Travelin' Light - Riding 2up through the Americas

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by csustewy, May 5, 2011.

  1. kitesurfer

    kitesurfer Long timer

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    I've really missed the PLASTICSUN threads. what an adventure those two have had. it's great you guys met up with them...you guys are doing some cool stuff too...and i just figured out that 14 pesos = a $ (trying to finance a trip in my head)
    #81
  2. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

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    We are looking forward to traveling south again tomorrow. Our next major destinations include Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas. But on the way, we are very excited to have the chance to check out an EcoSan project taking place in Tepoztlán. We will take more notes than pictures while there, but we´ll do our best to update this again when we can.
    #82
  3. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

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    While every city we´ve been to has felt very safe, and every road (99% libre instead of toll roads) has been fine, there are still random acts of violence taking place here in Mexico. But most of you know that already. We know that, too. As tourists we are not targeted, but we could be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Our hope is to avoid that. But similar to TSA inspections at airports (ya know, like looking at everyone´s shoes after the lackluster shoe bomber attempt...), you don´t really know what´s going to happen next until it does.

    A reminder of that occured yesterday as we were driving through Celaya, right down Ignacio Allende, Hwy 51. On the way to Celaya, there were a few pick-up trucks full of geared up policemen passing us in a very big hurry. There was a major check point in the middle of Celaya, where they were pulling over any late model truck, especially SUVs with tinted windows. Then just down the street, at about 11am we passed by the storefront where 3 people were killed that morning.

    http://impreso.milenio.com/node/8976566

    It´s sad that this turf battle is taking place in Mexico, and even more so that innocent bystanders are often caught in the melee. Props to the policemen and women who are courageous enough to do what they can to bring peace and protection.

    As far as we are concerned, we are doing our best to steer our route around notoriously dangerous areas, and continue to absolutely love our time here in Mexico! We would travel through Mexico again in a heartbeat. And we are still very much looking forward to spending some time in Chiapas. More to follow on our way there...
    #83
  4. dimon

    dimon Been here awhile

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    Greater Boston, MA
    great rteport guys and thanks for bringing us along on your journey.
    #84
  5. Oldfart123

    Oldfart123 Adventurer

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    May 16, 2011
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    Hey Guys,
    Haven't heard from you guys for a while. You still doing ok?
    Eric from Atlanta
    #85
  6. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

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    Hi Eric,

    Thanks for checking on us. Sorry to have not posted in awhile. We have been in Tepoztlan, south of Mexico city, for the past 2.5 weeks. Mike is volunteering with an eco sanitation organization and Jill is working in their garden. We are planning to post an update soon and plan to be on the road again this weekend.

    Mike & Jill
    #86
  7. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
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    We had not planned on venturing into Mexico City on this trip, but several people along the way have strongly recommended it. Plus, the bus to Mexico from Tepoz is cheap, easy and direct, and eliminates the need to find safe motorcycle parking. So, we went to the city for the weekend. While we were waiting at the terminal, Jill was approached by a guy from Minnesota while Mike was in the bathroom. Mike now calls him Señor Palin because he has a thick northern accent (a lá Sarah), talks excessively, and states ridiculous "facts". He was also good at rapid-firing kindergarden questions like, "Where are you going?," "What are you doing here?," Where is your bike?," "Who are your friends?," etc. He is married to a Mexican lady that lives in the city and they have kids somewhere in this country. He also has a home in Acupulco. Despite his obvious long term ties to the country, his accent was possibly the worst we have heard yet from a gringo (and Jill`s is pretty bad so we have a good comparison). When we arrived at the bus terminal in Mexico (he chose to sit in front of us, of course), he woke up the man sitting across from him and started asking for directions. Then he demanded that they travel on public transportation through Mexico City together. The last we saw as we snuck past the bus in an attempt to avoid getting stuck with him, the poor man was waiting for the Minnesotan to get his bags so he could escort him to the far northern side of Mexico City from the far southern side. Pretty entertaining. Not for the Mexican fellow.

    We found the subway and noticed that it is extremely cheap (about 25 cents) and easy to use. We got off at the Zócalo and found a nice hostel quickly, based on a recommendation from a friend we made in Guadalajara. We didn`t have a lot planned for our trip other than seeing the anthropology museum, so we headed that way. We got directions from the hostel receptionist and then went back to the subway. We were about to hop on when Mike was told he couldn`t get on the car because it was for women and children only. As Mike was heading to the other end of the platform, a train came, and it turned out that Jill went on her own, hoping to get off at the right stop and to not lose Mike forever in the mass of people getting on and off the subway. Apparantly, there are separate cars for women and children sometimes, but we are unsure of when and where these cars appear. There didn`t seem to be any signs to let you know, but we think it is to save women and children from having to deal with all the men during rush hour. Strangely, though, men can easily board those cars at certain stations, so not quite sure what´s accomplished there. Luckily, Mike was on the next train and got off right where Jill was waiting.

    The museum is in a beautiful area of town with a bosque (forest) and several other museums. Before going in we had to try isquites, which is corn covered in mayo, cheese, limón, and chile. Que rico!

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    The museum was outstanding. It was open on the outside with separate doors leading to different native american civilizations in Mexico during different time periods, including Aztec, Mayan, Oaxacan, Occidental and modern day. It was amazing to see how much has been uncovered and how developed the societies were. Much more than what exists in the US.

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    (entrance to the museum)

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    (street art outside)

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    (Mayan writing)

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    (original headress given to Cortes by Moctezuma made of quetzal feathers)

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    (King Pacal´s burial clothing at Palenque)

    We explored for about 4 hours until were were too tired and hungry to pay attention. Then we walked to Zona Rosa, another nice area that has a lot of embassies, restaurants, and judging by the amount of same sex people holding hands, is the gay district. It seemed like a pretty cool place to hang out, but we only stayed long enough to eat.

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    Then we went to the Alameda Central, a park where the Diego Rivera Museum happens to be located. Entry was only about $1.50, so we decided to check it out. There was only one of his paintings and one of his famous murals. There was a group of people singing in front of the mural, which sounded great, but not so cool because we were not able to look at the mural up close. The museum is worth seeing if you happen upon it like we did, but we probably wouldn`t make a special trip to see it.

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    Then we walked to the Zócalo, mainly on a pedestrian street the whole way. We knew that Mexico City was one of the most populated cities in the world with over 21 million people, but it is still a little bit of a shock to see this many people in the streets for no apparant reason.

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    We also discoverd that Saturday night must be the night to go shoe and jewelry shopping because both types of stores were completely packed with shoppers. And the Hostel Regina happened to be right in the middle of shoe and jewelry district. Mike had no luck finding a pair of flip flops, however. We ended up grabbing a couple of drinks at a cantina that permitted women but had a sign strictly prohibiting dancing, despite the Guns & Roses on the jukebox. Back at the hostel we could see from our balcony that this taco stand was the place to be - there was a steady line all night. These literal hole-in-the-wall type places seemed to always have a crowd, while many restaurants in the area remained empty.

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    The next day, on Sunday, we went to the Templo Mayor, ruins of a huge Aztec pyramid that was at the center of Tenochtitlán, but is now literally in the middle of downtown Mexico City, since the Spanish built on top of the old city. The outside wall was rebuilt a total of seven times by the Aztecs, making it larger and more ornate each time. The site was not rediscovered until 1978. It currently takes up a full city block, with evidence of ruins extending under the streets in all directions. The earthquake in 1985 forced several nearby buildings to be condemned. When they started tearing the buildings down, a massive amount of artifacts were found. It is quite amazing that all of this history continues to exist literally under the city. The museum was wonderful also and houses most of the artifacts found. We would highly recommend this museum if you get a chance.

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    (model of how the pyramid looked after its 7 wall rebuildings)

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    (outside wall with serpent)

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    (inner wall and outer wall)

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    (canal built in the early 20th century that runs through the site)

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    (inner area where sacifices and rituals were made, with two smaller pyramids on top, one for water/storms/agriculture and one for war)

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    (one of the structures was designed with exterior walls of skulls)

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    (artifacts found in and near the pyramid)

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    (mosiac made of 1500 jade pieces and depicting warriors)

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    (two large stone carvings found in the ruins, the one in the distance was unearthed in 2006 (!), weighs around 12 tons and measures almost 4m x 4 m)

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    After several hours there, we were really hungry. We walked several blocks, unable to find anything that met our criteria of being 1)cheap and 2)having a place to sit. Finally we found food inside a market on top of subway grates. Despite having to hold onto our food when a subway came due to the wind, the food was great. We also learned that huaraches don´t always go on your feet, sometimes you eat them.

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    (you may be able to guess by now that Jill loves her some food)

    Then we wandered aimlessly around the city, exploring more of the Zócalo
    and then finding a huge market. We walked all the way through it, only finding strange kids uniforms and childrens tuxedos. Very chaotic and surreal. Then we worked our way back to the hostel area where there is another pedestrian street named Regina. We wanted to drink beer and people watch. So, we went to a restaurant that sold beer and had an outside patio. Mike asked if we could drink the beer outside and they said yes. Once we ordered, however, the waiter directed us to a small interior room with no windows or TV, away from the rest of the restaurant, with plastic chairs and tables. There were two other people inside, also drinking a beer. The waiter said it was illegal to drink outside during the day. Strange because after our beer we walked about a block to another restaurant/bar that had no problem with us drinking outside during the day. That`s where we ended up until we caught the subway back to Tepoz. All in all, we enjoyed Mexico City quite a bit although we are very glad we didn`t have the motorcycle with us. We will leave you with this picture that is sadly as close as we got to a lucha libre.

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    #87
  8. kingofZroad

    kingofZroad Been here awhile

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    Montrose, CO
    Subscribed!! :clap
    #88
  9. PlasticSun

    PlasticSun Long Live The Supertanker

    Joined:
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    Guanajuato, Mexico
    Nice! Glad you enjoyed Mexico city we're hoping to head back there next month. Ride on!
    #89
  10. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
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    back in Denver
    PlasticSun - good to hear from you! Looks like you enjoyed the time at the beach, even if it took a small detour for some chain work. Glad a good birthday was had.

    And thanks to all the others for recent comments and for following along!

    Kitesurfer and bouldergeek - it sounds like you´ll be back this way soon. Pull the trigger! Maybe we can catch you on our way back north, or hopefully offer you a place to stay wherever we end up for awhile.

    Massive updates coming soon...
    #90
  11. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

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    How we arrived in Tepoztlán is one story, with some details provided here, but why we stayed for 3 weeks and how much we loved that place is another story that cannot be explained in blog form. So here goes a Cliff notes version of what got us hooked (and be glad that this the abridged version, ´cause it got kinda long as is...).

    A colleague of Mike´s from grad school, Justine, has been kind enough to list out some highlights from her travels through Mexico and Central America. One of which was her time in Tepoztlán years ago, with Ron and Alicia. An informal email from Mike to Ron was enough to set up a meeting with him, but dropping Justine´s name was enough to get a place to stay with Ron and Alicia. Ron is the director of SARAR Transformación, an organization that encourages community development, recently focusing on school-based water and ecological sanitation (EcoSan) programs. Mike, in particular, with his background in water and sanitation for developing communities, was very much hoping to learn more about SARAR´s work by getting involved with their current projects. Jill was also happy to get involved, more with the agricultural side. But initially we were hoping that it all panned out, because perhaps our time with Ron and Alicia could have been as simple as a introduction, a quick tour of their facilities, and then on our way. After all, we were effectively strangers to them. But it turned out they were gracious enough to host us for the entire 3 weeks that we were there, and are absolutley wonderful people! We truly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know them better, and had a phenomenal time.

    Another aspect that made our time in Tepoz so enjoyable was what we learned from the projects and staff at SARAR Transformación. We wanted to help out while we were there, to get involved and see the projects from the inside, so we offered some volunteer labor. Near the end of the 3 weeks, Mike gave what was supposed to be a brief presentation in English, turned nearly 2 hour (mostly) Spanish presentation-discussion-marathon-session of basic, relevant water treatment technologies. Hopefully it will serve some use for the staff at SARAR. But their area of expertise is truly that of ecological sanitation - EcoSan.

    SANITATION in Developing Countries
    For those of you who may not know, almost 2.5 BILLION people around the world lack access to an improved sanitation facility (that means they don´t even have access to a simple pit latrine), commonly practicing open defecation (translation = shitting in a field. Other interesting innovations have come about in these situations, such as the ´flying toilet´, where the subject shits into a plastic bag, then proceeds to huck it as far as they can. The most unhealthy version imaginable of the old game 500.) Poor sanitation and hygiene directly accounts for millions of deaths each year, with children under 5 accounting for the vast majority. Studies have shown that access to improved sanitation facilities and better hygiene practices (e.g., washing hands with soap) can have a greater impact on health than access to clean drinking water. Many governmental organization and NGO´s work hard to improve these conditions. See the World Health Organization page for more introductory info, or the WHO Sanitation page, or UNICEF, or EAWAG, or google around the interwebs to your heart´s content (alternatively, you are welcome to email Mike at motojeros AT gmail dot com for more links or info).​
    Ecological Sanitation (EcoSan) is a way to close the loop of nutrients that are normally considered waste products - specifically urine and feces - while also minimizing water usage. More info is available through EcoSanRes and through GIZ, as well as many other sources. The offices at SARAR have a demonstration center, showcasing technologies of EcoSan. Also, Ron and Alicia´s house serve as a great example of EcoSan in use. The systems shown there include:

    • urine-diverting, dry toilet
    • Sanihuerto or Arborloo
    • Greywater biofiltration and reuse
    • Rainwater harvesting
    • a ´popostero´or dyring bin where the feces is dried before turning into compost (or ´poopost´)
    • a garden where urine and poopost is applied following appropriate guidelines

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    (rainwater harvesting system)

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    (sedimentation basin with gravel roughing filter)

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    (urine storage)

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    (composting in three phases)

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    (Sanihuerto or Arborloo)

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    (garden area)

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    (urine application)

    It was fantastic to see these systems operating in person! After having studied some of these technologies, Mike was ecstatic to get to use some of these systems himself. There´s nothing quite like one´s first chance to do his business in a toilet where the urine goes down a separate funnel to the front and the doody is captured separately. The toilet is used just as a normal flush toilet would be, is not nearly as strange as it sounds, and in fact, after only 3 short weeks, both Mike and Jill got so used to the diversion that it seems somewhat odd to use a flush toilet now.

    The work there at SARAR gave us a fantastic experience, and we look forward to finding other similar opportunities as we meander south.
    #91
  12. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
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    back in Denver
    Not only were we lucky that we were able to find a great organization and wonderful people to stay with, we were also lucky to be able to spend time in such a beautiful place. It is nestled in a valley surrounded by crazy looking rocks.

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    (view on drive into town)

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    (downtown)

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    (view from Ron & Alicia´s rooftop deck)

    The town is believed to have mythical powers and is a big draw for new age tourists and ex-pats. It also has a lot of history, as according to myth, it is the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, the powerful Aztec god worshipped throughout ancient Mexico. The town also seems to have been a regional center for the area in precolonial times and is classified as a magical pueblo by the Mexican government.

    A pyramid, Tepozteco, still remains on top of the mountain just outside of town. The hike to the pyramid was a good one, as it was about an hour straight up natural and manmade stairs at a pretty steep incline. Despite it being a cloudy/rainy day, the view was wonderful the entire hike. Upon arrrival to the top of the mountain, we were greeted by these strange looking creatures, Tejones, who have become very accustomed to people and their food.

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    (view from pyramid of Tepoztlan)

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    (there was a ceremony of some sort on top of the pyramid, ending in a chant for Mexico)

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    (view of the pyramid)

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    While in Tepoztlan, we also spent a day in Puebla, a large city a couple hours away. Our main purpose of the trip was to pick up a motorcycle for Ron from Alicia´s sister who lives there. We went in a van with Giuseppe, a very nice guy that we were happy to share the day with. While there we ate, had coffee and checked out the downtown. The city is known for its artistic use of tiles, Spanish colonial architecture and its traditional food.

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    (cathedral displaying artistic tiles)

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    (3 types of mole)

    Ron was excited to get the Honda Rebel, as it will be perfect for use around Tepoz. We also got to meet Alicia´s sister, who offered us an Indio to drink, a surefire way to make us your friends. The trip was good overall, and on the way back, we were more than thankful to be in the van with Giuseppe and the bike, as the torrential downpour would´ve been nasty on its own, but would´ve been downright scary with the standing water on the highways. Besides, we have plenty of opportunity through the rest of rainy season to get wet on the TA.
    #92
  13. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
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    [Disclaimer: This post is a bit mis-timed now that we´re on the road again, but we´re finally getting caught up with all this blogging stuff, so it´s getting thrown in anyways. So there.]

    By the time we left Tepoztlán, we were unable to go anywhere in town without seeing someone we knew. Although the town has about 16,000 people, it feels like a much smaller town than that. Other than Ron and Alicia, who welcomed us into their home like family and gave us no time limits on our leaving, despite us being perfect strangers, we were lucky to have met some really great people. For example, Fabiola, Mike´s supervisor at SARAR invited us out to Mango, a bar with live music. We had a great time talking with her and listening to experimental jazz. Once she left, we went back over to the bar side and met Angélica, Brenda and Lyndsey (nicknamed Clint because of his striking resemblance to Clint Eastwood). We closed the bar down hanging out with them and then went to Brenda´s house to spend the rest of the night and early morning sharing stories and a great time with Angélica. That led to an invite from Angélica to come over to her house for home cooked Thai meal. After an almost missed connection because of a washed phone number, we were able to go to her home and meet her son (Satori), boyfriend (Pavlo), friend (Sheps), and Brenda and Clint. This led to another great late night of fun and wonderful conversation, projector art, and a game of throwing a baseball through a barstool that could have seriously damaged the house.

    Fabiola had us over for dinner where she showed us the two homes she designed and built (she is an architect) using eco-sanitation in the design We shared a wonderful meal of rice and fajitas and again very much enjoyed the conversation.

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    (Mike, Jill, and Fabi at her place)

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    (Fabi next to her urine diverting dry toilet, and urinal)

    The next day, Jill met up with Brenda and Angélica for coffee at the Cafe of Good Times and met another large group of great people, including a friend, Dorina, that we met up with in Oaxaca. Overall, we felt like we made wonderful connections with the people we met and it was hard to leave, but from what we have heard, Tepoztlán has a similar effect on most people. Thank you to all of you for the great times, great food and great laughs!

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    (Mike with Ron just before leaving)

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    (Shakti on good behavior as we took off)
    #93
  14. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
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    About the time you enter into Oaxaca state from Tepoztlán, the horizon opens up and you can see miles of mountains on all sides. Dispersed throughout are organ pipe cactus.

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    (volcano)

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    Passing through some random town we even happened upon a motocross competition. It was a little surreal to see such a huge crowd gathered around the track in the middle of nowhere.

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    We were able to enjoy the ride all morning but in the afternoon, a couple hours outside Oaxaca city, our goal for the day, the big open sky turned ominously dark. We stopped as soon as we felt sprinkles. By the time we were both off the bike we were in the middle of a flash flood, on top of a mountain with no shelter in sight and completely soaked. About the time we had gotten the rain gear on ourselves and the bags on the bike, it started hailing. We had no choice but to keep riding and fortunately the hail only lasted a few minutes. Since rainy season had started while we were in Tepoz, this was the first of what seems to be a very stormy and powerful season. For the rest of the ride into Oaxaca we had rain on and off but nothing like the huge initial downpour, although we did see evidence of some substantial recent rain. We had to ride through some streams of water on the highway that were a good 6 inches deep. Even at fairly low speeds, and particularly with cars passing the other direction, the water splashed up high enough to enter the bottom of our saddlebag raincovers, and the top of Mike´s left boot. This made for some mildew, mank, funk stink hotel rooms for the next couple days. (Even worse than just our usual riding gear)

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    We got to downtown Oaxaca and stayed in a hostel in the middle of downtown. We spread out our wet gear and found a taco stand. We quickly learned that Oaxacan cheese is delicious. It has a very mild flavor and pulls apart like string cheese. We also had our first tlayuda, another Oaxacan specialty, which is a jumbo sized tortilla folded in half with beans, our favorite new cheese, and any kind of meat you want on the inside. About midway through our meal, the sky opened up again and we had a wet run back to the hostel, trying to avoid rain when possible by selecting blocks that seemed to have the best awnings.

    We explored the city the next day, going first to the contemporary art museum and then walking around aimlessly, managing to explore most of the greater downtown area.

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    (Contemporary Art Museum)

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    (ceiling of the museum)

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    (Museum of Artifacts and Kids Museum)

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    (The Little Bull Meat Shop)

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    (cathedral)

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    (band playing in the rain)

    One of our stops while touring was at a Mezcal shop. Mezcal is another Oaxacan specialty and is like tequila except arguably a little smoother, also made from agave. There are mezcal shops all over town and we lucked out in the one we went into because the lady let us sample about 20 different kinds. They make flavored creme that makes it taste a lot less mezcally, pleasant almost. Our favorite was mocha, so we bought some and took it back to the hostel. We offered the owner a shot and were scolded for bringing alcohol in because they serve alcohol there and it is stated clearly in the rules he had us read. Whoops.

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    (view from hostel roof)

    For dinner, a restaurant caught Mike's eye because it had a sign that said "Bar 2 X 1." Jill wasn't as excited because the only person in the restaurant was an old man smoking a cigarette. Turns out the bar deal was only for one type of beer that was priced about double what it should be. The bar was also a karoake bar and a man already in the bar (previously out of view) sang several songs for us shortly after we came in. He was even kind enough to look for an English song to sing (Radiohead, in fact, truly English). The waiter and owner (the old man smoking a cigarette) were excited to have us there and gave us both a free shot of Mezcal and had us sign their guestbook. Although the food was pretty horrible, we had an interesting ending to the evening as Jill was hit on by the old owner and the karoake singer cried to Mike because his wife had left him that day, followed by long, elaborate wails of prayers after he sat back down at his table (also after a long and heated discussion with the bar owner as to how far he had made it through his purchased box of 10 beers).

    We were going to leave the next day but decided to stay to see some sites just outside of town. We decided to go to El Tule, a tree that is approximately 120 feet in circumference. According to Wikipedia, it is the "stoutest" tree of any tree in the world. Mike really wanted to hug it, but it was fenced in so he only got to hug a branch. It was still much bigger than him. The area surrounding the tree is also very beautiful as the city has done a very good job with the gardens.

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    Next we drove on to the town of Mitla to see the ruins there. The Catholic church had again done a good job of building on top of indigenous structures, as this church even used some of the original stones as its foundation. The stones of the ruins were more detailed and ornate than we had seen at other sites, but it is pretty small. We were glad we snuck in the back way because the $3 fee to get in was maybe a little high considering you can see most everything from outside the structure. The site is surrounded by an artesanal market. Luckily, we had neither money nor room on the bike because there was some very nice stuff.

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    Just outside of Mitla heading back to Oaxaca we stopped in at a small scale Mezcal distillary and learned the surprisingly simple process.

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    (heat piña from the agave, or maguey, plant on hot stones covered with earth and tarp to hold in heat)

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    (crush the cooked piña by horse power)

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    (copper distiller to boil the fermented product - fermentation tanks were wood barrels, where the cooked piña was stored in hot water for a few days)

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    (copper condenser)

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    (drink - the raw product, reposado for 8 months, reposado for 2 years, or refinado (=double distilled and very smooth))

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    (drive - just kidding)

    Then just outside of Oaxaca we detoured through the town of Teotitlan del Valle, known for its handmade rugs. Every other house was selling rugs and many had their own loom. Space constraints again were a good reason not to shop. The region is filled with artesanal towns specializing in various textiles, pottery, handicrafts and mezcal.

    A friend Jill met in Tepoz was traveling through Oaxaca on her way to Costa Rica and she got to the hostel that evening. The next morning the three of us went to check out Monte Albán, ruins just outside of town. We took public transport and then hiked up the road to the ruins for another 2-3 kilometers. The ruins were older than many we have seen, as they were founded around 500 BC and continued to have importance as the Zapotec socio-political and economic center for about 1000 years. The ruins are huge and are spread over a hillside with views of surrounding cities all around. With probably 20 structures, it is by far the largest area of ruins we have seen yet (although people who have seen ruins further south and in Guatemala feel otherwise...).

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    (ball field)

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    (intricate skull carvings on a skull showing early childhood deformation, common practices at Monte Albán)

    Once back into town we had a wonderful meal in the market, including some of the mole negro that Oaxaca is known for - yum! spicy chocolate sauce on perfectly roasted chicken.

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    We got back to the hostel and a British group had purchased cooked crickets (chapulínes) and worms (guisanos, another Oaxacan specialty) so we got to try those without having to buy them. Mike had a cricket, which he describes as fried, salty, crunchy, crickety. Jill thinks she had the worm and she says it tasted like a raisin. Later, we got to talking with an American in the hostel who had seen a sign for artesinal beer, so we went to check it out. It ended up being a sweet bar that did sell microbrewed beer, including a Mexican Stout with chile. We were only able to afford one round of the good stuff, but have several more of the normal Mexican stuff before going back to the hostel and crashing a party being held by the owner of the hostel for his brother who was leaving Mexico for the states the next day. The night ended in us all going to get tlayudas at 3 am. We guess he forgave us for bringing our own drinks into the hostel from the day before because the beers he gave us were definitely not from the hostel.
    #94
  15. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    I have absolutely no idea what Suchixtepec really means, but it sure is fun to yell. And that´s what Jill wanted to do to stay warm the whole time we were in San Miguel Suchixtepec, where it was quite chilly and rainy. We ended up riding straight through San José del Pacífico, the mushroom capital of N America (maybe?), where very, uhhh, "inspired" art adorned the side of the highway, and visionary murals were on each wall. The town seemed like it would be interesting, but the weather was gross. It was already fairly chilly, rain was falling pretty heavily, and I´m not even sure how it was falling, because we were definitely not below the clouds, we were right in the middle of them.

    We went on down the winding highway until we found the first pull off to San Miguel Suchixtepec, where we had rough directions to the Casa SARAR in our heads (and better directions written down, but not excited to dig through our luggage in the rain). So we wound our way around this crazy vertical, yet still switch-backed alleyway, asking for the plaza principal a couple of times. We stopped when we were right next to it, asking two people setting up a large tent where we might find Casa SARAR, explaining that it was near the municipal building. They looked at us strangely, and pointed behind us. We had parked immediately beneath the stairs of Casa SARAR (see photo of the TA below for reference). Sometimes things work out that well. (On our way out of town, we learned that the next turn off the highway led directly into the plaza, about 50 meters from the Casa SARAR, but we got a better tour of the city this way.) And the tour of the city paid off, because we never had a chance to see it all.

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    Although we intended to see some of the school projects that SARAR was involved in, we failed to do that because summer had just begin this past week, and also because the Friday we were in town was the inaugural exposition for the regional area. Many local, regional, and national government officials came into town, bands played, food was served, goods and wares were sold. It was pretty cool to see such a big event in such a small town.

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    (The warm up act)

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    (Traditional dance in a Veracruz style)

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    (Jill´s closest new friend)

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    (A huge feast was prepared)

    We learned from our host at Casa SARAR, Tajëëw, that a couple of people from within each small community in the area are responsible for putting on town festivals within their own town every year. It used to be a position of honor that people sought, particularly as a means to enter political life. Now it is a position that people get nominated for. The shift is partially because of the expense of putting on a party that big, and the expectation to offer good food and refreshment. Families are forced to sell their homes to afford the expense, some men have to travel to the states for work to be able to send back money to cover the loans taken out. In any case, this event was a government sponsored expo showcasing the agricultural businesses in the area, as well as the handcrafted furniture, mezcal, jams, woven goods, pastries,... so not quite the same. But interesting to learn about those other parties.

    We made some other friends while in SMS. They loved Tajëëw, especially the hot chocolate that she makes, and served as almost daily afternoon entertainment for her, as well as us while we were there:

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    Casa SARAR also uses a dry toilet system. We didn´t include pictures of the toilet itself before, but here it is in all of it´s grandeur:

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    (Urine contained in front funnel, goes to separate storage. Dry pit at back of toilet has almost no smell, since it is kept dry (and since a scoop full of earth, sawdust mix is added after each use, visible in the bucket at right). Stick in background used to tamp the mountain when needed, stored carefully to remember which end is the business end. Trashcan at left is the receptacle for used paper, like all toilets in latin america)

    Eventually, the clouds broke a bit, allowing us to see a bit more of the mountainside community.

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    And we were treated to a celebration dinner on our last night there. Alan and Tajëëw were celebrating their last day of work for a couple weeks - after all it was summer break for the schools. Alan cooked up some fantastic rice and lentils, and we shared some mezcal from Oaxaca.

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    Much to Jill´s relief (please remember that although you´ve only been reading this post for a few minutes, she was cold the entire couple of days we were in SMS), we were off to the beach next!
    #95
  16. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    We had received some good info from many people about beaches to visit along the Oaxacan coast. Pto Escondido is known for its tourism and surfing, but we were already a bit further south, so headed towards Pto Ángel, Mazunte, Zipolite, and San Augustinillo. Pto Ángel was a definitel fisherman´s town, at the start of a loop of beaches within about 20 km of each other. We first went into a hostel in Pto Ángel to find a room in order to get our soaking wet clothes off, take a warm shower, and eat. But no one was to be found. We took that as a sign, and went in search of a little more relaxed beach town. We passed by the turn off for Zipolite (guessing that lodging would be a bit pricey since it´s so well known for its tourism since it´s so well known for it´s nude beach) and arrived in San Augustinillo.

    There we stopped at a small hospedaje at the entrance of town, but again, no one to be found. It must be rainy season or something. Thankfully a British ex-pat drove by and kindly recommended a place 2 doors down, where the rooms were simple, cheap, and clean. Just what we were looking for! It worked out. We got a nice sized room for 200 pesos, and sure enough the staff was super nice. After a luke warm shower (as close as we could get to hot) we ate at their restaurant and enjoyed a beer. The rain was still coming down in sheets. Nap time it was.

    We walked through the town of San Augustinillo that afternoon when the rains slowed. It´s about 3 blocks long, just along the highway, and has a number of very nice looking hotels, cabañas, and spas that are out of our league (if you´re into a little nicer things, then you should check out el Sueño - it looked amazing and probably around M$X500-750). The beach was pleasant, but has definitely seen some rough weather recently.

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    The next day we drove over to Mazunte to check out another beach. The town has a bit more going on, more food options, some craft shops, lots of pizza places, a turtle reserve, etc. A bit more of a hippy enclave. We had some good tortas for M$X15 each, wandered around, and just read on the beach for awhile. This beach definitely had more people around. It also had signs expressly forbidding nudity. Apparently too many people tried to get all Zipolite all over the place.

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    (Mazunte)
    #96
  17. PlasticSun

    PlasticSun Long Live The Supertanker

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2005
    Oddometer:
    331
    Location:
    Guanajuato, Mexico
    Glad to hear you guys are having a great time! What are your plans for Spanish Classes? You staying in Mexico a while longer or shooting for Guatemala?
    #97
  18. csustewy

    csustewy Motojero

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    550
    Location:
    back in Denver
    To Guatemala we go! We start language school there, in Xela, on Aug 1st. Are you guys still happily settled in your place in Guanajuato? Any thoughts to extend your stay in Mexico a bit more? Mexico seems to have that effect...
    #98
  19. gordojordo

    gordojordo Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 22, 2009
    Oddometer:
    79
    Location:
    The Evergreen State
    :lurk

    double holler from a fellow South American Peace Corps volunteer as a rural health and sanitation extentionist. what fancy shitters SARAR gots up there. we are trying to develop composting latrines in Paraguay, much more "rustic" but same concept, although not as comprehensive.

    y'all have an interesting and refreshing approach to your travels and we couldn't thank you enough for taking the time to share with us.

    ride safe, have a blast and keep up the good work!
    #99
  20. PlasticSun

    PlasticSun Long Live The Supertanker

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2005
    Oddometer:
    331
    Location:
    Guanajuato, Mexico
    We're going to go through the FM3 paperwork in August, We'll definitely be here until Oct then I think we'll have to go back stateside again to test the job market but should that fall through we'll still have our FM3 visas so we can come back.