Friday, March 1, 2013

A $15. Tour

What do you get for a $15. Tour - in Oaxaca?? Let me begin by saying we got so much more than we could have bargained for, and all of it good!
A 12 person air conditioned van came to our address to pick us up at 10 a.m., that was a bonus for us.
We picked up several other groups and individuals and then were on our way.
Our destinations were; Tule tree in the beautiful town of Santa Maria. A 2000 year old tree, 40 metres in height and a huge base. Some type of cypress tree. It is considered world heritage and a foundation from DC make sure it is well cared for.
Beautiful gardens and a church are in the park too.

Hierve el Agua (frozen water) an interesting place with fossilized waterfalls that forms part of a pre-Hispanic irrigation system, still surrounded by springs. We were told that not a lot of vegetation grows in this area because of the salt and minerals in the soil.

Rug making facility. Small business enterprises with creative artisans. This was my favourite! We were met on an shaded patio by Nelson. He showed us how the raw (australian)marino wool is used. It is washed in baskets so that the dirt can drain off. it is dried, carded, then spun.
Nelson sat low to the floor and arrayed before him were beautifully dyed skeins of wool. Near them were the actual natural agents for dyes that they used to create their colours. Their very unique agent is cochineal which is a larvae on the nopale cactus. When the Spaniards arrived in the 1500s they took ship loads of this back to Europe. It had the value of gold and was used for royalty and papal colours, that very rich red.
Arturo also showed us how they weave the various design on looms, and then we were invited to look, and choose what carpets we would like to buy. Various sizes and patterns left that day with us!

Lunch at a very nice buffet style restaurant. Salads, soups, entrees, desserts, and more. I think we paid about $10. Per person.

A stop at Mitla to wander over the ruins of a Zapotec ceremonial edifice, thousands of years old. The intricate and earthquake resistant design was amazing.

Our last stop was at a small and interesting Mezcal factory. Everything here is still done by hand. We were shown a pile of raw maguey agave trunks, next step was to bake them in an earth oven. After that they grind it in a process to mash it, using a huge stone wheel, pulled along by a donkey. Next step is to ferment and then distill it, then I guess it is bottled or flavoured. We were all invited to try every variation and inventive flavour. Some were definitely better than others.

When we returned to our home, it was more than 9 hours later. A huge and interesting day.
Yes, we did pay small entrance fees at most sites, they were minimal.
Our guide was a very informed, a well spoken Zapotec Indian, fluent in Spanish and in English.
Sadly, shortly after lunch break we could tell that his hidden drinking was getting the better of him. He still managed to point out many interesting things and when our driver dropped him off - first - near his home, we all gave him a generous tip. next time, maybe not.
Our van driver was excellent and we all felt comfortable with him at the wheel.

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