(February 12 – written by Dave)
We are heading east. I know, you are thinking that Mexico is south and we should be heading south. Well, today, and for the next two weeks we head east. Southern Mexico really swings around to the east so that’s the direction we are heading.
We had a pretty short day today – still taking it easy with our colds. We probably would have stayed in Oaxaca had our room not been rented tonight. I’m mostly over my cold but Nancy is not. I gave it to her so she’s got a few days to run yet I’m afraid. She is just now trying to get some rest in our lovely room – so hopefully she’ll get over it faster than I did.
The ride out of Oaxaca this morning was kind of fun. We’d heard about a 12km bike path so we wandered a bit and found it. Mexico builds funny bike paths in that they tend to put them in the verge between the oncoming traffic lanes. In our case, we had three lanes going in each direction on either side of us. This probably sounds worse than it was. The path was lined with trees and the traffic was light, so we just settled in and enjoyed riding away from the cars for a while – a nice change.
The path ended at the town of El Tule. El Tule is noted for the El Tule Arbol (tree), the tree with the largest trunk diameter in the world. Keen readers will remember that we passed the “Sherman Tree”, a giant sequoia up in Kings Canyon National Park. The Sherman Tree is the world’s biggest tree but in theory, El Tule has a larger diameter trunk. I didn’t have a tape measure handy in Kings Canyon, or today for that matter so we’ll have to leave it to the experts.
On balance, El Tule is big, but I’d probably describe it more a giant bush than I would tree. From a distance it surely looks like a bush. It was cool to walk around and the trunk is quite life-like in a number of places. I’m not sure that we’d ride our bikes all the way here to see the El Tule Arbol, if we weren’t already on the route. But it was a fun stop and we were in no hurry today.
After the tree, we hopped out onto Highway 190 – the road that we will take from here to Guatemala some 2 weeks from now. The road had a pretty good shoulder and traffic wasn’t too bad. This part of the 190 is called the Caminos de Mezcal – Routes of Mezcal. I noted yesterday that we are not huge fans of mezcal but the agave plants do make a nice visual out in their desert fields.
We’d heard that they still use a horse-drawn grinding wheel to smash the agave and today we got to see a couple of them. Unfortunately, the one we saw in use, being driven by a horse was on the other side of a divided highway that we couldn’t cross. So you’ll have to be happy with the photo below where the horse blanket and collar can both be seen if you look close. The whole horse thing is apparently not just a show for the tourist – even in today’s modernized world.
The wind came up around 11 and it was on the nose, but we still made it to Mitla by noon. This is one of those “Pueblo Magico” towns that we’ve seen several times in Mexico. As a reminder, “Pueblo Magico” is sort of like Australia’s Tidy Towns or America’s All-American City awards. Local folks but in a big effort to clean things up and make them nice for visitors, they build up some story around local artists or craftsmen, grab some paint and few signs, and hope that the tourists come. While this may sound cynical, it shouldn’t. We like these towns. There is always lots to see, good food to be had and most locals seem to take genuine interest in talking to visitors – it all kind of snowballs into a nice vibe.
In Mitla, the craft is mezcal – so we’ll just have to enjoy food and nice folks. We had a great lunch here soon after arriving at Dona Chica. After eating, Nancy declared “if that doesn’t make me sick, that will have to go down as the best meal we’ve had in Mexico”. I’m questioning her meal ranking scale when the barrier of entry is “did it make me sick” but I do have to agree with her that the food was darn tasty.
One down side of the “nice town” scheme is that rooms tend to cost more – our room at Don Cenobio is nice, but probably a little over-priced for normal Mexican towns. Whoever decorated the room liked fruit. We have a fruit carved mirror, two fruit carved chairs, a fruit carved dresser, two fruit carved night stands and finally a fruit carved headboard. Below is a photo of Nancy and some of the fruit, just before she drifted off into her afternoon nap – in a fruit-induced coma perhaps.
Tomorrow we have a 95k day planned. There is more down than up in the profile but we could have some wind challenges late in the day. We’ll get an early start. I’m now craving fruit (for some reason) and I’m off to the market to get some bananas.