November 17, 2010

All together now…wah-haa-kah.  Wah-haa-kah.  Oaxaca!  Very good…

To ensure we made it to Oaxaca for the Dia de Muertos celebration, we admittedly hopped on the autopista and cruised straight for the city.  I must say, as much as we seek out the back road dirt experience for most of our riding, our times on the autopistas (read: Mexico freeway) has been agreeably better than anticipated.  Reason being, we find the autopistas relatively abandoned.  Most drivers seemingly stick to the nearby libre, as it offers more exit options and is toll free .  These autopistas have been constructed by blasting through whatever is in its way to get to where it plans, so indeed, the is the most direct.  The libre roads, however, will follow the curve of the land and wind up, over, in, down and around to get you to your destination.  Comparatively, with the lack of traffic and the wide allowance of a shoulder, the riding has not been all that torturous.  The big trucks certainly are mindful and move over for us, rarely causing “life flashing before our eyes” scenarios.

The ride into Oaxaca was no different.  Having made it a day sooner than we anticipated, we contemplated camping outside the city for the evening and heading in first thing in the morning.  But as these things go, with the movement of traffic, the draw of the bustling surroundings and the allure of a new place we had heard and read so much about, we were soon pulled right down into the middle and heading for el centro historico.

Immediately we were swept up in the festivities.  The Zocalo was completely alive.  Huge sand art scenes, depicting Day of the Dead specific art, were splayed out all over the pathways, some still in progress of being created.  Aside from the various booths selling food, art and the local indigenous jewelry and fashions, there was a whole new array of folks selling candy skulls and skeleton chocolates, sketches of the dead dancing about, candles, offerings and the likes.

We hung around the center for a bit, taking it all in.  As to be expected, along with the holiday came an influx of tourism and other gringos.  Enter Bob.  On our way to go find some food we were approached by a very boisterous Texan who had ridden his motorcycle down for the week.  His riding buddies had taken off for a few days to go to a rally down south, but instead of heading with them, Bob just wanted to “put the bike away and not touch it for a week.”  Over…one of the best dinners we’ve had in Mexico, Bob’s very kind treat…I made a joke that his staying in Oaxaca was also due to the fact he was also a sucker for folk art and needed some serious time to take it all in.  All jokes aside, this was actually true and one of the main reasons Bob had come down was to explore his interest in cochineal, a red dye made from tiny insects that live on the prickly pear cacti in the area.  After the Spanish invaded it was the export of this dye that essentially put Oaxaca on the map.  Without this, there would never been such historical events as “the redcoats are coming, the red coats are coming!”  We spent the evening and following morning in Bob’s company, swapping all sorts of stories and information.

After our initial night of Oaxacan fun, we moved out of the car park we were kindly allowed to camp in thanks to Bob and over to Jenny’s house situated a little ways from the city sprawl.  After having such a great experience with Fausto in Morelia through Warmshowers, we decided to give Couchsurfer a try.  Jenny was fantastic to let us stay in her backyard for the better part of the week as we explored the city and waited patiently for some mail to arrive carrying some essential bike parts.  It was here that we also got some good bike maintenance in and I learned how to take apart and regrease my hub.

It was in Oaxaca during these days that we also met the first other cycle tourists we have seen since entering Mexico (well, we met one other verrrrry briefly around Lake Chapala, from Argentina, heading in the opposite direction, but I‘m not really counting that).  Wolf and Javier were heading to their buddy’s wedding in Antigua, Guatemala and were taking the long way to get there.  Over the next few days we ran into them several times and made plans to ride over to the coast together.  With our packages nowhere in sight, the four of us headed towards the coastal range on a Friday afternoon.

The Oaxacan scene is filled with tons of traditional, and not-so-traditional, art. All of it caught our attention...

The sand sculptors hard at work...

...creating masterpieces such as these. The Zocalo walkways were filled with colorful depictions of the Dia de Muertos holiday...

Per usual, colonial architecture on a crisp, clear day. I think when they paint these buildings they paint them to compliment that kind of sky...

Black mole. In Mexico, there are seven different kinds of mole, which is a sauce made from fruits, nuts and sometimes chocolate. As you can see, mole is not a sauce to go with a dish as much as it is the actual dish. We are working our way to trying all seven kinds. So far the yellow is my favorite...

Kurt and Bob going over all the places you can stash things on a BMW motorcycle...

Jimminy crickets! A common snack found around these parts...

I can't get enough of these markets. Kilo de arbol? Media kilo?...

Oaxaca is known its chocolate and cheese. Here the chocolate is mixed with sugar before being pressed and sold...

4 Responses to “Oaxaca…”

  1. toni said

    wa-haa-kah wowie! glad you made it in time. did you eat a cricket? love all the art even the food looks like art. bob seems like a texas treat. sweet moto bob. had lunch with your mom my mom a. merri a.kathy & g-pa its a wed tradition heard your moms coming to see you in cancun-that’s awesome!! loveyoulove

    • kellymariedonlan said

      no crickets this time! and that sounds like the best lunch party ever. mom indeed is on her way, we are so excited. perhaps you can send the mail with her? we are losing faith in the mail system here. love you t. baloney

  2. goatbreath said

    maaaa ❤ maaaa…so much to say…couple o' things

    1) i heard that crickets taste like a crunchy korean side dish, no?

    2) I have two new people for you to stay with in La Habana! And then…..so many more…

    3) wowzers. half a year.

    4) dia de los muertos ~ so….this is older than spanish colonization and the whole catholic thing. do you know about the origins?

    5) maaaaaloveyoumaaaa…

    • kellymariedonlan said


      that’s awesome about la habana. thank you. we will excitedly be there in about 2 months. and… straight from the wikipedia page…”Scholars trace the origins of the modern holiday (Dia de Muertos) to indigenous observances dating back thousands of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl”


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