As you may or may not know, I’m doing this Central America thing blind. I figure, what I don’t know about, I can’t miss out on, cos I don’t know about it. Logic! Boom! I’ll just ask the people I meet along the way about what they recommend and have seen/experienced first hand and follow in their enlightened footsteps.
So I’ve found myself in Oaxaca (pronounced, for the mexicanly challenged, wa-ha-ka), upon the recommendation of the receptionist in Mexico City. And in Oaxaca, I found “Las Aguas” being recommended. And as a group of hostellers started to form, I latched onto the group like some sort of ignorant parasite.
The group consisted of 2 “Dutchies” as they liked to call themselves, 2 Spanish girls, one American dude named Brian and another aussie girl, Cat. And one of the Spanish girls, whose name I cannot recall (due to some rolling of R’s) has a small slip of paper with directions to two buses, with prices, and not a lot else to go on.
Off we went, out the Hostel doors, all excited about seeing these allegedly magnificent waterfalls; (oh, that’s right, that’s a bloody semi-colon, that is *actual use may be incorrect) down the road, and turning corners and passing cars and crossing streets with agility and expectation.
The spaniards and the boys of the group took charge of finding the first bus stop, and after a couple of false turns, we got a green “collectivo” to the town of Mitla. The collectivo is a local bus, $20MXN, that’s rickety as fuck, especially when you sit up the back, near the guy carrying a dozen giant buckets and has no problem farting in public. The bus blares out local tunes, which is cheery and cements the fact that we’re in Mexico.
The collectivo driver will be on his phone, talking and messaging and seemingly just passing time. I dunno, snapchatting, or instagramming, or something. He may or may not career into the other side of the road. He will pass roadkill, surprisingly having both eyes on the road at the time, and miss the dead dog by just a fraction of an inch. He will gain speed and then slam on the brakes to slow down for the speed bumps that seem to occur every kilometre or ten. The passengers will brace. The passengers will pay either as they get on, or as they get off, whatever they feel seems right in the moment.
The road is made of two main lanes and two mini/half lanes, that are used by slow vehicles. Which is kind of a genius idea. Everyone on the roads is relaxed and patient and gives right of way where needed and accelorate or decelorate to fit in with what everyone else is doing. It’s actually pretty beautiful to see. (The opposite of aggressive sydney driving, anyway).
Approximately halfway into the first leg, let’s say 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca, there is a massive boom. Like, HUGE. Like, my heart just stopped for a second and my brain stopped as well. And in the seconds that followed, all I could think was was that a bomb? But as the collectivo pulled off the road, it was well apparent that the bald front tire had not fared well. In fact, it blew up, shattering the front door and leaving a trail of burnt rubber and broken glass in its wake. The rim was all outta whack, glass and rubber left a trail from where the initial boom detonated.
I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty exciting. I’ve never had a flat tire. And I’d never been hafway between Oaxaca and Mitla before and I’d never been in the company I had. I was just living la vida loca. With everyone else there able to speak Spanish, I was translated to that we’d get on the next bus with no trouble. And so we did.
We arrived in Mitla and went off to find ruins. And while half the group paid the measly sum to go in, the Dutchies and myself went on a Mezcal tasting. We tasted Mezcal, aged Mezcal, strawberry Mezcal, strawberry Mezcal with Condensed milk, passionfruit (with and without condensed milk), pineapple, (with and without condensed milk), coffee, (with and without condensed milk), mocha, (with and without condensed milk), blueberry, (with and without condensed milk), marijuana (only straight, no condensed milk. Which is a good thing, cos I dunno how grass and sweet, thick milk would go), scorpion… basically all the Mezcals from this middle aged mexican dude with a husky voice, kinda like Ned from South Park. It was great. Drunk at 12 midday, for free. La vida loca.
Next up was getting a tuk tuk to Las Aguas. $50MXN to jump on the back of a ute with 7 other people and climb a giant hill via a winding road. An hour and a few scenic, abeit blurred photos, later, we got to a weird desert township/shanty town filled with overpriced tourist stalls selling tacos and souvenirs and giant beers and underripe mangos. Mangey, stringy dogs littered about, looking for a bit of affection, and, inevitably, found it with me.
We meandered down the rocky slope to… well… not a waterfall. There were two pools of water, the kind of green that is portrayed in cartoons as toxic sludge. It was clay underfoot and bright green water and really cool mineral deposits built up in odd formations. The best thing about it was that the local tourists were getting photoshoots underway. There was a girl of about 12 years, overweight (there are a lot of overweight mexicans due to the ready availability of cheap soda. The number one killer here is diabetes. Or at least I think that’s what the ad painted on a wall said…), in a pineapple printed swimsuit looking down into the water and as her friend would press the button, she would turn her head to the camera, all professional. It was pretty cute to witness.
Though they had been sold as “waterfalls” and that aspect was disappointing, the view and country-side was not. The scale was grand. Like super massive. Like dinosaurs could walk out and be ant-sized. There were catctii growing hither and thither and it was lush green corn fields being tilled by a loan herdsman below. It was kinda desert, kinda not. We saw the view, we took the photos and we found another ute to come back down in.
This ute consisted of four locals, two argentinians, the dutchies and myself. One of the locals comandeered the conversation, obviously enamoured with the sound of his own voice and from what little I could understand, proceded to chat to the Argentinians about accents, football, chocolate, drugs and Iran. It was nice just to hear him prattle away, my ears and brain trying to pick up words where they could. But in all honesty, they could’ve been talking about anything.
Once we got back to the hostel, we had a wee sit down and then ventured out for dinner. I tried tripe. Not something I’ll make a habit of, but if you’re ever in Oaxaca, go to the BBQ meat market and give it a go. It’s not half bad.