After our final night at the hotel in Cuernavaca we headed off the next morning toward Oaxaca. The drive was fine and we didn’t have any trouble finding our way even once we got into Oaxaca centro. We read great things about a particular hostel called Hostel Don Nino from our guide book and it was relatively easy to find. Another thing we read about Oaxaca was that the city was very poor and there were sometimes small protests in the main squares and plazas, but when we got there and started driving around centro and trying to find the hostel we saw the exact opposite of what we read. The city was gorgeous and there were families and children running all over Plaza Juarez near our hostel all the time. One cool thing we saw in the Plaza Juarez were tons of little kids riding those power wheels cars all over. We then spotted a guy who was renting them out for the kids to go to town with all over the plaza circling the fountains and racing each other, that was pretty neat and a great idea.
Once we got to Hostel Don Nino we were blown away at how clean and nice it was. The dorm rooms were very reasonably priced and they had some great common areas and a roof top terrace with an outdoor shared kitchen. We got our beds and met an Englishman named Gary who was sharing the room with us. After the short meet and greet we went back downstairs to ask the receptionist if we could do some of our laundry and if he knew of a great place to get some mole. Oaxaca is touted as having the best mole in Mexico so we had to give it a try. We ended up going to a little place on a street corner about a mile away from our hostel which had some amazing mole made from a special Oaxacan chocolate which is hand made in the city. It had a very rich flavor with the slightest hint of chocolate and it gave us the sensation that we were indulging in an ancient recipe handed down through the ages, which of course it was! Then back to the hostel for a nights rest before we headed out on a day trip to see the Monte Alban Mayan Ruins.
The next morning we woke up and decided to walk down toward the zocolo and catch a local bus up to the Monte Alban ruins. They left about every hour and the tickets were 100 pesos cheaper than the tour the hostel offered. We walked down to the bus station and waited for a bit while the bus got there. On the way we stumbled into a large street market that had lots of things for sale and we decided to be sure to hit the market up on the way back from our day trip. So we finally get on the bus and get our seats when the driver stands up and tells us to all get off…haha. Apparently we had to switch over to a bigger bus. The drive up to the ruins was very windy and hardly paved and there were many moments where I was sure the bus wasn’t going to be able to make the curve, but somehow it did without tumbling down the hillside on top of the houses and shacks where some of the Oaxacans lived.
We arrived at the Monte Alban ruins which were situated on the top of a very tall hill which had a 360 degree view of the city below and the farmlands opposite of the hill. Beyond that were even greater hillsides which I believe reached altitudes of 3500 meters. We got our tickets into the ruins and began giving ourselves a self guided tour of the many pyramids, tombs, and ancient stone relics from the Mayan civilization. Our first stop was the tomb area and of course Steve felt it necessary to commune with the ancient spirits of the Mayans.
We then ventured onward and found plenty of ancient wonders concealed by lush green undergrowth. We were also amazed at the amount of preserved stone carvings. One in particular displayed a wealthy family and a man depicted as a jaguar.
We climbed all the pyramids we were allowed to and I even partook in some communing with the ancients. There was also a game arena in this ancient city where the Mayans would play to the death. Apparently the arena at this particular site didn’t carry out the sacrifices toward the losing team, but other sites were dead serious about their games.
Monte Alban was a spectacular site to see. The 360 degree view on top of the hill was amazing and I can see why the Mayans chose that spot to build their city. I couldn’t help but daydream about what the city and people must have been like, a thriving civilization at the pinnacle of their greatness looking down upon the unspoiled land, planning their eternal reign. After wandering around the city we headed back toward the entrance to check out the meager museum they had. Then we hopped back on the bus back to town.
We stopped in at the market we ran into before and ended up buying some fresh french bread, lettuce, tomato, avocado, fresh Oaxacan cheese, and some chicken to make some sandwiches for dinner. Our friend Al whom we met back in Copper Canyon had mentioned that in Oaxaca you can buy toasted crickets called chapulines and we found heaps of them in the market. Steve bought a small bag full of some chili flavored chapulines so we could try them when we got back. We had a nice easy homemade dinner and some crickets for dessert. I actually didn’t try one myself cause bleh, but Steve says they taste sort of like dried shrimp…with chili…and antenna…and wings.
We hit the sack and got up early the next morning to get on the road again onto Puerto Escondido. Our roommate Gary mentioned to us at around 10am when we were about to leave that the drive took him 11 hours by bus to get from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca (he just came from there a few days before) and Steve and I thought we wouldn’t make it before dark. We then found out that the big buses take a severely longer route to get there as the buses can’t handle the highway that takes you straight there. Surely our car could make it and the drive would only take about 6 hours (according to the receptionist.) Well, we hit the road onward to Puerto Escondido and boy was that highway complete crap. Terribly windy all the way and just in horrible disrepair. It was SO bad in fact that we ended up getting a flat tire along the way! Here’s how that went down.
Just before we left Oaxaca to get to Puerto Escondido, we refueled and also put a little air in our tires. The Mexican roads really take it out of the tires. Then we started on the crazy windy road. About 3/4 of the way there we stopped off the side of the road for a pee break and I noticed that there was a faint hissssssss sound coming from the car. As I got closer I heard it coming from one of the rear tires and sure enough there was a hole right smack dab in the middle of the sidewall. The tire wasn’t flat yet but air was escaping and we knew we would need to replace the tire when we got to Puerto Escondido. We used some gorilla tape to temporarily patch it, but as we drove on the tape came off and eventually the tire went flat. So we emptied the trunk and put our spare on. We also discovered we had two spare tires with us, one regular sized spare which takes up most of the room in our trunk right now, and another donut spare under the floorboard in the trunk. We used the normal sized one, but it was a little low on air itself.
We got safely to Puerto Escondido and decided to get some new shoes for the car the following day. More on Puerto Escondido in the next post!
Steve also broke the record for longest distance traveled while in neutral on this hill which clocked in at 11.3 miles shattering the previous record of 5.4! Just thought you’d like to know :)