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Archaeological Sites

Sluggy McSluggerson recounts some Mexico Highlights!

Ok, so I’ve been a slug. Every now and then, I like to do a blog post outlining all the riveting topics I’ve been meaning to write about, promise you that I will actually write about them, and then never execute on this.  Which sucks, because we have been some really amazing places in Mexico that I would highly recommend, if I ever got around to recommending them. :)

As a temporary fix to this, I thought I’d quickly highlight the best of my “Haven’t Blogged About Them” Mexico spots (and then vaguely promise to elaborate on them at an unforeseen later date).

IXTAPA: When I was trapped at school one weekend, John abandoned me for a much more glamorous weekend with a former boss of his who was in Ixtapa for the week with family. They stayed at this crazy-pretty house on the beach called Casa del Sol. It is located right next to a ski-lift (essentially), so he didn’t even have to exert himself going up & down to the beach, and the live-in staff of 3 took care of every food & drink need. If you have money to burn & a week to spare, this sounds like a great place to do it.

The view over Ixtapa's bay from Casa del Sol

The view over Ixtapa's bay from Casa del Sol

A glimpse of the pool & house that John had to suffer in for 3 painful days... :) So jealous!! (see the house website for more pics)

GOOD VIEW OF MEXICO CITY + GOOD TACOS: To enable friend Kim to experience the monstrosity that is Mexico City, we drug her up to the top of the Torre Latinoamericana, which holds the impressive distinction of “used to be the tallest tower in Latin America”! What excitement!! But, they have a good viewing platform (once you get outside so as to avoid sweating to death in the greenhouse portion). We recovered by stuffing ourselves with beer and tacos at El Huequito, top contender for “best tacos al pastor” in DF.

Kim observes that Mexico City just won't quit!!

Kim observes that Mexico City just won't quit!!

This tower is so cool, it even has a mascot...?

This tower is so cool, it even has a mascot...?

After that rigorous multi-story elevator ride, we relax with beers & tacos al pastor galore at El Huequito.

After that rigorous multi-story elevator ride, we relax with beers & tacos al pastor galore at El Huequito.

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE: During the swine-flu frenzy, we escaped town to check out San Miguel de Allende, generally known as “Hub of Retired Gringos”. This place has some of the most beautiful B&Bs I’ve seen in Mexico, but know that you will be paying US prices for the privilege of staying in them. :) The town is lovely & rife with tasty restaurants and trendy galleries. Food was amazing at a spot called “The Restaurant“.

The iconic pink Parroquia of San Miguel de Allende.

The iconic pink Parroquia of San Miguel de Allende.

"The Restaurant" (aptly named, eh?) is a good place to go for a manly man's drink.

"The Restaurant" (aptly named, eh?) is a good place to go for a manly man's drink.

GUANAJUATO: The second half of our swine-flu trip, we stayed in Guanajuato– town of crazy tunnels & colorful houses. It was cute & felt v. European with loads of plazas to lounge about outside. If you drive, abandon your car at first apparent parking garage below the city & walk everywhere.  Stayed in Hotel Casa del Agua & were v. pleased with it. Employee walked with us to get our car & rode with us back to the hotel parking lot (a standard service at that hotel, which gives you a feel for how much of a cluster the roads are in Guanajuato. This hotel also created our new Mexico travel requirement of “hotel bathroom must have solid toilet that flushes plus a vent that vents outside of the room”.  During the 1.5 days of food poisoning aftermath, we realized how lucky we were that Hotel Casa del Agua had exactly that.

I ate at La Capellina repeatedly while John was MIA; food was great. Go to the fancy-pants Hotel Refugio Casa Colorada on the hill for drinks but no need to spend the money/effort to stay there.

The view from the Casa Colorado restaurant terrace (note fall-preventative glass paneling).

The view from the Casa Colorado restaurant terrace (note fall-preventative glass paneling).

And another shot of colorful Guanajuato

And another shot of colorful Guanajuato

HUATULCO for our ANNIVERSARY: Huatulco, aka Las Bahías de Huatulco, is made up of 9 bays along the Oaxaca coast. Some of the bays are part of a National Park & hence untouched by development, resulting in some of the most amazing, pristine beaches I’ve seen in Mexico. (e.g. if you’ve seen the Mexican movie “Y Tu Mamá Tambien“, its famous beach scenes were shot here on Bahia de Cacaluta“). You can rent a small boat at the marina, and the captain will take you as many bays as you want & stop as often as you want to snorkel/check out the beach. I recommend getting one with a roof or the sun will roast you. Not sure how much we paid, but I want to say around $800-$900 pesos for as long as we wanted to be out? But I could be way off. The very last bay is developed & has loads of restaurants where you can eat amazingly fresh shrimp cocktail & fish.

The boat we rented to peruse the beaches & bays of Huatulco

The boat we rented to peruse the beaches & bays of Huatulco & its trusty captain.

Tasty seafood at Bahia San Agustin in Huatulco

Tasty seafood at Bahia San Agustin in Huatulco

One of the pristine beaches along the Oaxaca coastline

One of the pristine beaches along the Oaxaca coastline

We stayed at a gorgeous house called Villa Escondida located on the eastern-most beach (La Bocana). Whoever designed/built this house did an amazing job– infinity pool, hot tub on the roof, water feature in the entry way, master suite w/amazing views, a secret bar down on the beach. It’s a bit spendy, but we lucked out negotiating a deal due to post-swine-flu tourism slump. This place would be brilliant to rent out w/8 people, though you would have to battle for who gets the Mar Vista suite.

The couple, Elsa & Armando, that care for the place are super friendly & accommodating, picking you up from the airport in an air-conditioned SUV (so you can slowly acclimate to the humidity) & whipping up welcome drinks once you arrive.  Armando’s mango mojitos & hamburgers are both to die for– best hamburger I’ve had in Mexico to date. This beach was only marginally developed when we were there in May 2010, so it was v. quiet & private, yet had a great “meat & booze” restaurant around the corner. Only caveat– the Copalita River meets the ocean here, so it’s not a great beach for swimming- more for surfing, so if you are a “must be able to swim in ocean outside my door” type, be forewarned. But I personally found the beach to be absolutely beautiful.

The entryway into Villa Escondida

The entryway into Villa Escondida

And a view of the house from the beach

And a view of the house from the beach

SAN FRANCISCO, CA: This is not in Mexico. However, they did have lucha wine.

Luchador Shiraz: I recall it costing just enough to prevent you from buying it as a joke gift.

Luchador Shiraz: I recall it costing just enough to prevent you from buying it as a joke gift.

THE PYRAMIDS a.k.a. TEOTIHUACAN: In June, I finally made it to the pyramids with visiting friend Emily. If you come to Mexico City, it is totally worth the trip. Teotihuacan is located about 45 minutes north of the city, assuming no traffic drama. You can take a bus from the Terminal Central del Norte (reachable via metro to “Autobuses del Norte” on Yellow Line #5 ), just confirm it’s going to the Zona Arq. Teotihuacan or Teotihuacan ruinas or Piramides. Rumor has it tickets are ~$70 pesos for return trip. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi for the day for maybe $600 pesos to take you there, wait for you, and bring you back at your convenience. Obviously more spendy, but not bad split amongst 3-4 folks.

Here're Emily & I in front of the Pyramid of the Sun. This is the one you can climb up to the top.

Here're Emily & I in front of the Pyramid of the Sun. This is the one you can climb up to the top.

Other tips:

  • Bring water with you, as it isn’t sold within the ruins (just at stores outside).
  • Wear a hat/sunscreen; there is *no* shade out there & you will burn the crap out of yourself.
  • Leave early to beat crowds & the heat– I recommend leaving DF at 7:30AM.
  • I like to start near the Pyramid of the Sun (Puerta 5, if you drive). You can climb all the way up this one, which is much cooler if done before every other tourist & their pet dog arrives. Here’s a good map.
  • If you’re not going to pay for a guided tour (they do have them in English), I strongly recommend reading up a bit before you go or buying a book. Otherwise you will have 5,000 questions that the 10 plaques will not answer & you might not find the experience as interesting.
Our guide pressured us to act like morons while on the Pyramid of the Moon. Hot tip: if you stand on that lower platform (just above Emily's right foot) & yell your name, there are cool echoes. That is basically the only thing I recall from our guided tour.

Our guide pressured us to act like morons while on the Pyramid of the Moon. Hot tip: if you stand on that lower platform (just above Emily's right foot) & yell your name, there are cool echoes. That is basically the only thing I recall from our guided tour.

OAXACA: It’s pronounced Wah-ha-ka for anyone wondering how that combination of letters can possibly form a word. The drive between DF & Oaxaca City through the mountains was actually quite beautiful– duration of 5-6 hours depending on time required to escape Mexico City. The town is lovely, the food/mezcal are fantastic, and the archaelogical site (Monte Alban) offers sweet views over the whole valley. Another town with lots of cute B&Bs/hotels. We stayed at Los Pilares Hostal, which was very nice & cost ~$1000 pesos, but is a few blocks away from the action. The Centro Cultural Santo Domingo (an ex-convent) is worth checking out. For food, hit La Olla for comida & La Biznaga for dinner; Los Danzantes is good for the mezcal but I’d skip the food… not amazing for the $$ (except for the magical Hoja de Santa appetizer– a crazy-big leaf stuffed w/cheese). Also, La Farola was a great cantina for further mezcal sampling.

The toll road between Mexico City & Oaxaca is well-maintained and takes you through gorgeous scenery-- cactus forests, vibrant red soil, mountains, etc etc.

The toll road between Mexico City & Oaxaca is well-maintained and takes you through gorgeous scenery-- cactus forests, vibrant red soil, mountains, etc etc.

The vegetation outside the convent in the city of Oaxaca.

The vegetation outside the convent in the city of Oaxaca.

Me perched atop one of the many formations at Monte Alban, just a few minutes from downtown Oaxaca.

Me perched atop one of the many formations at Monte Alban, just a few minutes from downtown Oaxaca.

MEXICAN INDEPENDENCE DAY IN COYOACAN (SEPT 16): The festivities for Dia de la Independencia start the nite before (Sept 15) at 11PM with the El Grito (the cry of independence). If I teach you nothing else, let it be that Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with Mexican Independence Day. :) Instead of joining in the craziness in the Zocalo, we went with some friends to the plaza in Coyoacan. In a nutshell, there is much excitement, food, carnival rides, fireworks, music, dancing, yelling, etc., though all of these to an even greater degree when it isn’t raining out. (boo) It is worth experiencing at least once– though try to learn some of the relevant songs/chants in advance to better blend in. 😉

We are all decorated-up with my stars & John's flag pin. Sandro is Mexican so apparently he doesn't feel like he needs to prove his support for Mexico by cheesily wearing patriotic colors... ;)

We are all decorated-up with my stars & John's flag pin. Sandro is Mexican so apparently he doesn't feel like he needs to prove his support for Mexico by cheesily wearing patriotic colors... ;)

They had an impressive fireworks performance in Coyoacan that included words, dates, and profiles of famous men depicted in flame! Here is a shot of the spinning fireworks, as the crowd (who is tightly pressed around the base of the fireworks) tries to avoid being sprayed by a flurry of sparks.

They had an impressive fireworks performance in Coyoacan that included words, dates, and profiles of famous men depicted in flame! Here is a shot of some spinning fireworks, as the crowd (who is tightly pressed around the base of the fireworks) tries to avoid being sprayed by a flurry of sparks.

ALEBRIJES ON REFORMA: If you’ve been to Mexico, you’ve likely seen for sale crazy-looking, multicolored animals made of paper-maché or wood. These are called alebrijes, and were originally conceived of by a guy in Mexico City in the 1930s. For the last two years during October, Mexico City has had an impressive display of gigantic alebrijes along la Avenida de Reforma (the main east-west drag through town). I hope they do it again this year, because these things are the coolest.

This alebrije eating a dragonfly rules. I am impressed at his ability to stabilize himself on his curled-up tail.

This alebrije eating a dragonfly rules. I am impressed at his ability to stabilize himself on his curled-up tail.

This one reminded me of some kind of deformed Trojan Horse...

This one reminded me of some kind of deformed Trojan Horse...

Ok, now we’re marginally caught up through the end of October 2009…. Please comment if you would specifically like to see more details/photos on any of the above topics, & I’ll see what I can do! 😉

Farewell for now from the blog slug!

Farewell for now from the blog slug!

Yaxchilan in photos

If you read the previous post, you know that we’ve finally arrived at the Maya archeological site of Yaxchilan on the banks of the Usamacinta river.  There are more than 120 structures in the central area, distributed in three complexes at different elevations.  Yaxchilan shares similar characteristics with other regional sites, including roof combs, stelae, carved lintels, alters and murals, among others.  As I noted in the previous Palenque post, much of the ornamention was done by painting the layer of stucco covered the exterior of many buildings.  Very little remains, but what does is breath-taking; it must have been simply amazing.  Make sure to bring your flashlight!  We were the only group there for the majority of our three-hour visit and I was by myself much of the time.  It was pretty awe-inspiring to wander around alone and imagine what life must have been like over a thousand years ago.  Let’s start the photo essay, shall we?

We entered the site at the rear of a temple which had a bunch of underground tunnels.  You can see the base of the roof comb above my head.

We entered the site at the rear of a temple which had a bunch of underground tunnels. You can see the base of the roof comb above my head.

Descent into creepy darkness, anyone?

Descent into creepy darkness, anyone?

Checking out the tunnels.  Note the classic Maya arch.

Checking out the tunnels. Note the classic Maya arch.

In addition to bats, the tunnels had some awesome spiders.  Check out those jaws!

In addition to bats, the tunnels had some awesome spiders. Check out those jaws!

The main courtyard is about 50 yards wide, 400 yards long, and is flanked with buildings.

The main courtyard is about 50 yards wide, 400 yards long, and is flanked with buildings.

One of the lintel carvings

One of the lintel carvings

This Maya writing is on the underside of one of the lintels.  A good reason for tall people to duck and look up!

This Maya writing is on the underside of one of the lintels. A good reason for tall people to duck and look up!

A close-up of one of the stelae carvings.

A close-up of one of the stelae carvings.

Another fantastically detailed stelae close-up!

Another fantastically detailed stelae close-up!

Check out the staircase leading up from the main plaza to the Great Temple.

Check out the staircase leading up from the main plaza to the Great Temple.

The Great Temple, which still has a fair amount of the roof comb intact.

The Great Temple, which still has a fair amount of the roof comb intact.

The Maya in Yaxchilan supposedly believed their world would end if the head of this warrior, in the Great Temple, were replaced.

The Maya in Yaxchilan supposedly believed their world would end if the head of this warrior, in the Great Temple, were replaced.

Three temples sit perched a few hundred feet above the river and the main site.

Three temples sit perched a few hundred feet above the river and the main site.

A cross-section of a building shows just how big a fan the Maya were of this arch (sorry, I'm obsessed).

A cross-section of a building shows just how big a fan the Maya were of this arch (sorry, I'm obsessed).

Getting to Yaxchilan in Chiapas

Since Julie’s been slacking off a bit of late, I decided to revisit my promise made in my original post on our trip to Chiapas to check out Palenque with a rundown of our visit to the Mayan archeological sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak southeast of Palenque.

Yaxchilan, on the west bank of the Usumacinta River which forms the border between Mexico and Guatemala, was a large regional center and a rival of Palenque (fought in 654), among others.  It seems war wasn’t its forte as I believe they were dominated pretty badly on at least a couple of occasions.  Yaxchilan was at its zenith during the long reigh of King Shield Jaguar II, who lived into his 90s (unthinkable at that time) and died in 742; the city was abandoned around 810 AD.  Yaxchilan is known for excellent sculpture including carved stela and narrative stone reliefs on lintels (the top of the door frame which spans temple doorways).  If you visit, make sure to crouch down in the doorways and look up – some of the coolest and best-preserved carvings are on the lintels.

The crew - Ashley, Bertie, Nicole, Alla, Emily, Ben and John!

The crew - Ashley, Bertie, Nicole, Alla, Emily, Ben and John!

Getting to Yaxchilan is half the fun.  First, one makes the ~2.5 hour drive (we had our own car) from Palenque to the town of Frontera Corozal, largely by way of the Carretera Fronteriza before taking a really cool 30-45 minute boat ride to the site.  The road is very nice compared to others we’ve driven, though be sure to start from Palenque with a full tank or make sure you hit the one gas station we saw on they way…it’s in a small town 30-45 minutes from Palenque; I believe it’s also the location of the first military checkpoint we hit – and where I took the below photo.

You may recognize this woman's striking Maya features on subsequent photos!

You may recognize this woman's striking Maya features on subsequent photos!

Like most of Mexico, it’s inadvisable to drive at night to avoid hitting animals, people, topes (speedbumps), and lastly (and likely the smallest threat) because a handful of signs along the road proclaim that this is EZLN territory (the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a revolutionary group comprised largely of indigenous Maya folks whose 1994 uprising was quickly put down by the Mexican Army).  To be clear, we felt completely safe and no one we talked to in Palenque or elsewhere offered warning, but as we joked, it’s all good until dudes with guns jump out of the jungle. 

The countryside is lush with rolling mountains everywhere; standards of living are very basic.

The countryside is lush with rolling mountains everywhere; standards of living are very basic.

Escudo Jaguar  may be the only gig in town for lodging; it offers cute, if basic bungalow-style rooms at very reasonable rates which start around $20 and go to $60 for a triple w/ 3 double beds.  The grounds are very well maintained and folks are friendly.  We only ate there given our one night stay; the food was fine but runs no danger of being labeled gourmet.

 

The digs at Escudo Jaguar

The digs at Escudo Jaguar

The river and embarcadero (boat launch) is just a couple hundred meters away, and you can arrange a boat to depart at your leisure.  I HIGHLY recommend leaving at or just before sunrise; we left around 6:30 am and Escudo made us box-breakfasts for dining on-board.  Watching the sun rise and fog lift from the river was magical, and there’s no gate at the site, per say, so if you get there before the caretaker you can just pay when you leave, after all, it’s one way in, one way out and a looong walk back to Escudo!

Your chariot awaits!

Your chariot awaits!

Gorgeous sunrise

Gorgeous sunrise

Bertie and Nicole are happy campers!

Bertie and Nicole are happy campers!

I'm unsure if this look is "Blue Steel" or "Imminent Death"

I'm unsure if this look is "Blue Steel" or "Imminent Death"

Sorry to keep you all in suspense, but this is already getting long and it’s well past my bedtime, so you’ll have to sit ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT until I can do part 2 “Yaxchilan, this time for real”.  Saludos!

Malinalco with the visiting Nebraskans

Larry & Marcia came for a Mexico visit-- look how happy & unconcerned about violence they are!! ;)

Larry & Marcia came for a Mexico visit-- look how happy & unconcerned about violence they are!! ;)

My parents from Nebraska came for a visit last month, so we decided to show them some of rural Mexico in addition to the Big Taco, D.F.  We spent a couple nights in Malinalco, located roughly 40 miles south-ish of Toluca or 60 miles (but ~2 hours) from Polanco in Mexico City.

A view of the valley of Malinalco from above

A view of the valley of Malinalco from above

Malinalco is a cute little town in a gorgeous valley that has a small archaeological site that overlooks the town from the mountainside. I would assess it as a great place for a relaxing 1-2 night stay if you’re looking to lounge about in nice, warm weather. If you are a “dooo-sy” type person, meaning someone who needs constant stimulation & multiple sites to see & activities to do, Malinalco may not be the place for you. :)

After much research on lodging, we decided to stay at Casa Mora, a fantastic B&B located just east of the main “downtown” of Malinalco. While you could walk from there to the Centro, it is a bit of a trek, partially on a dirt road, that I would imagine getting a bit toasty during the midday sun. We generally opted to drive & had no issue finding parking within a few blocks of the restaurant/archaeological site/museum area.

View of pool & backyard at Casa Mora in Malinalco

View of pool & backyard at Casa Mora in Malinalco

I completely recommmend Casa Mora, a 5-room B&B purpose-built by artist Raul Mora. The grounds/common areas are lovely, rooms airy & spacious, bathrooms modern & convenient, and pool warm & beckoning! The breakfasts are served family style with fresh-squeezed OJ, fruit, pan dulce, frijoles, a different hot dish each day, and what appeared to be real coffee (unlike the popular instant coffee so pervasive throughout Mexico!). Two honor bars, one near the pool & one in the house’s living room, offer tasty beverages to quench your thirst. And the gorgeous green yard was a perfect venue for lying on a chair with a book. During our trip, the rooms were $2000 pesos a night (inclusive of breakfast & all taxes), so although it is not a cheap option, we felt we definitely got our money’s worth. The staff were all excellent & friendly, and very responsive to our email inquiries prior to arrival (unlike other venues in town that we attempted to look into). For non-Spanish speakers, Raul speaks flawless English so you don’t have to worry about any communication barriers.

Regardless of where you choose to stay, Casa Mora’s website has a couple of great maps that should help you both in getting to Malinalco & getting around town once you arrive.

John & the in-laws enjoying some tasty beverages at Los Pilares

John & the in-laws enjoying some tasty beverages at Los Pilares

Other spots we can recommend– for restaurants, Las Palomas and Los Pilares (both very near the central town square) had excellent food & drink. Also Nieves Mallinali had fantastic ice cream– try the Galleta flavor (the Spanish word for ‘cookie’, and there were chunks of cookie stuffed throughout).  Finally, I was a bit skeptical of the Museum of Malinalco, thinking “how interesting could a museum be in a town this size?”  Surprisingly, I thought the musem was extremely well done & I would say is actually worth a visit!

Here are a few other photo highlights from our time in Malinalco.

We did some pretty intense book-reading on the lawn of Casa Mora

We did some pretty intense book-reading on the lawn of Casa Mora

I realized how long it had been since I'd had the opportunity to walk barefoot on a nice, green lawn. Larry enjoyed the brightly colored flowers that have not been seen in NE for many moons now...

I realized how long it had been since I'd had the opportunity to walk barefoot on a nice, green lawn. Larry enjoyed the brightly colored flowers that have not been seen in NE for many moons now...

Another view of the lovely pool + thatched-roof hut for outdoor dining

Another view of the lovely pool + thatched-roof hut for outdoor dining

Here's one of the bedrooms in Casa Mora, with a second door for a nice cross-breeze + garden views...

Here's one of the bedrooms in Casa Mora, with a second door for a nice cross-breeze + garden views...

Best part of the Casa Mora bedrooms? HAMMOCK IN THE BEDROOM! Brilliant.

Best part of the Casa Mora bedrooms? HAMMOCK IN THE BEDROOM! Brilliant.

Here's the crew with the tasty breakfast @ the B&B-- featuring scrambled eggs with chorizo, as well as chilaquiles (the best Mexican breakfast food ever, FYI).

Here's the crew with the tasty breakfast @ the B&B-- featuring scrambled eggs with chorizo, as well as chilaquiles (the best Mexican breakfast food ever, FYI).

The exit from Casa Mora-- it's hard to get inspired to leave...

The exit from Casa Mora-- it's hard to get inspired to leave...

Our first morning, John & I made the 400-step trek up to the Aztec archaeological site that overlooks the town. This is the map of the site

Our first morning, John & I made the 400-step trek up to the Aztec archaeological site that overlooks the town. This is the map of the site

This was the main building in the archaeological site, which was allegedly some sort of initiation site for warriors. Inside, there are animals sculpted out of the stone around a circular room; this is replicated in the Museum of Malinalco.

This was the main building in the archaeological site, which was allegedly some sort of initiation site for warriors. Inside, there are animals sculpted out of the stone around a circular room; this is replicated in the Museum of Malinalco.

Here's me with the main building + the über-steep stairs leading up towards the mountain.

Here's me with the main building + the über-steep stairs leading up towards the mountain.

We later saw this worker carrying material down aforementioned über-steep stairs... Note the intriguing-but-effective headband support system... My neck hurts just looking at him.

We later saw this worker carrying material down aforementioned über-steep stairs... Note the intriguing-but-effective headband support system... My neck hurts just looking at him.

Here's the remnants of one of the jaguars that once guarded each site of the main building.

Here's the remnants of one of the jaguars that once guarded each site of the main building.

We were lucky to visit during the season of the purple-blossomed jacarandas, which made all views around the valley a bit prettier.

We were lucky to visit during the season of the purple-blossomed jacarandas, which made all views around the valley a bit prettier.

Another view of the Malinalco valley from the archaeological site on the mountain. You can see the main street coming into town above John's head.

Another view of the Malinalco valley from the archaeological site on the mountain. You can see the main street coming into town above John's head.

And here's John being the boss on top of another Aztec building... Clearly could have intimidated many an Aztec had he lived in the right era...  This site was created around 1501.

And here's John being the boss on top of another Aztec building... Clearly could have intimidated many an Aztec had he lived in the right era... This site was created around 1501.

Here's the crew at the top of a street in downtown Malinalco.

Here's the crew at the top of a street in downtown Malinalco.

If anyone can tell me what this magical pink flower is, I am dying to know. They look like they could hardly be real!

If anyone can tell me what this magical pink flower is, I am dying to know. They look like they could hardly be real!

Here's the courtyard at the Museum of Malinalco

Here's the courtyard at the Museum of Malinalco

Here's John & I at Las Palomas

Here's John & I at Las Palomas

And as a prize for any readers who actually made it to the end of the post, here is a shot of me seducing a statue at Casa Mora. Please refrain from comment.

And as a prize for any readers who actually made it to the end of the post, here is a shot of me seducing a statue at Casa Mora. Please refrain from comment.

Xochicalco, our first archaeological venture

On our way back from Taxco the other weekend, we decided that our first Mexican road trip wouldn’t really be complete without hitting a historically-significant archaeological site. Conveniently, Xochicalco was (more or less) on our way back, a site that was in its prime around 650 AD. It was around this time that the better-known site of Teotihuacan (~30 miles northeast of D.F.) began its decline as a center of politics & economics in the central region of Mexico.  Xochicalco means “place of the house of flowers” in Nahuatl.

The site has impressive terracing & precise lines, along with amazing views of the countryside

Xochicalco has impressive terracing & precise lines, along with amazing views of the countryside

We were there on a Monday and there were almost no other people visiting, which afforded a nice, private exploration of the amazing site & its stunning views of the surrounding valley. Logistically– Xochicalco site admission was $48 pesos (pay in the museum before walking to the site), and the audio-guide system in English was $60 pesos. I recommend driving, as although books like Lonely Planet indicate there are buses that access the site, it was unclear to me whether they actually bring you to the entrance directly, or simply drop you off at the nearest intersection, which is at the bottom of a looong, uphill walk that I would have been displeased about doing in the hot sun.  

A few of the unique highlights of these ruins were a) an extensive systems of water drainage & storage cisterns to accomodate for the 6-7 months of dry season here in Mexico, b) 3 ball courts with “rings” mounted on opposite sides of a long field, and c) a really interesting Astronomers Cave, with a 13-foot long shaft (21″ in diameter) through which the movement of the sun was tracked. The most famous part of the site is the “Pyramid of the Feathered Serpents” (Piramide de Quetzalcoatl), with impressive decorative reliefs all around the outside.

Anyway, needless to say our crap photos cannot truly capture the scale & views of Xochicalco, but you’ll just have to trust me that it was worth a visit, as you can wander around & climb on/up/over almost everything (which surprised me coming from the USA, land of ropes, barricades & restrictions). As we bag more hot Mexican archaeology, I will attempt to offer comparative insights of which are the must-sees… For now, I will rank it as a “Visit if you’re traveling within a 30 mile radius”.

Here I am as we enter the site, facing the Great Pyramid

Here I am as we enter the site, facing the Great Pyramid

John stands in the East Temple, with the Great Pyramid in the background

John stands in the East Temple, with the Great Pyramid in the background

You can see one of the ball courts on the right, with its 2 rings still in place

You can see one of the ball courts on the right, with its 2 rings still in place

Woah! John totally almost fell off the Temple of the Stelae

Woah! John totally almost fell off the Temple of the Stelae

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