Week of November 16, 2003
We have wandered back to the Pacific Ocean via Oaxaca (Whaw-hawka) with a stop to peruse even more ruins - the ruins of Monte Alban.
Monte Alban rises from the middle of the floor at the convergence of two valleys. To say the Zapotecs had a view is a terrific understatement. Since 2000 BCE, village-dwelling peoples of unknown origins inhabited the Oaxaca valleys. Around 500 BCE, the Zapotec culture appeared and these peoples began the monumental task of leveling the top of a mountain, where they would build Monte Alban. The more recent excavations have revealed more than 170 tombs, numerous ceremonial altars, stelae, pyramids and palaces.
Monte Alban is similar to Teotihuacán and was occupied by several cultures over 1500+ years, thereby incurring construction over original buildings. One building or "edificio" that is unique to Monte Alban is a building located in the middle of the "Gran Plaza". This building is not aligned in a north-south axis as all of the other buildings are, and it is speculated that it was an observatory as it is aligned with heavenly bodies that were present in the skies at that time.
We were dreading leaving Oaxaca, not because of the beauty we found there, but rather because we knew we were in for a treacherous eight hour drive through the Sierra Madre del Sur. To give you an idea of our plight, we traveled a whopping 200 miles in eight hours. Cindy counted well over 5,000 potholes in which we tripped, 400 mules that we drove around, 20 road repairs in which we had to stop, 300 dogs we had to honk at, and an annoying 200 "topes" or speed bumps we had to negotiate over. It was gorgeous country though - unspoiled and untamed.
We now have zagged another zig and are back on the Pacific coast at Puerto Escondido. A well known surf spot, this town is seemingly undiscovered. Inasmuch as we would have preferred a better road to get here, there is part of us that would like to see this area remain difficult to access. The surf break is consistently excellent and the beaches are expansive and uncrowded. Not much to do here but relax, surf, swim, bike, sun, eat, drink, walk, sleep...very boring indeed!