Saturday, July 21, 2012

Driving in Mexico

As A points out, we have not technically driven all the way through Mexico yet. BUT, we have already learned a few things:

1. Topes=Reductors=Cruces de los Peatones=Cruces de los Escolares=enormous speed bumps and they all equal come to a complete stop or scrape the underside of your car. Sometimes its not possible not to scrape the underside of your car they're so large. They are put near towns/crossings/villages/markets/cities, etc. Sometimes they appear to be constructed by the locals in order for you to stop so they can try and sell things.

2. If there is an option for a toll road, take it. Even if said toll road is 2x the length, take it.

3. Tolls seemed expensive when we were first driving through Mexico (sometimes up to 30 dollars per day), but are definitely worth it.

4. If the locals tell you there is only one way through to Oaxaca, believe them. Your paved road will turn into a dirt road that is "tan feo." This translates to potholes the size of your car and rivers of mud. The one way through was only barely acceptable.

5. Watch out for dogs, cats, donkeys, horses, goats, chickens, pigs, people, farm equipment, pieces of tire, clothing, enormous holes, rocks, missing road, etc etc etc. Dead animal count: 4 dogs, 1 cat, 1 dolphin, 1 bird, 1 fish and infinite butterflies into the windshield of our car.

6. We may have illegally taken our car into Mexico (oops). More on this once we get to Guatemala.

If you'd like to hear more:

As you can see below, coming east on 200 it appears there are three paths to get to the road North to Oaxaca:

View Larger Map

If you'd like to laugh at us a bit, please see page two of our spot track. Since all the roads looked the same on the map, we decided to take the second one since it looked shortest and least curvy (these roads were all up mountains). When driving on 200 between the first two segments we came to stopped traffic and saw lots of black smoke. It turned out a truck was on fire, they could not put it out, so they were waiting for it to blow up. We thought to ourselves, well that's okay since there's another road! We went back to take the first track. The first road is pretty bad, a few km in we hit a town. Part of the road is totally unpaved and there are speed bumps that we cannot cross without scratching the hell out of the bottom of our car. We decide to press on anyway. The road continues to deteriorate. Eventually the road becomes dirt and we go on it slowly for a few km until it turns into gravel and realize that we will not make it on this road. We turn around to drive the 1.5 hours back to the main road. We stop to ask a construction crew about it and they were not too sure, but believed the only way to go was through Puerto Escondito (which is the bottom of the East-most track on the map above.

We finally get back to the road and start driving, once we get to the second path there is a sign that says Oaxaca, we decide to go ahead and try it.  This road is in MUCH better condition than the last one, it's paved, there aren't too many potholes, seems like everything is going well. About 4km from where the two roads meet, there start being unpaved patches. Now this is pretty normal in Mexico and we figure since they are ending and there is paved road, it must be fine. At some point there stops being any pavement. We get up to a town that's in the clouds and ask a passing truck (that is COVERED in mud) about the road condition. He tells us it is "muy feo" and that we wont make it unless someone carries us up. This is really disappointing since we already had done this once, it was getting later and we had to go back down this super twisty turny road to get back to the point we were just at.

Once we get back to the main road, it is getting late. We decide to find a hotel. In the very first town there are hotels, but they look kinda sketchy. We decide to try and make it to Puerto Escondito, which is much larger. This was a mistake since it was getting dark. At some point A tells me "don't freak out if someone throws a brick through the window." Not sure how I wouldn't freak out if that happened, but OK. Right as there are the last bits of daylight we find a hotel. We go in and ask how much. It turned out to be the most expensive hotel we have stayed in (730 pesos), had no wifi, the restaurant was closed (we had not eaten dinner at this point), we appeared to be the only guests at the hotel and it started thunderstorming. We thought someone was going to murder us in our sleep.

Anyway, moral is, always ask for directions from multiple people and do not trust google maps. The next day we drove another beautiful mountain road that took us all day to get to Oaxaca.

Oaxaca was great, after driving for two full days we stayed for two nights. We saw some museums, went on a long walk and went to some evening gallery openings. I think Oaxaca may have been too cool for us. They are totally into food, coffee and biking. There was even some type of bike party or critical mass going on on friday night (followed by a bike race saturday)! Oaxaca is super lively at night, with people out walking all around. A even caught some pickpockets in action on line for some potato chips.

Here is our favorite art exhibit:

Art Gallery, Oaxaca, Mx

If you can't tell, its the word made out of honeycomb. There were live bees crawling all over it. The water is made of honey. There were also other honeycomb art. 

That's it for tonight. Planning to cross into Guatemala the day after tomorrow! 

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