107. Zipolite, Mexico - Happy To Be Off Highway 175

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October 20, 2007

Based on our uncertain reading of the Spanish words spray-painted on the white banner, the highway was being blockaded with large branches by the residents of a nearby village to protest the outcome of a recent local election.

A wizened gringo traveler in the collectivo van behind us said that this was a common form of political venting in Mexico, especially in the south. But we hadn´t seen it before.

And while we wanted to be sympathetic to a just cause, we found it more and more difficult as the minutes turned to hours and we became worried that we would be stuck driving this glorified mountain goat path in the dark.

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Highway 175, which runs from Oaxaca City through the mountains to the coast, is reputed to be the "good road" (as compared to Highway 135) and on the map it looked to be a relatively easy 240 kilometers.

But it turned out to be a 7 hour marathon.

Part of this can be attributed to a 100 km leg that is so windy that we were in 2nd gear the entire time, rarely exceeding 40 km/h.

Part can be attributed to persistent rain and fog that made it difficult to see.

And two hours of it can be attributed to the aforementioned involuntary break we took in the middle of the mountains.

Due to our forward placement in the line, we were finally one of four cars waved through. And with plenty of daylight left, our worries about our own situation started to ease.

But still it was hard to see what positive effect blockading the highway would have unless the media had been called to cover it, which it appeared they hadn´t.

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Highway 175 eventually spit us out just shy of Puerto Angel, a compact fishing village that is slightly more developed than Zipolite, it´s even tinier neighbour a 10 minute drive to the north.

We opted to stay in Zipolite - at the beach-side parking lot of the La Habana guest house - and were happy we did. There are few locations in Mexico as beautiful as this cozy golden sand bay.

Huatalco is 45 kilometers south of Zipolite and, like Cancun and Ixtapa, is a planned resort town. This means that the Mexican government dispassionately assessed the best geographic location to lure tourists, and then went ahead and built the town.

We had planned on spending a night there as well but we found it so lacking in authenticity and life - both of the local and tourist persuasion -that after dinner we drove back to Zipolite.

We were in a hurry to head north now, anyways, as we had hotel reservations in Puerto Vallarta for October 27 that couldn´t be changed.

After nine months of having no constraints, it was a strange feeling to have to be mindful of the time.

And the "ticking-clock" problem was heightened by the fact that the southern half of Mexico’s Pacific coastline is a beach lover’s paradise and includes many of Mexico’s well-known (and not so well known) resorts. After Zipolite, Puerto Angel and Huatalco there was Puerto Escondido, Acapulco and Zihuatenejo/Ixtapa still to cover in less than 10 days.

Key Facts & Figures:

-Campsite, La Habana parking lot: $5