After two days of bicycling from Mexico City, and crossing over a 12,000 ft pass between two volcanoes, I arrived in the town of Cholula, a suburb of the large city of Puebla and the site of a major pre-Colombian city. In the center of Cholula, ruins of a giant pyramid are covered by dirt and now appear to be a large hill, with, of course, a church on top (see photo left). I gave four presentations for the American School of Puebla, and stayed two days with a teacher at the school.
Heading south, I rode four days to Oaxaca (pronounced wa-hawk-ah) through some of the most mountainous terrain yet. The first two days I traveled through dry desert country that, further south, gave way to pine forests. I camped one night on the roadside, one night in the small town of Santa Maria Tutla (photo right), and one night in the small town of Monte Frio.
In Monte Frio, a town of no more than a thousand upon a ridgetop, I camped next to the municipal building, where the mayor and a whole host of kids stood and watched me cook dinner. Afterwards, I joined about 10 local kids in a game of soccer (video center), which we played until the ball was kicked over a cliff. Then we played basketball. Afterwards, one of the kids asked me to help him translate a book he had in English. I agreed, and he soon returned with his homework. This is a small town, with little available work, and most of the people, like the other small towns I have visited, eat the corn they grow on their fields. Also, many go to the U.S. to look for work. More on this later.
I biked into Oaxaca, where, before I could ride to the city’s center, I was accosted by a man who had seen me on television and now demanded I stay at his house and be well fed. I agreed, and then today talked at a local University (Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Oaxaca) and a private high school (Instituto Carlos Gracida). Oaxaca, a city of 600,000, is in one of the poorer regions of Mexico, with a large indigenous population. It has a very nice downtown, though, and is full of tourists. Impressive ancient ruins, dating to hundreds of years before Christ, sit atop a mountain overlooking the Oaxaca valley.