Eating in Oaxaca

Our first evening in Oaxaca was spent sampling some rather nice food and beer at Oaxaca Brewing Company. We tried a few nice craft beers and even better their seafood. I’m not normally one for raw fish, but the marlin ceviche was something else. We spent a few happy hours here before going back to the car park for an early night. There are opening hour restrictions on the bars here anyway, that are loosely followed by some and completed ignored by others.

The night in Ciro’s was surprisingly quiet, especially for its location. It’s a funny thing about camping. Sometimes a beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere that looks really promising is actually very loud and not that great, and just sometimes it’s possible to find a quiet spot in the very heart of the city.

When we awoke in the morning, we had a productive day planned. We figured to be able to achieve anything, we first needed a good breakfast. According to Happy Cow, an app that recommends good vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants. We settled on Boulenc, only a short walk away. We arrived to see a large queue of people, the waiter took our names and told us it would be a twenty-minute wait. We took the fact it was so busy, and with Mexicans as well as tourists, to be a positive sign.

Before too long we had a table and ordered some of their killer sandwiches. For around 300 pesos for the entire meal, the food was incredibly cheap and very good.

Now well fed, we headed back to Ciro’s and packed away the van. We told him we would be returning later, and paid for our time so far. I hadn’t seen too many VW garages on google, but there was one that seemed to deal with classic cars. We weren’t sure how much they would be able to help us, but it was worth a try. At the very least we needed another tyre as we now had no spare. We set off after spending some time manoeuvring the camper out of the parking space, now fully packed at midday.

We when we arrived we met Jamie. We told him we needed a tyre but he didn’t have anything the exact same size as what we had. This meant we would need to order two at least to have a matching axle. We really needed a complete new set anyway but didn’t want to change the front until the beam was sorted. We asked him if he knew anywhere that we could get a new beam and showed him the problem. He said no problem, he could have a quote for us tonight or tomorrow morning. After the last time, we were a bit more reserved. We planned to stay in the city that night anyway, as we had booked a nice restaurant, so it made no difference. We exchanged numbers and he promised to be in touch.

The next stop was the airport. After no luck trying to legitimately renew our visas in Puebla, we decided to try and international airport, knowing that some people had successfully managed to get a new visa that way.

Inside the terminal it was pretty empty. We asked a few people for the immigration desk as we wandered aimlessly around. It seems that the desk is behind security and therefore not directly accessible to us. In the end, someone came out to speak to us. She didn’t speak any English, but then they brought someone who did. We came up with some slightly lame story about having driven from the states and needing a visa. They told us we didn’t need one until we left the country and refused to give us on. I don’t really blame them, I don’t think we quite had our story straight at that point, we weren’t sure what card to play. At least we tried! With half a successful day, we headed back to Ciro’s for a shower and to get ready for our fancy meal.

We had booked a table at Teocintle, an up and coming restaurant that offers a vegetarian or vegan tasting menu. A rare treat, we were quite excited. We headed to La Santisima, a bar that has its own microbrewery for a drink before. They didn’t have much on offer and I definitely preferred the beer from the other place, but it’s always nice to try something new. For the first time, it was slightly odd to speak in English again, we hadn’t been to many touristy places recently.

After leaving the bar, we walked on to the restaurant. A tiny little place with only about four tables. We sat on the bench outside while the waiter gave us some interestingly flavoured water to drink while we waited for our table. Soon we sat inside. Again, the waiter spoke good English and explained to us that we would get six different dishes with some different drinks. He said the food there changed daily and apparently today was national tamale day, so we would definitely be getting tamales.

Our meal got off to a good start, we ordered a couple of nice beers and enjoyed the first three courses.

Then a large group of English teenagers appeared, it seemed they were a group of backpackers from a local youth hostel along with some other people. At first we were kind of excited to see English people, then we were just embarrassed. The waiter looked a bit stressed at having to manage his new table of 7 or so people along with another table he hastily set up in the street.

We enjoyed the rest of our courses, which he explained to us a little more hurriedly than before. Nevertheless, the food was fantastic and the entire meal was priced at 650 pesos per person. At just under 2000 pesos, around £65, we had an incredibly fancy meal that felt like eating in a Michelin star restaurant, with drinks, for two people. It’s definitely somewhere I would recommend.

Feeling pretty satisfied, we headed back to the van. We hadn’t been there long before we got a message from Jamie. It turns out that his wife, Liz, speaks fluent English and she sent us several messages on WhatsApp explaining the costs of what we wanted. The cost of the beam was £120, a quarter of the price of the UK. The labour to fit it was £70. This is insanely cheap and we were more than happy to go ahead, we told them to buy the part and that we would come around tomorrow and work out the details. Our day had ended rather well.

In the morning, we said goodbye to Ciro who got very excited about the prospect of being on our YouTube channel and insisted that we try a very large shot of his homemade mezcal at around 10am. Having eventually left, we headed off to the garage. Liz explained they needed to collect the part and they would be back in a couple of hours. We took our laundry to the laundrette and then sat outside the garage killing time. It was a Mexican ‘few hours’.

By the time they returned, it was 5pm. To late to start any work. We had toyed with the idea of doing it ourselves, I’ve taken the front beam off before after all. In the end, we decided to pay the garage. I wanted it done quickly, and didn’t feel like trying to do it on the street outside with limited tools. Labour here is so cheap that money isn’t the issue, it’s trusting someone else with your home. We trusted Jamie and Liz though, and after so much hassle recently it would be quite nice to watch someone else get their hands dirty.

With the afternoon coming to an end, we arranged that we would come back on Friday morning at 9am. This gave Jamie time to book the camper into a suitable garage and we could give Aimee a break from the city and let her run around for a bit. We borrowed a spare wheel with a tyre on it, just in case and then set off. Keen to get there in the daylight, we drove out of the city towards the mountain spot were the others had been for the past few days.

The road climbs very steeply after leaving the city and we had to pull over and let the engine cool down a couple of times. Not a massive issue, we are definitely being careful with our new build. What was more of the issue was that our high altitude fuel problem, now appeared at a much lower altitude. There were a few instances where the engine nearly cut out and we just about made it to the top. From here it was a long downhill drive to river spot which was fine, but we hoped we would have no problems trying to leave next time. We resolved to buy a spare fuel filter and pump on Friday, this issue was clearly getting worse.

The spot the others had found was very nice. For a second, we thought they had left already as we pulled up to a flat empty spot by the side of the road. Then we saw Kikki waving behind us and followed her down a small grassy track to a spot completely hidden from the road and directly next to the river. By now it was dark and they had the fire going, we let Aimee out and sat around the fire in the cool of the mountains. It was much colder up here, but the absolute silence of being in the middle of nowhere was a nice break after the busy city.

We spent the next day enjoying the peace and quiet. The mountain temperatures were that of contrast. The sun in the day was scorching hot, I managed to get a bit sunburnt sitting in the shade by the river. The night time temperatures on the other hand dropped to freezing and we were glad of the heating.

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