Atlixco receives us nicely, ahead of the night of the dead.
So we go via Puebla, - and on this sunny day's approach we can see four volcanoes, Popocatepetl which we know so well, Iztaccihuatl right near it, we also make out Paso de Cortez in-between the two and I remember how we passed with Daniel and David not so long ago. The 3rd, Tlaxcala volcano is a close drive-by today on our way to Puebla. Most striking still is the sight of Pico de Orizaba which is more than 100kms away further east, its summit, majestic and significant rises 5600m above sea-level. Such is our approach, and then we struggle through Puebla's traffic, only to head back toward old friend Popocatepetl and spend night on his foothills in Atlixco, and we are still in the state of Puebla.
Exhausted we crave for huge bottles of cold beer, and Atlixco's dark streets churn out a pre Dia de los Muertos street fiesta, nightly drums and dance, glimmer and smoke all embracing us. Atlixco with the veil of night lifted the next morning evolves in a pleasant colorful town of painted houses, flowers and more flowers and blue skies and the king Popocatepetl rising above all.
Somebody suggest to see Huaquechula and we follow; the Discovery Channel people had been through here, we find a church and lively market - but Dia de los Muertos is still days away, the processions, offerings and ceremonies are in preparation behind the scenes. We leave before the narrow streets of this little town will jam completely.
Huajuapan de Leon
We end up in Huajuapan de León, finally in Estado de Oaxaca.
Huajuapan has this ochre cathedral and these afternoons it really sticks out unnaturally bright against the blue sky. But we have work to do. So many Mexican stories to recount from the summer travels with my boys; they kept me quite busy then.
We work and sleep over the very subdued Day of the Dead/All Saints celebrations here, yes we wonder a bit what all the hype was about, but then we should have stayed in Huaquechula, should have trusted that the Discovery Channel people know. Here food is a problem, only beer helps to down our plastic burgers and woody meat tacos.
Santo Domingo de Yanhuitlan.
One travels and then you leave the best for last; sometimes.
We reach Oaxaca de Juárez (wiki), named so after Mexico's first indigenous president Benito Juárez (died 1872).
In Oaxaca, the UNESCO town we rent an apartment and stay 8 days, hey we can cook. One night some people break into the car parked outside and take only a pair of walking boots, may they bring warm feet to its new owner/thief.
We have a friend in Oaxaca, Paul from Olympia (WA), he owns Cafe Los Cuiles, we see the city, but really we work again a lot, we see Lila Downs, also so nice local artists in bars around our central place. I also finally get music working in the van (a 17-year old cassette player just does not do), I buy a little amp, connected all the wires, come on music is a must for Latin American travels.
Then one day we leave, see Monte Albán (wiki) on our way out, under the dark clouds the late sun shows for a brief.
For night we stop in San Francisco. Early morning the old lady from the house in front of which we park invites us to some pan dulce, we can heat water for our nescafe. Her story, the story of so many: Her man used to beat her up, then left for another woman and deprived her of all means, the girls/women from next door, her ex's family, conspire against her, beat her on occasions, chase her away. A son went to the US many years ago, el clandestino picked crops in California, but he wrote, sent money regularly, last time is now 4 years ago, no word since then; in jail, dead, we wonder? We promise to investigate.
After Yagul in the morning we reach Mitla (wiki), its famous 50 thousand pieces post classic Zapotec stone mosaics astound. Mitla has also a cathedral and a 15 year old girl celebrates her fiesta de quince anos, maybe the most important thing in a woman's life.
While in the hot under the blistering mid day sun our young pink lady still poses for pictures with her potential grooms another party pushes inside the cathedral, carrying lots of flowers for blessing and taking to the cementry to commemorate a husband or friend, 40 days after his death.
Life and death, in close distance from one another ...
Hierve de Agua.
In the afternoon we take the strident dirt road up and down to Hierve de Agua, its cascades are in style Pamukkale (Turkey, thisfabtrek) just maybe even more destroyed. The dissolved rock is fragile, scratching with car keys, knocking with high heals to test it doesn't help to preserve it, idiots should be taught or watched, or both. Pamukkale after many years of unhindered destructions introduced great restrictions on where you can go and a strict no shoe policy. Is Turkey really so many years ahead of Mexico?
We spend night in Hierve de Agua and we are back down at the cascades just after 7 in the morning, the gracious quiet is usually empty of people...
Back up and down the rough track, back to Mitla for a little market breakfast. Then we drive a lot, the Oaxaca State back bone, Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountains, once again a most beautiful Mexico of pipes and Agave/Mescal cacti plantations. Just we are on a mission now and reach Arriaga at night. Next morning we dash to Puerto Arista on the Pacific where the waves were so high in summer when we passed with my boys. We are back in the tropics, the beach and sun, ceviche and beer. We stay 4 days then we go south to Tapachula, Playa Linda, then into Guatemala, the 19th of November. Mexico has been very good to us...