Carlos and I had our fill of city life in Oaxaca and were craving some nature so early Tuesday morning we hopped on a bus to the Sierra Norte, a couple hours outside of Oaxaca. Let´s just be clear– budget travel in Mexico is anything but glamorous. And in fact Mexico itself is so full of contradictions that I find it hard to articulate how I feel about many of the situations we have experienced so far. One minute you´re having a latte in a chic cafe and everyone is on their ipad, and then next thing you know you´re in a chaotic market with dozens of live and dead turkeys on the floor for sale and no one is wearing shoes and you´re eating a grasshopper. It´s confusing.
The Sierra Norte was like that too. The bus ride there involved standing up for two hours because it was oversold. We were subsequently pulled over by the police because, as many of the passengers grumbled, he was probably hungry for breakfast and needed some quick pesos. Once we arrived in the small town of Benito Juarez we began a 12k hike through the mountains that were just breathtaking. The fresh rain had produced a rampant crop of mushrooms – we probably saw fifteen different kinds– that we harvested for dinner. It was quiet and peaceful and exaclty what I needed, including the exercise.
At the town of Nevaria (population 75 on a good day) where we stayed with one of the rural families, everything seemed simple. There was a basketball court in the center of town and that pretty much sums out what sort of activities were available for us. This place was poorer than poor. A cement house with not much more than a few plastic chairs to sit on. Grandchildren running amok swatting flies for entertainment. Donkeys laughing in the back yard. Delicous peasant meals of garden vegetable soup and our fresh mushrooms in salsa with tortillas. Corn for breakfast. Sitting in the dark making small talk so as not to use electricty. My first Mexican shower in Mexico (a bucket of hot water and a bar of soap).
On the way back into town the bus drove by McDonald´s. There was a line of BMWs, Mercedes and an Audi SUV waiting to pick up their hamburgers. Oh Mexico.