I rode into Oaxaca not knowing what to expect. I knew I wanted to eat a metric $hit ton of food as I've heard it's the cuisine capitol of LatAm (didn't let me down). I also had plans to volunteer at an organization called Oaxaca Street Children Grassroots. I pulled up to the hostel (Hostel Cielo Rojo) and was greeted at the door by Mauricio. He is a friendly guy that started the hostel with a friend a few years back. In advance I had sent him a note and he offered to put the bike in the plaza of the hostel, which was really great. 150 pesos per night w/ secure parking and a community of fantastic people makes for a solid deal.
The first full day I trudged the eight or nine blocks over to OSC. I walked in and met with Cliff (one of the founders) and Peppo (the volunteer manager). It really is a great organization and I'd highly recommend getting involved if you have the urge to help. Their mission is too... "provide Oaxacan children living in extreme poverty with an education. At our center we provide nutritious meals, medical care, and all support necessary for more than 600 children to attend public school." Along the way I also heard about another orphanage/school called Los Hijos de la Luna. OSC is very well run and there are actually quite a few volunteers around. The other (Los Hijos) is also well run, but there was a real lack in assistance from volunteers, so that's where I spent a bit more time. The first time I walked in I was 'attacked' by 30 or 40 kids starving for attention and interaction. I hung out, kicked the football, smiled, laughed, and even taught a beautiful little girl a little bit about riding a bike. It really was magical and put things into perspective for sure. If you find yourself in Oaxaca I would recommend stopping by both organizations.
One of the highlights from Oaxaca was visiting Monte Alban. It is a pre-Columbian archeological site with ruins overlooking Oaxaca from a beautiful vista. I explored a bit on my own and then ran into a small group of English-speakers. I met Frank, who was a Guatemalan traveler currently living stateside. He was a really interesting guy as-is, but he told me an incredible story as I got to know him. The route from Tehuacan to Oaxaca took me through the town of Orizaba. It sits at the base of Pico de Orizaba, which is an 18,500 foot glacier-capped mountain. The largest peak in Mexico and third largest in North America. Frank was there to summit the peak. However, a 25 year old American named Charles King fell the day Frank got there and he was asked to be a part of the rescue/extraction team. He gave up his goal of summiting to hike up the mountain in the middle of the night to retrieve the body. By the time they organized a medical and extraction team and reached the area it was 3am. He said it was obvious Charles didn't suffer. It seemed to really move Frank emotionally. Sometimes we do the things we love in life, but don't think about the dangers or consequences. The phrase "at least he passed doing something he loved" is thrown about quite frequently. In this case it seems fitting. Godspeed Charles King... Prayers and best wishes to you and your family.
Another highlight from Oaxaca was meeting and hanging out with my new friends Josephine, Gabriel, Erick, and Lisa. They are a great group who were driving around and visiting from D.F. (Mexico City). They invited me into their clan for a day to replace their amigo who was thrown in jail for the night for pissing on the street in front of a cop (long story - he got out safe and sound). After eating crickets in the market, they drove me up to Calpulalpam. It is a beautiful, tranquil, small village considered to be one of the magical towns of Oaxaca State. We drove for a couple of hours listening to amazing music, sampling mezcal, laughing, and exploring viewpoints and sights along the way. It really was an incredible day. Even the flat tire and visit to the vulcanizadora (tire shop) didn't change that.
When it came time to leave Oaxaca I was a bit sad actually as I enjoyed it so much. However, duty calls and the road was quite long to Puerto Escondido. I started my ride around 10am and didn't finish until around 9pm. Yeah, I know, I know... Rule # 1 of motorcycle travel, don't travel after dark. It is a long story but I ended up taking a very, very, very remote route through the mountains to Escondido. After riding for what seemed like forever, we ran into an impassable section only 20 miles from Escondido. We had to backtrack almost 40 miles back up and over the mountain to the main route. I say "we" because I ran into my first fellow motorcycle adventurers during the ride. I encountered Fred and Karen just after leaving Oaxaca. They were headed the road 'more' traveled, I was headed the road 'less' traveled (in the end we ended up on the road 'least' traveled). We agreed maybe to meet up in Escondido. Well, fast forward a few hours later, we all ended up randomly stopping at the same roadside grill for a rest, and some food and drink. Their GPS routed them the wrong way. We had a quite an adventure and I look forward to connecting with them sometime in the future. They've traveled quite a bit around the world on their 650, and Fred's blog can be found here.
Anyway, I've finally made it to Escondido. When I arrived last night to Vivo Escondido (a killer hostel started by a couple of friends - one of which is a fellow ADV Rider) I was greeted at the door by Mallory. They've let me park my bike in the secure pool/courtyard area. When I pulled in I was surprisingly greeted by Walter and Martin. These dudes are great. I met them at the last hostel and didn't expect to see them here. Walter is a cool guy from California, and Martin is a really hilarious, interesting guy from France who has been traveling on/off for approx four years. I was greeted with a beer and a plate of fish tacos. What an entrance!
Anyway, I'm being pestered by Martin to go to the beach, so I'm going to run for now....
Life on two wheels is good. Life in general is good. More to come,
PS... I fell in love last night briefly, but the feeling wasn't mutual. More to come on that as well. :)