Sierra, Sierra Ma-a-adre, Sierra, Sierra Madre Sur

Feeling refreshed from our time at the Laguna de Catemaco, we started off towards Oaxaca. We planned a day of driving for the first time in quite a while and wanted to get as close as possible to our goal. How good that we had had time to relax – first the street went through a flood area and was full of one pothole after the other, so it wasn’t the fastest. Then we drove along Highways 175 into the mountains. This street leads into a deep valley, only to rise from 492 ft (150m) above sea level to 9,608 ft (2950m) within a mile or so. It goes up from the jungle into high pine forests, and it took our breath away – unbelievable atmospheric weather conditions, an unparalleled road system, and endless curves. We agreed that this stretch was the street-highlight of our trip so far. We kept seeing traces of powerful landslides, and yet the entire road was drivable on two lanes. Many a standard is changed here: in Europe, we admire the roads in the Alps as works of art – the roads her are more technical master strokes. It is no feat to build a bridge or a tunnel quickly with the financial means available in Europe. Here, on the other hand, the streets are truly exceptional works of art. Without bridges, without tunnels, the street constantly winds its way up along natural weak points and circumvents danger zones and insurmountable steep, rocky escarpments in a virtuoso, playful way. You can’t drive fast, of course, and between the curves you search in vain for straight stretches. Every once in a while, the ramps were so steep that we were happy we had low gears. Now and then, there is a small village that seems to be glued to the slope, and the few flat places are used agriculturally. At the end of the day, we found a great place to spend the night up on the mountain, and we were able to start off on a small hike along the mountain crest directly from there the next morning. The rest of the way was just as spectacular, and we were also very happy when we finally had all the curves behind us and arrived in Oaxaca.

Oaxaca is a big market city surrounded by lots of indigenous villages. There was a lot going on here, with the streets full of people and different kinds of markets for arts and crafts, for food, and for utensils for daily use on every corner. We enjoyed the great selection of goods and the delicious food right off the grill and were successful in our search for souvenirs. Several days previously, a French-Austrian family had contacted us per e-mail and suggested that we might happen to meet up with them – it actually worked out, and we settled in on their camping-site. We got to know Carine, Andreas, Yan, Clara, and Tobias and got along very well right away. For the children, it was great to have new friends to play with, and we had a terrific time together in Oaxaca. So terrific, that we continued traveling on together afterwards.

The Spanish also left their traces in Oaxaca and adorned the city with aristocratic churches. One of them is a real splendor – each and every curlicue and ornament is covered with gold leaf. Nothing has ever been taken away or plundered, so the incredible wealth of the Catholic Church at that time is presented to the full. Near the church, there is a magnificent museum with various ecclesiastical artifacts and one very special one – the treasure of Monte Alban. Monte Alban used to be an Incan city and is located a bit above Oaxaca on a lovely mountain with a wide view across the high plateau. It was an exception that the imperialist grave robbers overlooked one burial chamber here, and thus a splendid treasure was preserved until it was discovered by archeologists at the beginning of the last century and was made accessible to posterity. We delighted in the great objects found there, of course, and in the well done exhibition which not only presents lots of ancient treasures, but also gives detailed explanations and background history.

Naturally, we visited the big Incan sites and were very impressed by the entire complex. The atmosphere on this mountain was so peaceful and calm that we completely forgot the time until we were reminded of how long we had been there by our stomachs grumbling for lunch several hours later. Then, with full bellies and lots of new impressions, we set off on the way into the wild Sierra Madre Sur (the road continued in the same way as it had been leading to Oaxaca). We arrived at Playa Zipolite the next day, where we are now enjoying the ocean, the sun, and especially the beach with lovely palm trees on the wild Pacific.

Here are some private pictures.

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