The travel notes are drying up, my memory is fading, but thankfully we have photos! Sitting here staring at pictures of the cactus in the dry heat of Mexico, remembering our time spent through the inland areas of Mexico.
After Mexico City, we headed to Puebla, or rather the small town to the North West called Cholula. We almost had the attitude of “ok, let’s get this colonial town thing done so we can get on with it. “It” being coastlines and beaches again. We were both sleeping poorly, and wishing something would turn around in our mental state.
The change in our attitudes came in the form of a message from our new accountant, saying both our USA and Canadian taxes were done! On top of that, my double-taxation situation was resolved (a hazard of living in multiple countries and working), and I would be getting some money back. Okan was calculating how many more months of travel we could fund, and I was happy picturing big checkmarks next to items on my todo list.
Our drive through Mexico enlightened me as to what items you can purchase at a stop light, speed bump, or any place one has to reduce speed on the roadway. I’ve come to believe it’s quite ordinary to purchase back-scratchers, fresh produce, jars of honey, baked goods, seat supports, water and other bottled drinks this way. But that didn’t prepare me for seeing husky puppies being held up by the scruffs of their necks at the toll booth. Who has a husky in Mexico? Who buys them at the toll booths? I don’t think I want to know the answers to these questions. We drove onward and I remain puzzled.
In Cholula, we looked forward to wandering hiking up to the splendid yellow Church of Our Lady of Remedies which is nestled high on a hill. Just one of many many churches here. Legend says there are 365 churches in this town, one for each day of the year, a desire of the Spaniards who conquered the indigenous Indians in a blood bath many years ago. The Spaniards didn’t quite make their goal, and built “only” 159 churches on sacred Indian sites around the area. This particular church is unique in that it is mounted on top of a pre-colonial pyramid which is buried under the hilltop. The pyramid is the largest in the world, yes even larger than those in Egypt, just buried under a hill so no one realizes it’s size.
Anxious for the following day’s exploration, we settled into a nice city campground, which was basically a parking lot, but it had a lovely green area with an even lovelier pool on the grounds. We were walking distance from the town centre, but far enough away that we hoped to get a quiet night for a day of walking when we woke.
I can’t recall if we had much noise or not, I only remember not sleeping well. My sleep troubles have seemed to now become apparent to Indigo. He came close to me in the morning as I was tossing about and whispered “Mommy. Face me. I’m here for you.” This announcement of support definitely helped my mood as I approached another day without sleep
After walking further than expected, we all hiked up the steep church steps to the top of the hill. The church is beautiful and the view of the impressive Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes is really nice. But, what I really wanted to see were the tunnels of the pyramid underneath. We walked almost entirely around the base of the hill to find the entrance..which was unfortunately closed. Repairs were in progress and the tunnels were not safe. Indigo was not happy about that either.
We headed back home a bit bummed about not seeing the tunnels, arguing about which direction was home, as the temperatures started dropping. We eventually found the campsite, but arrived tired and grumpy. A dance party seemed in order, so we turned up the Michael Jackson. While Indigo was head banging away, he asked me if I remembered “the time we were dancing and ‘Poof!’ my underwear fell off?” (his, not mine). I don’t remember it at all, but I have no doubt it happened.
The following night we went walking and found the quaint street (the one that every Mexican colonial town has) with all the shops and cafes, admired more wall murals, and happened upon the city square which was having a carnival, complete with kiddie rides and bouncy houses. Some of the rides were a bit sketchy-looking safety wise, so we settled on the bouncy house and a small train ride.
We got some chicken tacos and cheese quesadilla and joined all the families eating around the square. Our food didn’t look anything like I’ve seen before in Mexico. The quesadilla bread was thick and green and had the weight and texture of a calzone. It tasted just ok, but that could have been because my expectations of what I was getting was so off the mark. A crazy storm hit suddenly, and we ran with our food under the tent tarps, with the wind knocking down tent polls, and blowing chairs about. It was fun for me and Indigo, because we were wearing warm clothes. Okan, thinking he was in the desert already, was miserable in his t-shirt and flip flops, getting drenched and freezing. The wet and damp led to aching backs and more poor sleep, prompting our monthly conversation to resolve ourselves to getting into shape. We have still not discovered the how-to part of this decision.
We decided to stay one more day so Okan could get some preventative work done on the truck. Fluids needed to be changed, and we were on a level spot where we could easily unhitch the truck from the camper. While Indigo and I swam in the pool, made mud cement, and played the day away, Okan was driving around trying to find ATF-4 transmission fluid and synthetic motor oil and dealing with one of those dreaded Mexican police stops.
After visiting a Dodge dealer, Okan turned onto a street in Pueblo, and a motorcycle cop loitering at the corner motioned for him to pull over. Okan asked what the issue was, a question the cop ignored and proceeded to ask for his licence. Okan handed over the laminated license copy, and the cop asked for the original which he didn’t have. So now the whole conversation turns to the license, and he is never told why he was pulled over in the first place, although Okan continued to inquire. The cop played the “Ok, I’m going to try to cut you help you out” scam, asking Okan to pay cash so he wouldn’t have to be taken to the police station. Okan stayed calm and asked for a ticket, and said he’d be happy to go to the station. The cop tried his lines again, but Okan stayed firm. This conversation was taking place in a combination of broken English and Spanish, so we’re not really sure how much each side was understanding. Okan went to sit back in his car while the cop pulled others over and seemed to mull over what to do next. After sitting in the car another 1.5 hours…just waiting…Okan finally got out and asked what happens next. The cop gave Okan his license copy back and said he could leave, apparently resigned to the fact that Okan wasn’t going to get scared or be worn down. This was the biggest thing Okan and I were worried about during our trip, because Okan, with Mediterranean blood coursing through his veins, can get really angry at scams like this, which we know will get us in worse predicaments. I was really happy to hear how he handled it, but Okan was not as happy, as the stress of the encounter lasted for the next several days.
Before we left Cholula, we met some new overlanders which help to brightened our moods again. Adam and Natalie, from London and South Africa, were on their way to Costa Rica and shared our campsite for a night (or perhaps it was two nights). For such a small amount of time we hung out together, we were instantly at ease and felt like we’d known them forever, or at least for more than a day. Adam and Natalie were on a crazy fast schedule to Costa Rica, looking for property to buy, and preparing for their wedding. We exchanged information in the hopes of bumping into them again (which we did).
It seemed during this period, our attitudes, moods and experiences were flipping and flopping often. Much like the scenery. Our next stop was a 180 degree departure as we landed in the middle of a cactus forest with not a soul around. It was so quiet, and surreal. We parked right in the middle of the common area, because…it was empty and we could… perfect choice to soak up the surroundings.
We had ta great morning. Indigo slept late and Okan delivered tea in bed. I read my book while sipping tea for an entire 45 minutes. Heaven! Was so nice to wake to the complete silence, except birds, and feel a cool breeze coming through the windows. And although I can’t remember it, I think I slept really well that night.
But our time amongst the cactus was cut rather short as we wanted to get to the next stop where we could hopefully fix the crack on the fiberglass shell of the camper. Looking back now, we would have never of stayed only one night if we were to do it again. We’ve gotten slower and slower in our travel as the days and months have worn on, but at the time…getting every little thing fixed still seemed to take precedence over soaking in a new area. That would definitely not be the case these days, as we are now living with many things to fix, and they go up and down the priority list depending on our next location…and sometimes they magically drop right off the list.
It was a long drive to the next campsite through the mountains to just past the city of Oaxaca where we stayed at Overland Oasis. Calvin’s reputation drew us to this campsite, as he worked on race cars for years, and has an amazing shop with everything one would need to fix a rig. I have heard that you must be careful with Calvin, because he gets so excited about new projects, that he might just come up with an idea and fix your rig by morning if you don’t clearly say you don’t want any work done. But we were there to hear Calvin’s ideas, and he had plenty. He agreed that the crack in the fibreglass was also cosmetic, and fired up his welding equipment and made a custom piece we bolted into the side of the camper behind the gas tank. Okan is happy with the solution, although he had to let go of the idea that he would never drill a hole directly through the fibreglass.
Calvin was also creative with how to occupy a 3 year old in a small camping area while the welding and repairs were underway. He converted an inflatable boat into Indigo’s very own swimming pool during our stay.
We went into town a couple of times, taxi there and bus for the return trip. It’s a nice town, the streets were much cleaner and there were more choices in regards to shopping and restaurants than other towns we’d visited. Some of the buildings were so grand and pristine, I almost thought I was in Washington D.C. at times. Perhaps we’d just been to too many towns, but we were not loving Oaxaca the way so many others seemed to. We don’t have the budget to dine out in the quaint cafes and nice restaurants, and dining out with Indigo also presents it’s own challenges. I could objectively see all the many positive aspects of the town, and understood why so many expats were living there, but we just weren’t feeling it.
If I am to take anything away from this part of our trip, it’s again to not hold onto an idea or feeling for long. They change quickly, fade into the background, and we always seem to find a positive (or several) out of any place we visit, even if it doesn’t sound like the stories we hear from others. Maybe one day we will return and experience these places differently…or maybe not, there is so much to see in this world.