Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Mexico: Day 6

by Kathy 8. May 2009 14:42

<< Day 5: Oaxaca; Santa Mariá el Tule and Hierve el Agua | Day 7: Driving to Huatulco >>


Oaxaca; Yagul and Teotitlán del Valle


This morning we set off to explore the ruins of Yagul, about a 40 minute drive from Oaxaca. The main objective was to allow Genevieve and Sebastian to explore the tombs there.

Our first morning in Oaxaca, we had met a couple that had raved about how they had ventured into the tombs at Monte Alban; they said that they wished they had brought their flashlights because some of the tombs were very dark and looked pretty deep. The children’s ears heard the words "tombs", "dark", "deep", and their excitement level skyrocketed off the charts. We arrived at Monte Alban with flashlights ready, only to discover (from an administrative official there) that the tombs were closed to the public. Indeed, all of the tomb areas had a small rope in front of them, indicating that they were off limits. (Our new friends had gone on a day where there weren’t many visitors—we could only surmise that perhaps they had somehow bypassed the ropes in order to enter the tombs.)

Anyway, we had read about the wonders of Yagul before leaving home. Yagul, whose name literally translates as "Old Stick" or "Old Tree", is thought to have once been an important religious and secular center of the Zapotecs and Mextecs. Some archaeologists believe that Yagul was settled as early as 3000 B.C., although most of the existing structures were built between 750 to 950 A.D. It has the largest ball court in the Valley, huge stone walls, intriguing stone mosaics, a labyrinth-like maze, and—most important in the children’s eyes—tombs. The road to Yagul:

Yagul does not get the masses of tourists that flock to see the ruins of Monte Alban. For at least the first hour that we were at the ruins, there were no other visitors. The place was serene and peaceful—our own private ruins to enjoy! We found the entrance to our first tomb (the squares along the ground are skylights that the excavators put in to allow sunlight to reach the dark underground chambers).

We went down the stairs:

The children had their flashlights to see into all of the dark corners:

This is one of my favorite photos, showing Genevieve emerging from a tomb:

The children had a blast, running around, climbing into tombs and over rocks. It was definitely better than any amusement park or playground.



We had packed small travel umbrellas to Mexico in case it rained, but they also provided great protection from the blistering sun.

Some archaeologists/workers were reconstructing part of the ball court:

We had many laughs trying to navigate the big puzzle of walled paths (many with dead ends) in order to get in, and out of, this center courtyard:

What a view!

The abundant cactus were in bloom:

At the back side of the ruins, we saw a trail that went up the hill. We had read that Yagul had a "stone bathtub" at the top of a hill. We could either go back to the parking lot and take the set of stairs cut into the hillside . . . or we could see if this side trail led to the top. We didn’t even deliberate; up we went:

The path soon became very overgrown and fairly steep. Sebastian was getting tired and saying that he was hot and wanted to go back . . . that is, until we reached an especially challenging section of rock face. I managed to maneuver my way up, grasping for hand and foot holds; however, when I reached the top of that rocky section, I called down to Ben that I didn’t think the children would be able to make it. I suggested that we turn around and go back. That was when Sebastian’s energy kicked into high gear; he adamantly refused to turn around, saying that he knew he could make it up the rock. So Ben and I helped the children scramble up, and onward we went!

We could see the ruins far below:

Here I warned the children and Ben not to reach to the right side for a handhold, where I had discovered a particularly prickly cactus and was still trying to get the last few small barbs out of my hand.

(During the rock climbs, I accidentally changed one of the camera settings, so some of the pictures have a blue tone...)

We finally reached the top of the hill. Hurrah!!! We looked all over, but didn’t find a stone bathtub. Off ahead was a very wide path that sloped downward. Genevieve wanted to follow the path to see if we could find the tub. Sebastian was satisfied with his hill-climbing accomplishment and was ready to head down to the parking lot (via the stairs). So Genevieve and I set off to see what we could find together.

We walked for a while, enjoying the scenery and savoring the anticipation of discovery. At one point, Genevieve looked at me with a huge grin of delight and said, "Even if we don’t find the bathtub Mom, this is still fun!" Yes, indeed! We saw a large group of rock mounds ahead, and then we saw the bathtub. We took turns "bathing":

Then I held the camera and took a shot of both of us together:

We then hiked to the end of the rock mounds to see the view of the beautiful valley of Tlacolula below:

Walking back, we found Sebastian and Ben not too far down the hill. They had discovered a big tomb that was part of the ancient fortress built on this hill. Here is the tomb entrance:

Inside the tomb was a lockable steel gate—lucky for us, the gate was unlocked. Through the gate, we had to duck into a small entrance to reach the interior tomb.

The tomb was tall enough to stand up in:

Outside of the tomb, we had a fabulous view of the Yagul ruins, and we could see that a handful of other cars had joined ours in the parking lot (ours is the tiny white car in the middle):

We took the stairs down the hill:

On the drive back to Oaxaca, we visited the small town of Teotitlán del Valle, which is known for its hand-woven wool rugs ("tapetes"). The town was a few miles away from the main road; along the way we passed numerous rug shops like this one, a few with big tourist buses parked in front:

We finally arrived at the edges of the town:

And we found a restaurant, El Descanso, that looked like a nice place for lunch:

The interior of the restaurant was very quiet (we were the only customers) and had a grassy courtyard that Genevieve and Sebastian played in while we waited for our food.

The children were very excited about finding a group of ants carrying away a pill bug:

This man and his two donkeys passed down the main street while we were eating:

The food at El Descanso was excellent. I ordered a tlayuda, and it was even more delicious than the one that I had eaten at Hierve el Agua yesterday:

Sebastian was happy:

We decided to drive around Teotitlán and see what it was like.

We headed down a side road toward a church:

We passed by the church . . .

. . . and turned onto a road that looked like it was blocked ahead.

Ben put the car in reverse, and we started backing up when a woman came running out of the entrance with the blue doors, and she was speeding our way!

She ran up to the passenger side window and asked me (in Spanish) if we wanted to see a demonstration of rug weaving in her home. Ben and I looked at each other and only took a second to say, "Sure!" So we parked the car and entered the home of Eugenia Mendoza Garcia.

She first showed us how she makes some natural dyes from the fruit and leaves of a pomegranate tree that grew in her courtyard.

Next her brother’s mother-in-law showed us how she took raw wool and spun it into a spool of yarn. We were truly fascinated!

We also met Eugenia’s two children, including her young daughter:

Eugenia spoke Spanish to us, but the rest of her family members only spoke Zapotec while we were there. Eugenia set up her loom for us, and then showed us how she wove the yarn to create the beginnings of a rug. Genevieve and Sebastian watched with great interest.

At the end of the demonstration, Eugenia showed us some of her rugs. There was absolutely no pressure to buy any of her work, but we all fell in love with a beautiful small wool rug with a pattern of fish transforming into birds. We also felt that the price was extremely reasonable.  Here is Eugenia with the rug:

I actually loved one of Eugenia’s bigger rugs, which had patterns in a brilliant red—it was gorgeous, but there was absolutely no way that we could possibly squeeze that rug into our luggage. (The smaller rug that we purchased folded up nicely, and we managed to fit it into one of our suitcases later—but only after Ben and I each gladly left behind a shirt apiece.)

The day was very hot, so we relaxed in the pool back in Oaxaca. As usual, Ben was a magnet for the children.

Sebastian’s swimming skills got stronger and stronger during our trip.

Ben dove underwater and swam the length of the pool with the children taking turns on his back:

He also got an arm workout by throwing the children up in the air, over and over. Wheeee!!!

And Sebastian worked on his cannonball technique:

After a rest, we decided to check out the large park that was a couple of blocks from the hotel.

The park benches were full of families and a high number of couples in love (holding hands, cuddling, and/or kissing). The children were a disappointed that all of the grass had signs saying stay off. However, they joined a handful of other children in climbing this statue of Benito Juarez (Mexico’s first indigenous president, serving from 1858 to 1872).

Tonight was our last night in Oaxaca, so we decided to have dinner overlooking the main Zócalo.

This musician entertained us while we ate.

And so did a lively band playing under the sheltered walkway of the Palace Museum:

After dinner, we headed for the market. One of the "delicacies" in Oaxaca is fried grasshoppers.

As soon as Genevieve and Sebastian found this out, they insisted that we all try them. Another guest at our hotel had told us that the small grasshoppers were very salty and not so good, and that the bigger grasshoppers had more flavor. So of course we chose to buy some of the bigger ones. Here is Genevieve getting ready to munch her first big grasshopper.

And Sebastian:

The grasshoppers are fried with some spices, and actually weren’t that bad. Ben and I only ate one apiece, but Genevieve and Sebastian wanted to buy a small bag:

(Note: We had NO stomach ailments afterwards!) We then chased the grasshopper taste (salty and a bit "earthy") with the sweetness of chocolate from one of the chocolate vendors, who also gave us a small cup of chocolate fría (cold chocolate milk)—yummy! We returned to the hotel fully saturated from the day’s rich experiences.

<< Day 5: Oaxaca; Santa Mariá el Tule and Hierve el Agua | Day 7: Driving to Huatulco >>

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Comments (2) -

11/10/2010 10:48:13 AM #

Eduardo Ruiz

I'm originaly from Oaxaca and I enjoyed looking at your pictures, they reminded me of my childhood. Thank you for sharing.

Eduardo Ruiz United States | Reply

11/10/2010 11:06:43 AM #


Eduardo, you are from an amazing place!  Our kids' eyes still light up when they talk about all of the fun experiences they had in Oaxaca.  Thank you for your comments!  Kathy  

Kathy United States | Reply

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

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   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
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   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

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   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
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   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
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   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin