You bad bad reader you, of course we are referring to getting high in altitude!!! What were you assuming? 13,800ft to be exact. That's 13,800 feet above what we have been living at Virginia Beach, only 2 weeks ago. Our bodies and lungs were challenged this week as we decided last minute to hike a volcano called La Malinche. We arrived one day in advance to acclimatize to altitude before our ascent, then made the hike the next day, all the way to the tree line of the strenuous steep mountain. Apparently trails in Mexico don't do switchbacks, and our sore legs the next day reminded us of this! Trails in Mexico take the whole "as the crow flies" thing seriously. Of course "Mr.Mt.Kilamanjaro" (the name my dad called Chris when we started dating) had no troubles, but this girl's lungs and legs were in shock!
The weather became very ominious as we approached the final slopes and decided to call it quits instead of run the risk of being caught in one of the vicious storms we had experienced a couple days prior. The summit tormented us as it was only another 800 or so feet higher, oh well there will be more. In the end it was a very fun and rewarding hike, one that Mallary now calls her training for what is to come on this trip!
The highway leaving La Malinche took us through Mexico's impressively mountainous central highlands. What looked like a quick 100km on a map and should have taken an hour took more like three. Crosses marked the untimely demise of other drivers every few hundred yards. Probably a combination of locals driving vehicles that would fail every point of an inspection and the strange construction habits down here. One would think gaurd rails would be set up prior to a 90 degree turn in the highway with a 1000 foot drop off beyond it. But not here, MDOT or whatever it's called waits until the sharp turn is over and road is straight again to build rails, thus allowing careening vehicles to fly over the cliff if it doesn't slow down for a turn. Another crazy thing about some of the highways so far, is that a one lane highway by American standards is really a 1.5 lane highway down here. If you are driving slower than most, you are expected to drive in the breakdown lane. You can say Mallary has had some good views of dirt, cacti, and cliffs so far. As far as passing goes it is pretty much a lawless Mad Max-esque environment, we have been going uphill into a turn with a car passing us and ANOTHER car to the outside of him passing both of us at once. I keep having flashbacks to a game my brother and I had where you try to smash matchbox cars into each other.
|Mallary's wonderful view as Chris is in survival mode on Highway 135|
Next we headed to the small town of Santiago Apoala, as highly recommended by good friends of ours, Nick and Leah. Leah had written us an extensive email with directions on how to find this secluded place, and even with those it took us awhile to get our bearings and head up the right dirt road into the mountains.
We followed said dirt road up and down the mountains, swithcback after switchback, a couple hundred goats and several confused farmers with the "what are gringos doing out here look" later, we finally decended into the small town of Apoala. We found our way to a lovely grass field, surrounded by a stream and 2 vast canyon walls. It was such a gorgeous campsite!! Definitely worth the hour and a half vehicle destroying/really fun drive.
|The picture doesnt really do the cliffs justice|
We spent our time here exploring a small cave, hiking down to a waterfall, that happened to be the hotspot for local families this week due to the Easter week celebrations, Semana Santa. There was so many people here Chris thought that there must have been a free taco giveaway. And we also hiked along a stream through a canyon and up along the hills of the town. All in all, it was a perfect place to spend afew days out in nature.
|Chris sporting a paleness never seen before by the locals at the base of the 200 foot falls|
|Rustling up some grub cowboy style in the dutch oven|
Sad to leave Apoala, but very excited to be moving on to Oaxaca (and also a real bathroom), we left the secluded mountain town, for the big city! We have been anticipating Oaxaca City since we started planning this trip, it is said to be the culinary capital of Mexico, and has much cultural history.
On our way into town, we approached a routine toll booth on the highway. Chris says "oh man, there are a lot of beggers up here." Mallary, unphased, continues to zone out while listening to her favorite podcast, Serial (if you havent listened to this, you should. Chris begs to differ, and still says Cartalk will always be number 1... Our battle of the sexes.) Anyway, it turns out the beggers are not beggers at all, they are violent protesters... An entire village of them, carrying large wooden sticks resembleing pick ax handles, and sporting bandanas covering their faces. Oh shit. Quickly pause the podcast and hide the ipad, as they start beating on our car with their sticks because we won't roll down our window and give them money!!! At first we think we can just bypass this with the "no entiendo" trick... But they just sent over a guy with a little english skill to explain that we HAD to pay them. After looking ahead and realizing there was the rest of the town, women and children included, all bearing large sticks in hand and blocking the road ahead, and there was no one actually tending the toll booth any more, we gave in and paid and passed. 50 pesos ($3.50 USD) to have them stop beating on Lola was well worth it. If they were not so imtimidating, we would have snapped a quick picture for your enjoyment. Mexico is soo much better than the old cubicle days.
We are now happily hanging out at Overlander Oasis in Oaxaca, with bellies full of mole, ready to paint this town red for the next few days! :)