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Fun with Maps and Mountainous Roads :: Teotitlan del Valle, Mexico

After bouncing through the dusty and rocky roads of Baja, the paved roads of mainland Mexico came as a great surprise.  Our Mexican experience suddenly became modern – we whizzed by Wal-Marts, billboards, and cell phone tiendas on our smooth, asphalt path down the highway.  The ferry landed us in Topolobampo, hundreds of miles away from our scheduled destination: to meet Nick’s mom in Antigua on July 16th.

Our plan was simple: drive south as fast as we could, visit the beach for a day or two, and have enough time to visit family friends, the Chavez family, in Teotitlan before driving to Guatemala the 15th.  Well, three days of traveling and foiled plans (our beach route was canceled due to armed Zapatistas blocking the road, refusing to let to drive through), can really get a couple bickering.  I was constantly sweaty, and Nick was grumpy that his chance to surf on mainland Mexico’s beautiful beaches was becoming a distant thought.

Emotions erupted, an argument ensued, and it was decided that I was in charge of getting us to Teotitlan.  I highlighted our route on the map, and the following morning we headed south.

We arrived in Teotitlan around 5 pm, tired from traveling since 7:30 am.  “We’re finally here!” we sighed, “now all we have to do is find the Chavez family.”  But as we entered the small town of Teotitlan, something felt… off.  Where are the charming cobblestone streets and the artisan weavers?  Where is the beautiful landscape that Nick’s parents described?  I suddenly began to realize that this was not the Teotitlan we anticipated.

Did I mention that I’m horrible with directions?  Maps, GPS systems, back-tracking to locations by memory, and correct highway directions are not my strong suite.  “I don’t even know how you survive in life,” my sister once told me.  It is a major flaw I need to work on.

I grabbed the Mexico map book (a wonderful map, by the way, that was only in our possession due to the foresight of ramblers Jimmy and Rachel, who passed it on as a gift in San Diego) and looked up Teotitlan in the index.  Two Teotitlans.  Damn.    One is Teotitlan, the town located on the Pueblan and Oaxacan border, and Teotitlan del Valle, the quaint artisan village southeast of Oaxaca City.

When I realized my mistake, Nick burst out laughing.

“I’m so sorry!” I said in between my giggling.  I was exhausted with driving, but my stupidity made it comical.

“Ok, well its only four to five hours to Teotitlan del Valle, so let’s hoof it,” Nick said, shaking his head.  We had a new goal, and a recharged energy to continue.

We hopped in the car, drove out of the town’s center, and headed for the one road that leads to Oaxaca city from this small mountain village.  We turned the corner, and found a long line of parked cars in the road, surrounded by people sitting outside of them.

“Why were there parked cars in the road?” you may ask.  Why, its a taxi driver protest, of course!  Apparently, the taxi drivers in town got fed up with something (no one knew, nor seemed to care), and decided to block the road until 8 pm.  After a couple of hours of eating carne asada tacos, drinking Modelo, talking with others, and working on the computer, the line proceeded forward around 8:30 and we were allowed through.  By now, it had grown dark and started to raining – and our drive to Teotitlan del Valle had just started.

Let me stop for a moment to discuss my love for my boyfriend.  I made a decision to skip the beach due to time constraints, directed us to the wrong village, and forgot to put more beer in the fridge all within 24 hours.  But Nick was understanding, remained jovial, and drove us to Teotitlan del Valle through the night.  For the first three hours, he maneuvered through winding mountain roads that were not only dark and wet, but completely covered in fog.  He did a wonderful job and I am so thankful for his ability to think fast yet stay sane in seemingly difficult situations.

We arrived in Teotitlan del Valle at 1:30 am tired and soggy, but happy to have succeeded.  Due to our tardiness and desire to keel over, we pulled over on a dirt road and sacked out in the back of the truck.

In the morning we found the Chavez family.  This hunt consisted of asking the first couple we saw, “A donde vive Federico Chavez?” A town with only 8,000 people often has it’s advantages.  We arrived at the Chavez household into open arms and laughter.  “Well, you are home now,” Eric Chavez said, as we recounted our story.  Thank God.  As much as I love to ramble, it is wonderful to come home – whether the location is familiar or brand new.

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For more information about our wonderful map of Mexico (suitable map reader not included), visit www.guiaroji.com.mx.  The site is in Spanish, but ordering one will be more than worth it – it is one of the best Mexican maps we have found.

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