Burger Rescue (the best stuff is at the end, stick with it)

R was feeling wiped and wanted to stay in so C and I decided an unplanned and random Dynamic Duo evening was in order.

We started by discovering the best taco stand, by far, so far…. most of the way through our trip of course.

Yellow mole with the local string cheese, elegant, light, amazing

C discovered a lovely rooftop bar above the taco stand, we let our empanadas settle a bit and watched the city for a while. An extremely unusual icy breeze came up and our waitress brought us heavy ponchos, which we needed, poor Canadians can’t handle the cold.

After 20 minutes the weird temp drop ended and the night returned to it’s normal 26c. We headed out again and accidentally ended up in a mezcaleria. I’ve avoided them to now as mezcal is not to my taste, basically anything with smoke it in tastes like dying to me. I’ve tried a lot of mezcal based cocktails both in Mexico City and here in Oaxaca City this trip and all have been rough, I do not understand smoky stuff. I asked Google if non-smoky mezcal is a thing and was assured by multiple articles that this is not a thing and that all mezcal is smoky.

This kinda seemed like bullshit though… non-smoky scotch is certainly a thing, and non-smoky cheese…. bacon…. anything with smoke seems logically to likely have a smokeless option. The world said no though.

Yup, total bullshit. We tasted 8 different local artisanal mezcals…. AND NONE OF THEM WERE SMOKY! Like, you could sorta get a hint of smoke from a few of them, barely. The bartender explained that the heavily smoked mezcals are really more of a thing with the industrial distilling process, and that the small producers do it much less often.

The flavours were amazing, we liked every single one, you can tell it’s a cousin to tequila for sure but there is a consistent difference too. Almost like comparing bourbon to Japanese whisky.

The selection our hostess flew for us

Our mezcal hostess poured some pretty generous tasters so we paced ourselves as best we could and stumbled back into the street a couple hours later. After a long walk in the cooling air to sober up a bit we came across a group of students graduating…. something, around midnight. C let them all know how proud we are of them, lol. Was a wonderful interaction, no idea what they were students of but they were so very proud to have their robes and mortars.

After ensuring the future intellectual wellbeing of Mexico is in good hands we headed off again and ended up at our favourite local bar, Los Coco, the bartender there, Rene, has kind of adopted us this trip and most nights we try to swing by to say hello at least once and pass pieces of life stories through the language barrier. He has invented a cocktail for R and we had a round of them in honour of our missing third member tonight.

We left Rene’s and popped into one of the oldest places in town, Mesa del Mezcal, C hadn’t been before so I enthralled her with the tale of how R impressed all the old guys at the bar last week, I’ll post that one later, hopefully I remember to mention the urinal in the middle of the room everyone can see you peeing at too. Our eyes were crossing a bit by this point and we headed back into the night, counting on the crisp night air to straighten our gait yet again.

We ended up further south, away from the tourist areas, in a local bar I don’t know the name of. I’ve definitely noticed at places like these that our presence results in a frosty reception but every single time that frost vanishes pretty quickly after some respectful behaviour, our best attempts at Spanish and just not being shitheads.

This time the frost stuck around a bit longer so I popped out the door to the woman selling candy on the corner and got a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates to share with the bar, it worked, really well, lol. Maybe too well.

Yeah, no memory of these pics

To my memory C was the only woman in the bar that night, pretty quickly the saloon became a dance club with C taking turns with some extremely charmed local guys. Always interesting how much more English locals here speak after a couple beers. My Spanish gets better too.

The bar got a couple notches wilder and we decided it might be prudent to make our exit. You know that thing where you both assume the other has cash? Yeah… we had nothing.

I threw C back to the wolves and hustled out to find an ATM, I’ve had pretty shit luck with ATMs this trip, it’ll be a post of it’s own later. A few blocks away I found a working ATM and got cash, on the way back I walked past a lonely hamburger stand and had a flash of genius.

I figured if Ferrero Rocher was our in maybe burgers could be our out.

I ordered half a dozen burgers “todo”, meaning with EVERYTHING. Seriously, everything, lol beef, hot dog, corn, fried egg, grilled pineapple, onions, peppers, lime mayo, about 4 sauces, amazing.

As the chefs wrapped up the massive burgers to go I received a text from C “HUUUURRRRRAAAAAAAYUPPP!” and I trotted back to the bar. I gave the bouncer a burger to let me in and passed the rest out to the guys overactively admiring C on the dancefloor. We settled up and ran out while the quizzical looks were still firmly on the burger recipients faces.

We came across the burger chefs again and confused them further by plopping down on the curb and ordering two more todos.

Finally our own burgers

A night can’t go better than this so we pulled the plug and headed back home as I have work in a few hours.

Beach David

On our first beach morning a local guy came up and started chatting with us in quite good English, his name was David, we discussed a lot of things, had fun communicating with his English and our basic, basic Spanish. Eventually he asked if we’d like him to get us a couple fresh coconuts to drink. I’ve never had and I think store-bought coconut water tastes like swampass, but the best answer is still almost always yes. David disappeared, up a tree, and cut down two coconuts, he prepped them for us, they were amazing, I had no idea.

For the rest of the weekend we ran into David over and over again, each time picking up our conversations where we’d left them, learning more about him and what he does, a completely fascinating person.

He told us how a few years earlier he’d spent a couple months in Canada, mostly on Vancouver Island, and how he had loved it, especially apples, (“ape-pulls” with his accent). David really, really, REALLY likes apples. He marvelled again and again at how all these types of apples just grew all over the place. I pointed out that every second tree from our rental house to the beach was loaded down with 150lbs of mangos but he didn’t really think that was all that impressive.

We struck up a deal for future exchanges of cases of BC apples for wild mangos, lol.

David lives just across from the beach and appears to have at least half a dozen jobs, selling coconuts, selling puppies, connecting anyone who needs anything with anyone who has anything, whatever you need, David is the guy who knows who can get it for you. You want lobster? Well, David just so happens to be a free diver and will vanish under the surf, coming up with as many hand-caught lobsters as you want.

We shared many beers with him through the weekend and I grew an appreciation for this person and how he has chosen to live life. Clearly a lot of hard work, and a lot of good cheer and laughter, and openness too.


The only thing better than a trip is a trip within a trip, right?

The endless stone walls, noise, and the dearth of greenspace in Oaxaca City have worn me to the point where we’ve decided a weekend beach getaway is overdue.

The plan was to grab the rental car on Friday morning and head out of town. A dodgy bowl of street soup Thursday night had other plans for us however and Friday morning ended up being a debate about whether the trio was well enough to survive the 9 hour drive through the wildest mountain highway any of us have ever seen.

We decided to go for it and after electrolytes and Pepto and Imodium we were on the road around 2pm.

The drive is staggering, mountains roads like I have never been on, hour after hour of switchbacks and rapid climbs and falls.

Around dusk we stopped to San Jose del Pacifico, which claims to be the birthplace of magic mushrooms, we didn’t get a chance to partake but found a lovely roadside, cliffside cafe to eat and take a break and swap drivers.

The road past San Jose del Pacifico became even more windy and utterly pitch black so our original planned beach arrival of 6pm ended up being an arrival of 11pm.

We checked in to our rental house, strolled the 5 minutes to the amazing beach, found a wild “anything goes” beach nightclub and started melting into what seemed a weekend from another world.

There are few greater gifts than travelling with the right friends, the ease of everything, the wandering aimlessly down perfect beaches, running in and out of the surf, grabbing a drink and this beach bar or that beach bar, for days on end.

Four days on that beach lasted years and minutes. I feel like I could write a book on just this short hop.

Zapotec Weekend (longest post ever, sorry)

It’s Friday night, R and I are done work and decide we should get a car and disappear for the weekend. Oaxaca City has grown on us but is still not quite what we were looking for.

A cursory (very cursory compared to how I usually research like a crazy person) search reveals there are some neat ruins from the Zapotec Empire a couple hours south-east, towards Guatemala, and also reveals a rental car is $25 so we book it and head to bed.

Saturday morning at the car rental we are informed we cannot have the car because the radio doesn’t work, we assure him we do not care and that we hate music in all forms, we are then informed that we cannot have the car for two more hours because it is dirty, we assure him we could not care less. He tells us “No, it is REALLY dirty” we go out front and see a very sad looking, shaggy and sagging Chevy that is absolutely CAKED in dirt from top to bottom. We assure him we do not care, he demonstrates that we cannot even see out of the windows, we assure him we never look anyway. He laughs and starts wiping the window dirt clean with a rag, and another rag. The car is also very low on gas, we explain we never use gas.

ON THE ROAD! I’ve been all around the world and feel lucky about that all the time, but I have NEVER driven a car in any country other than Canada and the US. Oaxaca is only about 600,000 people but even here I struggle to make sense of the driving. I spend enough time accidentally in the segregated bus lane to qualify for a “Fuck you, I’m a bus now” t-shirt.

We head south out of town and after a while reach the Zapotec ruins of Yagul. It is hotter than I can handle so we book it to the ruins knowing the clock to my meltdown is ticking.

We have the entire site to ourselves, it is just us and the security guard, it is bliss.


A ball court!!! I’ve visited Mesoamerican ruins all over Mexico but have never seen an intact ball court before. Nearly all Mesoamerican cultures left evidence behind of playing the same sport, the ball game. Like soccer except you cannot use hands OR feet. The rubber ball had to be struck with knees, elbows, or most commonly hips. Players would run towards the ball and at the last second drop into this crab-like pose, swinging their hips wildly to strike the rubber ball.

The losing team (though some suggest it was the winning team) would be sacrificed to the gods following the match.

The view of the valley from Yagul.
R getting lost in the ruins of the village at Yagul.
No really, we were the ONLY ones there, R trying to remember where we parked, lol.

Just exploring Yagul for an hour was enough to overheat me so back into the car and its measly but better than nothing A/C (seriously, this dirty car is struggling, it keeps trying to stall, AC barely works, interior lights are dead, radio is dead, adventure!) and head further south to some sort of mountain top nature area our 3 minutes of research suggested.

Simply the most intense driving experience I have ever had.

Soooo…. Google suggested a road up the mountain but it seemed way, way out of the way, and clearly there was a road right in front of us that appeared to continue up the mountain. What would you do?

We found a tiny village and found a dear old abuela who assured us (I think? I don’t speak Spanish) that the road would take us to the mountain top. So we drove on. The car rental agreement had a typo I noticed that said we agree to not take the car on any paved roads, so I’m choosing to believe that’s the universe telling me to go offroading.

The road is intense, in a lot of ways, wow jesus wow.

We’ve been climbing and climbing and it is so hot, the Chevy sounds sickly, so I pull over every so often to give it a rest. After some time driving R inquires about our fuel level and I realize I have made a terrible mistake.

I try to ask my phone where we might find gas but it laughs at me.

It seems we’ve reached the peak and the road starts to tip down so I start coasting as much as possible o save gas, eventually finding a tiny mountain village where we pull in and start looking for gas.

Gas does not seem to exist here, we ask a few people and seem to only get more and more confused. Eventually a guy tells us to follow him and runs ahead of us, he bangs on what appears to be a random doorway and he and the owner start (I assume) discussing the stupid Gringos and gasoline. Eventually a couple jugs appear, lol and wow.

They were exactly as warm and interesting as they appear in this photo, I would kill to be able to speak Spanish at times like these.

Back on the crazy mountain road, which by this time is mostly just sand and fear, and after a bit more white knuckling the road starts to improve, eventually we come to another village where the road ends at a cliff, we park the wheezing car and walk to the edge to see below.

Cliffside hotsprings!

The sheer dropoff at the edge is shocking, it appears to just go straight down all the way back to where we started.

We didn’t have proper swim gear as we had no idea this was what awaited us but we went is as far as we could, it was 100% magic.

Shortly after we arrived the sky turned dark and lightning flashed all around us while we were in the water, thunder was constant. Soon enough the sky opened up and gigantic raindrops started to soak us, the thoughts of the road we climbed to get here plus rain filled my mind with dread so we headed out. I attempted to take the better road and promptly got us lost, turned around, drove over something I should not have, and almost crashed into a gravel-pile cliff-edge dead-end, but eventually we found the “easy” road out and rode it down the far side of the mountain.

We picked a village to spend the night pretty much at random and found a hotel.

While looking for what to do on a Friday night in a tiny south Mexico town we quickly realized things close up EARLY here. Eventually we found a hamburger cart and got an amazing hot dog and amazing hamburger and directions from the chef to a supposed place where we could get a drink.

We followed the hamburgerman’s directions down a lot of ever darker streets, eventually becoming alleys, way past any level of sketch I would have followed in Mexico City, or even Oaxaca, telling myself that as this town is tiny it is safer.

Eventually we came to where he said and saw a narrow walkway off an alley, we followed it off the street, into darkness and around a corner until eventually it opened into a small open courtyard of pallets and wood benches making a bar.

I wouldn’t say we got the warmest welcome but by the time we eventually left the thaw had happened.

We managed to avoid a LOT of stray dogs, find all night pepto bismal and found our way back to the hotel through confusingly dark streets and steep hills and crashed at the Judas Motel.

Breakfast! Walked until we found an absolutely perfect spot for breakfast, just a little tin and straw tortilleria that warmly welcomed us in for stunning chorizo empanadas. We were seated with four ladies from a nearby village, Blanca, Lolita, Helena and Coco, who were exactly as their names suggest.

If you’re ever in this village eat at this place.

After breakfast we checked out and headed to the Zapotec ruins of Mitla, I love this stuff so very much, and R is so willing to take on that excitement.

Back on the road after, driving without purpose or destination.

Roadside frozen treat, this is “nieve” basically like an Italian ice, just ice and sugar and fruit.

After frozen treats we decided to head back towards Oaxaca and visit Monte Alban, the largest of the Zapotec sites. This required passing through insane Oaxaca traffic and driving again, after driving the wrong way, then in a bus lane, then almost dying in an intersection, then having 20 cars honking at me for something I still cannot fathom I saw flashing red and blue behind us and realized I was, yet again, going the wrong way on a one-way. I performed a 220 point turn on the tiny street and edged back out the way I’d driven in, waving out the window in capitulation to all the cars around the area. This was not enough for the officer however and I could interpret his increasingly agitated megaphone blarings as nothing other than orders to pull over.

We pulled over and awaited doom. It was clear there was no talking him out of the ticket and I had no interest in pushing my luck so I silently accepted the ticket and we tried to figure out how to get back to the highway, even Google Maps was so confused she eventually gave up and instructed us, literally, to make right turns until the end of time.

I turned Maps off, we winged it and eventually made it back out of town and towards the mountains.

Monte Alban is stunning, this post is way too long and I am so tired but yeah, it’s gigantic, better than any photos could tell.

I only lasted about 45 minutes, a shame considering the site has probably a dozen pyramids, but the weekend has been long and so hot.

We drove back to the car rental place and presented a staggeringly filthy car, missing a hubcap, along with the traffic ticket attached to the registration, no idea what they are going to charge me, they said they need to contact the police about the ticket first.

We walked home after the car rental, rested a bit and then headed out again, determined to add more to an amazing weekend before it ends.

First stop, the esquites guy on our corner. Esquites is the simplest, cheapest and loveliest snack. Just a cup of boiled corn, topped with chilis and mayo and lime, in a bit of broth.

For unknown reasons street cart hamburgers are super popular in Oaxaca, I don’t remember ever seeing a hamburger cart in Mexico City. Today I learned the work “todo” in Spanish, meaning “everything”. We ordered two “todo”.

I mean.. it does have “everything”.

Walked quite a bit after, eventually grabbed a nightcap to close a staggeringly amazing weekend.

Oaxaca Mornings

So far the mornings here are the fav. The city smells great, the sun isn’t rending the flesh from my bones yet. Birds are going nuts. The mind-blowingly loud nightly mortar-style fireworks have mostly died down. It’s bliss.

Usually I’d have my sidekick along but last night’s explorations were of the liquid kind and she’s not really stuck her head out this morning yet.

Next bar!

Yesterday we dropped off laundry and the laundryman and R ganged up on me for my Spanish skills, or lack of. This morning when I walked in solo and rattled off every single Spanish word I know in one stream he could not stop laughing long enough to find my clothes for a good 3 minutes.

I wandered over to the breakfast place I love, placed the pile of laundry on the other seat and explained to the amazing staff in my shitty Spanish that it would be just me this morning as R was still in last night’s bottle.

Poached eggs on corn biscuit with mole and grasshopper

I ordered my breakfast and ordered another to go, for R, while pointing at the empty seat. The waiter took it all down, pointed at the pile of clothes and said “Si, clean laundry gets hungry”. It was very funny.

Relaxing means less posting

Not a lot to say, I get up in the morning, work a couple hours, go for coffee and sometimes breakfast, work until around 4:30 and then mostly just wander, do some errands, find food and maybe a drink and am usually fast asleep before midnight (which is unusual for a lifelong insomniac).

I have a dog now?

The rooms here all face an interior courtyard and most people just leave their courtyard doors open most of the time so I’ve been doing the same. Yesterday I fell asleep for a bit and was woken to my feet being licked by a pupper who ran off as soon as I woke up.

I grabbed another nap this afternoon and this time woke up to more licking and…

I got up and moved to the dining area and was followed.

My attempts to explain to it that I’m not a dog person fell on deaf ears.