24th Sept Thursday – it’s pretty handy having Roberto along to have someone who speaks Spanish – he did a deal with a cab driver from the luxury hotel Camino Real for 100 pesos a day to take a tour around the famous sites in Oaxaca state. About 10 miles out of the city lies the famous Zapotec and Mixtec ruins of Monte Alban ….elevated on beautiful grass plains we wandered the site for around an hour to see the ball courts, the great plaza, the observatory and a tomb. It’s not quite as impressive as Coba, Palenke or Chichen Itza but it is a very serene and pretty site and worth the visit.
Roberto is the worst tourist in the world – he wants to run round everything in 15 minutes – here he’s hassling Dave to hurry up – it was pretty funny.
From there we headed off for an hour’s drive to the beautiful open chapel in Vicente; the unfinished church and ex convent of Cuilapan de Guerrero.
The roof terrace was huge and looked out over the local town of Vicente. Roberto and I were dreaming of owning it and transforming it in to a stunning hotel with vaulted chambers and rooftop pool – outdoing the Camino Royal in the ex monastery in Oaxaca city centre – yeah I know we are capitalist philistines.
We skipped the market in Zaachila as it turned out it was mainly a food and livestock market – didn’t fancy buying a pig and trying to bring that back through customs from Mexico. We instead drove through Coyotepec where they make the black pottery famous in this region and on to San Martin Tilcajete to the home and art workshops of Jacobo and Maria Angeles who specialise in Zapoteco art.
Last stop was to visit this incredible tree – the widest in the world – it certainly looks like it – it takes a 100 schoolchildren linking hands to surround it. It is HUGE! It’s called El Árbol del Tule or the Tule Tree. In 2005 its trunk had a circumference of 36.2 m. It grows in the church grounds in the town center of Santa María del Tule approximately 9 km east of the city of Oaxaca on the road to Mitla. This tree is a Montezuma Cypress and it is the stoutest tree in the world….it blew us away, my favourite stop of the day.