The Monte Alban Trip

It begins!  I never quite realized how many opportunities there were for taking nice shots were until the trip to Oaxaca, but the best pictures are often the ones I didn’t expect to be great. Without further ado, this is our journey of the Monte Alban visit told via pictures taken at random and with little warning.

The following pictures aren’t actually of the Monte Alban site itself, but mostly of our arrival. Already, I’m struck by the green and the fresh air, though coming from mostly suburban areas in Houston and Dallas, anything would have been greener and fresher. Still, the taste of heights was good, and I was able to get a glimpse of the cities and mountains in the distance.

The group soon heads out into the ruins themselves after ten or so minutes of waiting for tickets. Within the space between the entrance and the main ruins, the tour guide points out a memorial for Alfonso Caso, who is relevant to the history of Monte Alban, but far from the most important person to the site. We’re led to see a burial place, which we are told actually lies under where a family would live. The tour guide does mention that other historical sites allow people to enter the larger burial sites, so I took that to mean that I was not allowed to crawl into this one.

We are momentarily distracted by an extremely bumpy tree before the group moves on to the remains of a drainage system. It took a moment before I realized that jumping on it caused the rocks to depress into the ground slightly before popping back up like a rubber band.

The arena afterwards was noteworthy when the tour guide mentioned just how deep it was. With such high walls, it was difficult to see inside unless we were right next to it, which led to the conclusion that whatever happened in there was to be considered a touch more private compared to the rest of the ruins.

We finally enter the central site, and we’re given a demonstration of the acoustics of the area with a few claps. We did meet a few people trying to sell us souvenirs, and it was tempting to buy one of their mosaic pieces, but no one bites. A little moment later, we’re given free reign of the area and were told to meet up at the front in an hour or so.

We get our first taste of high altitude. Those steps, which were a bit steep compared to what we were used to, combined with the low oxygen, left us more out of breath than we expected after the first structure.

I take a picture of Subodh taking pictures with me. It was a terrible picture. I’m never deleting it.

The last picture was of some sort of sundial, though the question of why that particular rock served as a better sundial than any other rock was left unanswered.

This starts on the structure on the opposite side of the first building we climbed. I take lots of terrible, terrible selfies.

When we get back to the entrance, we take a quick runthrough of the museum, where the tour guide shows us some of the bones in the burial places there and a pot that contains the remains of a child. One of the rocks led to an explanation of the writing system used.

The last stop for the day after some food was an arts and crafts place. We’re led to see where some of the bigger pieces are carved with machetes and knives and told a little bit about the process of making them. Each of the pieces is supposed to crack at one point in their lives, after which they will never crack again. A little repair to cover up the imperfection, and we get to a lot of the pieces on the shelves, where the tour guide lets us compare the weights of the dried and undried pieces.

The next area was the painting area. One of the ladies was kind enough to let me take a close picture of what she was working on before I moved on to the shop.

I do eventually buy one of the birds shown. Pretty things are pretty cool. I couldn’t buy any of the snakes though, since most of the pieces I would consider buying are three feet tall and out of the price range I was willing to use a credit card on.

And thus concludes the Monte Alban trip! Monica does inform the group of hiking opportunities later on, and I do decide to go after taking a spin on an onlice dice roller to help me make my decision.

Turns out to be a really lucky roll after all.

Steven Mao

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