A short introduction to buses from Oaxaca to Hierve De Las Aguas

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.

Image

oaxaca, san cristobel y palenque

Gallery

Predispositions to street art and skulls

This gallery contains 67 photos.

Mexico City

In the words of that Matthew McConaughey meme, alright, alright, alright.

So. Here I am. I think I’ve finally got the jetlag gone. I’m feeling human. Besides walking over 20-30kms in thongs for the last two days and developing a bunion, I’m pretty good. (What the feck is a bunion and do you get them from dance/walking over 50kms for three days in a row at Splendour in the Grass?)

Let’s see. I’ll recap the trip real quick. Got on the plane in Sydney, tired from having farewell drinks with my housemates and then freaking out and repacking everything and then getting up at 4am so I had enough time to hug Beans (the cat) for about 15 minutes (only 10mins more than usual allocation of Beans Hugging Time).

Got all the security checks. Got the overpriced last delicious mocha for a while. Got the plane. Waited for the meal and a beverage and had a valium. Fell asleep to Inception. Bla bla bla, skip to the end (actually middle, cos this was a stupidly connected flight). Got to LAX. Had to pass through immigration and luckily for me I’d been to Hawaii in March and got my ESTA visa thingy, otherwise I would’ve been turned back. I also had to pick up my luggage and re-book it through. I had just enough time to get a shake from Shake Shack. Thanks, LAX for stealing one on NYC’s finest frozen custard outlets. On the plane, fell asleep to some drum and bass.

From LAX to Las Vegas, where I thought I had to pick up my bags, but didn’t and then the flight attendant was freaking out cos she couldn’t find it. And then I was freaking out cos she couldn’t find it and then I got on the plane and fell asleep to an audio book of David Sedaris and just hoped for the best.

Arrived in Mexico city and my bags were there. Huzzah. Got a taxi to the hostel I’d booked. Huzzah. Didn’t sleep. Opposite of Huzzah. So the lesson I learnt was to not oversleep on the journey. You win some, you lose some.

DAY ONE –

My first mistake was walking out of the hostel (after the included breakfast) in my PJ shorts. I’d seen girls in the hostel looking all beachy and my PJs are pineapples, so I kinda thought that’d fly. But, no. The locals gave me a good stare and I felt as if I should go back and change into something more like they’re wearing. Long, dark jeans. In 26 degrees of humidity. Quite the change from Sydney winter (actually not that much of a change, but for prosperity’s sake, let’s embellish and pretend like Sydney’s having cold 10 degree days).

Then I just wondered the streets, bought an apple and worked out the metro so I could go to the mall and watch the Luc Besson film. Yep – when in Mexico, watch a french director’s Hollywood blockbuster with Cara Delevigne. Due to lack of sleep, I nodded off occasionally. And due to the lack of Spanish, I can’t say much about the dialogue or plot. But the graphics were cool. And Cara’s eyebrows mesmerising.

DAY TWO –

Slept a bit better, and decided to bite the bullet and navigate to La Casa Azul, the house of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera that has been kept as a museum.

It’s kinda funny how when you’re travelling in foreign lands, your brain automatically tries to communicate in a different language. So, for me, my go-to is French. And, Spanish is close to French, so when I try to speak to Mexicans, it comes out as some bastardisation of the two. I start out in Spanish … “I don’t speak spanish” and then french “but” and then English “I mean” Spanish “but”… “donde esta” and then I have to try not to say “la biblioteca” (which, is a reference to Community, and if you haven’t seen it, Google the Community spanish rap with Troy and Abed – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j25tkxg5Vws )

It’s really lovely how people here give you a bit of time and you smile and nod and say “Si” as if you understand it and then they repeat it slower and point in a direction. I dunno, people have done that for me everywhere, but it feels like some sort of personal triumph this time, maybe cos I’m piecing together more words and understanding more of what’s going on (Thanks, year of living in France!). I couldn’t help but have a massive grin on my face when I realised I’d navigated three metro changes and one local bus and then a 15  minute walk to the house.

So I got to The Blue House. And the line, no, wait, there were two lines. The lineS were massive. I lined up regardless, cos what else was I going to do? In the end I was in line for two hours and in the house for less than that. I snuck in on a student price, and paid the extra $30 (about $3 aus) to take photos. (Note to Australia, charge for photography. What a racket!) But it was nice. Very nice. Tranquil and all the bits and bobs of their lives were intriguing and colourful and beautiful and made me want to live in a large house with a giant courtyard and take up self-portraits.  There was an old black and white cat who I stopped and said “gato” to a lot. And the best part was there was a toilet.

One of the things you learn as you travel is to moderate your liquid intake and pay special attention to where the bathrooms are. And whether they’re paying or free.

DAY THREE –

Shit, I’ve been here for three days. I have exhausted myself with museums and local buses and walking through millions of people in rush hour to get home, while busting to pee and being hangry AF. I’ll continue day three tomorrow. Hopefully. Hopefully I’m also going to do a day trip to Puebla. And return in time to return a power adapter to Best Buy (cos it doesn’t have the earth. What kind of universal adapter doesn’t have the earth?!). And plan my next 7 days getting to Cancun so I can fly to Cuba. I feel rushed and I feel like spontaneously booking flights from Cancun to Havana is probably something I won’t do again… you live and learn though. That’s something.

A Day in Paris

Here follows a somewhat “typical” day…

Wake up, consume three or four cups of filtered coffee. Procrastinate by joining netflix and start to watch Arrested Development for probably the ninth or tenth time. Be amazed at how fucking brilliant it is. Still.

Break self-made promise of going to the gym to instead decide to go into town to buy leggings. Because, you decide, you will need more leggings for when you do actually make it to the gym.

Go to the metro. Use one of the tickets you purchased under the pretense that it was a “carnet” (booklet) designed for people who qualify for reduced fair. And hey, you still have your student card from way back in Nice, so you’ll be right if you ever get checked up on.

Be rejected by the turnstile. Pause. Hmm.
Wait patiently for the information booth person to return. Their screen has a sign saying they’ll be back in some minutes. Hope that this sign hasn’t been there all day.

Become impatient. Notice other people jumping the gates. Decide against method. Notice the exit gates stay open for three seconds after someone exits. Try to go in that way (it’s much less ungainly than jumping the turnstile). Get rejected and beeped at.

Wait impatiently. Consider jumping over. Think unto yourself that you shall be good, it’s the least you can do as you’ve avoided the gym for five days now.

Finally the lady shows up and tells you you’re not under 12 and the TWO carnet’s you’ve bought are invalid and you need your receipt and you can fill out this form and send it to head office or somewhere to maybe-probably-not get a refund. You don’t have the receipt, but take the form just because it seems easier.

Line up to buy another, more valid ticket. As you are searching for your wallet, you let a lady go in front of you. She yells out to her husband (behind you) asking if they should get a carnet for their two kids. You give them yours. They ask if you’re for real. Yeah, why not, you were an idiot and bought two whole freaking wrong carnets. Someone may as well benefit. They are lovely and impressed and offer to give you money, which you kindly thank them for but reject. You instead accept four normal tickets. Cos hey, you’re not Mother Teresa and you really want leggings.

Catch the metro feeling all smug and righteous and good. Alight the metro and do not give any money to any of the homeless people, nor their dogs. Question exactly how good you are. Feel terrible. Decide to keep some coins in your jacket pocket to donate to the next few homeless people you pass. Promptly forget. Fuck.

Buy leggings and one pair of pajama pants. (The last pair you had were ripped right through the bum when you fell down the stairs and rolled your ankle looking after five dogs and four cats.) You need the PJs so Sam, your landlord, doesn’t have to see you in the same pair of trackies every single evening.

On a whim, go into a department store and buy Clairns skin products. Just cos the lady is lovely and recognises that you don’t have to, should you not desire to, wear make up all the time. Bless her. She also gives you three little samples and sprays you rather generously in Calvin Klein’s One. Thank her and wish her a good day.

Return to the metro, get off halfway home (you must walk more if you’re going to avoid the gym so consistently) and stop at a café that really gets how coffee should be made. Don’t be satisfied with just a coffee, no no! have the formule, go on, you’ve walked a few blocks, you probably maybe don’t deserve it, but whatever. The formule, which is to say, the meal, the dessert AND the coffee, is a bargain. It’d be stupid to NOT get it. You do not regret it. Upon paying and leaving, you ask where you can print a page around this neighbourhood.

Walk into a shop with a heap of Indian men talking animatedly and ignoring you. Interrupt them, ask for a computer and then fail to log into your email cos you can’t make the @ symbol on a french keyboard. Have each of the men take turns in offering advice, until at last you succeed and print your page. Get flustered when you think they are charging six euros and the relax when you realise that you’re still terrible with numbers above sixty (cos they’re fucking retarded in France and say stuff like “sixty-ten; sixty-fourteen; four-twenty-eighteen. Maths in English is not my forte. Still isn’t in French) and it’s only seventy cents.

Walk a new way home, getting purposely lost just to see if your sense of direction is as good as you think it is. Stare at some work dude sitting in his truck who is staring at you and kind of raising his eyebrows at you. Grimace at him and turn away from him, shaking your head. Be pleased when you realise you’re now only a block from home.

Fill out the form you printed and send it off to the casting director of a film clip that you may or may not be participating in next week. You have talked on the phone to Audrey and you know not what actually happened. You said “sorry I didn’t get that, can you talk slower” a bit and then when that became too embarrassing, you just said “yeah…ok…sure…”. The best scenario is that you may get to be in a film clip with Chinese Man, a french hip hop group. The worst scenario is that the Indian men whose computer you used may be running a massive phishing scam and you lose all of your money, or something. Who knows, who cares, you’re in Paris!

Do your laundry, let the kitten attack your hands and computer cables, and PJ pants tie string things. Get an extra seven claw jabs to the thigh, shoulder (You’ve taught him to perch on your shoulder like a parrot) and one cheek. Write a blog post to avoid going to the gym STILL. Unpack your leggings and realise you’ve got no more excuses… Damn.