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Stop 24 - Oaxaca

say it with me now....wah-ha-ka

sunny 25 °C
View Waite World Tour on carlagregory's travel map.

Greetings to you all from Oaxaca!!

Oaxaca is such a beautiful little town filled with churches, parks, markets, shops and Oaxacan chocolate! The buildings are colourful and colonial, the streets are all one way, easy to navigate on foot and always filled with people and vendors. It is also the centre for all things hand crafted - leather shoes, leather bags, mescal, crazy hallucination animals, black pottery, carpets....pretty much any souvenir you will get in Mexico come from the villages surrounding Oaxaca city.

We had a few days where we wandered around the city visiting markets etc but the real highlights are outside of the city. Our first tour was to the ruins of Monte Alban.

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Monte Alban is a ceremonial site built a top a flattened mountain. It is the second largest ceremonial site in Mesoamerica after Teotihuacan. Archaeologists have found lots of hieroglyphs here; some they have been able to decipher including a calendar system. There are also many carved monuments with images of what they call "the dancers" and "the swimmers". Also among the ceremonial site is an observatory and many basketball courts. One impressive thing about the site is the acoustics. You can be standing on top of the building to the north and people down in the courtyard at the southern end can have a conversation with you without the need for yelling.

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After Monte Alban we stopped into a workshop where they make crazy looking animal carvings. Basically back in the day these animals were the visions of the elders after eating mushrooms; they carved and painted the images they saw. Now it is just groups of families carving animals and painting them in bright colours and decorating them with dots. Following on from here we went to the black clay workshop.

Black clay is only found here in Oaxaca. It starts out as regular coloured clay but once it is put in the kiln it absorbs the colour of the smoke and turns black. It is then polished using quarts to give it a beautiful smooth, shiny finish. They don't use a pottery wheel as per the ghost movie but just two clay pots that they spin on each other. Quite impressive to watch.

The second tour we took was to a place called Hierve el Agua. This is a "frozen" waterfall made entirely of stalactites. One of two in the world it is formed by the highly mineral waters spilling down the side of the mountain. Also at the top of the mountain are mineral pools to swim in. Too cold for me but James and Lucas had a great time.

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Before arriving at Hierve el Agua we visited a mezcal distillery where we learnt the fine art of making mezcal. Apparently mescal is the same recipe as tequila and is not its poorer cousin. They don't actually make the spirit in the same way but its still the same pffft whatever!! What I didn't know about mescal is that they can age it in oak barrels and it tastes soooooo much better than the cheap clear spirit we often see in Australia. It takes on a flavour similar to that of whiskey so my question is why aren't they selling it aged all the time?!? Personally I don't drink whiskey or mezcal so it makes no difference to me but they might make a few more sales.

Next up we visited a workshop where they make carpet the traditional way. No need for chemical dyes as they use all natural products such as cactus beetles that ooze red dye when squashed. It would have been great to buy something as it was incredibly cheap and some of the carpets and wool blankets were divine however not that practical to carry around for the next six months.

Also on the trip we visited the worlds widest tree...it looked like a tree...and the Zapotec ruins of Mitla, It was beautiful and would have been stunning in its time. It was covered with intricate mosaics and all fitted together without the use of any mortar.

Our final day in Oaxaca was quite relaxed as we waited for our bus to take us to San Cristobal de Las Casis. After a quick lap of the market so I could buy some shoes we ended up in the park playing footy and two square. The rules of two square have changed a lot since I used to play and I'm pretty sure half of them were made up on the spot.

Anyway that is all for now. As I mentioned above our next stop is San Cristobal de Las Casis for a couple of days then off to Palenque.

Ciao for now xx

Posted by carlagregory 15:38 Archived in Mexico

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