Dangerous Curves

Traveling with Don is always an adventure, as he is not content to take the road “most traveled.”   You can always be sure there is going to be some wild and crazy adventure involved, even if it is just a day trip.  And since he speaks better Spanish than me as well as being the “alpha dog” in the family, I am always eager to follow.

This time, it was to discover another one of Mexico’s “Pueblo Magicos,” or magic towns.  As mentioned before, these are a group of small towns that have earned the designation from the Secretariat if Tourism for their natural beauty, cultural or historical significance.   So far, I have only been to half a dozen of these towns, but each one has had a “certain ambiance.”  There is never enough of an attraction to warrant UNESCO World Heritage status by any means, but enough palpable charm to make me grateful Mexico has taken steps toward preservation.    If I had the time and the language skills, I would wander Mexico until I had covered the entire list, as I haven’t visited one yet that I didn’t enjoy.

The entire state of Oaxaca has only one town with the Pueblo Magico designation, “Capulalpam de Méndez.”  Try saying that with a Texas twang!   I spent a day there, and I still can’t say it!  (Maybe “Kah’-pool-YAH-pam???”)

Rosary on the Rearview — Comfort or Concern?

It would take a total of three different automobiles to get us up to the mountain village – first a local to get us to the “colectivo” station.  A colectivo is a shared taxi.  They typically hold four passengers, so one must wait until they fill up before they will depart.  Next leg was the shared colectivo for the 90 minute ride up the narrow, winding road to Ixtlan.  Finally, a third colectivo would take us the final 10 kilometers into Capulalpam.  All this transport for almost two hours through the mountains costs under $10 per person!

In spite of the fact that Don has a propensity for motion sickness, he made the ultimate sacrifice in giving me the front seat on the crazy, curvy ride up.  The scenery was breathtaking (though I did glance in the back seat occasionally to make sure he was not hanging out the window hurling, like he has been known to do!)  There were MANY opportunities to encounter two of my favorite road signs.   I think they sound so romantic and full of passion.  “Curvas Peligrosas,” for “dangerous curves” and “Camino Sinuoso” for “winding road.”   I always get excited when I see these two signs up ahead!

My favorite road sign, “Despacio, Camino Sinuoso,” or Slow Down Winding Road!

The little town of Capulalpam was spotless — very colorful, as well as quaint.  But it was also a bit deserted, as there seemed to only be a couple of tourists wandering around.  And we were noticeably the only Gringos.

He will do anything to “one-up” me on a photo!

One of the things that stood out right away is that EVERYONE I met in the street spoke.  Not just a smile and a nod, but an actual auditory greeting!    It took me a few disconnects to finally get used to this, as I would typically be three steps past the person before I translated the “Hola, Buenos Tardes” into a greeting addressed to me personally, realizing I needed to turn around and greet them back.

This is one of the cleanest towns I have seen, not just in Mexico!

There weren’t a lot of tourist attractions in the town.  Just a quiet, quaint, remarkably clean little fresh-air mountain town in the pine forest.  They have a natural “healing center” with a Temazcal (sweat lodge) that they are trying to build up.  There is also a very fancy market for artisans which was empty, save for a couple of outdoor lunch stands where we enjoyed a bowl of hot chicken and pasta soup.

Can you tell I am COLD??

Like with most Mexico cities, the town centers around what can often be a disproportionately huge church.  At Capulalpam, it seemed even more so as the massive structure, built in 1735, occupied several blocks, and towered over the surrounding one-story buildings in the village.  The church was locked up tight, so we kept asking everyone around town when it opened.  Every inquiry netted a different answer until finally the young interning doctor at the “healing center” got on the phone and called someone to come let us in!  😉

By now, it is getting late, and we decide it is a good idea to head on down the “curvas peligroso” before it gets dark.  In our haste to get the adventure underway, I failed to think through the temperature difference at 6,600 ft elevation, so I was now starting to move from chilly to uncomfortable in my capris and flip flops.   So we wait for our  first colectivo from Capulalpam down to Ixtlan, three out of four passengers present, but we must wait for a fourth.  Finally, we decide we are losing daylight, so we pay the extra 16 peso (a little over a buck) for the fourth seat, and we are on our way…..until, that is, we arrive at Ixtlan.

On the way up, we had just been dropped off in the street, so we had no idea there was a “colectivo station” where we needed to go wait in the return taxi queue.  The colectivos stop running at 7:00pm, and it is 70 kilometers back over the mountain roads to Oaxaca.  The “station,” little more than a tin-covered gravel lot with chairs lined along the walls, is packed.   As taxis pull in, everyone stands up.   The front four people exit to the taxi, and the rest of us move around the circle to the next available chairs.

Waiting in the colectivo queue

My feet are freezing in flip-flops, so my thoughtful brother fashions a “blanket” from an old sack for warmth.

I begin to do the math.  There are about 25 people in front of us, and taxis are arriving at a rate of one every fifteen minutes.   We would be in the seventh taxi, with only an hour till closing time.   We begin to discuss our options.  We could head back up the hill to Capulalpam and rent a hotel for the night, but we had no clothes, no toiletries, and worst of all, no laptops!  😉

Finally, they begin cramming FIVE people into the taxi, with driver makes six.  It is dark as pitch outside, and we are facing a long ride of “dangerous curves” to get back to Oaxaca City. We are up next in the queue.  I say to Don, “There are no seatbelts in the middle of the front seat.  When it is our turn, make a bee-line for the back doors!”

We scramble around in time to get a back seat, but the driver has the window down all the way, and by this time, it is FREEZING.   Don asks the driver to please “Cerrar la ventana, por favor?”   Once the drivers-side window is closed, we realize why he had it down….we are being gassed to death with an exhaust leak!  We are gonna be fast asleep by the time we reach the city of Oaxaca – I can see the headlines now, “Dead US tourists found in the back of a taxi – Details at 11!”   Not dead from the narcotraficantes as expected, but rather from narcolepsy brought on by CO2 poisoning!   So down go the windows again, and I resort to a game of “counting kilometers” as we begin our winding, hilly ride down through the darkness.

People often ask me, “As a ‘world traveler,’ what is the one item you couldn’t travel  without?”   Now, you know my answer…

(Some photos in this post courtesy of Don Anthony)

17 thoughts on “Dangerous Curves

  1. jeeeeeeez I loved this post, Suzanne.. all of yours are great to read but this one with this quaint little town! how pretty and your favorite signs! a little adrenaline going? and well, not to mention your flops… HAHAaaaaa…. that is me. I don’t give up wearing them easily.

    ahhhh a bandana… a must have… what fun… and you now what strikes me with your posts is how beautiful Mexico is. I did mention that I lived for four months in Chihuahua Chihuahua ….

    there was just no middle class there…. you were either very wealthy or dirty port. I heard in later years, however, that the middle class is there and growing. I just wish, as well do, that Mexico would take care of its own instead of the people risking their lives by suffocation and being scammed by people who promise them a way out…

    just amazes me that this goes on. sigh

    I’ve always been a risky toot but you really take the cake… especially now in my old age… I don’t like it. I do hope some of that … ol gypsy soul will surface enough to get me moving … I get a surge now and then .. then think of the logistics and just get tired and take a lil nap … lol?

    That little town center with the fountain and gazebo reminds me of where we stayed in Chihuahua… surely does. is that a motel on the left? swimming pool was behind the middle structure… brings back memories f’sure

    • Carolyn, I always love your comments. They are a blog post in of themselves. You will get your mojo back when the weather warms up a bit.

      I wish I had explored Chihuahua a little more, but I was just COLD, there darn it! It had been so cold here in Dallas, and with all my winterizing attempts, well, I was ready to get to warmer weather!

      I see quite a bit of middle class in places like Morelia, Queretaro and Guanajuato. Those are all beautiful UNESCO World Heritage towns in the colonial center of Mexico. I could happily live in any of the three. Someday, I want to explore the place George used to write about. Tequisquiapan. It is one of the Pueblo Magico towns also.

  2. aha! it posted… yay AND you know what? I unchecked the Authenticate this comment using OpenID … box… it is automatically checked … when I comment … so, I unchecked it and voila! the comment posted…

    check your settings and take of the automatic thingy… see if that helps others…

    how …. peculiar! 😉

    • Carolyn! I can’t believe you figured that out. You got it goin’ on, girl!! You get the troubleshooting award on the blog, for sure. Well, you always did say you were a genius. 😉 Now, if I can just figure out where you are seeing this. Are you coming over from the link on your site, or are you coming in by entering the www. URL? THANKS!!

  3. Thanks, Suzanne 😉 … oh, yes… and what was that other little town …the one where he had the mural put on Ms. Tioga… Rosaria? R… something…

    Sure hope he’s okay… I went back and read his blog from the beginning when I first heard of his blog … fascinating man … I have his blog on my blog roll to watch for updates … he did say Merry Christmas …

    I know … Dallas is really cold too … I remember having to walk to work from the parking lot of Field Street … to the First International Bank Building…. man oh man oh man …. talk about cold and windy!

    g’night 😉

  4. LOL…. I just saw your other response in my inbox … I just clicked on the email with you blog address … Word Press is quite a todo with it’s emails to the comment responses.

    I clicked on your blog from my blog roll sidebar … until I saw your emails responding to my comments… then just clicked from there.

    hah! the troubleshooting award! yay

    I have a WordPress blog also…. I moved it there ~ it is my private rant blog and it will never EVER be revealed… ha? I just prefer Blogger for my main blog… seems easier, to me.

  5. Yes, I have been following your blog since the GTG…I just can’t comment, because it does not allow anonymous comments, and I don’t have a google ID. But when I was in Mazatlan, Lynne (WinnieViews) gave me an idea on how to create a “generic” one so I can comment. So look out. LOL!!

  6. Well, I’ll be!!! Thanks to Carolyn for figuring out the Comment problem…now, if Don can figure out how to make that checkbox for “Authenticate this comment using OpenID” be UN-checked by default (rather than checked), likely more folks will be able to comment here.

    Love your posts this week! You and Don always seem to have quite the action-packed vacations! p.s. had we known you had that bandana with you, Millie would have put her lavender bandana on too so you guys could have matched!

    • Thanks, Mark! I am trying to understand where this “comment box” is located…is it on the link from Blogger? I have never seen a check box before, and don’t know where to look. I wish someone was able to send me a screen shot, so I could troubleshoot further. (hint, hint 😉 )

  7. go to your Dashboard …. which is located under your blog title on the upper left side menu bar …. then click on settings then click on Discussion … play around with that a bit to see if anything looks familiar with our settings …

    Then… back to the Dashboard menu and you’ll see OpenID … click on that and see what’s what. I think that’s where you might be getting the static..

    Also check out …http://en.support.wordpress.com/settings/general-settings/

    I spent a good bit of time yesterday learning where the musical symbols were on my Mac! LOL … ain’t going figure this out for WordPress because, like I said… I have a private WordPress blog but … it’s simply just for me and I do nothing other than use it to rant … 😉

  8. Oh… and good afternoon, Suzanne 😉 … it’s still freezing rain here… makes … hope Dallas is having better weather… man! what a gray ol rainy ol drizzly day … let me know if you figure this out… it is interesting … well, kind of…

    But I do believe the problems lies in the OpenID setting rather than discussion (comments)…

    • Good afternoon to you, too, Carolyn! It is warmer here…up to 65 today, but that gross, misty muggy weather that makes you want to turn the AC on, just to dry things out a bit.

      I checked both of these places, and I do not see anything out of the ordinary. Under OpenID, only the first box is checked for “Administrator/User Role.” Is that the same as your WP site?

      I wish I could figure out where you guys are seeing this check box. Do you know how to send me a screen shot? My IT Support (Don) is on a bus headed across Mexico, so I am on my own for a few days….

  9. Yes… I’ve just taken a screen shot but comment boxes won’t allow pictures… so I’ll email you …. 😉 I have unchecked, of course, the little box… it is automatically checked when I begin to comment…

    • GOT IT! Very helpful, Carolyn. I will keep investigating. If I figure this out, I owe you something sugar-freely delicious!

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