But first, I have to show you our new friend Fred, who we met in our spot at the orphanage Thursday night...
Ruth spotted Fred hanging out under the picture frame. We figured we'd get along just fine provided Fred stayed right where he was!
Fred did venture out once or twice. He didn't bother us, so we let him live. Once, we found a similar spider in the motorhome. That one didn't survive.
Anyhow, on to our drive. We left the Hogar Infantil orphanage in Ocozocuatla at around 8:50am. We didn't have to rush, although it was going to be just over 500 kms (300 miles) so we had better get a decent enough start. Planned on arriving in Oaxaca City at around 4:00pm.
A cloudy day, but nice for driving.
There's a new toll road that runs from Ocozocuatla to Arriaga. It wasn't convenient for the direction we wanted to go, but we found that it has probably removed some traffic from the route that we did take. So, not many cars on the road and we were making good time.
Coming down from the mountains, the road gets very twisty, but it is freshly paved and made for a fun drive.
There's a new bypass around the town of Tapanatepec, and it doesn't even show on Google maps yet. So we went around that town, and on to the nice flat highway that leads to Salina Cruz.
There was a lineup of traffic entering an inspection station just west of Tapanatepec. We sat there for five minutes and then realized that the line wasn't moving. A few cars went by and we watched as they were then turned around and came back our way. Eventually, I left Ruth with the little blue car and walked up to see what was going on.
I asked one guy if there had been an accident. He said no, it's the "campesinos". Then, I went to the inspection station and spoke to one of the immigration people. She said that the "campesinos" were protesting and they had blocked the highway. I asked how long they expected this to go on, and she said we would not make it through today! I asked if there was an alternate route, and she said no!
The name "campesinos" typically means a group of organized farm workers, or farming peasants. Why they were protesting this time, I haven't been able to find out but it turns out that these kinds of protests are fairly common in the Chiapas and Oaxaca areas.
This was our route for yesterday. I've circled in red the area of the protest. You can see that the only main highway to avoid this would be to go all the way back to where we had started and then take the northerly route. It would be cheaper and probably faster to find a hotel room and wait it out!
But we don't give up so easily. We figured that if we were going to have the rest of the day to wait that maybe there really is an alternate route. Our map showed some back roads going south, so we figured we would go for a mystery tour and see if we could bypass the blockade.
We found ourselves on a potholed paved road that eventually turned to gravel. We had a taxi behind us and when we came to an intersection, we went straight and he honked his horn and turned. We figured he was trying to tell us something because we weren't the only ones trying to avoid the blockade. These backroads weren't very busy, but they were busier than they normally would have been.
Following our new taxi friend.
Thousands of mango trees on these backroads.
It was a pretty dusty drive!
We followed our taxi friend figuring he knew the route, and he did! The road deteriorated at a few sections and we really wondered where we were going to end up! But then, we saw a federal police car leading two huge tour buses full of gawking tourists. Too funny, what a ride these people were on. The sign on the front was for "Transat Vacations" a Canadian tour company. These people were seeing a part of Mexico they never expected to see! Anyhow, seeing them gave us renewed hope that we were going to end up back at the main road. We had to cross one rickety old single lane bridge that I didn't think was going to support the little blue car. I can just imagine those tour buses going over it!
Sure enough we ended up back at the highway...an hour and a half later!
This was the route we were supposed to take.
This was our detour!
We were so happy to have made it through! Now, we could carry on to Oaxaca. And of course because of the blockade, there was now hardly any traffic on the main highway. Uneventful drive on the flat section until we got to the turnoff towards Oaxaca where the road then becomes very curvy and heads higher. This was pretty slow going, but with gorgeous scenery.
Heading into the mountains.
Ruth zoomed in on this cave halfway up a mountain. We would like to hike up there someday!
The Oaxaca City area is famous for it's production of mezcal, the alcoholic drink made from the heart of the maguey plant. The plants are growing in abundance in these hills, and there are a lot of roadside stands selling booze in unmarked jugs. Try and do that in Canada!
These fellows were harvesting the plants.
Some of the plants are huge! these are just the hearts of the plants after the leaves have been hacked off.
The sign entering this town has a still on top of it! Declaring that it is the world capital of mezcal!
We finally made our way into Oaxaca City at around 5:00pm, but had to fight our way through traffic and it was about 5:40pm by the time we made it into the central area and found our apartment.
We have rented a nice little place right in the central core for a week. It's a little pricey compared to what we're used to at 2,650 pesos ($220) per week parking included, but first impressions say that Oaxaca City is a little more expensive in general. I guess we'll see.