Monday, March 2, 2015

Working hard, or hardly working...

We finally found the perfect burger.
Way up in the mountains, on the way to Playa Zipolite, I spot a big red sign while we were passing through a little roadside town, if one can even call it that. The sign says “Gringoburger”. We are rolling along in Peggy-O for the first time in two months, taking her out on an will-we-break-the-transmission-test-drive/yay-for-us-we-finished-spanish-school jaunt to the beach. The sign makes us laugh, but then I see what appears to be an American dude in the hamburguesa stand below, so we stop to say hello and see what this Gringoburger is all about. We are not disappointed. As I am typing this my stomach is grumbling just thinking about this burger. Homeground beef, like, six pieces of crunchy bacon, gooey, melty, yellow american cheese, topped with perfectly spicy pickled jalapeƱos and sweet caramelized onions. Holey Shamoley, I will forever have dreams about this burger. 

Greg blew us away with his burger skills and tales of daredevil skiing in Jacksonhole Wyoming before giving the proverbial finger to the States and setting up his 7 by 7 ft burger stand on the side of the mountain road. Greg and Gringoburger are a part of why Mexico is so great. You absolutely never know who you might run into, or what the day is going to bring, but it usually comes with a great story or two. 

Carefully, Peggy-O, carefully!! Easy does it. 
Driving is dirty work!

Brian and I decided to treat ourselves to a beach “vacation” after a busy couple of weeks taking spanish classes at Oaxaca Spanish Magic and volunteering at the Oaxacan street kids center. I know, I know, our lives are so hard. Brian polished his already awesome spanish with the advanced class and I started learning how to not sound as much like a three year old. The spanish classes ran for three hours in the morning monday through friday, and our brains were pretty useless for an hour or two in the afternoon. We even switched hats from students to teachers and led a craft project for a group of kiddos at the street kids center. Everyone had fun, and the kids made some awesome rainbow scratch boards. Both teaching and learning made us extra thankful for afternoon siestas. After our two weeks were completed, we dusted off Peggy-O, pulled out all non-neccesity items in case we broke down, and slowly and carefully headed south. Its been a long time since I said that, headed south. It feels good. 

Kiddos working hard on their projects! Art is so fun!

To get to Playa Zipolite one must take some of the most sinuoso (winding) roads that exist in the world, at least in my book. We’re talking gaining around 10,000 feet elevation in about 50 miles. Whew. It makes the halfway point Gringoburger taste that much better, once your nausea has subsided for a while, that is. 
Oooph! That looks like its going to hurt.
There ya go Ronstadt, much better form. Now if only the photographer would get her act together. 

The beach was muggy and hot and just what we were looking for. Sun and sand and a whole lot of doing nothing, other than holding a book in one hand with a fruity beach cocktail in the other. We avoided the hippies, as much as we could anyways, at times it was a little difficult as there was a circus festival in the next town over and Zipolite happens to be one of the few beaches where nudity is not only accepted, but encouraged. And yes I said circus festival. One thing I won’t soon forget is when we were taking a small Pongo boat to another beach to snorkel, we found ourselves in the middle of a huge pod of dolphins. They swam with us for close to fifteen minutes, playing off the waves from the boat. The 13 year old girl in me died and went to heaven. 

Our van still doesn't smell the same after we picked these guys up for a lift. 

A week of the beach was so relaxing and a nice change of pace, but both of us were ready to return to our chosen home for these couple months and get back to work doing what we do best. Exploring Oaxaca, indulging in its food, culture and endless things to do all while having a bit too much fun. Its hard work being us. 

Pretty overlook of Oaxaca

Having some fun at the Alebrijes futbal game. 

Getting friendly with a local futbal hero. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Youngest Snowbirds in Oaxaca turns out that you get a free case of beer with the entry fee to Oaxaca's midnight Drag Ball. We took a chance on Valentines day to dance the night away with some of Mexico's prettiest er..ladies and had a killer time. Cross dressing is celebrated in several small towns on the isthmus in Oaxaca and no place was livelier than on the dance floor last night. This article is an interesting read about the history of these festivals and the people that participate-

Thats right, a case of beer free with your entry.
The finalists

The Oaxaca Lending Library has been a great resource for us after we decided to rent a place and stick around for a few months. Aside from great lectures, events and classes, they are affiliated with a hiking/mountain biking group ( Its been a great way to get out into the mountains around the city and a fun way to meet the locals and other folks 'wintering' down here. Several of the hikes have been around the Pueblos Mancomunados, eight remote villages in the highlands above Valle de Tlacolula. Isolated single track, crisp mountain air, and a real look at the life of the indigenous Mixteca culture around every turn. 

It seems that half the people of Canada spend a part of their winters here and we've met some pretty wonderful Canucks, eh, heck, darn etc. :) You know who you are! Its been fun (and difficult at times, but fun) transitioning from driving every other day to spending more time learning about a particular place, making friends and discovering the hidden gems that most all cities have. Its cause to celebrate for example, when you find the perfect bagel shop hidden in a plaza or a tiny organic food mart thats got fish sauce so you can finally bust out the pad thai noodles you've been lugging around with you for months.

We rode 13km of (steep) downhill from Benito Juarez to Latuvi, then thumbed it back.

Refueling. This spread was small compared to most others nearby!

eat your heart out Pistils! air plants everywhere!!

The apartment we leased is part of a building thats got about 20 casas. The woman that built the place was the daughter of the U.S. Consulate to Mexico half a century ago. She was very loved by the locals and 'snowbirds' alike and ran a very successful textile business here in Oaxaca for many years. There are several residents in the building that have been living here for 15 years or more and the atmosphere around the building and its courtyards is very good. Sunsets and Mezcal abound!!!

mezcal, mezcal, mezcal....amazing happy hours

The rooftop view

Neighbors Dave and Marilyn are Mezcal Aficionados and make a helluva cocktail weenie!
thats Lindsay having second thoughts about the rickety ladder to the lookout tower near Benito Juarez....she eventually made it.

just a terrible way to spend the afternoon after a hike. if you don't already own an Eno hammock, go buy one now.

the view at approx 10,000ft looking out over the village of Benito Juarez in the foreground, and the town of Teotitlan del Valle on the valley floor about 4000ft below 

Lindsay at the futbol game last week! Alebrijes win!!!

and of course, delicious crickets!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Friends don't let friends just go back to Oaxaca

It was just kind of pretty here in Cancun. Ancient ruins on the beach, no big deal.

It doesn't get much better than these kids. (And Chris!)

When you are heading back home to Oaxaca, after a really great month of wanderlusting though Guatemala, and your friends (who live in Alaska) text you and say “Come meet us in Cancun!” You hop on the 18 hour bus and go meet them. Duh. 

So that is what we did. Brian and I were just minding our own business in a really cool mountain  town called San Cristobal de Las Casas, when we switched out our bus ticket to Oaxaca for one in the opposite direction to Cancun to go meet our awesome friends, who were soaking up some sun on the Yucatan Peninsula. We were so excited that the 18 hour bus ride wasn't all that bad. Well, not that terrible with the handful of Benadryl and Dramamine that we swallowed. Who am I kidding? It was still pretty awful. 

But totally worth it. Tournaments of Farkel, beach lounging, cheep beer drinking, delicious food consuming, Cenote cave swimming, Mayan ruin exploring and lots of story-telling filled up a whirlwind of not even close to enough days before we all headed our separate ways. 

Short bus rides are fun!
Getting our taco on. I don't think I have ever seen as big of a plate of tacos as this!

I love the heck out of a cave. 

I love the heck out of a certain caveman too. 

Iguanas outnumbered the tourists at the Tulum Mayan Ruins! 

My and my sista-from-anotha-mista, Lee-Anne.

Brian makes friends where ever he goes. 

Very interesting, very dangerous looking Guatemalan pole dance. 

Bats are the coolest! And so important! 

Gearing up to swim in the Cenote. We know we look good.

EEK! Is that a cave monster?

Tree roots reaching down to get a little sip.

Behold Lee-Anne; one of the most amazing women in the whole universe. 

Sassy husband after he pushed me into the cave water. He is lucky to be smiling! 

Back in Oaxaca we found Peggy-O right where we left her in the Parqedero, looking as good and as dusty as ever. But our nights of sleeping in the van are officially over. We found a great apartment close in to El Centro. Though it is going to still take some getting used to looking out at the van from my apartment window, and not looking out from inside of the van. However, with the hot water showers, nicely equipped kitchen and bonus studio space with the perfect light for painting, I will get over my sentimental van-feelings soon. 

This week so far has been busy with initiating the acquaintance with our new Oaxacan life. We signed up for a few weeks of spanish lessons, found the only mircobrew bar in the city, joined the local hiking club by climbing nearby Picacho peak and made our first venture into one of the big mercados in town for some fresh produce and meat. A few friends have been made and we are starting to feel a little less lost while exploring the city. I think we are going to like it here. 

One room of our sweet apartment. 

Happy to be back in Oaxaca!

The Tule tree! 2,000 years old and its claim to fame is that it has the stoutest trunk in the world. This picture does not even begin to do it justice. 

Our first Oaxacan hike; Picacho Peak!