Week eight of my Central American adventure sees me overlanding in Mexico. Travelling from Oaxaca to Mexico City, heading ever north on my journey towards the US. I visited the food capital of Oaxaca before I carry on overlanding to Mexico City to try and settle some unfinished business.
Food glorious food
Colourful Oaxaca (yet another of Mexico’s UNESCO Heritage Sites) doesn’t disappoint. I’ve heard from a number of people on my trip what a great place it is and that the food is spectacular. And despite my natural cynicism, it’s not a word of a lie.
In the centre of town, just a block or two from the impressive colonial cathedral, I discover the indoor food market. To get in, you have to pass through a smoking gauntlet of meaty BBQs, each with a proprietor trying hard to get you to commit to a purchase.
It smells incredible and, despite being hygienically dubious to have so much raw and cooked meat so close together, looks delicious. I opt for a tlayuda, essentially a huge crispy tortilla pizza covered in grilled chorizo, refried beans, avocado and cheese.
Managing to prise myself away from the dizzying array of food stalls in the market (and the world’s best chocolate milk), the rest of the town is buzzing with life. There are few other foreigners here but being Easter week, it’s filling up with Mexicans coming for the festivities, which are apparently spectacular.
I have to move on but before I go I catch site of a procession, with a huge wooden Christ being slowly and painfully carried through the streets to a slow trumpet dirge. They take their Catholicism seriously here.
I stayed a little out of the centre in a quiet and secluded little hostel called La Cochinilla. The staff are the most pleasant I’ve encountered overlanding in Mexico, it’s cheap and the rooms are clean and new. What’s not to like? Its very busy too which delights me, as they’re getting a lot right here (and I would know because I’ve stayed in some right dumps in my time).
Overlanding in Mexico
Next I travel from Oaxaca to Mexico City. I’ll admit to being a little nervous. The last time I visited was semi-disastrous. I stayed in the wrong part of town, was hassled constantly by drunk mariachi bands and everything I wanted to see was closed. This time, thanks to a little more research, things were a little less terrifying.
It’s hard to describe the sheer scale of this city. At nearly two and half times the size of London, with around 22 million people, it’s simply colossal. And you can feel its power everywhere and is a must visit when overlanding in Mexico.
I stay in the slightly more upmarket area of Condessa and walk from here through some of the more hip areas of town including La Roma. The city is at times as grand as London, as iconic as New York and as cool as Berlin. In short, it’s got everything and I love it.
It’s hard to know what went wrong last time but I’ve spent the best part of 15 years slagging it off, and I can only apologise to each and every one of its 22 million citizens. Part of me would love to come and live here for a year to even try and get to grips with it.
The choice is astonishing. If you want it, you can find it. And if you’re looking for the best street food in the world, you’re in the right place. You can dine like a king on a street corner and pay less than a couple of quid for the privilege. If I did ever come for the year, there’d be some serious coronary issues by the end of it.
My time here is tragically short and I can do nothing more than lightly graze the surface. But for now this trip overlanding in Mexico is heading to Guadalajara, my old stomping (or should that be slouching) ground. I really hope it’s as much fun as I remember.
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