It is only 200km from Tlacotalpan to the city of Oaxaca, but the journey comprises a two-hour bus ride up the river valley to Tuxtepec and then a seven hour journey across the mountains. The views are probably amazing, but we spend much of the time in the clouds. The mountains are covered in trees; jungle on the gulf side but changing to a more alpine-like forest past the summit.
Oaxaca is pronounced wa-ha-ka: luckily I realised this before I tried to buy a bus ticket to oh-axe-aka. It is a another grid layout 16th century colonial town with many old buildings.
There is the usual array of churches, one of which has a very ornate interior:
Ten kilometres from the city centre and 500m above it, is the the other part of this world heritage site – the archaeological site of Monte Alban.
This was a city built by the Zapotecs and occupied between around 300BC and 1200AD. A great deal of terracing and landscaping was done on the hillside to create spaces for buildings and agriculture. Subsequently the Mixtec people used Monte Alban as a burial site.
At its height it is thought to have had a population of over 50,000 and UNESCO describes is at “probably the first urban civilization in the Americas”. I visited on a clear sunny day and standing on top of the high stepped platform at the south end of the large central plaza with the wind in my face was an exhilarating ‘perfect moment’.
The site has a large number of slabs carved with representations of naked men in contorted positions. Many are shown as having been emasculated. They are thought to represent the leaders of conquered tribes and they date from very early in the site’s history.
As usual, the challenge here for my Lego model was to find something I have enough parts to build; I’ve chosen the Temple of the Two Columns:
Which was really quite easy!