We start our drive towards Oaxaca early because we know it will be a long day. I manage to get a new app called Sparkle Stories downloaded and we have the quietest non-sleeping two hours on our trip yet. The boys are absolutely enchanted by the stories. We kick ourselves for not finding this sooner.
We stop for a snack/early lunch and then drive up into beautiful desert mountains. The boys are soon asleep. We drive quietly through the austere landscape, letting our thoughts wander.
We have to negotiate mid-afternoon Oaxaca traffic to get to our campground, Overland Oasis. Although Google maps is totally wrong on how long it will take us to get there, it guides us to the right place, in a small town east of Oaxaca. Our hosts are Canadian expats named Leanne and Calvin and are as nice as can be. There is a shower head in the clean, modern bathroom, separate receptacles for recycling, compost, and trash, and other English-speaking travelers to talk to. Calvin even fills a dingy with water for the boys to play in.
After a rest day, we eagerly head into the city. We take a collective taxi, which for here means a regular car painted maroon and white, which picks up as many passengers as it can take (one time there were 7 passengers, including the kids.) There is a set price, but unfortunately for us, there is a protest in the streets, and our driver takes us the LOOONG way around, eating up an hour, extra money, and a heaping load of our pride, which sets the day off on the wrong foot.
After a couple cathedrals, some OK market food, and a drink in the main square, it is time to head back. I really want to stay and explore, dip into art galleries and coffee shops, but it just isn’t possible or enjoyable with the kids. It takes forever to find our way back through the protest, and when we get back, I am more than a little disappointed. I was looking forward to this experience for so long, and it just didn’t come close to what I had envisioned.
There are several factors at play here that make visiting large cities like Oaxaca difficult. Generally when you visit a big city you find a hotel near the central area so you can explore for a while, then dip back into the hotel for a rest. You can split up with your partner according to interests, then return to take a shower and go out for dinner and some nightlife. But with a trailer, we have to stay where the trailer parks are, which is generally a good bit out of the city, and much more limiting. In Guadalajara, we didn’t even go into the downtown area because it would have taken an hour each way. It seemed like too much of a hassle with the kids.
The second factor is those pesky children. As wonderful and lovely as they are, it is frustrating to be on their schedule. But we have learned that life is easier if we don’t push them too far and always make sure they have a restful nap. We test this in Oaxaca by having Rylan take a nap in the backpack and letting Graysen skip his nap, but we pay for it later with extra cranky kids. We try to explain to the other campers that they are not normally like this and we get skeptical looks.
The small town of El Tule is much more manageable. Everyone staying at the campground walks over to a burger place one night with Calvin and Leanne. We take over the tiny restaurant run by a single mother and live it up with $1.50 hamburgers. Another night we go out for parrilla, mixed meats on a charcoal hotplate that you make tacos out of. We get ice cream and see the Tule tree, the biggest tree in the western hemisphere.
One day we take a drive up into the mountains. We stop first at a small town known for its rugs, Teotitlán del Valle. We find ourselves drawn into their local market, where we have some treats and get some provisions for dinner. The boys attract a lot of attention from the traditionally dressed women there.
We then follow a dirt road impossibly high into the mountains. We go up almost 5,000 feet and see some amazing vistas. Thankfully, there are very few other cars on these narrow roads. The swaying of the switchbacks puts Rylan to sleep and we have to wake him for lunch in Cuajimoloyas.
We find what seems to be the only restaurant in town in a very odd, glass-enclosed area. There happens to be a wooden kids play structure inside, which the boys are very happy about. We can’t really understand the sweet old woman who tells us what is on the menu, so we ask her to pick two things for us. Apparently, the only thing they have is trout, because she brings us one fried trout and one in foil. They are both delicious.
A short walk through a graveyard to the other side of the mountain shows us how vast and well-used the trails are in this mountainous area. The locals farm impossibly steep and rocky slopes and bring their goods to market on their backs. The boys look for geckos and listen for birds.
We try the city one more time and have slightly better success. We decide that Oaxaca City is not for us right now and that we will have to return another time to fully appreciate it.