Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Mexico 2019

Excursion to Monte Albán

An earlier start was needed today in order to be ready for our half-day excursion to Monte Albán, an archaeological site and ancient centre of Zapotec culture, situated about 9km west of Oaxaca. Together with the ground that we covered the previous day, it forms the two-centre UNESCO World Heritage Site called Historic Centre of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Albán - quite a mouthful!

But we're in danger of getting ahead of ourselves. Following a much quieter - and lighter! - breakfast than the previous day, we were picked up at 0950. So far, so good. First, we toured some local hotels to make more pick-ups, then we had a sizeable (and potentially hazardous) inter-bus transfer in a busy street, as the various vehicles stopped being defined by their allocated pick-up areas and switched to being labelled by their various destinations. You might think that it was then simply a case of making straight for Monte Albán, but in fact there were further pick-ups to be made. Bruce and I quietly agreed that we would never again sign up for a tour without checking if it operated on this sort of basis. Arrival at the destination was at 1100, but a taxi or Uber could have done it in 15 or 20 minutes, start to finish.

We had a two-hour stay at Monte Albán: 1hr with a guide and a further hour of free time. We learned the origin of the name ("white mountain") and went on to experience the various surviving aspects of Zapotec culture that incuded buildings, a ball court, tombs and recovered 'grave goods'.

Thankfully, we had a much more civilised transfer back to downtown Oaxaca. Quickly locating the 20th November Market where we had lunched the previous day, we paid a return visit with the specific objective of sampling the facility's Pasillo de Carnes Asadas, variously known in English as 'Meat Alley' and 'Barbecue Alley'. Visitors of a particularly cautious disposition need to be aware of the open flames and intense heat and smoke! We ordered thinly cut beef, spiced chicken and chorizo, cooked on a charcoal grill and served with tortillas and a number of sides. The whole operation gave a convincing initial impression of absolute chaos, yet on closer analysis, everybody involved seemed to know what they were doing.

In due course we walked back to the Holiday Inn Express, trying to keep to previously unexplored side streets. Feeling rather tired, we decided to rest in the room for a while. Remarkably, I didn't have a nap and instead caught up with my trip notes. Bruce did some online research into Oaxaca cocktail bars, and in due course we headed out to Sabina Sabe. This was an impressive place, with knowledgeable bar staff and servers. We spent an enjoyable evening - hic! - sampling mezcal-based cocktails. Like tequila, mezcal is produced from the agave plant, but unlike the better known spirit, it is dark in colour with a somewhat smoky taste. One of the drinks - it was Bruce's, but I tasted it - also involved Laphroaig, the well known Islay single malt.

Later, we bought Mexican-style corn-on-a-stick from a street vendor in front of the Templo de Santo Domingo, which provided a welcome and thoroughly authentic evening snack. Neither of us was especially hungry following our mid-afternoon meat feast.

Monday 04 Mar

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