Second leg of the Pan American Road trip.
8/25/2009 Went back up to bird at the Cumbre de Ixtepeji Reserva again. We search for the elusive Dwarf Jay and finally found a couple with a few other lifers to boot, Grey Barred wren and a beautiful Blue Mocking bird,and a striking Red Warbler. At about 10 miles in on a dirt road, we heard a funny noise and decided to turn back to the main highway. On the way back to the highway we passed a water processing plant and bought 10 gallons of purified spring water to put into the tank. The car would hardly go and I finally determined that it was the fuel pump that was the problem. I backed up Paco on a steep slope and removed, cleaned and put back the fuel pump and filter. Pure rust was coming out of the input side of the filter when I back flushed it, ewe. We still had some issues on power on the way back to camp but had much better power.
8/26/2009 Decided to take the bus into town and tour the Zocalo (central Plaza) of Oaxaca. Got lost of course and had to back track back into the central part of town. People were very helpful in getting us back the Zocalo. We then walked the central plaza and found a pharmacy for Karla's thyroid pills. We also found many stores for the local artisans. Rugs, and decorated animals were the main feature. Mescal stores were also featuring the many flavors of the fermented blue Agave cactus. It is similar to Tequila. We then had a delightful lunch on the main plaza. I had a Oaxacan special with three types of meat and two types of cheese with chaupolines (cooked grasshoppers in a sauce). Karla had a Oaxacan Chile relleno with a special sauce.. Boy was it good. We then took a taxi to the VW dealer to get a new fuel filter. After a little confusion and them saying they didn't have one was found, I bought it for about 6 dollars...
We then got brave and thought we could catch a bus back to San Felipe campground. Well, again people were very helpful and got us to San Felipe, but on the wrong side and we ended walking another 45 minutes through the hills to finally get back to camp.
About a half hour after we got back to camp. I was putting a new fuel filter on and John and Sharon (our traveling companions for the next 6 or more months) show up... We are finally together as a team and it is pretty exciting to finally get together after all of this planning for the last year. We celebrated with a fine bottle of California wine that we had been saving for this event. What a great day, got some important shopping done, and John and Sharon are finally with us. We talked for way past our bedtimes.
8/27/2009 Sharon wanted to stay in camp and John decided to come along with us to a small maket day just outside of Oaxaca, Zaachlia. It was mostly a farmers market with produce, meats, breads but also everything else that you could possibly imagine was for sale. I picked up a hex wrench set that I needed to put the air conditioner belt back on. Karla John, and I bought some produce, broccoli, onions, carrots, peanuts. We had a terrific lunch a quesadilla with some chile and the flower of a calabassa plant and of course some fresh white cheese. Karla and John had guacamole sauce as well.
The drive back was at the start OK. We stopped a supermarket, Soriana, to get a converter for John. Couldn't find one and then started back to San Felipe. Well, the car started to act up again and after getting caught in the afternoon traffic as well we were in a pickle. I was dead in the road about three times with cars honking all around.... oh dear. But Paco always started and got going again, strange. Finally after many wrong turns and stalls we decided to get to the VW dealer and see if they could fix it... They were backed up for three days and really couldn't work on such an old car... right. I decided that I was going to have to fix it myself.
8/28/2009 Karla and Sharon went to the Zocalo while John and I stayed in camp and went through the fuel system for fault finding. After determining that water and rust had contaminated both the pump and the filter again, the tank must be removed and cleaned. While the tank was out I replaced some rotted vent hoses. What a lot of work. All day finally got it back together and it ran smoothly. Had about a cup of water in the filters/pump/tank. Sharon and Karla had a great time shopping. I don't know what I would have done hadn't John been there to help. I then changed the oil and fixed the air conditioning belt for the trip to San Cristobal de las Casas, in the morning. Karla and John made a great dinner. What a great place to spent fixing a car... boy I hope Paco can stay working. I don't know how or where the water came from, and am worried about the rust on the bottom of the tank. I am not sure that the filter has been changed since I bought Paco in 2007, an oversight by all. We will just have to keep from going to low on fuel and get something that removes the water from the tank ocationally.
8/29/2009 A travel day for Karla and I through the Isthmus of Mexico and the coastal city of Teouantepec and up the mountain to the colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas. The trip was terrific, because we had power, and air conditioning for the high humid temperatures along the pacific coast. It was a long drive but good single lane road to Teouantepec. From Teouantepec to Tuxtla and then San Cristobal had a cuota (toll) autopista. We had more power up the hills than the beginning of the trip, so it seems that the fuel/power system may be repaired... YEH. We were able to keep a 45 mph speed up the hills. Earlier on the trip near and around Mexico City we were maxed at 27mph up the steep grades. We arrived at the San Nicolas Rancho Campground at about 9PM. A little past dark, I know we have a night driving rule, but on the toll roads it is much safer. Having toll roads, will not be the case the further south we get into Central America.
8/30/2009 Karla and I decided to go to a small indinginous village market,Zinacantan. We followed directions from Lonely Planet and missed the turnoff and took another one,OH MY GOD! Paco went up hills that I thought were impossibly steep. I am so glad we aren't having any power issues.. We drove into a totally native area and stuck out like a real turistas.. All eyes were on us, the attire was just awsome the women were dressed in such colorful shawls and skirts. We finally found the market and again were the only turistas there. Photos were not wanted so we got a few long shots to show how colorful this market was. After we were finished we were helped with directions back to San Christobal the easy way...
Following lunch overlooking the village, we visited a small little ecopreserve and found it on the correct way back to Camp. The preserve,Huitepec is on an extinct volcano overlooking San Chritobal. It was a second growth forest and had been in operation since 1986. The bird to find there was the Pink headed Warbler. After three hours of birding and hiking up almost 300 meters straight up, we did find a few feeding flock of warblers, and wood creepers, but no Pink headed. The walk was through two distinct eco zones (Oak and pines Montane and the Cloud forest) at about 8500ft. On the way back to camp we saw a head on collision which reminded us of how careful we need to be driving.
John and Sharon arrived at camp just after 6:00 pm. It was cool here in the Sierra Los Altos Chiapas. As long as we stay up in altitude we are having such great temperatures. At Ranch San Nicholas, we met another group of Californians traveling to Nicaragua. Three young families moving to the coast of Nicaragua to start a bed and breakfast on land near the beach that they had purchased. It reminded me of Karla and I when we had young todlers, looking for other places to live. A great eveing by a nice warm fire visiting and sharing stories with all.
8/31/2009 We walked the streets of San Cristobal,shopped had a wonderful Chiapacanos lunch. Karla did finally buy a nice Amber ring of the reddish Chiappan type. Amber is the prehistoric resin. In some cases as old as 65million years old. The Chiapan amber may be as old as 25 million years. The cool thing is to find some pieces with small insects in them. This of course is the source of the basic premise of Jurrasic Park. Where the DNA from preserved mosquitoes in amber was injected into the embryoes of eggs and dinosours were born... far fetch but not impossible. We did some shopping for vegetables for dinner. Another night visiting and enjoying the warmth of the fire. Karla wasn't able to enjoy as much of the fire as we did because Montezuma visited her, to stem the possiblities of a serious infection I gave her a cepro/antibiotic. She was really purging herself, she hadn't been that sick in years. She slept fine that night. And woke the following morning as if nothing had happened, lucky.