We departed México City around 6 a.m. trying to beat the city traffic and hoping to arrive early in the afternoon to our destination in Oaxaca, almost 300 miles to the south. Leaving the city, there was an endless sea of concrete homes stretching as far as the eye could see into the hills on either side of the road. As we drove on, the concrete homes gave way into lush green hills blanketed in the cold mist. The sun finally came out and we made our way higher into the mountains on the Pan-American Hwy. The terrain in Mexico is varied. In less than two hours, we traveled through cactus-covered hills to high pine-covered ridges and back into tropical trees. We were making good time and everyone was in good spirits about covering the 292 miles stretch to Oaxaca with spare time to explore the city.
But it’s been a never missing ritual that every time we get an early start, something goes wrong. We arrived in Oaxaca around 4:00 p.m to find the only road to the town shut down. The local bus companies were on strike and blocked off all the major streets of Oaxaca to protest the low bus fares. No amount of sweet talking and begging would persuade them move the buses, and we had no choice but to wait. Getting around the buses on the motorcycle was manageable, but the electric car and the van couldn’t move an inch. We decided to stay together and wait out the protest. For a long time, people were really civilized but as the rush hour neared, more and more angry voices came out and it got to a point that people were coming out with machetes in their hands and started to throw rocks and kicking the cars.
Things quickly got out of hands and the angry mob started to shake the buses and finally the bus drivers started to move one bus at a time. The tropical rain didn’t fail again, and as we sat somewhat patiently, we got soaked. From 4 o’clock to 7:30, we moved maybe a mile and we were no were near our reserved hotel.
I suggested to the RGE team to forget the Holiday Inn and just settle in a different hotel as all the roads were still closed to the city center, but they decided to push on. Oaxaca is a hilly city and with all the rains, and traffic, it was the last place I wanted to ride at night. At some point with all the rain, something on the bike shorted out and the tail light, brake light and signals went out completely. The constant idling in the traffic heated the motor to a point that shifting gears became almost impossible. I could feel the clutch cable snapping every time I pulled in the clutch, but the RGE team wouldn’t change course. We searched for the elusive Holiday Inn and drove in circles in dark for another 2 hours with no luck.
I had only met the RGE team less than ten days before, but I was so mad and tired that I started shouting at the stupid situation. We had passed many hotels in the past two hours, driving in rain, on 45 degrees hills and sleek cobblestone roads of Oaxaca, but they were determined to stay at the Holiday Inn and no place else. To me, there is a fine line between futility and persistence and we were crossing that line deliberately.
I finally asked for directions and luckily a kid who spoke English led us in his truck to our hotel. I was so pissed that Cynthia stayed a few feet away from me the rest of the night. The last thing I remember is the dinner with Claudio and Cynthia in a little Italian bistro and the rest is out of my conscious memory.
As I write this, it’s worth mentioning that Oaxaca was flooded under water because of the very same torrential rains 10 days after we passed through. Over 40 people died due to the floods and many are without homes now. So when I say it was raining, I don’t mean a drizzle, it was like the showerhead was on.