Pre Hispanic Day

24th Sept. 2016


Contemplating Monte AlbanToday will be a long day as we start by Skyping our parents before breakfast. As breakfast is not included in the room rate, we check out and head off to see if we can find a good breakfast in a nearby café. We are not due at the bus station for our overnight bus to San Cristobal de las Casas until 8pm, so what to do to keep busy?


Many buildingsAbout 4km away is an old city dating back to 500 BC called Monte Alban built by the Zapotecs. Being us, we ignore the day tours advertised and head for the semi expensive option of the Autobus Touristico at MXN$55 which along with the admission fee of MXN$65, amounts to £5 each. Fantastic value given the sheer size of the site we were visiting. At the entrance among the tat stalls was a hat seller with well over 100 hats to chose from, so £4 later Dave was the proud owner of a cowboy hat.


Juego de PelotaThe settlement was built on the top of a hill above the current city of Oaxaca which had been flattened to a plateau to make space for the Zapotecs to built their settlement. The buildings  remind us of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan region of Mexico which was not built until around 900AD . We still remember many of the historical facts our guide at Chichen Itza told us around about four years ago. In Monte Alban each building is described in Spanish, Zapotec and English, which is very informative. The first site we saw was the Juego de Pelota, the ball court and I was relieved to read that the losers were thought not to have been sacrificed, which was the case at Chichen Itza.


Big steps on a tall and wide stairwayIt took us nearly two hours to take in the whole site including climbing too many steep steps to the top and taking in the panoramic view of the site as well as looking down on Oaxaca. It was interesting to be reminded of how much reliance these ancient people placed on astronomy to tell when the rains would come and when to plant their crops. There was an  observatory which was restricted to allow only the very learned astronomers to enter. It was now roped off like many of the buildings to avoid further deterioration from tourists footsteps. That said we were still able to get close to see, as well as to access a tunnel to see carvings of dancers and swimmers.

 Group from International Tourist Convention

There were clusters of tour groups so occasionally we loitered to hear if the explanations were in English and sometimes we got lucky but with all the signs in English we were able to understand much of the history and uses of each building, from palaces to holy buildings and drainage works as water is always needed and it was piped into some of the palaces.

Panorama of Monte Alban 

After a coffee for lunch we head to our tourist bus to take us back into town. We were surprised that two other backpackers had opted for a more luxurious minibus than our local bus (we think that was the MXN$70 option). There were a few museums we wanted to see in town so that would wile away the afternoon. First up I treated Dave to the photographic museum (free to get in!). Some pictures were quite disturbing portraits so we quickly moved on.

Ancient game of footballWhilst deciding what to do next we heard Aussie voices and saw the couple we had met a couple of days ago and they recommended Museo Rufino Tamayo. Tamayo was a famous Oaxaca Artist and when he realised old relics were in danger of being destroyed he started collecting them and donated them to Oaxaca on the basis they were to be kept and displayed. What great foresight, it reminded us of Museo Lago in Lima with the style of many of the artefacts. The museum displayed everything very well in colour coded rooms with laminated cards explaining what was in each display cabinet. Well worth a visit.


Marble interior of Palacio de GorbiernoOur final museum was in the Palacio de Gorbierno facing the Zocalo which we just had to do to see the 19th Century Marble interior with impressive Murals including a large scale stairwell one depicting scenes from Oaxaca history.Part of large Mural


Dave's interesting supperAnother full day and we are ready for an early dinner before heading to the bus station. My choice was a save salmon fillet on a mushroom risotto. As for Dave’s choice, very adventurous but the beer glass was a bit small.

We  have decided that we are not fans of ADO buses. Even though we were on the GL bus this time and the seats were a little more comfortable, there was no blanket or pillow, or leg rest. Still, we fell asleep as the bus wound its way slowly down the mountain. The twisty roads were quite travel sick inducing so I hope I feel better when I wake. I was glad when the road became flat and straight and we began eating the miles to San Cristobal de las Casas.

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