The Isthmus and "la enfermidad"
28.07.2007 - 02.08.2007 0 °F
After 5 days in Mazunte I knew that it was definitely time to pack up camp and start thinking about my next destination. As I approached the Guatemalan border I was thinking alot more about Guatemala than Mexico, and starting to loose interest. So I decided to focus more on where I was, and read up a bit more about my surroundings. A small town in the Isthmus of Mexico cuaght my eye. The Isthmus is a narrow stretch of land which is actually considered the beginning of Central America. In this area only about 200km of flat jungle seperate the Atlantic from the Pacific. The Isthmus is well know for its heavy Zapotec Indian population and fantastic traditional street markets. The most authentic of all is Tehuantepec, so I decided to go there. It´s is seldom visited by tourist, and I was about to find out why.
The trip to Tehuantepec was realatively uneventful as we wound through small villages and thick jungle for the better part of 5 hours. Upon arrival, I wandered through town to the only budget hotel I found in my guide book. The rooms were about $10 a night and were much more like prison cells than rooms. Concrete and block, the highlight was a tornado fan aimed directly at the bed to combat the 95 degree heat and humidity. After a quick look at the bathroom in the moring I decied that that was out, and headed into town to check out my options. The town luxury hotel was not much better, but did have a bathroom that was a bit cleaner.
The town itself was also lacking charm. The highlight is supposed to be the Zapotec culture, and the Zapotec women who wander the streets in their typical dresses, all hand made and colorful. There was a bit of that, but mostly you saw them riding on the back of the street taxis, which were mopeds with wooden platforms on the back where the passengers stand to be transported through town. The two major events in town were the upcoming political elections and the official town holiday of Santo Domingo. The official name of Tehauntepec is Santo Domingo de Tehuantepec. For this holiday all of the local towns women wear elegant Zapotec dresses, which are hand made and usually take the better part of 6 months to make. The cost of one of the dresses is about the equivalent of three months wages. The dresses are paid in monthly payments as they are being made and the patrons make regular visits to the seamstress to check the progress and make changes to the design. All of this for the opportunity to wear the dress to the big dinner at the town square. Here is a shot of my friend Erika in her dress.
I was all set to leave Tehauntepec when I met a friend in the city square. Victor is the owner of an English language school, and came over to make conversation. He invited me to come to his school the following day and make conversation with his students. Afterwards out for a beer, and to introduce me to his friends in town. This completely changed my perception of the town for the better. Victor offered me a hammock to sleep in his language school, and I took him up on in and stayed a few days more.
They say that long term travel can present a roller coaster ride of emotions if you let it. There will be times when you will loose yourself in the untamed freedom to go where you want whenever you want without recourse. Other times you’ll find yourself missing friends and family, or a bit homesick. Longing for your favorite meal, a long hot shower, or a soft comfortable bed. I felt pretty fortunate to have traveled the better part of 6 months without having slipped into the lowlands of the travelers blues. But unfortunately that was about to change.
Before arriving to Tehauntepec I had been battling what appeared to be food related stomach sicknesses. This is said to be normal, and part of your body’s natural adjustment to new food types, bacteria, etc.. But for me it was an off and on for about a month and a half. Unfortunately while staying a Victors school this all took a turn for the worse. After passing one of the most miserable couple of days of my life, I found myself longing for a home cooked meal, and a soft comfortable bed. I decied to head back to Mexico for a little recuperation before continuing on.
I had heard from Brenda that she wanted to travel with me, so I decided to return to the city, rent an apartment, cook my own meals, and just take it easy for two weeks before heading out. Sorry there are not more pictures of Tehauntepec, but there is really not much to photograph.