This city is in an ideal climate zone. It is surrounded by lush green mountains that send gentle breezes through. It blessed with a light afternoon rain almost daily and a torrential downpour occasionally. Although the valley can also become very warm, we found it to be pleasant during our time there. And there is much to do in the region, so we spent a full week there. We saw so much stuff that we will need two or three posts to tell you all the highlights!
For Geneva, one of the most tempting things in the area is the textiles and handwork. Beautiful blouses, dresses and shirts. Buying clothes is a little bit of haggling and a lot of options. This tiny, little woman drove a hard bargain and sold the top for 50 pesos or just under $3.00usd. That is a fairly typical market price for a shirt and depending on the decoration and handwork, they go up incrementally. Before we left, we had acquired enough new clothing items that we had to do a load of wash back at camp and get rid of a pile of clothes. The new items are wonderful colors and fabrics and will travel well with us. We also toured the Textile Museum in Oaxaca. This is a fairly new display area, with plenty of room for growth. The items on display are lovely and the information cards are helpful. But they could do more with the place. I hope it is well supported so it can grow into a full-scale textile museum. (we later saw an amazing textile museum in San Cristobal de las Casas- keep watching for that blog post)
We camped at Oaxaca Campground. We found it using the iOverlander app which is super handy for travelers. This is a very nice location for overlanders, with water, electric, sewer and bathrooms with hot showers. Since we were the only campers there, the dogs were free to roam the grounds. The owners were away and the neighbors were watching things. We had privacy and wide-open spaces. Although Mango seemed to pick up chiggers or redbugs on her paws from the grass, and had a rough week of itchy, scabby feet. She is better already and by the time you read this, she will have forgotten all about it. She is likely worried about a new bite, as she tends to get nibbled by every insect species we encounter.
In a town nearby is the Tule Tree. This is reportedly the largest tree in the world and is documented to be over 2000 years old. It is very difficult to capture the full breadth and size of this living organism. But I am hopeful these photos help illustrate it. I started with a close up of the “leaves” and backed away incrementally until you can see the tree is taller than the steeple of the church. Here is the information sign about the Tule Tree.
Also in the garden was this interesting plant with air filled balls that contained the seeds. We later saw this in a few home gardens in town.
Also near Oaxaca is the Yagul archeological site. We took a taxi to the site and enjoyed a walk around the place before the day got hot. The location reminded us of Tuzigoot back in Clarkdale. But this place has some interesting tunnels.
At least one of the tunnels is reportedly a tomb that contained ashes, altars and many artifacts. Through excavation and maintenance it has been opened for viewing and is accessible by stairs leading underground. Two stone heads guard the entrance to the tunnel. But Mike was able to get past them and pose inside the tunnel.
One of the small villages we explored was the home of an elaborate, gilded church. We checked out the inside of the church and took a few photos and videos. The church is dark and dusty and has incense burning which adds an air of mystery to the whole place. Check out these movies!
This particular village offers a special food called “chapulines”. I was unwilling to try them and Mike also refused to eat the fried grasshoppers. They are quite popular as a snack, eaten by the handful! They can be purchased in the Mercado and restaurants such as this. On our way back from this village we saw the billboard for Beneva Mezcal (a type of regional alcohol similar to tequila). Watch for Geneva to be wearing her Beneva t-shirt in the future.
Near Oaxaca City is a small village that is well known for their woven rugs. These wool masterpieces are notoriously good quality and sought after in Mexico. We took the opportunity to stop at a home in this village for a personal demonstration on the procedures. The family we visited was amazing, kind, gentle and very skilled. When we arrived inside their house the young mother walked us past the turkey pen and through the family garden (growing in the middle of the house). She explained which plants they harvest to use in the dyes. Then her elderly mother came out and showed us how the wool is carded and spun into thread for weaving. We tried the carding, but neither of us have the biceps for it! Grandma is strong.Next they explained a wide variety of insects, plants and minerals that are used to dye to the wool. All of these are harvested from trees, shrubs and rocks within the region or traded with others from outside of the area. No chemicals or artificial dyes are used.
For example we learned that the juice of a pomegranate plus the juice of a lime makes green. Turmeric makes reds and browns. Limestone, filed off of a rock causes chemical changes to brighten colors. Alum causes colors to darken. Pecan shells, oak leaves, acorn shells and a paste of boiled indigo leaves all add different colors to the basic wool. The little bugs that make the white fuzz on the cactus pads are dried. Then they crush crush the dried bugs to make red dark red.
It was amazing to see the different colors, shades, tints and tones they could evoke from white, black and gray wool.
The final step in the process is the weaving. The man of the house is working the treadle loom as he produces a rug. This rug will take several weeks, depending on the detail of the design.
Then we browsed the selection of rugs they had available. We did not intend to purchase one, but after much measuring and deliberation, a new rug was folded into a bag and left in our hands! The colors of the rug we selected are fantastic. This rug is about 3 by 5 and cost us about $85usd. We are thrilled with the quality and the way it feels on our bare feet. Spending a few hours with this family was a highlight of our stay in Oaxaca.
For the remaining sites in the area we decided to move to a different camping area. We found a nearby village with a beautiful church and ex-monastery. This church is unique because it was built with no roof and no walls. The Catholics hoped that the heathens (indigenous tribes of the area) would feel more comfortable coming to church if it was open-air like their markets and homes. We also found a great example of a tree growing into an ancient adobe wall. This photo serves as a demonstration of how the pyramid at Cholula/Puebla could become obscured over generations. Here is a link to the blog post where I discussed the pyramid hidden under the church and how it came to be covered in soil, plants and trees. Click here to see pyramid under the ground And here is the photo of the tree we noticed. You can see how it is restructuring the adobe wall similar to the way the jungle took over the pyramid in Cholula/Puebla. (the Cholula/Puebla pyramid is stone, stucco and adobe)
We spent the night in the parking lot of the church. We were near the village Mercado, and the night guard offered to keep an eye on us. We walked across the street for tacos and spent a peaceful night in the heart of a small village.
Next we head off to two more attractions in this area, Monte Alban and Hierve del Agua.