Another gorgeous morning in the low 50s, knowing it will reach the dry low 80s by early afternoon. After a casual breakfast after yesterday’s long driving day, we set off to see a tree. Not just any tree….
The Tule Tree is a 2,000 year old Montezuma Cypress still growing near a church, and within a blooming botanical garden.
Not far away is the Yagul archeological site. Our bus wound up the hill where Yagul is set on and around a rocky outcrop. As we enter we saw some amazingly clear, large petroglyphs on a cliff to the right.
Yagul was first inhabited by the Zapotecs around 500 BCE. It became religious and politically influential in the region only after Monte Alban (that we’ll see the next day) declined at the end of the 8th century AD.
It’s location provided a great defensive position and a really dramatic view. Yagul was later taken over by the Mixtecs, then abandoned after the arrival of the Spanish.
The site is divided into two main areas. The acropolis (lower level) has over 30 tombs and a labyrinth complex of buildings; the Palace of the Six Patios. Also on this level is the ball field above where teams of 7 a side would try to send a rubber covered, very hard ball through rings at the top of the slanted walls. They could not use their hands and wrapped their arms and chest for protection. They mostly used their hips to propel the ball. One ball through the wring, no matter how long it took won. The losers were sacrificed. They would go to a “better” life in the underworld.
My, My Mezcal
It was time to treat our systems with something special. So we made our way to an mezcal distillery nearby before heading to the market in Oaxaca proper for lunch.
A garden of raw material and a horse mashing the week-old, pit heated and smoked agave plant bases. The mash is mixed with hot water and condensed through copper tubing. After two rounds of distilling the first batch of young mezcal is ready for drinking. Most of the distillate begins aging in American oak barrels and is bottled at 6 months, a year, six years, etc. Some is flavored with the agave worm (it’s not just for decoration as we find out by tasting the mezcal and the worm itself. A distinct flavor).
Now back to Oaxaca downtown to explore the major city market selling everything and everything (reminds me a bit of Columbus market near us at home as you locals can imagine…but not really).
It was time to really eat like the locals as Mischel guides us to one of the well know, really busy, freshly prepared food stands. We ordered from photos, translations by Mischel and some of our Spanish speaking travelers, and pure hopes and prayers. People ordered and enjoyed “original” tacos, chiles en nowadays, moles, tasajo and lots more. We made the mistake of ordering a huge plate of (translated) mixed combo of traditional Oaxacan food plate. It was layers of pork, skirt steak, pounded chicken, sauced towers of corn tortillas, two moles, and a mound of cojita cheese and something like mozzarella. Fortunately we shared it. Literally bloated, we made our way back to the hotel, and as you can imagine, skipped dinner.