Driving from Puerto Escondido to Oaxaca: 150 Miles in 12 Hours


Puerto Escondido, home of the Mexican Pipeline, surfing culture and food poisoning. Yeah, the bugs laid me low for about a week, but the rest of the trip was excellent, if hot and rainy.

Puerto is hip, laid back, a mix of poverty and elegance, yet a real Mexican town that gets tourists and surfers from the world over.

I’ve been several times. This trip was with two friends, their 1988 Toyota 4Runner, their dog, my cat and a lot of luggage. The car (above) has been modified some (transmission oil cooler for mountain driving, new shocks, suspension mods, tires), and it ran well, though the 3.0-liter V6 is underpowered, at least for this kind of trekking.

Going south, for two-thirds of the way it’s pretty much a straight shot until you hit the Sierra Madre del Sur—enormous green mountains, some rising over 10,000 feet. Then you’re in a series of constant curves, climbs, switchbacks and descents, amid some truly beautiful scenery, mountain villages and changing weather.

MountainsIt’s impossible to do the trip in less than six and a half hours. However, on our return to Oaxaca, we encountered a blockade, which stopped a slew of traffic 33 miles south of Oaxaca for about five hours. So the whole bloody trip took about 12 hours.

Friends along the wayWe tried a detour around the mess, but couldn’t find a decent way through, so came back and got in line again. We had food in the car, but as you may understand, 4Runners carry no toilets. So it was a real treat running outside to relieve oneself in full view of the lineup of cars. No trees around, and it had started to rain, hard. More details would be inappropriate.

Turns out the blockade (these occur all too frequently in Mexico) was caused by two feuding towns that simply decided to stop all traffic, both directions, on a major north-south highway. This had nothing to do with drug-trafficking blockades, just a little free-speech exercise that pissed off a lot of people.

George and 4RunnerI thought about how the TDI Panamericana Endurance Challenge must be progressing (they are in Alaska now) and was thinking how cool that Touareg must be. But actually, we did fine in the old 4Runner, and it’s a great car for conquering the Mexican potholes and speed bumps (topés) that abound.

Blockades are something else.

Does anyone have experience getting more power from these old Toyota V6 engines? My buddy George would like to know.


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  1. I can’t think of anything to fight the altitude and low octane fuel other than a turbocharger, and then you can run into the problem of preignition with the poor fuel.

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