Although the weather right now might not be ideal, we took advantage of marking our first week in Oaxaca with a little adventure east on Saturday. We had outstanding weather, sunny and warm, and after a little time spent getting our oil changed, we headed off towards the signs for El Thule.
Santa Maria El Thule is a short drive from the city, and famous for a huge tree that is over 2000 years old. Ralph and I had been before, but we still paid our 5 pesos entrance fee to walk around it, and again we were impressed. We then took some time to walk around the town, which has some nice artisan markets, the better quality goods are off the main drag, one block further east of the church.
From El Thule, we continued east to Tlacochahuaya (please do not try to pronounce this without a few mezcal). There is a church there that has outstanding frescoes, and a small courtyard that used to be a convent. Antonio, the new caretaker who has been there for a week, practiced his English with us and we chatted about the restoration. It's due to be finished in August 2010, and there will be a big celebration. Of course. He then suggested that we head up a hill that was close by, for a view of the valley. In giving us directions, he walked us outside to show us the street where we would go two blocks down, and then right, from here up a dirt road to a small summit. For his time, a 10 pesos donation to the church was acceptable, and he provided a recipt as proof of our "generosity". He called after us as we left to make sure we would go up the hill. We promised we would, and so we did. I look forward to telling him how much we appreciated the view from that hilltop.
Back down the dirt path and onto the highway for maybe another 10 kilometers, where we turn off onto a small road that leads to a small archological site, Dainzan. 31 pesos entry fee is expected to plod around small ruins. What is most remarkable about the site is that, upon climbing to the top of Building A, you can envision why someone would settle here. Flat farm land surrounds a small peak, upon which Daizan is built. It's no Monte Alban, but it certainly had its charm.
Back in the car, I am starving, so we head to Teotitlan Del Valle. This village is famous for its weavers who make absolutely remarkable rugs. (More on the rugs in another post, I promise, Yannik!) After driving around the town with no inspiration of where to eat, I am exasperated and stop a young woman and ask her where I can get food. She sends us around the corner, and after making a u-turn after crossing the bridge, we decide that a small cafeteria will have to do. It's right before you head over the bridge, there are no menus, you pull the beer out of the fridge yourself and open it yourself, but I had the best ham sandwich I've ever had in my life. Ham, cheese, pickles, tomatoes and lettuce. My sandwich and my beer cost me 20 pesos - about $1.85 with today's exchange rate. The great sandwich at the great price made Ralph's whole day. I know I'll never be able to eat anywhere else in this town.
We took in a few rug places and visited the Santiago family who we met the last time we were here. Though the owner did not remember us, when we were leaving, I said we would be back. "Ojala", he responds. If God wills it.
Hopefully, God wills it, many times over.