I Moved To Oaxaca

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I often look around at long-time Oaxaca residents, all bundled up when the mercury dips into the 70s, and wonder wtf? Yet after only three days in the Papaloapan, I grabbed a sweater for the walk over to the internet cafe. WTF?

We're back from stage one of Roadtrip Verano 2004. San Jose Chiltepec ended up being Greg's favorite town, while I really liked Ixcatlan, so I think a return visit to the hot 'n' humid north of the state are in the cards. Plus, I have to find some more Queen Cola, which I did, at some little abarrote along the side of Hwy 182 west of Huatla.

Yesterday was our mellow day of the trip, with only a short drive (about an hour and a half) and a lot of lazing around in the heat. After grabbing pineapple juice and beers and some books and sitting on the palapa-covered patio and reading most of the afternoon, we walked down the street to the restaurant recommended by the guy that runs the posada. It's a good-sized, palapa-covered place right on the river. There was only one other customer inside when we entered, and we sat near him at a table overlooking the high and muddy river. No menu, just whatever was in the kitchen that day, which happened to be more mojarra frita, carne a la mexicana, and some other meat dish, pork maybe. We both chose the mystery carne a la mexicana. Umm! First, tortilla chips, some really tasty, cheese-covered refried beans, and salsa as starters with our beers, then the carne a la mexicana -- beef with stewed tomatoes, onions, and jalapeƱos -- with really good tortillas and (at our request) more of the delicious black beans. As night fell we watched the birds come in to roost in the trees across the river, and a couple of fireflies trying to get the action going without much luck. We strolled up the street to an abarrote for some more bottled water before heading back to the posada -- the guy in the abarrote made his money in the States working at a Japanese restaurant in my hometown, San Gabriel! Right on the corner of Las Tunas and Mission ... nice guy.

We left early, after brewing up some coffee and grabbing a breakfast of champions at another abarrote -- you know, coke and sugary crap, in this instance, cookies -- and drove out to the highway and on to Santa Maria Jacatepec, which, according to our guidebook, is supposed to have a surreal altar in the town church. Well, it was a pretty church, but I think the townsfolk got tired of the parade of gringos, because it looks like they've repainted the mural behind the altar. No extra surrealism, just the regular Catholic kind. But! The abarrote did have a ... are you ready for it? A high-class quartz clock!

After our trip to Puerto Angel we were dreading Hwy 175, but it turned out to be a good stretch of road, especially in the flats before the mountains, but even up in the mountains, too. Then we remembered our short trip back in October of last year on Hwy 175 and eating barbacoa conejo:

For a major highway, 175 is awfully small: it's one lane each way, very twisty and curvy, with no lights, no shoulder, no cats-eyes, and plenty of potholes and ruts. Good thing we weren't in a hurry.

Ha! Now it's "a good stretch of road."

We blew past the little pueblas up in the mountain stretches, except to stop for lunch at a comedor in El Punto. And a spur-of-the-moment stop for mezcal at a little stand in Guelatao, which turned out to be a very pleasant stop, chatting with the proprietors, Victor and Yolanda, about mezcal and teaching English. But all of us were getting a bit tired of the car, so that was the extent of our stops today.

I think we'll be in town a few days then take off again. I'm not sure where.


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