Trip to Zapotec Ruins of Monte Albán, Oaxaca

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Thanks for your interest in my recent nine day trip to Oaxaca City, Mexico. I’ve broken the trip into eight parts loosely organized by the central activity of the day. Want to see the other posts? Browse the Oaxaca category.

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After breakfast, J and I walked to a hotel on Mina Street to catch an unguided tour bus (41 pesos/person roundtrip) to the nearby ruins of Monte Albán.

Monte Albán is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site located on a low mountainous range above the central section of the Oaxaca Valley. Nine kilometers from Oaxaca City, the site was founded around 500 BC and remained populated until AD 750.

The route up the mountain was narrow and winding through what appeared to me as shanty villages. The driver stopped periodically to pick up people who needed a lift. The tourists subsidized their fares.

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Looking south on Monte Albán from atop Edificio E.

It was a clear day, and the clouds were low and puffy. After buying admission tickets (around 50 pesos/person), we hiked up the hill and started to explore the sprawling compound of weathered stone and seasonally green grass.

Panoramic views of the whole area were on all sides of the mountain top, and the structures were marked by bilingual plaques. The ruins were crawling with large green lizards that would scatter under foot. Also, a skin crawling amount of yellow millipede were crawling out of holes in the ground to congregate under trees. A large group of calm sun-beaten old men wandered around offering trinkets for sale.

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Patio Hundido.
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The surviving columns of Conjunto Vertice Geodesico.
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J climbing stairs.
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Looking towards the crafts villages to the west.
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One of many large, colorful lizards that acted as tour guides.
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Looking north from the grand plaza.
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Shadows falling on the grand plaza as seen from the southern platform.
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Looking west.
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An insect.
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Thousands of yellow millipedes were coming out of their holes.
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Here are some chillin’ under a tree.

Savvy tip: Don’t eat the bugs you find at Monte Alban or sit on their burrows.

After exploring for a few hours, we went to the parking area to wait for our van back to town.

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J descending a massive staircase.
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Royalty.
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Stairs.
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The ball court, where unlike in Aztec games, no one was killed for playing.
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Lords of the rings.
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The view of southern Oaxaca City. The small airport is hidden somewhere in this photo. Can you spot it?
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The shanty town on the road back into town.
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Another view.
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Wall of painted metal.
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A view before hitting a dead end.

For lunch, we went to La Escupidera for dreary atmosphere and a heaping sampling of Oaxacan food. Our platter had black beans, quesadillas, string cheeses, fresco cheese, mole enchiladas, pork, and a handful of giant fried ants.

It was food enough for two, but I also ordered green mole chicken. It’s a delicate mole, which in our case was served with lots of green squash.

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Our platter of Oaxacan delights.
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Green mole chicken.

Back at the hotel, we pooped and deposited our soiled tissues in a can. This is common place in Oaxaca, as the sewers can’t seem to handle wads of paper. If there wasn’t chronic water shortages, Thai toilet hoses would be a good solution.

Again, we watched the sunset on the La Olla rooftop. A friendly, dusty orange cat named Mole sat on our laps. A few piña coladas, sparkling limeade, coffee and chocolate cake bites later, J had pulled ahead in rummy.

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