Maya "End of the World" Rally, part 2

Day 6

We woke up really early because we wanted to get to Teotihuacan, meaning, “where man met the gods”, before the crowds of people arrived and also because we had a long drive again that day ahead of us.  All through the night we heard club music, which is typical being it was a Saturday night, however, once it was 4am, then 5am, then 8a, and the music was still blaring, we were pretty curious about what was going on.  It seemed that the closer we got to the pyramids, the louder the music.  We found out that a rave was going on near the entrance to the pyramids and people were rolling into Teotihuacan after they left.  Every pyramid we visit is spectacular for the construction and the technology and time that went into the process.  I was blown away with the size of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.  The view from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun was spectacular (minus the immense air pollution from Mexico City, just 30 miles southwest).

view from the Pyramid of the Sun looking at the Pyramid of the Moon
Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan 
We all then started making our way to Oaxaca.  After another 5+ hour day of driving we were able to navigate our way to a campsite we had just gotten wind of (www.overlandersoasis.com).  Leanne and Calvin were extremely helpful and have converted their property into a charming place for overlanders to hang out for a while.  They recommended a seafood restaurant down the street, where we ordered the special.  Once I got over the appearance of the fish head and Jeff pulled the meat off the bones for me I was able to enjoy the delicious meal.  We were all pretty beat from the consecutive long days of driving, so we decided to stay for a day in Oaxaca and enjoy the city.

mmm...fish head
Day 7
Jeff had been contacting Doug French, who is the owner of Scorpion Mescal to try and arrange a tour of the factory for us.  Visiting a mescal factory was one of the challenges for the rally, so we were happy when Doug offered us a private tour.  We all piled in Nate and Sarah’s truck and headed into the city.  The factory was hard to find, so when we asked some locals on the street where it was, the response was, “see that drunk man sitting on the road, right behind that gate”.  Sure enough, behind the gate was Doug.  He explained to us how the mescal is made using the hearts of agave plants.  After learning the difference between Anejo and Reposado, he offered us  tasting, but bear in mind its 11am and none of us our mescal or tequila drinkers.  Doug started by putting six shot glasses in front of each of us, which we reduced to six per couple and began pouring.  After the six were gone, we were all having a merry time, so he took out some of his good stuff and Doug joined in the tasting as well.  We all bought some bottles at the end of the tasting and Doug offered us 3 bottles to bring to Bacalar for the end of the world party to share with the rally group.  All of us were able to add quite a few points to our tally’s towards the rally and even scored a few bonus points for bringing bottles to share.  Thanks Mr. French, we had a great time.
massive agave, where the Mescal is derived from
several shots later, we're all pretty happy, Thanks Mr. French

reject scorpions that don't make the cut for being bottled
Another challenge in the rally was to try some unique “bizarre” foods.  For this we needed to head into the Oaxaca Zocalo, which in my opinion was the most beautiful one in Mexico thus far.  It is lined with restaurants and cafes.  Children were running around playing with balloons, people are selling items and you can always hear music.  The architecture of the buildings and churches was phenomenal.  We heard or a restaurant that sold huitlacoche, so we headed off looking for it. Huitlacoche is the mushroom fungus that grows on corn.   We all ordered some but thought it would be best in a quesadilla and a drink, took photos for evidence and then headed towards the market for our next challenge, to eat chapulines, or fried crickets.  I’d been dreading this challenge, but Jeff handled it like a champ.  After strolling around the huge market, where you could easily get lost, we headed out on our next strange food hunt, for tacos de tripas.  We found a stand that was making tripe tacos and also tacos de cabeza.  Tacos de cabeza was not one of the challenges foods, but we knew extra points were awarded for additional strange foods, so Jeff went for it.  Again, I couldn’t stomach either of them.  All three of our teams enjoyed a much needed day of minimal driving, filled with lots of eating and drinking, while racking in some more points. 
chapulines, take your pick between small and crunchy or large and juicy

huitlacoche, I'll give it a try
don't be fooled by his face, he loved these
Jeff's new favorite street taco stand

Day 8

We decided we wouldn’t have time to visit Sumedero Canyon or San Cristobal, locations of other Maya Rally challenges, since we spent our time enjoying Oaxaca.  So we headed out bright and early, in hopes of making it to Palanque. We weaved through the mountains of Oaxaca for several hours and then started descending from the mountains.  We finally got our first taste of the heat and humidity and shed the sweaters we had started the day off wearing.  After 5 hours of driving windy roads we finally made it to a toll road/ highway.  After only a few miles on the road we were suddenly in a dead stop.  People turned off their cars and were hanging out on the highway.  We called our friends who had left an hour before us and they too were stuck and had been for a while.  We asked around and discovered that there was a friendly protest going on and that buses had completely blocked the road.  We had also heard rumors that the same protest occurred yesterday and that people slept in their vehicles.    These protesters were smart and made sure to place the buses in a place where traffic could back up for miles and there would be no exits.  We decided, f%$# that and took the first U-turn we could, only to get back on the toll road in the opposite direction, so that we would have to pay to exit the road that we had just paid to enter, grrr. Three hours later we were out of the mess, but our friends were not.  We continued driving as much as we could, in hopes of finding a place to sleep, but at 2am we couldn’t bare it anymore and slept at a gas station.  Palenque would have to wait till tomorrow. 

 Day 9

We wake up at 6am, only after 4 hours of sleep and drive to Palenque.  We arrive before the gates open, which is the best time, because you can get pictures before the mobs of tourists and vendors arrive along with the heat.  We explore the ruins for a while and a tour guide was shocked when I told him I was American.  He said not many Americans care about history and all they want is the beach…ouch!  The ruins are pretty incredible, but the sun is rising and I’d really like to be on a beach right now. Go America!

Palanque
mas Palanque
it's just so incredible, una vez mas
One of the challenges for the rally was to go to the Rainbow Circle gathering which was being held near Palenque this year.  We started looking for some people that were dressed like they may possibly be attending the gathering and sure enough, we manage to get directions.  I had no idea what this gathering was prior to the rally, so was eager to witness what I had been hearing.  From what I know, a large group, roughly 4,000+, come together once each year in a different international location, where they set up a community where the only currency that exists are hugs and barters, and live for a month.  People come and go during that month.  During meal time they form a small, inner circle, followed by many outer circles where they then sit together and enjoy a communal meal.  Upon arriving in our monster of a truck that clearly stuck out, we were greeted with “welcome home”.  I see that an orientation is going on since loads of backpackers just arrived out of a pick-up.  I’m handed a banana and a woman starts going over the rules.  As I am listening, I’m looking around and thinking that Jeff and I clearly don’t fit in here with his collared shirt and my neatly brushed hair and shaved legs.  We walk around see people waking up from the night before (its noon) and pass by the meditation area, yoga area, casual encounters area (I can only imagine what goes on here), and river where people are bathing naked and swinging from some ropes.  People are playing music, girls are sewing or making jewelry and guys are reading tarot cards.  Since it is lunch time, people are starting to head to circle. We pass by the cafeteria on the way there, which I’m a little skeptical of since they only use lime juice as a disinfectant and people are bathing and using the restroom not too far away.  People are getting served something white and mushy, possible a porridge, and then passing their bowl and spoon for the next person to eat.  It’s hot out, there’s poor sanitation and naked, hairy, sweaty people are all around me.  I wanted out! As we start making the trek back to the car we walk by the “shit slits” which need no description, which only hurries my pace.  This was an experience I don’t care to repeat, but we scored some points for attending and the people were friendly. Nuff said..
Rainbow Circle Gathering, Palanque (I hope there's nobody naked in the background)
 It was only 3p so we decided to start driving to Bacalar, which is the ending location for the party, located in Mundo Maya.  On the way, we pass by a Chinese restaurant.  One of the challenges was to go to a Chinese restaurant, save the receipt and fortune cookie and you get more points.  If it’s a vegetarian restaurant, you get bonus points.  We had no such luck.  It wasn’t vegetarian, and they didn’t give fortune cookies!  What a crock!  We at least got the receipt though for a few points.  We rolled into Bacalar late, and are stoked to see Tad and Gaila, team Overland Now, and Bryon and Anthony, from Team Astrid, both whom we had volunteered with in Guanajuato.
campsite in Bacalar
 Day 10
Teams start slowly rolling in throughout the day.  The campsite in Bacalar is beautiful and sitting on a clear, fresh water lake.  We spend the day swimming and relaxing since we are beat from all the driving. Finally, its December 20 and the world should be ending at any time now.  The teams take turns showing photos and other memorabilia from the rally to the judges, which takes hours.  Meanwhile, the food and drinks have been brought over and we start partying like it’s the end of the world. I don’t think Jeff remembers much, but we had an extremely entertaining night with several bottles of Mescal, piñatas, cervesa’s, good food and new friends.  Jeff and I even managed to get 3rd place in the 4WD category and scored a sweet computer bag and water bottle. 
The world didn't end!!!
Day 11
I have no idea how, but we woke up at 7a, so that we could make it to Ichkabal Mayan Ruins at 8am. Centuries ago the Mayans were able to predict when the sun would align perfectly to reflect off a wall and make light in a small circle on a rock.  That's a pretty weak description, but I guess I was envisioning this huge light on the top of a pyramid that was monumental.  This tiny whole close to the ground wasn't what I had envisioned, still, it was neat to witness.  Tons of people came to observe this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

viola'
 Along with touring the pyramids we tasted some pure cocoa from a tree on site and chew some natural gum before it is flavored, modified and packaged.  

cocoa beans
 The rally was now over, the world didn’t end, it was time to move on and celebrate the holidays with family and friends.  

the whole rally crew