Thursday, November 10, 2011

Monday Morning: On the road to Quiotepec

We were to meet Eric (our tour guide) and our fellow travelers at 9:00 Monday morning.  As service in Oaxaca tends to be a bit, well, leisurely, we got up bright and early to go have breakfast.  You'd think we would have learned by now.  So we had another lovely long stroll.  The morning light on the richly colored stucco buildings is amazing--I wish Van Gogh could have come here.  The ancient aqueduct now has little shops tucked under its arches.

Finally a tiny cafe opened.  We knew we had a long (and twisty) ride ahead of us so we ordered lightly--bread, hot chocolate, and fruit.  In a land where we've seen huge piles of gorgeous bread all around--we got toast from sliced packaged bread  :-(    But the chocolate was in bowls--so comforting to hold in your hands while you sip.  And the fruit was beautiful.   This small cafe had all the incongruities that is Mexico--small open kitchen, altar in the corner--a computer at the checkout.  Look at the sign in the doorway beyond the kitchen--it's an internet hot spot.  You can see the church past the Corona sign.  And on the back of the menu is "like us on Facebook"

Then it was back to the hotel to meet Eric and our travelling companions--Glenn and Jenny, Chuck and Marsha.  We all piled in the van and headed off to Quiotepec.  I have no idea of how far it is from Oaxaca to Quiotepec--we saw a sign that said 75 kilometers (46 miles) but I don't know if that was straight or counting the twists in the roads.  It's about a 3 hour drive, mostly switchbacks, much on narrow gravel roads going up the mountainside.  After a couple of hours we stop at a village for lunch, and to shop the market for the altar we're going to build.  We need fruit, chocolate, flower vases--and something to represent loved ones we have lost (more on the altar later). Glenn wants some mescal--the girl running the booth was 11 years old. It's also time for a nature break--to experience the public rest rooms.  We aren't in Kansas anymore.  You give your three pesos to the attendant, who gives you a handful of toilet paper and a bucket of water (you flush by pouring the water into the bowl).  Eric's research has not yet answered the question of why public toilets don't have toilet seats--it's a mystery.    We lunch on chicken in delicious mole sauce (there should be an accent on the e--it's pronounce mo-lay).  Yes--there's chocolate in it.  No, it's not a chocolate sauce.  It's a dark complex sauce, and chocolate is just one of the seasonings.  Amazing stuff.

Back in the van--more twisty roads.  At one point the nice new bridge had been badly damaged by trees washed down in the flood--so we crossed on the 100-year-old railway bridge (the train no longer runs).  What's a trip without a little excitement?  In the distance, we spot the little village that will be our home for a few days (far right in the second picture).  The river is not particularly deep--if you zoom in on the second picture, you'll see that one of those specks is a man wading across.
Quiotepec is a small village--population around 450.  Dirt roads, adobe buildings, fences made of sticks or sometimes recycled bed springs.  But it does have internet access.  We were surprised to pull up to our cabins--they're very nice.  And there's a lovely restaurant/conference center.  It seems that the government is trying to promote ecotourism, with the philosophy of "if you build it, they will come."  They just need to work on promotion and marketing--and maybe make it easier to get there (we had Eric--otherwise the train doesn't run any more, and the buses don't go that far).  And yes--the town has a web page:

After we offload and rest a bit, we go down to the bakery where Isabel is tending a wood (cactus wood) fired clay oven, baking bread.  She is also the town crier--her store/home has a loudspeaker on the roof.  She wakes the town every morning with the Mexican national anthem, and then plays whatever music she feels like (she has a stack of 45 rpm records).  For about 10 pesos, you can have an announcement made.  We are soon settled in with cold beer and fresh-baked bread.  And if you're hungry for a taste of home, you can get some instant cup 'o noodles (we skipped that).

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