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Driving In Mexico---A Unique Experience in Oaxaca!
Kelsey the brother!
Yesterday, after overcoming obstacle after obstacle, we dropped my little brother, Kelsey, off at Benito Juarez International Airport. My car, Relampago Blanco (White Lightning) jetted over potholes, winded its way through heavy traffic, honking cars, diesel smoke, protesters, only to arrive at a washed out bridge. But even that didn’t stop us.
I guess I should start at the beginning. Kelsey’s time in Oaxaca was up, three months completed at Café Cosecha work camp, my sweet little cafe experiment in Oaxaca, Mexico. He had tickets to Hollywood via Los Angeles, leaving from Oaxaca at five-thirty in the Afternoon. My brother the actor.
We closed up shop for siesta and threw his lead-filled duffle bag into my trusty old Datsun. We raised two espresso cups filled with cheap mezcal in the air, gulped them down, coughed and headed out with plenty of time to arrive at the airport for a goodbye lunch. No problem.
As we drove, I believe I mentioned to my siblings something about how smoothly the traffic was flowing. The streets, everything, were dusty after accumulated mud from days of torrential rain now drying in the first hot weather in weeks. The roads were rain-damaged and dangerously scattered with potholes but relatively traffic free.
We zoomed through Plaza del Valle leaving San Felipe and the Sierra Madre del Sur behind us. But traffic slowed to a crawl several kilometers before the airport, then stopped completely.
I opened my door and stepped out of the car to peer up the street and identify the problem.
“Lots of honking, that’s a good sign,” said the sarcastic actor.
I asked a bus driver what was happening. “blokeada” he said, blocked. A village is protesting something.
“How can you get to the airport then?” “No hay paso” Can’t!
Communication issues at Cafe Cosecha
I translated for Kelsey and Emily. “He says there is no way to the airport. Kelsey was flabbergasted. “How can that be?” Kelsey said, “it’s the airport?”
“We are in a third world country Kelsey, these things happen.” I enjoy using the phrase, “this is a third world country,” and use it as an explanation why we can’t eat the cookies and other baked goods in Café Cosecha. “I am trying to run a business in a third world country, eat beans,” I say.
“What a stupid day to protest.”
“They are getting international attention at least.” I answered wondering who it was blocking the roads.
Blocking roads, I have found is effectively annoying but I wonder if it looses its effectiveness after being used daily with no one knowing exactly who or for what reason the roads are blocked. I tend to feel whatever group is doing the blocking probably has sufficient reason to block the road but should find a better way to communicate their problem as it is an ineffective tactic if no one knows why they are inconvinienced..
Everybody was turning around, even doing u-turns over the meridian. We couldn’t just give up, the possibility of having to buy a new ticket was too financially frightening. So I flipped a u-turn, pulled over and asked a taxi driver if there was any other way to the airport. “No,” was the flat-out answer.
Forward wasn’t an option so I headed back North and the center of town, the opposite direction of the airport. The windows of Relampago Blanco were open to ask every person we had the opportunity to talk whether or not there was an alternative route to the airport . I often do that in Mexico, ask about four or five people directions to get a consensus and choose the answer that repeats itself most often. I found that there was another route through Xoxocotlán (ho ho). But maybe that route was not viable due to a washed out bridge.
The people were giving conflicting information. Time was ticking away. As we were driving across a bridge towards Monte Alban there was a fork in the road. While moving at a good clip I shouted through the window, “Al Aeropuerto?” The other driver pointed left, Relampago’s wheels skidded on the gravely road and we just made the turn. I have to admit. This was the fun part. I was driving like a Mexican in a hurry. Weaving to avoid potholes, cutting off cars, accelerating hard, breaking even harder, I was one with the streets of Oaxaca. I wasn’t a tourist, I was a local taxi driver and I was good!
We arrived at a Glorieta, a round-about. The consensus was to take a left at the roundabout. A traffic cop waved us on. We were doing it. Making good time we went over a Bridge that was not washed out. I slapped Kelsey five and said, “we made it!”
Emily from the back seat, “Not yet we haven’t.” Xoxocotlán (ho ho).
Relamago Blanco the White Lightning Datsun in Oaxaca
“We are almost there, this road will connect with the original road, ahead of the protest and voila the airport.”
We made it to the airport turn off and it was completely blocked off with big piles of dirt and police tape. I yelled out the window to some guys coming from the Airport direction., “oye como se llega al aeropuerto?” How does one get to the airport?
“Caminando,” walking, they answered with grins.
We had about a half hour. Kelsey had a large duffle bag full of lead. I threw it on my shoulders, ducted under the police tape, and we ran towards the airport not knowing if we were going to have to swim or if the bridge was still passable by foot. Emily said she would meet us there(If we made it). We took turns with the lead filled bag and the running quickly turned into a brisk walk.
We arrived at the bridge to find it indeed collapsed but still in place. A man selling paletas, popsicles, was standing in front of the bridge.
“Se pude cruzar?” One can cross? I asked.
We crossed some more police tape and went across the bridge, the murky water swiftly passing beneath us. We were in to much of a hurry to debate the safety of crossing.
On the other side we continued running until we ended up in front of the Aero Mexico ticket counter. We were covered in sweat.
The airport was almost empty. We burst in drawing a lot of attention. The attendant asked how we got there, everyone amused at our story. They felt so bad they didn’t even cover extra for Kelsey’s lead filled duffle bag. They suggested a cold beer and told us that the plane was boarding in five minutes.
Emily arrived, we guzzled down three icy Coronas. I shook Kelsey’s hand, he headed to Hollywood. We made it to the airport on time. A perfect way to say goodbye to Oaxaca.
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