Tuesday, November 17, 2009

So? How bad is the drive to Puerto Escondido, really?

When we were here in 2006, we only had a week and everyone told us the drive was A.) Horrendous and B.) 6 hours long. We decided then we would not take the trip at that time.

With Ralph's Spanish lessons ended for a short 1 week break, and my part time schedule, we packed the car and fled the city on Friday morning. Some anecdotes we had heard about the road:

• Don't drive tired.

• Don't drive at night.

• Don't drink and drive on this road (or any other road, for that matter!)

• Be very careful.

• Leave early.

We knew the road was about 100 miles through the Sierras. Ralph thought it was 120 kilometers, as the crow flies. We had read stories about a small orange pylon marking the fact that the road was completely washed away. We were told to get gas before leaving Oaxaca.
The real story:
It's all true. The drive takes conservatively 7 hours total, including 1 pee break and time to get some snacks. The road is literally riddled with potholes or what one could loosely call "grooved pavement". There were sections of the road completely washed away. There are no shoulders. The shrubs and trees grow right to the edge of the road, making a lovely tunnel effect. Beyond the shrubs and trees is air, a steep slope to sure death at the bottom of the valley. In addition to the cows wandering on the road, one can witness goats, waterfalls and donkey. And an occasional chicken.

Did we mention it was S turn after S turn - so many they don't even bother with a sign telling you about said S turn. There are few places to pull over to let the red sporty Volkswagens by, there are NO places with dotted yellow lines for passing, but you pass anyway.

We drove between 40 and 60 kilometers per hour. We passed one S turn where a beer truck had lost its load all over the road, 2 small red triangles denoted the one lane available for passing the clean up crew.

We drove through spectacular scenery, into the clouds, our highest altitude 1902 meters above sea level. The mountain vegetation is clearly defined by the green or brown depending on which side of the range the Pacific is on. The corn fields on the side of the hill that surely require repelling equipment for planting and picking amazed us.

We were stopped at a roadblock for about 30 minutes, though we originally thought it was going to be 3 hours. Apparently the blockade was a statement/protest/fundraiser for road repair. Had I known, I would have gladly handed over the VISA.

Most remarkable: It seems that frequent drivers strap a framed picture of a virgin (Soledad or Guadalupe, not sure if this is personal preference or other recommendation) to the grill of their car/van/SUV/pickup/semi tractor trailer. Fresh or dried flowers adorn her image on either side.

Viya con Dios to Paradise.

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