A Travellerspoint blog

Back to Mexico City

On the road once more

12/12/09 - Mexico City, Mexico

Today we head back to Mexico City. But things are going a bit tits-up. After I lost the hotel key Michael has lost his credit card. It takes the whole morning to sort this mess out.

But we find time to visit Santa Domingo, a church in the town. It is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. Built between 1575 and 1608, it is squat yet stately. It is an extraoridinary building, framed by date palms, mini-alcove plants and the mountains behind. The inside is breathtaking too. An elaborate ceiling was designed to ensure worshippers eyes were turned to heaven and it does the job.

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After the church, Michael buys some Christmas presents and I buy a tacky necklace from on of the many stalls. I´m not very good at haggling. Most of the time I just pay the asking price which is normally extortionate because the sellers expect you to bargain. Occasionally I will bargain but then feel so guilty for having done so, I pay them the asking price, sometimes more than the asking price. But I´m happy to do so.

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Posted by Señor Usuf 15:04 Comments (1)

Valles Centrales

Ruins, weaving, petrified waterfalls, mezcals and a fat tree

11/12/09 - Various towns around Oaxaca City, Oaxaca State, Mexico

What´s annoying me>>>losing the hotel room key

We set off bright and ealry for a tour of the major sights of Valles Centrales. It was 2pm. Only kidding, much earlier than that. It was easier to do a tour then try to reach all the places individually, especially without a car. So we joined a coachload of tourists and a crazy tour guide. He promised us we would all get drunk by the end of the tour. We were to be given lots and lots of free mezcals (30 - 40 percent alcohol) at a mezcal factory. So far so good.

The first stop on the tour was El Tule to see a huge 2000 year-old cyprus tree, picturesquely dwarfing the church next to it with the widest girth of any tree in the Americas. It´s big.

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Second on the tour was Teotitlan de Valle, a famous weaving village 25km from Oaxaca. The weavers gave us a demonstration of their technique and methods of obtaining natural dyes which go back to Pre-Hispanic times (Teotitlan had to pay tributes to the Aztecs).

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After that, it was the Zapotec ruins at Mitla. Mitla is famous for the Columna de la Vida (columns of life), a stone pillar that you wrap your arms around to see how long you have to live (the closer your hands get to touching the closer you are to death).

After the ruins we stopped off for lunch at a very pleasant restaurant. Next to the restaurant was a mezcal bar where I sampled shitloads of free smaples from the prettiest barmaid I´ve seen in Mexico. She asked me to try a maggot so I tried tat too. Frankly if she asked to jump off a cliff while dancing naked I would´ve done that too. I also had some more grasshoppers. Tasty.

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Maggots for lunch. Mmm.

Then it was Hierve El Agua (the water boils). The drive there is very scenic and the highest point we reach is greater than 3000m above sea level.

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The best was saved until last: the mezcals. At the mezcal factory the guide encouraged us to the free samples. What worried me was how drunk the guide was getting. He kept shouting "c´mon lessh get drunk". By the end of the sampling session he was completely fucked. I bought a bottle of mezcal to drink back at the hotel not that I´m an alcoholic or anything. Viva Mexico!

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Posted by Señor Usuf 14:58 Comments (0)

Monte Alban

Ruins on top of a hill

10/12/09 - Oaxaca City, Oaxaca State, Mexico

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Hotel balcony
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Prickly
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Hammocks at the hotel
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We decided to visit the ruins of Monte Alban. The ruins are perched high in the hills above Oaxaca and are reached after a treacherous combi ride along a narrow, winding road that threatened to crumble and fall into the valley below.

The ruins sit atop brown hills surrounded by dramatic mountains. Fromn the top of the Southern Platform a stone edifice with a wide staircase, I had a panaroma of the site, across the Grand Plaza to the Northern Platform and the tombs. I stopped to imagine a bustling metroplois of skilled artisans, rpiests and farmers. Once, this collection of stones was one of the most advacned cities in the world, with a highly sophisticated system of government at a time when Euorpeans still wallowing in shit. Now the descendents of this great civilisation sat in the shade cast by trees, smoking cheap cigarettes and waiting for unsuspectingtourists to pass, silly enough to buy tacky souvenirs from them. This thought depresses me.

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When we get back from Monte Alban I get the chance to eat some chapulines as they are served locally (fried with chili powder, garlic and onions). Yum.

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Posted by Señor Usuf 13:30 Comments (0)

Oaxaca

O-ha-ka that´s how you pronounce it

09/12/09 - Oaxaca City, Oaxaca State, Mexico

Random things: Old people dancing to brass bands in the town square.

We caught a bus to Oaxaca in the morning. It is 4070km from Mexico City to Oaxaca going down from 2400m above sea level to sea level then climbing back up to 2500m, and passing from tropical forest to spectacular stands of pine, oak and cactus forests. Oaxaca is widely regrded as one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, a place of low Spanish buildings and narrow cobbled streets with a lively plaza.

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Mountains on the way to Oaxaca

When we got there it was late afternoon. We got a hotel near the bus station. Later I wander down to the zocalo, where the guidebook said there´s always a parade. There did appear to be some sort of a festival going on but I couldn´t work out what it was for. At first I thought it might be Guelaquetza, an ancient Indian maize festival that had been fused with Christian celebrations for the feast of the Virgen del Carmen, but that was held in July not December.

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All this travelling around was taking it´s toll..

In the evening, we ate at a "vegeterian" restaurant where they served such vegeterian specialities as beef, chicken and fish as well as chapulines (grasshoppers). I requested the grasshopper dish and was disappointed to have it served in a dip as opposed to whole grasshoppers.

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Posted by Señor Usuf 13:07 Comments (0)

Teotihuacan

Yeah I can´t pronounce that either

07/12/09 - Teotihuacan, The Archeological Zone, Mexico

Every visitor to Mexico City at some stage heads out to the pyramids of Teotihuacan. Once Mexico´s largest ancient city - up to 200,000 people are believed to have lived there at it´s peak - it is also the site of two of the tallest pyramids in Central America, the Pyramid of the Sun (not the newspaper!) and the Pyramid of the Moon. In fact, at 70 metres high, the Pyramid of the Sun is the third largest pyramid in the world after Cheops in Egypt and Cholula also in Mexico.

We decide to climb both of them. In my opinion, if there´s something you can climb you should climb it. Not including escalators at undergound stations.

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The first one is the Sun. From a distance the stairs look like they go up at a reasonable angle, but once I got up a bit it was more like climbing a ladder. I never smoked a cigarette in my life, but when I reached the top I was wheezing like someone with emphysema. Michael got there way ahead of me but I had stopped occasionally to take photos..

I sat in silence for a few minutes, gazing out across the site at the Pyramid of the Moon, which sat, equally as lofty at the other end of Avenida de los Muertos, the avenue of the dead. I asked Michael to take pictures of me with my arms aloft as if worshipping the sun or something like a big idiot.

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I´m sat on the Pyramid of the Sun and staring at the Pyramid of the Moon - both are huuuge! To emphasise how big they are I added two extra "u"s to "huge"
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My feet getting some pyramid action

Posted by Señor Usuf 12:35 Comments (0)

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