Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Summer 2007 Car Trip - 9

Our second day in Oaxaca was tour day. Time to see all of the sights. But first we had a job to do. We were not happy in our first hotel choice so had decided yesterday afternoon to take a look around and move. When we toured the Hotel Monte Alban (23) we knew we had a winner. We found a room at the top of the stairs that had three beds! And the price was well within our budget. The best part? It was right on the zocolo! The whole town square was just outside our door.

Take a look at the restaurant that we had to pass through to get to the stairway to the rooms above. That's me, writing notes in my journal. Something I tried to do everyday.

We had a hearty breakfast and then headed out to get to the bus for our ride to our next destination: The ruins of Monte Alban.

It was a 20 minute bus ride, up through the twisting and tight streets that line the hills around Oaxaca. Houses literally piled on top of each other, one person's porch was the roof of his neighbor. The city has grown up the various hillsides, having used up all available land in the valley. We never actually left the city behind. As we climbed, it climbed with us. Around each sharp curve the poverty climbed also. The houses kept getting poorer and poorer. But the view back to Oaxaca City itself was incredible.

We arrived and the bus pulled into a huge parking lot at the base of the ruins and disgorged us into the blaring hot sun. I was dismayed to discover that we were not actually at the ruins. We had been dropped off about 1/4 of a mile below them. We still had to negotiate a steep, paved, hot road up to the ruins. (L had failed to mention this part when describing this tour!) We finally leveled out and proceeded to the entrance. But first we had to run the gauntlet of vendors lining the route. They were not all that aggressive, but still irritating in the blaring sun. Especially one who was actually selling conch shells. A bit far from the water for that. But the best was the guy selling little plaster replicas of Chichen Itza pyramid! A bit far from the Yucatan for that too!

We paid our admission and were immediately assaulted by guides offering us their service for the 1.5 hour tour. I found them to be rude but understood they were only trying to make a living. We gently but firmly told them all no thanks. L had been here like a gazillion times before and knew enough to lead us on a self-directed tour.

Monte Alban stands on a flattened hilltop, about 1300 feet above the city of Oaxaca. It is one of Mexico's most ancient ruin sites, dating from as early as 200 BC. Most of what the tourist sees, and what remains, dates from around 300 to 700 AD. You can read lots more about Monte Alban's fascinating history here. Here are some pretty pictures of the place for you to look at.

We spent over an hour exploring this marvelous site and enjoying the 360 degree views of the valleys surrounding this site. We finally made our way back to the entrance and decided to tour the attached museum. It was somewhat interesting but contained mostly the usual things. Pictures of the site from days gone by. Pictures of explorers and scientists who uncovered the site. Various artifacts uncovered here, as well as various bits of jewelry. The most interesting area to me was an area full of skulls, jawbones and teeth. They showed the self-mutilation that had been carried out by the residents of Monte Alban. These included drilling holes into the skull and through the teeth. Teeth were actually rasped away until they formed various designs. All in all, a bit gruesome but the kind of thing you can't look away from.

We caught the noon bus back to town. L had another adventure lined up for us and was about to spring that on us!

No comments: