Riding the Rails To Oaxaca

My second day in Mexico City was almost as good as my first. My main destination in 'ol Mexico was Oaxaca and the consierge at the Maria Christina, after asking me a few questions suggested i take the overnight train as he thought i'd enjoy it and the cost was very reasonable. He suggested that instead of spending hours lining up in the heat at the train station i let him make my reservations from the hotel and that i spend my day touring the Museums of Anthropology and History and walking through the parks. i said "si, si senoir". He pointed out where the hotel district's tour bus stopped and i rode to the incredible parks and museums. My hours there formed the itinery for every trip i took through Mexico in the coming years. If you ever get a chance to visit them go, it's the best, most educational hours you'll ever spend anywhere.

i walked back the few miles to the hotel along wide tree covered boulavards arriving back leg weary and ready for a long soak in my huge bathtub. The desk people handed me my train tickets on my way to dinner and drinks on the terrace. They asked me if i'd made arrangements for accomadations in Oaxaca, of course i hadn't, so they offered to do it for me and suggested another fantastic old hotel one block from the zocolo there. Of couse i said "por favor". That evening there was a band setup by the fountain and interesting people from all over the world all around me. i slept like a log barely hearing the bellboy with the coffee and paper the next morning. Fortunately the train didn't leave until late afternoon and the hotel's driver was lined but to bring me to the station. i lounged around, had lunch and a few cervesas on the terrace, handed out tips to everyone in sight and arrived at the station ticket in hand. The Maria Christina seems like a wonderful dream now, one i'll never forget.

The train ride was incredible, i traveled coach with laughing children, doting parents and refeshments brought onboard by local vendors at every stop. The clickety clack of the rails and the rocking train made sleep easy. The bathrooms consisted of a huge open hole over the tracks, not so bad for a man peeing but i sure wasn't trying anything else. Just before sunrise i made my way to the back of the caboose and sat watching the sunrise over the beautiful countryside. Again, if you ever get a chance don't miss the train to Oaxaca, you'll never forget it.

We departed the train in the late morning and i walked the short distance to the hotel. It too was exquisite though slightly less so than the Maria Christina. The front desk again knew who i was instantly, perhaps i stood out because of my 6' 5" 250lb long haired tie-dyed appearence compared to the suits and dresses all around me, perhaps to was my ear-to-ear smile. They handed me my key, offered to do any laundry i left outside my door overnight and suggested i dine at one of the restaurants overlooking the zocalo that evening as there'd be a band playing that evening. The food and the brass band were wonderful. Oaxaca is populated by a mixture of Zapotec Indios, Spanish decendents of the conquistadors and international vagabonds. The place is unique and these days is a center of the cultural revolution slowly sweeping north from the hills of Chiapas that will hopefully one day allow Mexico to become again the paradise it once was.

i awoke the next morning to a soft knock on the door. Opening it i stood face to navel with a very short Zapotec lady holding my stack of washed-dried-ironed-starched laundry. It took me a few days and a few hand washings before i walked normally again-one lesson i learned in Oaxaca-never starch your underwear. At the front desk i asked about transportation options to Puerto Escondido on the coast. They instantly warned me away from the buses saying "muy peligroso" [very dangerous] and reserved me a seat on that afternoon's local airline shuttle. i walked through town for hours eating my way through the colorful stalls around the mercado. The hotel had a driver who took me to the aeroporto and showed me to the loading area for Aerolineas Oaxacinas and the tiny airline's ancient DC-3.

The flight to the coast was another story...tomorrow's