The Road to Juquila
Early morning in Oaxaca City, I’m drinking a really pretty cappucino in a clear glass cup and watching the city wake up. People walk briskly, dressed mostly in jeans and a wide variety of tops. Sweaters, hoodies and boots are not unusual.
I wander around the square a little, careful to stay within sight of my hotel. Drink another cappuccino in another cafe. Finally, connect with Conan and Luis (in the middle of a third cappuccino) collect my luggage, and load Luis’s SUV.
Then we go shopping. A big store first, like a Meiers. There is a Walmart, but Conan says things are more expensive there. Julia has sent a list, Luis has a list, we shop and shop.
Then a department store, we look at cribs and other things, Luis picks out some clothes for his infant daughter. More stuff to load in the SUV.
Lunch at a little cafe type place ~ not sure what it was, but it was tasty.
Finally, we go pick up the flowers Luis’ mother had asked him to get. When we are through loading, the SUV looks like this:
And like this:
And at last, we are on the road to Juquila.
It’s off there in the mountains somewhere…
Juquila is a town of about 5,000 people. It’s a tourist town, not for foreigner so much as for Mexican people. The Virgin appeared to some children here, and continues to perform miracles. So people who have a request for a miracle make a pilgramage to Juquila, where there’s a special church and shrine, all of which I’ll talk more about later.
According to google maps it’s about 100 miles and takes about 2 and a half hours to get from Oaxaca City to Juquila. This is a joke.
Even on a map, here’s what the last part of the road looks like.
All those little jagged edges are curves, many of them hairpin turns.
There are special obstacles too – REDUCTOR is a warning for the speed bump. And they’re frequent.
Luis, experienced on this road, knows exactly where each one is ~ even the ones that aren’t marked. This is a very good thing.
I wasn’t able to catch a picture of the two dogs, trotting merrily down the middle of the road, but that’ll slow you up a bit. And the ones who sleep in the road wait until the last moment to get out of the way. As soon as we pass, they go back and lie down in the same spot, as if to say, “This really is my road, you know.”
So it is a five, five and a half hour drive, for sure. On a good run, we hit 30 or 40 kilometers an hour, about 20 or 25 miles an hour. Google maps, hmpf.
We pass “wild” horses and cows and an occasional pig.
We pass small town after small town.
We stop often.
We stop for food or drinks.
Or to use the bathrooms. Conan keeps a close eye on me, which is good. Culture shock abounds.
The bathrooms cost three pesos.
In fairness, I remember when public toilets were pay toilets in Italy, although I don’t know if they still are. And I have a vague recollection of some bathrooms in department stores here that cost a dime to enter the stall. So I don’t feel too superior or anything, this will change here in time, I’m sure.
But. I don’t have any small change, so I have to ask Conan for the three pesos. I enter, with only a little fumbling, head to the stall ~ oh, wait, no toilet paper. I move to the next one ~ no, no toilet paper in any of them. Not even a roll where it would be.
I go back to see if there’s a roll of paper towels by the sink, and I see it. Toilet paper – for a peso.
Laughing, I call to Conan, on the other side of the barrier, “Can I get another peso from you, please?”
Luis hears me, and says, with a grin, “What for ~ does it cost two pesos to get back out? Welcome to Oaxaca!”
In reality, I have to say that I haven’t felt like I was getting victimized by tourist stuff ~ or not any more than you would anywhere else. Probably less…