Category Archives: Mexico

Whirl Winding Oaxaca

The van limped into Oaxaca. It puttered to a complete stop on a busy road and then wouldn’t start again. After a bit of tinkering and a lot of stressing, all it took was Mark disconnecting and then reconnecting the battery and we were good to go. We made it to the RV park and Mark was able to give everything a closer look. At this point though, the puttering is still a bit of a mystery.

It was funny seeing other gringo tourists again as we wandered the streets of Oaxaca. I guess we’d strayed for a while from the beaten path. Oaxaca is a beautiful city with cobblestone streets, vibrant colours, charming old buildings, bustling markets and shady park benches.

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Our time in Oaxaca was a whirlwind, however it didn’t take long for it to feel somehow familiar.  It was the weekend and we did what we would do on a typical summer weekend in Edmonton. We road around on our bikes, visited our favourite coffee shop, browsed used book stores, went to the farmers market and even watched a bit of sport.

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Doubling (you can't say dinking in Canada, people will laugh at you). I'm the only person in Mexico who doesn't wear a helmet.Doubling (you can’t say dinking in Canada, people will laugh at you). I think I’m the only person in Mexico who wears a helmet.

Mugs and I had a lady date on Sunday, while Mark worked on the van. It was a very different experience to when he’s around. We made a lot more friends. A couple of years ago Mugsie and her sister spent 6 months travelling around Mexico and as we followed our new friends to the mezcal bar Mugsie joked, “welcome to mine and Julie’s life in Mexico”. Real fun. My best Spanish lesson so far. It went something like this. I said, “tengo mierda” which means, “I’m shit”, or directly “I have shit”. Although probably true, I was quietly corrected.  What I meant to say was “tengo miedo”, which means “I’m scared”. You would be too, if a Veterinarian/Shaman just guessed your star sign first try. A little scared and a lot impressed.

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I don’t think any write up on Oaxaca would be complete without mentioning the food. We all agree that the food of inland Mexico is superior to the food that we had on the coast. The tortillas are heartier, the sauces and salsas are tastier, and the prices, for the most part, are lower. Oaxaca was no exception and is considered to be a bit of a food mecca in Mexico. We even treated ourselves to a fancy dinner at Casa Oaxaca Café and had the best Mole Negro so far, along with some Chapulines (grasshopper) quesadillas.

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For me though, I will always remember Oaxaca for it’s cheese. Other areas of Mexico try to recreate it, but nothing compares to the soft salty stringiness of the real deal.

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Sleeping with Volcanoes

It was getting late in the day when we started the climb up Iztaccihuatl.  This mountain  is the third highest in Mexico and the climb would take us alongside the active volcano Popocatepetl (Popo for short).  There is a refuge cabin at about 4700 m elevation (15,400 ft) that mountaineers use as an overnight stop on their way to the peak. That was our target for the night.  Although we were leaving late, the friendly staff at the visitor’s centre assured us that we could make it there before sundown. So off we went.

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Unfortunately, the late start and the effects of altitude meant that we didn’t make it in time. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With headlamps on we tried our best to follow the red dots on the rocks that marked the trail, but after an hour or so of this we decided it was time to stop.  The steep climb, the uneven terrain and the high altitude meant that we could hardly take five steps before we needed a break. We knew that we must be close to the cabin, but it was getting too dangerous to keep going, so we found a flat spot to sleep for the night. The night time views of the city Puebla in the distance were really incredible from our vantage point.  And the nearby volcano, Popo, was clearly visible, it’s smoke plume glowing red due to the lava in the caldera below. IMG_0294

It was a bitterly cold night and we hadn’t carried our tent because we were planning on sleeping in the cabin.  So after brewing a pot of tea, we huddled together and waited for the morning, hoping to get at least a little sleep.  Awake for most of the night and unable to get my feet warm I remember thinking, “Screw this, it’s time to get back to the beach as soon as we get off this mountain.” IMG_0295Cuddle puddle at 15,000ft 

It’s amazing what a sunrise can do to boost your sprits though.  As soon as the sun peeked over the horizon we were up trying to bask in it’s warm glow.  Everything was more beautiful in the light of the new day, and with a fresh pot of tea on the boil and some cheese quesadillas in the pan we were a lot happier and once again able to enjoy the beautiful views and laugh about our horrible night.  It’s amazing that all of this is only about 70 km as the crow flies from Mexico City.  IMG_0305 IMG_0303

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With breakfast in our bellies and some warmth returning to our bones we decided it was time to head back down to the van instead of continuing further up the mountain.  IMG_0329 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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We said our final farewells to the smoking Popo and set our sights for the beach, and some warmer weather.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_0336

Puebla and Cholula

“Una noche mas, por favor”.  We’ve used this phrase quite a lot over the past week or so. It means “One more night, please.”  We didn’t plan to spend that much time at the trailer park here in Cholula, but we kept finding reasons to stay.

We initially camped here as a base for visiting the nearby city of Puebla. We caught the bus to and from the city and spent a couple of days checking out the cool colonial Spanish architecture, wandering the markets and lounging at cafes.

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Actually, the main reason we came to Puebla was for the Monday night Lucha Libre action. After watching Nacho Libre in the van one night a few weeks ago, we all agreed that this was a must see while we’re in Mexico.  And we weren’t disappointed.

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I would say Lucha Libre is a fairly even mix of athleticism and comedy. There were some amazing high flying moves, but the crowd really seemed to love the underdog. One of the crowd favourites was Brazo de Plata, who looked about 50 years old and 50 kg overweight, proving that you can be a professional wrestler, no matter how much you love tacos. One of his signature moves is the “stink face” and he won his bout by sitting on an opponent. IMG_0108 (2)

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We’ve spent the last few days in and around Cholula. Watching movies in the van after dinner, or lounging in the sun reading while we thaw out after the chilly nights. Most days we walk a few blocks down to the local store for fresh produce, and to get our favourite tortillas and fresh cheese.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal bike shop.

We also jumped on the bikes and cruised around Cholula for a night on the town.  It’s a really sweet town with loads of hidden gems behind unmarked doors.

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Also, we went to check out Container City, a kind of outdoor mall with shops and bars all built from used shipping containers. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That about wraps up our time here.