half hours checking out Monte Alban, click clicking away, and reading every little plaque until we could comfortably consider ourselves Zapotec experts. It was a nice surprise, we had no idea what to expect and it turned out being super awesome up there. Check it out:

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On the way out of town we took a sec to slam 10 tacos on the tally. There was a cute Asian mural in the taco place for some reason.

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Then we came down a street and traffic was all blocked off because of a bus. It was just parked diagonally across the street. Kinda weird. Some horn blasts from a couple annoyed taxis got it moving again. But then a couple more streets and there was a dump truck blocking the street. WTF is going on? We figured we could slip el-BP just past near the sidewalk. While we stealthed it some people were waving for us to stop for some reason, but we ignored them and slid through the gap. But then we stopped at the next street because blocking the road ahead was a gang of Mexicans all wearing white clothes and bandanas as masks. Scary looking bunch. They were carrying sticks and bats and when they saw us come around the dump truck a group of them broke away and started heading right for us. “Holy Fuck!” I threw it in reverse and backpeddled, hit the brakes, jammed it in first, and floored it down a nearby side street away from the mob. While flying down the street a kid ran out into the road and scared the living shit out of me. I swerved to the side and kept cruising down the street. We hit a street parallel to the main one with the gang and I busted left in the hopes we could get past their blockade. It worked we met back up on with the main street on the other side of them. Cops were at the intersection. They were keeping a little distance, but had a watchful eye on the happenings. They weren’t allowing anyone to go down that way. We turned back onto the road and continued out of town.

We were headed towards Tuxtla in the state of Chiapas through the North mountain of a stunning valley. It was a twisty, serpentine road up and down. Blue agave plants filled a lot of the scenery in parts and many of the little towns we passed through had signs for Mezcal. On the outskirts of one town we saw a huge cactus full of vultures.

I started getting into the rhythm of el Burro, rounding sharp corners, down shifting, keeping up the momentum to soar past slower cars. All the while MacKay was DJ-ing up front. He unleashed an eclectic barrage of tunes for Hunter’s unsuspecting ears which ranged from Shit Robot to Megadeth to Boards of Canada to (of course) the entire XXX Hiphop double album.

Apparently the sunset behind us was incredible peaking through the mountain and filling the river valley below. But again. No place to stop really to get a pic. Just before it went down I did manage to careen off road onto a small dirt patch and snap this:

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We had been driving for hours and clearly weren’t gonna make it all the way to Tuxtla. Fortunately, James had researched a place part of the way there before we left called Juchitan de Zargoza. It had this intriguing piece of culture attached to it:

“One tradition that people often hear about is muxe culture. Muxes are people who are born as men, raised as women and attracted to men. Unlike most other places in Mexico – where machismo is the norm – muxes are appreciated and celebrated.”

So they raise men as women and get the benefits of a house maid with manly strength. Win/Win. We were in.

We swung into town and began the look around. I switched on my Hosdar. After a loop around what looked like the main square and back towards the beginning of town I stopped on the side of the road. There had to be a hotel around here. James and Hunter jumped out to ask a store security guard across the street. The guy not only gave us directions to a hotel 2 blocks away, but he stood in the road and blocked traffic on the one way street so we could flip a bitch, drive the wrong way down the street, and take a right towards the hotel. No rules Mexico can be pretty fun sometimes.

We settled in at Hotel Hacienda and immediately went on a taco and cerveza hunt to the main square. There were lots of places to eat outside but no one was serving beer. We found a posh spot on the other side and decided to have a looksy. Pretty decent spot. I got a really good Zapotec style chicken, which had some sort of stuffing and was surrounded by a sweet mole sauce. James and Hunter both opted for the Chile Relleno.

While we slugged back around 12 beers we dubbed cheesy D and McB lines over a Mexican tv show that was on at the bar. We called it Racecar Detectives on account of one character looking cool, leaning against a race car in the opening credits. C’mon like you wouldn’t watch a show called Racecar Detectives.

We asked the server where a corner store was and he directed us to a 24hrs conveniece store 5 blocks away. The city was dead. No one out. Nothing happening at all. Quiet. We found the store and got 6 Indios and 6 Dos Equis and went back to the hotel room.

It was blazing hot in our room and the AC wasn’t working. We were sweating up a storm so Hunter went to ask the hotel guy about it. The guy came up and messed with it. It would go for about 2 minutes, do basically nothing, and then shut off. While we started drinking some beers on the balcony this dude tried and tried and tried in vain to get that thing going. I’m gonna say he worked at it for at least a half hour, even though we were telling him it was no problemo, we didn’t mind. What a nice guy though.

When he finally gave up he came out and just chilled with us for a while on the balcony. We offered him some tequila and he tossed about 2 ounces back in one go like a champ. We were able to converse enough to get that his name was Hector, he’d owned the hotel for 5 years, lived in Juchitan for 15, has a brother in Miami who is a tomato farmer, and that, despite what we’d heard, there weren’t actually any trannies in town that he knew of. There was lightning flashing to the East of us so we got him to teach us the words for that and thunder. Both of which I instantly forgot. Damnit. He also told us that Honduras and Guatemala are very pelogroso and we shouldn’t go there. It’s one thing hearing that from your overprotective Canadian parents, but for this guy to tell us that about his own neighboring countries felt a little more real. Hmmmm. Still doing it.

Hector split to bed and we really, really ramped things up quickly now that the tequila had been broken out. We polished it off and our beers like a typical time-lapse sitcom drinking scene and decided a redo was in order. We went back to the convenience store and got exactly the same thing again, 6 Indios and 6 Dos Equis. Stay thirsty my friends. Back on the balcony we were having a great time shooting the shit with Hunter. It was awesome to have a new perspective on things, new stories to hear, and there were some seriously good shit talking going on. Lots of dishing, lots of taking. And it was all hilarious. So around 4am we broke out a full bottle of Jager. Hey Juchitan, sorry for party rocking.  Like monsters we, for no good reason, downed the entire bottle straight. And then we rode a giant stag to Neptune and got back just in time for bed.

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