Posts/June, 2011/

Renting a Car in Oaxaca to Drive NW along the 190

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Thanks for your interest in my recent nine day trip to Oaxaca City, Mexico. I’ve broken the trip into eight parts loosely organized by the central activity of the day. Want to see the other posts? Browse the Oaxaca category.

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Tuesday began with a plantain omelet and frustration.

J and I made a car reservation at Alamo Rentals on Cinco De Mayo street. We started walking there when Jamie realized she had forgotten her passport. I told her I’d meet her at the rental office. I kept walking to find the street, only there was no car rental office to be found. I waited for Jamie where I thought she’d cross the street, but I never saw her.

Neither of us had working phones.

I asked around before a bilingual man explained that there were two unconnected Cinco de Mayo streets in town. I hoofed it to the other which ended up being close to our hotel. J wasn’t there. I asked a guy in Spanish if a long haired girl had been there and he said no.

I hoofed it back to the hotel and surprised the host when I stumbled into the front desk dripping sweat, explaining to situation and asking if there was more than one Alamo. As she started making some calls, J walked by. She had been hoofing it too, but hadn’t even seen the first street before getting lost.

The discombobulation gave our rental plan bad mojo, but we decided to go ahead and do it even though we were an hour late.

By 10:45, we had pulled out of the dreary rental garage in our silver Chevy sedan that was missing a hubcap. Rental cost with insurance was around $50.

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Just outside the city, I stopped to take a breather.

Driving in Oaxaca didn’t seem any crazier than Thailand, though it certainly wasn’t relaxing in the urban areas. Everyone merges in and out of lanes or shares lanes. Busses constantly stop on the right side of the road and people pause to turn on the left. Pedestrians cross anywhere. The roads are peppered with tire swallowing potholes. It’s dusty with the windows down. But the worst offender is the frequent topes, or speed bumps. These are heavy duty bumps too, not the gradual curved mounds we have at home. They’re not marked very well, and if you happen to be going full speed when hitting them get ready to see your tires and suspension system shatter across the road.

We topped off the tank at the full service, federally owned gas station and reentered the 190 “highway”. Our destination was unclear, but we wanted to get as close as we could to Apoala Valley, a place one guidebook destined as Mexico’s Shangri-La. Spoiler alert: we didn’t get that close.

The road took us past a lot of Dominican churches, rural villages, and military check points as it wound along the hills and valleys. We didn’t stop much along the way, as we decided to get the car back before Alamo closed at 8 that evening.

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A man and his oxen.
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Looking down from the road.
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I hope he’s napping.
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Half the highway missing due to a landslide.
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Shanty store.
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Cute little church.
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Home with a view.
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Home in a valley.
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Ass.
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Little blue church and matching gate.
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Another abode.
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And another.
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Cemetery.
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Shrine.
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Sheep near the intersection of the 190 and 315 highways.
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The last town before we hit the impassible dirt road.
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Weaving baskets with sheep around.
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A warning to not sully the water.
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A pink stand.
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Empty lot.
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Blue door.
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Where the pavement ends and dirt begins.

The scenery was beautiful, green and full of farms, shanty homes and sweeping views. We reached the dirt road to Apoala, only to see 48km remaining. At our rate of speed it would take us 4 hours to get there, and that was with the unlikely assumption that it wouldn’t rain.

We turned back, paid the $6 to get on the 135 superhighway, and cruised back into town. A bunch of policemen at a checkpoint laughed loudly at me as I pulled away from the checkpoint. I must have said good afternoon to them in a funny way, or maybe they aren’t used to someone saying hello in situations like that.

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The empty toll superhighway home.

After a detour back to Monte Alban to use the bathrooms, we drove through the slums and south around the airport before returning the car. When I tried to go down side roads, they always ended up being dead ends. After a few twenty point turns in front of confused residents, we decided to call it a day.

Driving wore me out.

For dinner, we had some lackluster vegetarian mole in a dreary restaurant as it started to rain. It was a fitting end to a day that wasn’t quite going according to plan.

Archives for June, 2011
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