Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Monte Alban

Today we went to see the ruins at Monte Alban which is the oldest 'planned' city in the Americas; whatever 'planned' means - can't really imagine these great conquerors having to apply to the local council to build a city!!!

The plan was to leave early to beat the crowds and the heat but the rear tyre on the bike was flat - again... it turned out that the dodgy Mexican tyre mechanics had butchered the valve; luckily there is a petrol station just around the corner so I could repair it there.

Monte Alban itself is pretty amazing. (I know, isn't everything these days?) It's basically the top of a mountain that the Zapotecs decided to flatten so they could build a city, (housing some 40,000 people at i's peak) on it. It was built and lived in/on between 500 BC and 850 AD and was then neglected until around 1300 - 1500 AD when the Mixtecs came and squatted for a while; opening some of the old tombs to bury their own important dead. They did in fairness, put oodles of gold silver and other such goodies, (Rolex's, iPods, Armani suits I would imagine!) in with the dead so they did at least pay some sort of rent. Those particular tombs weren't discovered till 1931 which must have been quite a find!

The site became a world heritage site in 1987 so is now protected which is a good job as it really is quite something to see although personally I think a good coat of paint wouldn't go amiss!

We then took a ride out to one of the outlying villages where much of the local crafts that this area is famous for is made; in this particular village everyone seems to make brightly painted wooden carvings called Alebrijes; nothing like a bit of competition to keep the prices down - certainly a lot cheaper than buying the same stuff in town. We of course had to buy something; a 6" high fire breathing dragon; it does come apart, (legs, wings, flame etc) but it still should prove interesting carrying it around on a bike for the next however many weeks, months...

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