We arrived easily, in fact ahead of schedule, on our Continental flight to Mexico City on Christmas morning after spending the night in Houston at the Knights Inn ($52 and free shuttle service). The plane was less that half capacity and there was lots of room to stretch and store bags. We hired a porter to carry our 7 pieces of luggage to the Yellow Cab, and for 150 pesos and a 20 peso tip, got to the TAPO bus station two hours ahead of our scheduled departure on ADO GL at 1 p.m. to Oaxaca. Seven bags carrying gifts and food staple orders for Oaxaca friends and family. I offered the baggage check man 60 pesos to keep our bags in the storage area (we looked like immigrants, carrying our life’s belongings) so we could go to the central snack area and get some lunch. His compadre declined our prior request, saying it was too early, and I remembered from ready Earl Shorris, that a bit of a propina (tip) goes a long way. We boarded the bus and found our seats were occupped, and did not insist on displacing the elderly couple who were completely settled in. We took the pair of seats opposite them, and as the bus turned south on Mexico 175, the midday sun beat in through the window serving as a solar panel. It was hot for the next six hours.
Bus travelers were a mix: young and older, children, grandparents, two pretty young blonde American bilingual college students on winter break, single men in their twenties who, I imagine, are returning to the provinces to visit mothers over the long weekend, able to find work in Mexico City when non was available in their home town. It is a long ride. People doze in reclining seats, sip bottled water, refresh themselves at 3 p.m. comida by carefully unwrapping cemitas (Poblano-style sandwiches), munch on nuts and cookies, read books, watch the series of four full-length feature videos, trying to pass the time. We traverse a shale mountain top studded with astovepipe cactus forest, pass ove a series of cantilevered concrete bridges that span deep river gorges. The sun is setting in the west and the valley below is an illuminated manuscript of green, brown, beige and deepening shadows.
We’re climbing higher on this curving two-lane road, passing slow moving trucks. The walls of the canyon pass are coated in concrete to prevent rock slides and after a time, these erode and spill crumbled stone out onto the roadway. Sometimes it is best not to look. This is the Pan American Highway. Altars with plastic flowers punctuate the side of the road, usually after i see the sign, “curva peligrosa.” I wonder if people died at that spot. My iPhone is tuned to the Buena Vista Social Club. We’re now on the fourth feature film, crossing a flat, desolate, sandy plateau that looks like a moonscape. Dry arroyos, chalk colored soil, scrub grass ochre in the setting sun. This is an earth that yields nothing but heartache and sweat. Yet people live here. There are distant lights flickering. I wonder what gifts were received today, Christmas.
Time to Travel from Mexico City to Oaxaca: 6 to 6-1/2 hours
Cost: On first class ADO GL, $58 USD one way