Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category


Long and Winding Road

Saturday, January 24, 2009

After a long day, we finally made it to Macuil last night, but at least I got my second opportunity to drive in Mexico.  The first time had been two summers ago when I had gotten a trial by fire, driving in Mexico City.

This time was much less stressful.  Nacho drove us out of the city, and then feeling tired, he let me take over.   It was the first time I got to drive on the twisty mountain road leading through the Sierra.  It was quite fun and much faster than I expected.  We made it in about two, two and a half hours.

I got to experience another first, too, on this trip:  getting stopped by a police security checkpoint.  For a long time, there had been regularly police/military checkpoints on the roads I had been on leading out of Oaxaca City.  I had seen them both on the road into the Sierra and the road to Tlacolula, but I had never been in a vehicle that had been stopped at one.  In recent years, they hadn’t been in use though.  But last night a temporary checkpoint was set up and we were stopped just before we reached the turn off to another town, Jaltianguis.

I had always been nervous passing the fixed checkpoints in the past, but maybe because this one was a surprise, I wasn’t nervous (at least once I figured out what the heck was going on).  We had to pull over and Nacho, Margarita, and I had to get out of the car, while the heavily armed police (or was it the military, I’m never sure about these things in Mexico) checked for drugs.  Luckily, they let the sleeping Benjamin and Margarita’s mom stay in the car.  They patted down Nacho, but no one else.  Maybe being a gringo saved me the inconvenience.

Overall, I was happy for the stop.  It was a nice clear night and the stars looked spectacular, it was a chance to wake up a little, and with all of the recent drug violence I’ve been hearing about in Mexico, I actually felt a little better they were there checking.


Waiting for Nachot

Friday, January 23, 2009

We have successfully completed the first of our many tasks for today: picking up Nacho from the airport. He came in today on a new flight Mexicana is offering, an overnight direct flight from LAX to Oaxaca. A direct flight between the two sounds like a great idea and seems long overdue, though I did see some of the hitches in the plan this morning.

I haven’t yet been on this flight (and overnight makes it sound less appealing to me), but I do like the direct flight from Houston to Oaxaca via Continental Express. Either flight lets you skip the Mexico City airport, which is a big plus in my book. I hate how generally when you are getting a connecting flight at Mexico City, they just put you in a big holding room, and announce the gate for your flight about 30 minutes before you are supposed to take off. The holding area is crowded and uncomfortable, even though there is plenty of seating in the gate areas. Then, you have to make a mad, last-minute scramble to your connecting gate, sometimes running into the previous passengers trying to deboard. It’s a mess and I can’t understand why they can’t figure out the gate assignments at least a few hours in advance, if not at the outset of the day.

Unfortunately, the Mexicana direct flight has its problems, too, mainly getting through immigration, which in Oaxaca seems to consist of only 2 immigration officials. For the Continental flights it’s not too bad, because they’re small planes, only 3 seats to a row. So, while it can be slow getting through immigration, it’s not unbearable. But the Mexicana flights are much bigger, 6 seats to a row, but still only two immigration officials.

We ended up waiting on Nacho for over an hour; his plane landed at 6:22am, but it was after 7:30am when he finally emerged. (Of course, adding insult to injury he actually got the red light at customs, meaning a customs officer gave his bags a cursory search.)

It does look like they are working on renovating the Oaxaca airport. Hopefully, they will expand its immigration area so they can have more officers working the incoming flights to speed things up.

I still think I like the Oaxaca airport better than the Mexico City one.


Around Oaxaca in 80 Seconds

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I’m back in the US today. I’m going to hang out a while in LA, collect some things (such as books) I’ve been needing in Oaxaca, run some errands, and then attend the annual meeting of the Linguistics Society of America up in San Francisco.

I caught the Continental Express flight that goes directly from Oaxaca to Houston, which I like, because it means I get to avoid the Mexico City airport. We had a spectacular flight out this morning. When flying out of Oaxaca, you should try to grab a window seat on the port side of the plane, which for the Continental Express flights is the side with a column of single seats. I had one at it afforded spectacular views of the city.

After sitting in the plane for a while to burn fuel–the captain said we were near our weight limit–we took off and circled the city (perhaps to slowly gain (because of our weight?) enough altitude to clear the mountains north of Oaxaca?). I never recall being on a flight that did this before. I had seen Monte Alban from the plane before, but this time , we circled all the way around it. It was great seeing it from every side. I could easily make out Building J, which is set at an angle from all the other buildings, see the jutting arm of the site on the north side, and the terraced mountainside. It was great.

Then we essentially came back over the top of the airport and headed north. Coming back over the city, I spotted the Guelaguetza amphitheater, the baseball stadium, and the Zócalo.

A wonderful way to start a trip.