I Moved To Oaxaca

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Another roadtrip? Yes indeedy. This month our school schedule gives us both Tuesdays and Thursdays off and I'm sure it won't last so I want to take advantage of it while I can. So after this morning's tea we headed out to Huajuapan to see Cerro de las Minas, an early Urban Mixtec site. If that means anything to you.

The ruins were ruinful; the little community museum cute as a button. It's housed in a new building with a lot of fun details and well-displayed artifacts and documentation on the revolution and traditional life in the area. For instance, the signs for the different rooms (administration, the bathrooms, the main exhibit hall) have signs in both Spanish and Mixtec, illustrated with evocative Mixtec glyphs -- like a seated man pointing used on the men's room sign. Or footprints on the ceiling, looking like the walking glyphs in Mixtec and Mayan. Well worth the 5 pesos admission price.

In all, we were in Huajuapan about three hours. It took us five hours to drive there and back, and that was partly on the cuota, or toll, road. The toll roads are expensive -- today's jaunt cost us $112 in tolls -- but can really be worth it, because I still have trouble driving on the shoulder down here. Why would I do that, you might ask. Other than the cuota, which is in a class by itself as far as Mexican roads go, the roads, primary and secondary, are one lane in each direction. A center line, yes, but no passing lanes, reflectors, lights, guardrails. There are some exceptions, of course, but most often it's exactly like driving on Grizzly Peak Rd, except I don't expect to encounter livestock on Grizzly Peak.

So because it's one lane, there is often a half-lane shoulder used as ... well, lots of things. As a breakdown lane, as a place to park (!), a place to walk or ride your bike or wait for the bus or herd your livestock along. And as a passing lane: when you want to let someone pass you, you pull onto the shoulder as far as you can and the car or bus or truck goes around you. But since it's half a lane, the passer usually ends up with a good part of their vehicle in the oncoming lane. And people will pass anywhere here, double-yellow lines, curves, hills, no problem. If I see a truck up ahead coming toward me, I watch for people trying to pass the truck so I can get out of the way and avoid a head-on collision. A lot of people just drive on the shoulder all the time to stay out of the way of passing vehicles, but like I said, it gets pretty crowded not to mention times when chunks of pavement are missing. Keeps the drive interesting, to say the least.

But if you pay the big bucks you get to drive on the cuota, with two lanes each direction, sometimes a divided highway, a shoulder, safety features. Pretty cush. Although about half the time I drive on the cuota in Oaxaca I end up either slowing waaay down or stopping for animals on the highway. Still, better than a head-on with a bus, right?


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