Published: August 21st 2007August 18th 2007
This tree was really massive.
Saturday 18th August
We had packed the day before, worked out a timetable & route to get to the train and were ready to go! We woke up early, showered and went out for breakfast at Cafe Popular next door. Good food at a decent price.
As we left the hotel we stopped at the opposite corner & took one last look and a picture. Both of us were looking forward to a quieter environment.
We made our way carefully through the road maintenance area on our way to the station. As we entered the Metro Rags commented on how sure-footed Judy was on the stairs with all the gear she was carrying when he slipped on the last step and only his backpack saved him from crashing prone onto the marble. As it was, he sprained his ankle, luckily not too seriously but it is going to hurt for a few days.
The bus was a comfortable 1st Class one with sleeper seats, seatbelts, and most importantly, a cautious driver. Because of heavy traffic and road construction it took 7.5 hours of travel, the last section through quite mountainous terrain.
We arrived in Oaxaca at 5.30pm,
Grinding the Cochineal Beetles
It was amazing that once you ground these beetles and mixed it with water you had a lovely red colour. Add some lemon juice and the colour changes. Add baking soda and more colours.
only to be greeted by rain as we walked into the centre to look for accomodation.It finally abated enough for us to continue and we found the first hotel we had earmarked found in our Lonely Planet. This book is our 'bible', and from what we have seen nearly every 2nd traveller has one. Trust an Aussie to write these books!
The Casa Bugambilius, sort of a B&B, was great, and after a little bargaining we found ourselves in a comfortable room. The only drawback is that we have to move to another room tomorrow as the room was pre-booked, and then need to repeat this the following night. This makes unpacking a bugbear, somewhat to Rags' relief as he repacked Judy's bag in a little more organised way in Mexico City and this way it will remain fairly tidy!!
A walk to the zocola (town square) followed where we watched a parade and saw exhibitions as the Noches de La Louches, a festival, was being celebrated this weekend. (not sure what it means but intend finding out) Great atmosphere and a great way to observe the locals. Dinner consisted of a Pina Colada for Judy, and a Jumbo
Weaving the coloured yarns
Small rugs like this man was weaving could take 4 days and cost about $140.
Judy can't fit one in her backpack!
size negra (dark) beer for Rags, with the local dish, negra mole, a chicken stewed in chilli and chocolate being the main dish. The chicken was good, neither of the main flavours being overpowering, but Rags had to “struggle' to finish his litre or more of beer.
We continued soaking up the atmosphere, watching the locals and the fireworks which followed. The short walk 'home' was a little further than it should have been, but we found it in the end.
Sunday 19th August
Breakfast was had in a dining room at a table set for 16. We sat opposite a young chap from France who spoke a little English and we had an interesting conversation, he telling us more about some of our intended destinations and helping us navigate our way through the breakfast. Breakfast consisted of a plate of papaya, followed by a dish of nuts and seeds covered in yoghurt. A choice of 3 hot dishes followed, and though these were small they were tasty. They were wrapped in banana leaves and were a bean or meat paste wrapped in a corn pancake.
Yesterday we'd booked a tour that began at a very civilised
These huge columns once held up a roof.
10am. We met at the tour office and here 15 of us packed into a minibus and took off. El Tulle, Latin America's most massive tree was our first stop. This is so important to the little town that they have installed underground irrigation to ensure that the tree gets the enormous amount of water it needs. It is a type of cypress.
From here we drove to a cooperative factory in Teotitlan Del Valle, where several families assist in the process of carding, washing, spinning, colouring and weavng the yarns to make rugs and other products. The young man who described the process spoke excellent English and gave a detailed explanation and demonstration of the whole process. Most fascinating was the demonstration of how the natural colours are obtained from products such as the cochineal beetle, baking soda, lemon, pomegranates etc. We were so taken in that we even bought a tablecloth and table runner, something more to carry.
The main attraction of Mitla was next. The ruins coincide with the present town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla whose main church actually occupies the northernmost of five main groups of monumental ruins. This church, typically, was
One could get claustrophobic in these small spaces. Luckily the people in them were dead.
built using the stones from the ancient site, for the Catholics to show their superiority over the locals. This has caused much loss of these sites. A guide showed us these ruins and discussed the people in great detail.
The Mercado (markets) at Tlacolula, one of Oaxaca's oldest and biggest was our last stop. Unfortunately, we only had a short time here and could only touch the surface in the 40 minute time allotted. However, we did get to try the local chorizo. These sausages were partly cooked and we only had to put them on a central brazier for a couple of mintes to heat them. We also bought bananas and Rags was tempted by a biscuit!
After a shower and rest stop during which we finally uploaded the parts we had finished to our blog we headed out into the night again. We headed towards the markets our fellow bus travellers mentioned but it started to rain and when we got there many had packed up the stalls. We wandered around the Zocalo checkng out places to eat and this time tried Amarantos, on the other side of the square. We ordered our drinks first as
Meat at the markets in Tlacolula
We bought some of these little chorizo sausages partly cooked and finished it off on a central barbecue. They tasted great!
last night the drinks and food all came at once and we like to sit and people watch over our drinks. We pondered over the menu, finally choosing a soup each, Garlic and Aztec and then a Cecina Enchilada and Chili Rellenos (trust Rags to order stuffed chille!). We so full by the time we finished, without touching any rice or bread that Judy vowed not to order 2 courses like that again!
Monday, August 20th
We don't know what it was but we had trouble sleeping last night and it was about 2pm before we put the lights out. It may have been the local chocolate that we bought at the market or perhaps our full stomachs. We decided not to get up early after that so it was after 10am when we left the Bugambilla B & B. A bus for Mont Alban, our intended destination, left from about a couple of kilometres away at 10.30 and so we had to walk quickly through the streets. Luckily, Rags' ankle was up to it and Judy knew where we were going.
The bus left from the Hotel Rivera and at about $A4 for the round trip was
The ball court at Mont Albans
This is where the Oaxacans played a game of ball. The sides were covered in smooth stucco so the ball bounced off it and weren't steps as they appear in the photo.
a bargain. It was quite full and while we waited we started chatting to a group of people from Canada. The ride to Mont Alban was up a twisty, narrow road with great views over Oaxaca. Mont Alban, situated on a hilltop, and named by a Spaniard after a similar site in Italy, is one of Mexico's most spectacular ruined cities. It was once a great city that was the capital of the zapotecs between 500BC and AD 750. The remains reveal an advanced culture with gods, permanent temples, a priesthood, writing, numerals and a calendar. House styles indicate a differentiated, multilayerd society. Various influences during its 1200 year reign meant that it was rebuilt and added to over 5 main epochs. The remains are beautifully preserved with grassed areas and ruins well signed in 3 languages and most original areas fenced off from tourists.
People we met on the bus asked us to join in with a tour but having done a few of these with so called English speaking guides recently we were disinclined to do this, so armed with a detailed guide book from our hotel, and our Lonely Planet, we took off. Firstly, we went
The stairs to the South Platform at Mont Albans
Rags still managed to climb these stairs with his sore ankle. There was once a temple on this platform.
to the Visitors' Centre where we felt we gained a reasonable understanding of the area. Then we headed to the ruins. We were very impressed and thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the site, taking photographs (many more than you se below) and soaking up the wonderful peace and solitude we felt here. There were very few tourists and many times we were alone in an area.
We had ample time in the 3 hours before we needed to catch the bus for the return journey to enjoy the site. While waiting for the bus we had some fun bartering for some necklaces for gifts. When the bus arrived the local lady agreed to our price so we felt quite pleased with ourselves. Judy remarked that the drive down the hill was a bit like a ride at the Royal Show and the driver was only slowed down by the sleeping policeman(big road humps) and vehicles coming from the other direction.
As the bus dropped us near the local Mercado Central de Abastos we decided to take a look here. We were quite peckish so we ate here first, enjoying chicken enchilada, salad and rice. The markets were for the
local people and contained everything including clothes, shoes, tools, flowers, meat, fruit and vegetables, toys, books and hats. Judy bought a cheap watch as she hadn't brought hers with her and wanted something plain.
On the way back to Buganbilla's B & B we booked a flight for tomorrow to Puerto Escondido. We've decided that rather than an all day bus trip through windy mountainous roads we'd take our chances in a Cessna aircraft.
At a dollar apiece we both had our boots shined and gleaming better than new by a shoe shiner in the Zocalo before arriving back at a our room to a welcome shower and refreshments. Light rain fell as we headed for home but this is all we have felt of Hurrican Dean that is affecting the eastern end of Mexico, far from where we are. (So please don't worry about us)
We ate a Cafe La Olla which is attached to Bugambilias. This was more like eating at a restaurant at home as we weren't interrupted by people selling, singing or begging. The surroundings, as with Bugambilias, is filled with art works and beautifully decorated. Here we met a couple, Hiram and
Solar Elevator at Mont Albans
Haven't seen one of these before, have you?
Jill and their 3 children whom we had met previoulsy at breakfast. We joined them after dinner for some lively conversation comparing America and Australia before retiring to our room to complete and upload our blog while we have a wireless connection.
There are more photos below