A Few Days in Oaxaca

We were to take the overnight bus from Oaxaca de Juarez (Oaxaca City) to Puerto Escondido on the coast for some relaxing times. I’m obviously unaware of most the logistics of such a trip, as I don’t live in Oaxaca. I could look it up on some tourist website, but I figured going with a local would be the way to go. Well, the overnight bus never happened. My acquaintance here in the city, Daniel, was running a little late. Around 11 pm, when we were supposed to be boarding our bus, we meet up and I drop my stuff at this apartment. Do I want to go out for a drink? Sure. And then we’ll wake up early for the morning bus. Sure.

Two other friends of Daniel’s join us and we roll into a bar to check it out. I’m unsure what their qualifications for a good scene are, but apparently there were not enough people hanging out on the terrace. At Txalaparta, a bar where you can get a shot of mezcal for 20 pesos, we sit and drink some beers, but the boys are obviously not content.  Do I have my ID on me? Yeah. Do I like rum? Yeah.

To another place we go to claim our discounted bottle of Appleton’s Estate rum, with my tourist ID. I like to go places where the locals go when I visit a place, and going to a place where they give discounts to tourists scares me. But it’s a mixed crowd. Locals and tourists mingle. Local guys try their best with the visiting gals. Club dance music blares and my only refuge is the TV showing the music videos for these songs. They are hilarious, some intentionally, some not.  I drink our rum. People’s eyes search the room constantly. What are they looking for, I wonder? We have beers. It is getting pretty late and they are shutting this place down. On to the after-hours bar.

Down the street we knock on a large unmarked wooden door. Daniel and I have gotten separated. I’m with new people. We sit down, have more beers. The band that was playing intermittently at the last place plays another set. Drunk guys shout for a while about the local soccer club that’s doing well.  It has grown even later now, the after-hours bar is shutting it down. I try to track down Daniel. I still want to go to the beach.

Some time after 6 am, Daniel and I rendezvous and walk to buy tickets for our bus to Puerto Escondido. We scramble back to his place, throw some things in a bag, and head back to catch our 7 am bus.

The bus is, by my standards, small. It is like a large van, two seats on one side and a single row of seats on the other. My legs do not fit, which shouldn’t be surprising considering I’m on average 6 inches taller than everyone else, and I should know this because I’ve been to Latin America before. Luckily, the bus isn’t crowded so we can sprawl out and get a bit of rest. The ride winds back and forth on local roads, stopping to pick up people along the way for short rides. People hop on and off as I drift in and out of consciousness. My body is constantly being jerked back and forth from the terrain and bumpy roads.

We arrive in Puerto Escondido about 1:30 pm, the air heavy with humidity. Men’s shirts are soaked through. People passing on the street look at each other with a mutual feeling of pity for the inferno around them. We check into a nice cheap hotel a short walk from the beach. Children play and families look on near the harbor, where the water is more calm. Puerto is known for big waves and a strong rip tide.  Surfing here can be quite gnarly. We walk farther, around the curve of this long beach.

Almost instantly upon settling down at a table on the beach, drinking our beers, it starts to rain. It continues for several hours. We sit under a large canopy and watch the water, still enjoying the atmosphere despite the lack of sun. As our beer count approaches double digits, we decide to grab some food at Fish Taco Beer (they do in fact have all three of these things), and then hit the showers at the hotel.

The night is uneventful.  Bars are filled with 18 year old tourists experiencing their first taste of bar life. At 25, I feel too old to be there.

The original plan was to wake up early and take an hour bus ride to the beach at Mazunte. I wake up Daniel at 10:30, but we don’t get out of there until almost noon. So much for Mazunte. We return to the same beachfront tables and have some breakfast. The day is bright and sunny. Plastic tables with colorful tablecloths and lounge chairs line the beach covered by umbrellas. Music is always somewhere lingering in the background. People lounge, drinking cervezas or large icy cocktails. Stray dogs run around, playing.

The trip has not been wasted. We would get what we had come for. We swim in the ocean, lie in the sun, drink beers. I read Octavio Paz’s poem “Sun Stone.” In the afternoon, two dogs come and sit by my table. They do not beg for food or nuzzle for my hand. They just lie next to me, their natural companion.

On the overnight bus back I am crammed shoulder to shoulder in the back seat between Daniel and a couple with a newborn baby.  Use your imagination.

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