OR, HOW A OLD BIRD CLIMBED TWO MOUNTAINS IN A DAY.
This post from exactly a year ago in Mexico is a favourite of mine memory wise. It was a solo travellers demanding type of day with hardship but then huge rewards. This is the way we rock us old birds, moaning a lot but loving it!
When I made the decision to visit prehistoric cave dwellings that have been inhabited for 10,000 years I thought it would be a little tricky but not that hard. yesterday I worked my little travellers socks off to visit two of the major sites in Mitla. I had chosen two, maybe three places but hadn’t anticipated that they weren’t just there like most tourist sites, they are tricky to get to and a lot of leg work. I would advise not to try for them unless you’re feeling top notch and are prepared to go slowly.
Now I’ve been to Mitla two years ago to see the famous Mayan site of Mitla and also Hierve el Agua, which now sadly is permanently closed. Both were things of wonder so I was excited to be even more daring this time with a bit of pre history caves and their paintings all in the same area. I have always wanted to see some more ancient art in caves but have only once before been to an island off Sicily and no photos were allowed but here one has the privilege of getting out the old camera. I had no idea how remote they actually were and how hard you had to climb on treacherous slippery terrain after the rains. Although the soil had dried off there are a huge number of springs which are obviously spurting out excess water as you go higher up and make the soil and rocks really slick.
MY SUNDAY OUTING TO VISIT 10.000 YEAR OLD ANCESTRAL CAVES.
I came across this post of a year ago and it very much fits my mood now. I am sick of it back here in London. To the point of gnashing teeth. I also fling myself down on the sofa and weep. I pace from room to room. I plod up and down the stairs with water for my food terrace. I drink too much and smoke too much on miserable binges. I can’t write. I can’t make art. I’m a wretched mess. It’s well overdue to hit the road but I’m broke. It’s vile for a free bird to be trapped in this way. IT IS TIME FOR ME TO HIT THE ROAD, ANY WHICH WAY!
A year ago to the day I wrote this post and now I remember that fraught time in Oaxaca when I hit a brick wall and knew that it was time to go. It was at the beginning of the end as they were closing a lot of museums and archaeological sites across the more Northern part of Mexico and my mood gradually deteriorated from then as frustration, with the very different Mexico near Mexico City, and the dawning recognition that the Mayan Riviera was a much more chilled place to be with little of the mask hysteria and closing down of places.
Alert: This is last years offering which I’m adding to. I’ve rejoined the British Museum so I’m back in the members’ room to write and edit photos. So happy to be back in my second home which is more condusive to work-like endeavours. They also have an eclectic library so I’ve just managed to cross reference information on the Zapotec, Mixtec and Mayan with some art photos which are lovely because old and I don’t recognise them so probably they are hidden away in some basement these days. Enjoy
JULY 2021 OAXACA MEXICO.
OR, A MOUNTAINTOP ZAPOTEC CITY LINKED CLOSELY TO Teotihuacán and mitla
It’s huge, it’s Zapotec and it’s completely different to what I expected. I hadn’t researched at all so it was a huge learning curve from my usual Mayan sites.
A LITTLE HISTORY OF THE ZAPOTEC AND MIXTEC.
In parallel with the rise of Teotihuacan, Zapotec civilisation encompassed much of the southern highlands. In the course of the first millennium BC, early chiefdoms of the Oaxaca Valley coalesced into a militaristic Zapotec state centred on the commanding hill-top capital Monte Albán. Zapotec scribes invented one of the four independent Mesoamerican writing systems (the others being Maya, Mixtec and Aztec) and refined their own variant of the 260-day ritual calendar which was in widespread use throughout Mesoamerica.
From about AD 1200, Mixtec peoples began to assume control of key Zapotec sites through conquest and political alliances. Knowledge of metallurgy, which had been introduced a few centuries earlier from South and Central America, was employed in the production of copper and gold objects to reflect rank and status. During the fifteenth century AD, the Mixtec resisted the Aztec imperial advance, but the consummate stoneworking and metalworking skills of many Mixtec artisans were redeployed to serve the Aztec kings.
The Zapotecs were a sedentary culture living in villages and towns, in houses constructed with stone and mortar. They recorded the principal events in their history by means of hieroglyphics, and in warfare they made use of cotton armour. The well-known ruins of Mitla have been attributed to them.
(I will write another post about the fabulous jade and gold discoveries, that are housed in Oaxaca Palace Museum. This is closed at the moment but I’ll be able to dig up some photos from before. I really need to write a bit more about the amazing Zapotecs)
CLOSED PLACES AND CHANGED PLANS
I had got up ready to go to the archaeological museum but it has been closed. No signs on the door except the opening hours, and through the peephole a man informed me that they didn’t know when they’d open again to which I replied rather hotly I must confess well put a sign on the door then and change the bloody Google details. He said that’s a good idea I’ll put a sign on the door as if he’d just thought of it. Yes, some people have travelled thousands of miles to see these artefacts I whined. His beady eyes perused me as if I was mad. And sort it out on Google and your site this is the second time I’ve come here. He was making me cross and I felt as if he might just let me in if I kept banging on about it.
Top Tip: With the distraction of what was open or not, and jumping on buses every five minutes as places decided to close some, or all of their historical sites and museums, or basically anything of any interest whatsoever, I learned some bitter lessons. When in times of crisis don’t trust any info gleaned by Google et al. You need to speak to proper locals or call tour guides of the area that you are planning to go to. Nobody bothered to change their details online while I was there so I was disappointed many times. So due diligence is essential, don’t just assume they will tell you any changes especially in casual places like Mexico. Make the calls before you get on that bus, or drag over to the other side of town for that special gallery because they will close when they feel like it!
OR GETTING TO GRIPS WITH ANOTHER CULTURE, THE OLMECS.
Alert: This is a light-hearted travel blog from two years ago before I publish a more serious one about the birth of the Mayan city-state empire in its Pre-Classic era!The “Mother Culture” being inextricably linked to the developing Mayans
Alert: I’m having trouble in finding images so some will be of other gods just to enjoy the art! This will be corrected when I get back to the UK. I think that’s why others aren’t mentioned because they are so difficult to identify!
OR, LORD OF HEAVENS NIGHT AND DAY, OR GOD D.
Before deciphering the codices the gods were all given just a letter to name them. Now however we have their glorious and exotic definitions but they usually are referred to by their letters too hence God D (Mayan: “Iguana House”)
OR THE OLD BIRD GETS PUSHED TO HER LIMITS BY GOING UP AND DOWN SHEER MOUNTAIN TRACKS .
I arrived in Tehuacán exhausted and burnt out and had done nothing for days once I found the museums and site which I specifically travelled here for were all closed. I had allowed myself a meltdown, a collapse if you will. I had stayed in my room just sneaking out for food and drinks. I was absolutely broken. Then as usual, I shook myself down and got myself a sort of improvised tour.
Reception told me that the guide knew the area well and just because the gardens were closed there were plenty of other paths with exactly the same types of flora. The botanical gardens were just a more tarted up area of the same old, same old. As it transpired they were right so I got myself a bus and headed out of town to Zapotitlan. As soon as I got on that bus I was straight back into adventure mode, my agoraphobia melted and I was ready for action. The bus driver dumped me at the edge of the road and I walked back to the Zapotitlan letters in a mist of fine powder and exhaust smoke.
I’d spent three days in Peubla and had the luck of one museum open and had gone to Cholula and found and excellent museum there. I had walked my tootsies off there and in Oaxaca at Monte Alban, and at Mitla getting to the prehistoric cave paintings on the tops of the mountains there. I had walked climbed and bussed everywhere. I had eaten rather poorly with food that didn’t really agree with me and had been generally burning the candle at both ends. I had stressed a lot and so slept badly. It was bound to end in tears and those tears would be mine.
Alert: Now I suffer from epilepsy. I take tablets for it each day but have long since run out of medication, so when I feel off colour now I have been jittery. Although this has happened before while travelling, I weaned myself off them when I saw that I was running low, I had never really got a handle on whether I really needed them. I’m happy to try to be as little interfered with by the pharmaceuticals nowadays but with stress and fatigue comes the mals. Or so I thought. So far I have been without warning symptoms but I am trying to keep an eye on not getting too tired and freaked. (Of course I never listen to my own advice). However the odd thing about it is that when in lockdown in Soho I suffered many petit mals in a row over the course of a few days when I felt fearful and terribly depressed. I was scared to go upstairs in case I crashed coming down and killed myself. This was while I was taken my tablets like a good girl but the HUGE mountain of stress that was of a more frightening kind made me sweep back into epilepsy days again. I have had travelling stress but it must be very different, as I am without any medication for over two weeks now and have had none of the dramas that I had in London. (There surely is a study on this somewhere? Different types of stress and effects on the body and brain). Hopefully now I can stop depending on any medications now only my daily mineral supplements and vitamins. This would be great, and an achievement. I hasten to add this was by accident and I’m not suggesting you do this. Be as safe as you can but I do want to say that maybe travelling, investigating the world and being generally free can be better for your health than anything.