Central Mexico - 2006

Today we took a tour to Mitla, Santa Maria del Tula, Hierva el Agua and a few other places. I had wanted to go to Mitla but my guidebook didn´t tell me how because it´s about 50 km down the road. Thankfully our hotel Casa Arnel had a tour again in a suburban for 300 pesos. This ended up being about $120 all together but everyone in the family thinks it was a good deal. I almost didn´t take the tour and just stay around the hotel because Piper was slowly getting sicker and I thought it would be dumb to risk her health just to see something that has been there for 2000 years and will still be there the rest of my life but she woke up in better shape than she was when she went to bed so we went.First stop was Santa Maria del Tula which is a small town with a tree. Since Mexico has about a billion towns called Santa Maria they have to give each one a last name too. So since this town used to have a bog filled with Tula plants the name ended up being Santa Maria del Tula. In this bog also was a cyprus tree. It needs a lot of water so the bog was a perfec place for it to plant it´s roots. Problem is the bog dried up after about 1950 years and the tree was still alive.

This is the last day of our trip which is always sad for me. I’ve never wanted to go home after any trip I’ve ever taken. The world is there, why not explore it? Anyway when I originally planned this trip I had three things that I absolutely wanted to see - Monte Alban, Teotihaucan and the National Museum of Anthropology. Today we went to the National Museum of Anthropology and the Chapultepec Castle. Both are in Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park) which is a beautiful park that includes many things.

National Museum of Anthropology

First I’ll talk about the Museum. I can see someone who is interested in pre-european history of the Americas getting on an airplane and flying to Mexico City just for this museum. If you walk through all rooms you will have walked 5km (3.1 miles). To do it justice you would probably have to spend 3 or 4 days here. The museum is divided up into sectionsMuseumimg_3508.jpg depending on subjects. The first section goes through cave man times and we skipped it pretty fast. The other sections focus on the La Venta (Olmeca), Maya, Toltec, Mexica, and northern people. Mixed in here is the little known western people who made many small figurines and showed great artistic talent. Outside each of the exhibits are mockups of ballcourts, temples etc. that you can wander through. Inside there are thousands of archeological artifacts. It amazes me how much stuff has been left behind by these people. I believe that Mexico is the archeologically richest country in the world bar none. It is said that they estimate that only 50% of the sites are known and only 20% have been uncovered.

Today we had planned on going to the Archeology museum in Chapultepec park. In passing the Zocolo a man that had helped us one other time asked us if we wanted a tour. We told him where we were going and he told us they were closed today but Xochimilco was open and for 600 pesos he would take us to Xochimilco, Coyoacan, Fridas house, the University of Mexico, the largest stadium in the world and the palace. We said ok and off we went in his car.


Xochimilco in case you don´t know is the Venice of Mexico. Five hundred years ago the Aztecs lived on an island in the middle of a monster lake. They built fake islands to extend the area of the land that they could inhabit. They did this by building squares of floating reeds that they staked to the lake bed.They then put dirt on them and planted plants. As soon as the roots grew through the dirt and into the lake bed the Aztecs would take the stakes out. This trick allowed them to double the size of their island. That island is now where the zocolo, palace and all the other historic distict is. The Spanish drained the lake when they got here so it´s gone now except for the area in the south called Xochimilco. So you can still travel about 100 km of canals in brightly colored flat bottom boats. People sell products, food and play music on these boats today. We went there today and it was very relaxing and a nice change from fast paced Mexico City. We paid 300 pesos for 1.5 hrs. The boats you will see when I get pictures up but for now just imagine a large flat bottomed boat with the front and back kicked up a bit. The boat handler stands at the back like a gondolier but instead of having a paddle he has a pole that he pushes on the bottom of the lake bed with. Not quite as elegent as Venice but still effective. The boats are long and wide enough to have a table in the middle of them lined with 9 chairs on each side and a roof overhead.

Today was a day of shopping for chocolate, mole, grasshoppers and special black pottery made here. We found all in abundance and were yet again suprised at the price.

I found a black pottery shop and picked the most beautiful piece and asked the price. I had in my mind that I´d pay up to one hundred dollars for it because I really wanted it. The man told me 140 pesos which equals about $13. I about fell over. I could by this stuff by the truckloads and sell it in the US and buy a house outright with in six months. Why isn´t anyone doing this?

After buying two jars of mole rojo I went back and bought two more. I wish I knew where to buy mole almond which we like so much. I also bought a jar or two of mole negro (black) which I like but not as much as the red.

I need to know more Spanish. When we left Mexico City we just went to the right gate and waited until our bus showed up. Oaxaca isn´t a huge city so the bus station only has two gates used by a lot of busses. They of course announce over the PA in Spanish which busses are loading when. This is great if you know Spanish but since I don´t it makes it real hard to make my bus. I´m getting to the point of being a seasoned traveler and knowing a few tricks. So what I did was go through the crowd and look at each persons ticket until I found someone riding the same bus as me and I brought our bags over and stood by that person. When they moved we moved. This works pretty good. We made our bus and got to Mexico City easily. We took a taxi from the terminal to our hotel but not after the taxi drivers tried to convince us that our hotel was booked. They of course wanted to take us to a hotel where they get kickbacks. Good thing I´ve already heard of these tricks.

Today I noticed that our hotel has a tour to Monte Alban so we took it. We waited for what we thought would be a tour bus but ended up being a suburban (remember those?) with about 6 people already in it but since 5 were Mexican we had room for about 8 more. We drove up to Monte Alban which I now know we probably could have gotten to by ourselves.

This is our first day in Oaxaca. Our hotel is about 11 blocks from the Zocolo which is a bit of a walk but gets us more familiar with the city. It also gives us an opportunity to walk past many brightly colored buildings and markets. The hotel itself has the rooms around the outside of an open courtyard full of jungle trees and a library. It is two story and has an open terrace on the top which is beautiful. This would be a great place to go and just relax. We met a man that does just that. He is from Maine and comes to Oaxaca every year for 5 weeks just to get away from it all. He said he used to rush around like an American trying to see everything but now he just goes to Oaxaca, eats breakfast and wanders around. That´s a vacation.


Anyway we spent the day wandering around Oaxaca getting lost. We found the market and the prices are just as good here as in Mexico City. I keep wanting to take pictures of these people because they are very beautiful. Actually the women are and maybe the men are but being a man I can´t tell. They have long slender noses and nicely proportioned faces. I bought a post card to keep that has some dancing Oaxacan women on it. Anyway I may have gotten some pictures that are good, we´ll see.


Rode bus to Oaxaca. I wanted to go to Oaxaca because I knew about Monte Alban which is one of the oldest settlements in the Americas and I also heard the food was wonderful. Oaxaca is the home of the 7 moles which I like a lot. I´m writing this after being here for several days and I have to say this is probably my favorite city so far. The people are real friendly but still consider us an oddity as much as the Mexico City folks. It´s interesting to see the visual differences between the various Mexican people. I think they are more indian than spanish as their appearences change depending on which region you are in. Since I´ve been here I´ve been checking out the Mexi-nugget chicks and I have to say the women in Mexico City (aztec and mexica decendents) really aren´t that attractive. They have short squat noses and are phisically tiny. I think Jade and Piper are as tall as at least 10% of Mexico City residents.

All of the days are blurring so I think this is day 4, maybe 5. I´m behind on writing the blog entries because I don´t always have internet access. I started writing them on my laptop but I rarely get to connect it to the internet.

Today we went to Teotihaucan which is where the big pyrimids are. We made it to the north bus station as early as we could. When we left the hotel it was still dark. I was originally a bit uneasy about this but the only people we saw outside were businessmen going to work and shoe shiners sitting at their stands. The metro was empty so it was easy to travel. We had to make 3 transfers before we got to the station. The bus stations are quite large and layed out like airports. After asking someone where the teotihaucan bus is we found the little booth that sells it. We bought our tickets and waited in the lobby. I kept looking at the busses and none of them said Teotihaucan but a tall Mexican guy (The ONE tall mexican) came up to me and said I think your bus is here so we followed him. He was traveling with a white girl. On the bus I thanked him and started to talk to the two of them. She (the tomato as he called her since she was badly sunburned) was from Germany but spoke perfect South African english.

Went to Chapultapec park, saw the castle from a distance and went to a very nice zoo for zero dollars… Tiring day as we walked forever. The Giant Pandas were cool as were the cats.. We ate tortas at the zoo which were pretty good.We walked to Zona Rosa and tried a few more ATMs to see if my money had been turned on. I also checked my email and I got an email from my Mom and the bank saying that I can´t use my card as a visa card or as a visa debit card in Mexico but I can use it as an ATM if the ATM machine had our logos on it.

We later found an ATM inside a bakery with the cirrus logo on it and we got money. Thank God that´s over. We are limited to 2500 pesos a day but this is Mexico so that´s realistic.

Third day on our trip and we still don’t have access to money. Our paid days at our hotel are up so we’re moving whether we want to or not. I dug through my hidden money belt where I keep photocopies of passports etc. and found $33 U.S. So I changed it into 300 pesos at a money exchanger. That and the money I had left got us one night stay at the Hotel Catedral right behind the Zocolo. In addition to being out of money our old hotel decided to raise our room rate to 1100 pesos a night. This hotel is worth 100 dollars in other parts of the world but not in Mexico City where cheap hotels are a plenty. The Hotel Catedral is just as nice and costs half as much (about $50). We are also one block north of the Zocolo and we can see the back of the Cathedral from our terrace. Our street out front turns into a market street from 9:00am to 7:00pm so it’s like living in Turkey with all the music and venders shouting their deals. It’s quite a neat experience to say the least. We are on the 6th floor (5th in Europe/Mexico) and we have a balcony overlooking the street. The balcony is a bit scary as it doesn’t seem like it’s held on real well and we’re a long ways up. Yesterday I took a nap on the bed and listened to the street vendors advertise at the top of their lungs. I wish I knew more Spanish as I don’t know what they’re selling. The Mexican people love their markets or so it seems. Everywhere you go you run into another market not like any you would ever see in the States outside of yearly craft markets. The difference is these markets run every day just like they were a big department store.

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