We were fortunate to have a fantastic view of cathedral from out hotel room. The downside to this location was that bells would ring on the hour from 6am which isn’t ideal if you fancy sleeping. Somewhat bizarrely I was also awoken by the Mexican national anthem. Initially I thought it was Mike’s alarm clock but we later found out that there was a band playing it outside the hotel at some ungodly hour.
The next stop on the tour was Oaxaca, pronounced something like Wah-hakka. According to the itinerary we were supposed to be travelling on the Mexican equivalent of National Express but Mark told us there had been a change of plan. There’s currently a teachers strike taking place throughout the Oaxaca province. The teachers here seem to be a bit more militant than their counterparts back home and at the moment the major highways in the area are blockaded meaning that the aforementioned coaches aren’t running. At one stage of the protest, people were even killed during rioting. However it is still possible to pass through road blocks via some back roads but this meant that we needed to split into two groups to travel in small minibuses. The first four hours of the journey were driven on the motorway and everything seemed fine so far. We then left the main road and travelled for a bit on a minor road that contains more pot holes than I’ve ever seen and that includes anything I been on in South East Asia. Fortunately no2body seemed to suffer from motion sickness. I’m normally fine travelling but even my guts felt like a washing machine. We then came across the first picket line. The driver approached slowly and we were waved through with barely enough room for the the minibus to pass. What made it slightly intimidating was that the road was actually blockaded by a burnout bus. The next “road” was a dust track. When Mark told us that we’d have to travel off road to get to Oaxaca, I though he meant through some back streets rather than literally off the road. Here we only saw the odd car for miles. Fair play to the driver for managing not to drive over the edge of some nasty looking hairpin bends, although he got a well-deserved decent tip. At one point we were flagged down by some chancers (or bandidos) who requested some cash from the driver, who coughed up. It was a relief to then be back on a tarmac road. One more picket was passed through on outskirts of city and we arrived in Oaxaca early in the evening.
After such an arduous journey I needed a shower. The shower in our room was a wet room sort of setup and was the water was nice and powerful. Normally this would be great but during this instance the plug appeared to have been left in the shower resulting in the whole hotel room being flooded. Seriously though, who leaves a plug in a shower? Mike was in the room, doing whatever he does on his iPad and was somewhat oblivious to the situation until he stood up off the bed and was splashing around in water. It was fairly bad with water up to half an inch deep in the worst areas. After some frantic mopping up for about fifteen minutes that involved literally pushing the water back into the shower with rolled up towels, creating a wave effect across the room, the situation was under control with most of the large puddles having disappeared.
We had a walk around the city and it seemed nice with loads of colonial buildings and beautiful courtyards. Mark described us as now being in the real Mexico. We had some food in market which had a kind of sit-down restaurant section. I forget the name of what I had but it’s a flat, crispy taco with black bean paste, cheese and meat. It kind of looks a bit like a huge pizza and was really nice. I attempted to look up the name of the dish on Google using that description but to no avail. The local delicacy of grasshoppers also came out and people seemed to be freely eating them despite being reasonably sober! We had another earlyish night, going home via somewhere that sells hot chocolate, although I opted for the healthier option of a beer. There was a television in this place that showed footage of the burnout bus that we’d passed earlier on today. Initially it seemed that we must have gone through shortly after the fire had occurred but someone later told us that this image had been used on the news every night for weeks. I was in bed for half past ten. Mark told us that we were one of the most sensible and best behaved groups he’s ever had. I just wanted to get back to the room to make sure it was alright following the earlier water damage. Thankfully everything seemed OK.