Road to Hierve el Agua

This was a pretty fun weekend. I saw a couple of things in the surrounding countryside that were pretty popular, and got to ride my motorcycle for a whole bunch of hours.

Cyrus was leaving on Sunday, and he wanted to see some of the local sights, so we took a local bus to Tule. The town (called Santa Maria El Tule) has a 2000+ year old tree. Initially I was sceptical about it being a big tree. In the Northwest, it’s hard to swing a dead cat without hitting someone that complains about you just having killed a cat. And when they step aside, you hit a big tree. So I’ve seen a lot of big trees (biggest cypress, biggest fir, etc.) But when I got there, it was one big tree. I’ll even go on record as saying it’s the biggest tree I think I’ve ever seen. It was huge. I’m glad my skepticisim was removed for a while.

After that Cyrus and I went back to the city and hit a weekend market, which is always amazingly packed. Two tall, skinny, white guys stand out (and spend much time ducking.) We eventually found our way back to the Zocalo and got some food (Cyrus = eating machine.) Since it was his last day in Mexico, he wanted to try Mescal. Even if he was a heavy drinking teen ( I’m pretty sure he’s not), mescal is pretty hard stuff. It’s not too easy on a 38 y.o. tongue, but I’ve abused my body enough over the years it knows there isn’t much point in complaining. It was funny watching him try to drink it, but he managed. Luckily for him, I don’t know how to say “keep ’em coming” in Spanish.

The next day I got up early (photographers curse – the best light for taking pictures is at dawn and dusk) and hit the road for Hierve el Agua. Traffic was mercifully light at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday. My first stop was the ruins at Dianzu. Pretty cool stuff. I was the only one there, other than the people taking my money. It was somewhat impressive, but not awe inspiring.

Next on the list was a place called Yagul (my favorite name yet – very Cthulhu.) Again, I was the only one there when I arrived. It was a much more impressive site, a lot larger than Dianzu, but not as well restored. There were several times I had to backtrack a long ways to get out. From what I can tell, it was also a defensive stronghold. It was on a hill, but if you climbed up _another_, larger hill, you got to a fortress. Supposedly, the purpose of this was to hold off a siege with the whole population of the city. Pretty neat stuff, and a pretty hard climb.

The last ruin on my journey was Mitla, which several people have recommended. It was the best restored of the three sites, but it was somewhat small – at least the part that was restored, very, very crowded, and I was taking pictures under the noonday sun. Having the sun directly overhead makes it very hard to see the relief that exist in a lot of the sculptures and reliefs.

While I was parking my bike, some guy came up to me and was very excited about my bike and my trip. His daughter spoke perfect english, so we chatted for a short while as she translated. A few minutes later they came back and wanted to get a picture of me with my bike, and a picture with me and my bike. They were going to e-mail me the picture and I hope they do. It was a nice exchange to have. I wished I would have thought to get a picture of him on my bike – he probably would have liked that.

After Mitla, I went to Hierve el Agua, which is the furthest point on my journey today. It was recommended by locals as being a favorite. It’s rather hard to get to, as you have to go down a dirt road through a couple of small, mescal producing towns to get there. It was a good time to be on a 1150GS, but it would have been better to be on a KLR 650. For you non-motorcycle people, a KLR 650 is essentially a dirt bike that is street legal. It’s about 90% off road and 10% street bike. The BMW is about 90% street bike and 10% off road.

After driving for a while down this dirt road, you come to hot springs. There are pools that have been created for people to swim in, and these falls have been created by the hard water running off the hills for a very long time. Kind of like the stuff you get in your bathtub, but many times bigger than your house. It was pretty cool to see, but not breathtaking. The pictures I have aren’t great as the sun was behind the most picturesque falls, but you should be able to get the idea. You can, and I did, climb down to the bottom of the falls and take pictures. It was a pretty rough and steep scramble, but it felt good to be doing a little hiking again (Yagul was fun for that reason too.)

I ended up getting sunburnt. Stores don’t sell sunblock, so once the feeling of “hey I’m getting sunburnt” hit, there wasn’t anything I could do. It was pretty painful there for a while. Other than that, the ride back was great. The road was nice and curvy, and without speed limits.

When I got back to Oaxaca, I hadn’t eaten all day, so the lady of the house made me a small meal. I’d missed the main meal of the day, and I appreciated the extra effort she made. It wasn’t much so later I went to Tacos Alvado (sp?) – a favorite of Cyrus and the people of the house here, and I’d eaten there a few times before. Tonight, I had one taco and two quesadillas.

I spend much of the rest of the night throwing up, and most of Monday sleeping. I probably slept 28 out of next 32 hour. Waking up in the middle of the night, normally you roll over and go back to sleep. I would wake up, roll over and think – “goddammit – time to get up again.” It was miserable – the worse case of food poisioning I’ve ever had. I didn’t have much in my system from Sunday, and Monday I couldn’t eat, so I was pretty weak. I manged to go to the store and get one of those noodle in a cup and some tuna about 7 p.m., and that helped me out a bit. Once I got everything out of my system, I was fine. And glad to be alive.

Oh yeah.. Here are the pictures.

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