A Travellerspoint blog

ACCIDENTE!

We're both fine, but our VW has a little more character.

sunny 27 °C

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We did a foolish thing yesterday, and we can't say we weren't warned. According to all the travel books and online forums, a minor accident in Mexico is best left alone. Police involvement is something to be avoided in Mexico, and generally, both parties are advised to work it out among themselves, and then leave the scene.

Apparently many Mexicans drive without insurance, which further complicates things, and can result in the offending parties being thrown in jail while the whole mess is sorted out.

We have our car parked right outside our posada, and yesterday someone sideswiped the back left side, and then drove off. So when we discovered this note on our windshield, written by a witness, and giving us the licence plate number, we were both crestfallen at the damage, and encouraged that we might be able to do something about it. The note is telling us that a white truck with camper ran into our car so hard it made it shake.

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Although I know this is a bad idea, on the advice of the owners of the posada, I went across the street to speak to an auxiliary police officer, who looked over the damage with an appreciative whistle. (We figure the damage will be over $1000 to fix, as we'll need a new bumper - the body should be able to be banged out.) We then went around the corner to the Polizia Vial (traffic cop), who gave me an address to go to make the report; an office several blocks away.

We discussed the pros and cons of doing such a thing and came to the decision that a police report would be necessary in our insurance claim - this being through our Mexican insurance. BIG MISTAKE! Down the rabbit hole we went, into a bureaucratic nightmare that went on for four hours, and ended with a copy of the report (typed painstakingly and then copied multiple times on a dot matrix printer). Needless to say, having just three months of online Spanish and four days of in-class study did not help the situation.

We were aided by two people (a father and daughter, as we found out later), and apparently the last tourist they had to help was over a year ago, so they had no idea what to do with us. They questioned everything - including the colour of the car (green) and the style (hatchback). The daughter did not feel green was the right colour, so we went through an insane charade of holding up various objects in the room that were different shades of green, including her father's jacket, which was almost an exact match. We felt like the perpetrators, not the victims, and it got a bit tense for a while. As we realized we were now in the system, we knew we had to keep our cool, and just get it over and done with. Our address caused them a lot of confusion, especially "Columbia" - we tried several times to explain it was a province, not a country. Our passports, drivers licences, BC insurance and Mexican insurance all had the identical information, but our papers were scrutinized endlessly (for signs of fraud? - no idea). The piece de resistance was that into the fourth hour, when it looked like it might be wrapping up, I had to sign 6 copies of the documents. Each document package had about 6 pages, and I had to sign each one in two different places - 72 signatures. I began signing - Ginny Miller - and after I had signed through on the first set of documents, it was pointed out to me that this was not the same name on my passport. What was I thinking? Again, I know better - my name on official documents is Virginia Miller, and after I explained that all my familia and amigos call me Ginny, she seemed reassured I was the same person. A new set was photocopied, and the long signing process began again. Stephen and I were both so exhausted, stressed, hungry, thirsty and fed up by the time we finally left, we could barely speak.

When I told my Spanish teacher the story this morning, he told me Mexicans never go to officials for help, especially police, whom they have very good reason not to trust. He went to the same office last year when his laptop was stolen, and had a similar experience with an equally unsatisfying result.

Steve tried to call the insurance company today, but our internet connectivity is so spotty here, he could not get through with Skype, and has emailed them instead. Hopefully, we will get to the bottom of this soon. In the meantime, our car is completely drivable, our tires were not damaged - there was only body damage, so we will carry on and figure out the best place to have it fixed (Mexico or back home).

Moral of this story - when in Mexico, do as the Mexicans do. We are not going to change things to work the way we think they should, and so we have learned a very good lesson.

To backtrack by a week, we began our time here on a high note (after we changed our lodgings) and that has carried through.

My friend Nicola happened to be in Oaxaca when we arrived. She is a writer and editor from Ontario, who spends her winters in Spanish-speaking countries, often Mexico, and our timing worked out that we were finally able to meet face-to-face. I have known her since my days with New Society Publishers, and we've had an ongoing email correspondence. Nicki is also an avid hiker, who has written hiking books and travelled through Patagonia by horseback, so when she suggested we go for a hike in a nearby town, I knew it would not involve flip-flops.

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We drove out to a small town just outside Oaxaca - San Andres Huayapan, parked by the church and headed down the road. Huayapan is one of many small pueblos in the Oaxaca region that have a special energy to them. This little town is very up-and-coming, with big houses being built and financed by new middle-class money . This is the town that Canadian actress Jackie Burroughs spent much of her life in, in her later years. We walked past her old casa and once-beautiful gardens that were intended to be left to her gardener. Sadly, a bureaucratic glitch has prevented her estate from being settled properly, and it sits empty.

It is said that Oaxaca and surrounding countryside sits on one of the largest vortices in the world. If you believe such things, ( I do - Stephen is skeptical), then spending time in the Oaxaca area feels like one cosmic recharge.

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We mainly had the trails to ourselves, but encountered this group of mountain bikers...

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...as well as this gentleman and his donkeys.

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Back in town we stopped for delicious quesadillas at this food stand in the square.

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The church in Huayapan is not terribly noteworthy, but someone has taken their pruners to the trees around the church and in the square with a fair bit of artistry. The trees in the square are shaped like birds, and the tree to the left of the church doors is shaped in a credible image of Jesus on the cross.

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Speaking of friends - one of the joys of travelling for us is meeting people from all over the world (or at least all over North America); some of whom we have kept in touch with. Jan and Dave Rooney are two people we met in Oaxaca in 2011 on the steps leading up to Monte Alban. Jan started talking to us, (very common for her, I'm told) and that was it - we had an invitation for drinks on their terrace. Jan and Dave live half the year in Boston and half the year in Oaxaca - their huge terrace overlooks the city and is a popular site for parties and gatherings. We met up with them last year, and again last week, and had the pleasure of meeting some of their friends. They are all very involved in the city's to-ings and fro-ings, which is a big advantage to staying in one place for a while.

The ladies - Carol, Jan and Suzanne

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The gentlemen - two Bills, a Stephen and a Dave

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Spanish Magic! That is the name of our Spanish language school, but it is a bit of magic when you experience a breakthrough in learning a new language. I had been studying for the past several months online with an app called Duolingo, and felt as though I was making progress, but nothing beats conversation with a native speaker. There is a very long road ahead to any level of fluency, but for this trip I would be thrilled to consistently be able to understand and make myself understood. Stephen and I took one week of lessons here in Oaxaca and will look into another week in San Miguel in March. Classes were Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to noon - we finished today. We were placed in different classes, which was good. Quality time apart on a 24/7 road trip is always welcome.

This is my group - our teacher Ruben, and students Jory, Eileen, Ann and Robert. There was wide disparity in speaking and comprehension levels, which wasn't ideal, and while I got a lot out of it, I would prefer to consider either private lessons or a smaller class next time. Still, it was sociable and engaging, and put us both on track to take learning seriously.

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Our school

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A city where food and art meet...and are often the same thing. Such unusual and interesting combinations of food, decor, wall art, landscaping, and whimsy exist throughout the city's restaurants and cafes.

This is a great little spot close to us - intimate (chef brings the food out), devoted to the bicycle, and devoted to wonderful, affordable food. A four-course meal here is 80 pesos (about $5).

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This was one of our first meals in Oaxaca. We were wandering in the market, and got a bit overwhelmed with sights and smells. This seafood place fit the bill, and as a bonus, we were the only gringos - often a good sign. Steve had tacos and I had the shrimp cocktail. Shrimp cocktail is very common in Mexico - served in a sundae glass, filled with a ketchup-y sauce and a basket of saltines. This could take you back to the 50's and 60's, except the shrimp are incredibly fresh and you get about 2 dozen of them in a serving. I couldn't eat them all.

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This place is fun. The art on the walls as well as the fellow on the left are a great diversion while you wait for your food.

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Our lunch in this restaurant. It is impossible to eat too many shrimp. The avocados in Mexico are like butter. I realize this is where they are grown, but still - no comparison to what we get at home.

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My final shot for the day. Christmas trimmings, especially wilting poinsettias, are everywhere. This non-denominational nativity scene in a popular coffee shop really caught our eye. In addition to the usual suspects, there are a number of women in traditional dress, a couple of baseball players, and a guy who looks like Sonny Bono.

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Posted by millerburr 19:25 Archived in Mexico

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Comments

Oh! Loved your post! I feel like I'm travelling with you in Technicolor! The van will survive!

Carol

by Carol Martin

It's only metal, keep on going my friends. Gives the car character and makes it more local!
Good job with the lessons, keep it up keep it up!
Love the pics, the colours are always so vibrant.

by Laurence

sorry for the bump in the road but it all sounds doable...btw I was friends with Jacquie Burroughs when I was living in Toronto's Yorkville in the '60s. She was the funniest person I ever met...so nice to hear about her home. The food looks amazing!

by Lesley Harris

Sorry to hear of you mishap but ... your really in it now, Sayulita is nice but now your into Mexico which Sayulita does not represent, seems your into the cool stuff now. Aren't the Topes a pain.

Thanks.

by Robert Vanden Dool

Love your pics and stories Ginny. Your auto bumps provide a story for the memory books. ;-)

by Ann

What is a little fender bender when you can gourge on all that fantastic food and culture? Carry on my intrepid travellers, it is all part of the journey. Loved all the dscriptives Ginny Miller.
Enjoy the sun we are in a deep freeze!

by Nanc

That was quite an ordeal you went through with the car. As we read your description of what transpired, we were almost sweating bullets ourselves. It came as a relief that we were able to move on with tales of your adventures in this beautiful place. Good luck with your Spanish; I'm sure you'll get lots of opportunities to practice ... hopefully not with the Polizia!

by Heather

Happy to hear the next chapter of the accident story. Too bad the simple police report was not so-simple. Yup, seems the advice I received years ago still stands, "The gringos get into trouble when they try to live a 'first-world life." Looks like this is another example. After my observation at the local clinic and now your story of the police report seems the typewriter and dot matrix printer are alive and well in Oaxaca. Now go have some fun!

by Kathy Smith-Wenning

Wow!I'm so sorry I was part of the advice that going there might be OK! So sorry you wasted so many hours there. It made me remember a "short" trip I did with a Oaxacan friend to a Notary. It turned into something similar with the time involved, the paper work, and the signatures! It also involved lots of "stamping" with the official Notary stamp! Maybe if I had remembered that incident, I would have said "don't bother"! At least you had a super topic for your blog and an experience that not many tourists have to endure. Hope the rest of your adventures are good ones and don't involve the police! Thanks for sending me the link to the blog.

by Marilyn Horn

Looks like you are having an amazing time! Keep the travel log coming. I live vicariously. Drive safe!!!❤️??

by Nattalle

Ooops! What's a trip without a little mishap? Glad you and Stephen are okay and that your journey is as colourful and fascinating as ever. Looking forward to the next installment! Cheers.

by Donna D

I suspect your time in the police station was not totally a waste. At least you have a police report to give to your own insurance company. . Without, it might refuse to do anything. With the passage of time, a great story you'll relish telling with a laugh,
Como de costumbre, estoy disfrutando mucho tus historias. Sigue escribiendo y tomando fotos!

by jon snipper

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