A Travellerspoint blog

Cultural Activities

Museo Cultural Santa Domingo , Monte Alban y Zocolo life!


We seem to have moved into a rhythm of 1 day hanging out around El Tule, the next off to explore. Getting into the city is an easy 6 peso (50 cent) bus ride that depending on traffic can take 15 minutes or 25. We so enjoy travelling beside young familias, men & women off to work, and the ubiquitous abuelas (grandmas) with their long ribboned braids. The older women have such beautiful long black hair more often than grey. Makes me wonder how our North American diet affects the ageing process....or not.

So...off we went to the city to visit the Museo Cultural adjacent to the beautiful Santa Domingo church. The building is divided into several wings each housing endless artifacts and I mean endless. After 2 1/2 hours of pure delight, we languished under the domes, along the hallways with many Mexican school kids finally deciding we should have some lunch.

Here is just a sampling of some beauty we took in, including some graphics from the cafe!


Cool cafe lights!


And an old (& I mean old) Mexican couple we met in a local tienda.....


On another adventure day, we meandered our way deep downtown to the Touristica bus station to find the bus to Monte Alban; an immense pre Hispanic archaeological site. Despite our good intentions of being early to miss the mid day intense heat, we arrived at noon! Armed with H2O, Cliff Bars and fruit, we set off to enjoy the area anyways.

The area is set atop a mountain (hmm maybe hill) overlooking Oaxaca City. The view is breathtaking and one can understand why this site was picked to settle. There is a 360 degree view available so at any time the community would know if they were in danger. It seems the area, like Machu Picchu, was mostly inhabited by aristocracy and royalty. However, there was a lot of support / labourers living on site or nearby to build, feed and serve them.


Who are these people?


It was a fun and fine visit, but by the time we made it back to town we were tired, thirsty & hungry. Why not stop at the Zocolo for a cold beer & snack I said. Turned out to be a great decision. Not only did we get a cold beer, but it came with pickled veggies and a dish of smokin hot peanuts. As we imbibed, I noticed many young folk walking by, formally dressed and toting musical instruments. Curiosity peeked, we followed them to find a stage set up with many more young folk in different coloured shirts ready to play musica for the burgeoning crowd. Well let me tell you after several sound & lighting checks ( was still daylight), the musica began. Oh my, it was a tad hard on the ears but light on the eyes and heart. All the songs were about love as the next day was Dia de Amor y amistad. The day of love & friendship. I really like the addition of friendship as part of the celebration . The Zocolo was just alive with colour, people and various activities. I truly love this part of Mexico!


And our new best Zocolo friend! What a great smile she has.


Happy to return to our casita to rest our tourist weary legs!


We leave you with a sign to ponder the meaning of......



Posted by Carole and Rod 08:22 Archived in Mexico Comments (3)

Life in El Tule

Or The Trailer Park Boys

Life in El Tule

El Tule, is known for its Tule tree (Montezuma Cypress) apparently the oldest tree on the planet. In fact, earlier in this century it was put onto the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is located near the local Church, that it dwarfs. 270_91DE6FB82219AC681746F6FE71B10F52.jpg91DFE16E2219AC681743CA33F8A0F5D7.jpg
El Tule is a fairly typical small town in Mexico, filled with vendedores of all sorts.

So, here we have been in El Tule for a week! As the saying goes, be careful of what you ask for! We have learned a lot in the past week about "overlander world". Of course an overlander is one who travels by motorized vehicle, be it a Vanagon, a Jeep, a Toyota land cruiser or any other abomination on 4 or 6 wheels.

When we rented the casita, we were aware that within the property there were also "overlanders". What we didn't know was that we were sharing our "front yard". We also didn't know that the owner (a Canadian from Kamloops) would agree to filling his campground beyond capacity, to accommodate his newest best friends. The world of overlanders is quite a strange phenomena, from our vantage point.

Our first Evening in El Tule we were invited into town to witness the staging of a weekend festival. Apparently the El Tulusians love fire works! They erected 3 towers, about 60' tall onto which they attached bamboo contraptions that whirled and twirled when the long fuses ignited the fireworks, sending the contraptions into spinning motions. Sadly you are stuck with only verbiage without photos as the 10:00 pm start evolved into a 1:00 am start; far too late for this travelling couple.

For all of you WCB folks, the towers were constructed out of wood in one meter sections. They were tied together by nylon twine. Sections upon sections were linked to arrive at the 60' elevation. I think I spotted a few men wearing steel toed flip flops!

The festival weekend was busy with many activities. One such activity was a "Give Away." Many activities preceded the actual give away: a brass band procession into the Church, what we thought might be a blessing of sorts inside the Church, followed by the longest of processions of people with their give away items that were offered, accepted, and given thanks for.
This procession itself was quite biblical as it reminded us of the "fishes and loaves" parable. People seemed to come out of no where with baskets of goods for the give away. These gifts ranged from food to tupper ware, to endless amounts of candy, cans of beer and Mezcale.

How the give away took place was beyond our imaginations. Under a huge canopy, were hundreds of chairs around the outside perimeter.


These chairs were quickly taken by the more savvy locals. In the centre of the ring were the gifts, to be distributed. At the signal, men and women from the centre of the ring began to "throw" these gifts to the audience. Plastic tupper ware turned into flying saucers and frisbees! Loose candy rained from the skies. The occasional give away was launched like a missile. One had to be careful not to be a victim of the candy shrapnel! Carole was hit a few times by this sweet debris, once leaving proof of our vulnerability! I did manage to catch a tupper ware bowl. I the used it much like a catchers mitt to snag more candy. I was NOT to be out done by the ruthless locals who had much more experience in this game.

Fortunately the beer and Mezcale weren't tossed into the crowd. It was judicially passed to those in the inner sanctum of seats, far from where we stood. With a few goodies and bruises we decided to make due with the little bootie we had and head for the hills!

We've had two wonderful outings. The first was a visit to archeological ruins in a village called Mitla. Mitla is the second most important archeological site in the state of Oaxaca. It is also the most important indigenous site of the Zapotec culture.

The ruins were quite fabulous. Although quite deteriorated, it gave a true sense of the workmanship and splendour of the era. Stone and mortar was used extensively.
Certain parts of the structure were adorned in intricate stone work called frets that added to the beauty of the site.
There were two underground tombs on this site. In order to fit into the tomb area proper, Carole and I entered on hands and knees. A bit eerie yet we both felt quite privileged to be able to visit the bones of such an amazing culture.
In order to get to Mitla, we had to endure two collectivo rides and one short haul ride in a moto taxi. After our two collectivo rides I mentioned to Carole the correlation between the number of rosaries hanging from the mirror and the speed at which a driver travels . . . More rosaries, more speed!

The second outing was orchestrated through En Via Fundiacion, a non profit org that promotes responsible tourism, micro financing and education for women. The day activity cost each group member 650 pesos. It included being picked up by a small bus and delivered to two small communities (Teotitlan del Ville and Diaz Ordaz) where we were given presentations by 6 individuals who received non interest bearing loans from En Via. These small businesses included small textile tiendas, tortilla tiendas and a small food tienda. One of the latest additions to a textile tienda was a small chocolate shop where they received the roasted chocolate bean and made there own chocolate!
Each woman greeted us with great pleasure and pride. They spoke of how the loan had assisted them with start up costs. Many of them spoke of how the loan would assist them in supporting there children to pursue higher education. At one tienda we were offered a wonderfully refreshing drink of tascalate, made from maize. These small tiendas were "honest to goodness" grass root businesses. So many of these woman had redefined 'determinism' with the challenges they faced. They new what was required to be successful and the had the perseverance to do it.
En Via had two different loan formats, with criteria. In order to receive the non interest bearing loan candidates were required to attend a number of workshops. They also had to find two other persons in the community who also wanted to start up their own business. Each person would then have additional support beyond family to assist them through these early stages. Loans had to be repaid within a fixed amount of time eg ten weeks. The interest bearing loans had different criteria and were offered after individuals had exhausted the non interest bearing loans.

At then end of the day, we were driven to another casa where we were served lunch by yet another recipient of a micro loan. It was a great opportunity to ask further questions of our two volunteers from En Via. It also gave us further opportunities to get to know the other like minded gringo folks with whom we travelled.
We then returned to El Tule where we awaited more chaos at the "trailer park!" We do feel very fortunate to have the freedom to travel to these amazing places, meet wonderful people and continue our adventura!

A few final fotos

Hasta Luego

Posted by Carole and Rod 14:32 Comments (2)

Puebla & Onwards to Oaxaca

We finally boarded our flight from San Francisco to Mexico City at 1130 pm, the dreaded "red eye". As expected, neither of us were able to sleep for more than half an hour at a time but at least we were on our way!

Flying into Mexico City at 530 am gives one an appreciation for how immense the city really is. The lights of the city seemed endless. But.....we had arrived! After an airport food court breakfast, we boarded a bus to Puebla to begin our adventure.

We had booked a suite through Air B n B in Puebla and were greeted by the owners Scott & Maru, who also run a Spanish school out of their home. The suite was perfectly located within a 15 minute walk of the Zocalo (central plaza) and all the UNESCO buildings .


Puebla is the 4th largest city in Mexico, but we never felt that we were in such a large city. The city is so alive and has a great vibe. Buildings in the heritage centre are brightly coloured and colonial with typical Mexican tiles prominent. The Cathedral which fronts the Zocalo, is the most opulent and beautiful either of us have seen. That evening, we had our first traditional mole dish. Yum is all I can say!



In the Zocalo and several other spots we found electric bikes on offer for those with the secret chip or key to access. I think this is the same idea or variation as what Vancouver is working towards.


On our second day, we decided to visit the Talavera factory. Talavera is a very unique & traditional way of painting ceramics and has strict criteria for the entire process from beginning to end. Traditionally the pottery would be wood fired, but today gas fired kilns are used. However, all colours are mineral based and therefore colour selection is limited to 4-5 basic colours. These colours are brilliant though when fired. This particular workshop was founded in 1824 so the tradition lives on. We had a wonderful tour through the workshop areas and were amazed by how particular each artist/worker is to detail and process. Some of the hand painting is so detailed yet one worker is able to handpaint 8 plates a day!


As we were about to leave, one of the owners of the factory came down to greet us. He had been tipped off by our tour guide that we were from Vancouver and he too was from Vancouver. Michael took the next hour and a half to give us a private tour of some of the original Talavera pottery dating back to the mid 1800's plus a peek at a number of original art pieces done in Talavera style. These pieces formed part of an art show called 5 de mayo that Uriarte (factory) sponsored last year. We were so fortunate to view this art. Michael was incredibly generous with his time and also gave us a beautiful book that describes Talavera and the original art pieces now on tour in the USA.

Sadly, as we been delayed getting to Mexico we lost one day in Puebla. But....before boarding the bus for Oaxaca we decided (on Michael's recommendation), to have desayuno (breakfast), at a local restaurant called Los Murales. It was a most amazing experience as once again we had a private tour and explanation of the large folkloric hand painted murals in the restaurant. The breakfast was absolutely scrumptious and it kept on coming and coming and coming. Together with amazing Mexican cafe we were filled with Puebla warmth & hospitality for our journey to Oaxaca.




The 4 hour bus ride to Oaxaca took us through agricultural land, rolling hills, views of steaming volcanoes, mountain passes and finally down into the dry Oaxacan desert. Mexican buses are very comfortable and the time past quickly.


We are now snuggled into our casita in Santa Maria el Tule, a town of about 7000 located 20-25 minutes by bus from the city. We have been into the city twice already and are amazed at how European it looks and feels.

Posted by Carole and Rod 17:53 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

We are Off!

Can this Really be Happening

Hello to all our family & friends! Many of you have joined us on our Peruvian Adventure. Some of you knew of our upcoming Mexican trip and have joined us. Please know that at any time you can dump us by unsubscribing. We know who you are and we will come after you!

For months, it seems, Carole and I have been navigating rather chaotic seas hoping that January 29th would lead us to yet another adventura! We planned to leave sooner but responsibilities kept us home. Tying up loose ends, cleaning out the garage, again then surgically inserting our car into its resting place was the kick off to our trip. 270_D306F2612219AC6817CC9C1F45702DD3.jpg

Leaving weeks of cold and damp fog did not seem like a hardship.image


All we needed to do was to leave Nanaimo on a ferry to Vancouver,
take a bus, followed by LRT to the airport and BAM! Mexico! Indeed we were sad to leave family and friends and great coffee behind.
Although 5:30 am was an early start, we were ready for this adventure, our seamless trip to Mexico City via San Francisco was about to begin. Early through customs allowed us time to have coffee and gloat about our trip planning savvy, until we saw at our departure gate the always feared "delayed flight". Our gloating silently transformed into loud adult sobbing as we so knew the cascading consequences of our delay. Later that morning at 37,000 feet, on our way into SF, we saw "our airline" to Mexico City fly by us. Tears welled in our eyes as we were pressy faced against the window watching "our plane" leave without us. Alas we knew our fate was sealed, the evil "red eye". We were scheduled for an 11:34 pm departure.

For most of you who have flown Air Canada you might imagine how this might roll. Well, you might just be wrong! We had the kindest agent in San Francisco. Knowing we were leaving at 11:34 pm that eve and noticing our tear stained shirts, Javier asked if we would like a room for the day! This was followed by a lunch and dinner voucher! How lucky we were as this allowed a bit of a retreat before we stepped into the midnight abyss.



So, some time tomorrow morning around 5:30 am we will step from the belly of our red eye onto the soil of Mexico City where we will endure a 2 hour bus ride to Puebla! Our new adventure has begun.

Posted by Carole and Rod 14:51 Comments (4)

Nosotros Ultima Semana!

Cusco-Lima / Cerro Azul-Lima

We arrived in Cusco on Good Friday or Semana Santa as it is known here. From the moment we stepped off the combi, we knew something was different. It was so quiet! There were hardly any cars or people in the street and around the Plaza de Armas was very quiet too.

This was to be short lived as dusk arrived. Thousands of folks made their way into and around the plaza as a large procession marched through the streets. There was a band playing very somber musica followed by a group of older women dressed in maroon, followed by 10 men carrying a glass coffin with Jesus tucked neatly inside. But wait! Here comes yet another band, playing more somber musica & yet more folks carrying candles followed by 10 or so more men carrying a very large Virgin Maria complete with a red neon rosary dangling from her hands. We watched for a time but it was a very very slow procession, so decided to head out for dinner.

Later that night (and I mean later as Rod was asleep), I heard ethereal voices singing and a band go by our hostal. It was the same procession making its' way around all the barrios of Cusco! Up hills, down side streets and by small Iglesias we found evidence of the procession the next day in the form of flowers on the streets. Fantastic!

On our return to Cusco we stayed in a very cool hostal called the Ninos Hotel. The hostals (there are 2), support an amazing non profit org started by a Dutch woman that has grown over the past 17 years to now provide programming and meals for over 600 children identified in need of nutritional & emotional support. The majority of these children (ages 6-12), are living in Cusco, but they also support approximately 100 children in an outlying small mountain pueblo. Children come to the centre for the morning or afternoon, depending on when their school classes start. They are provided with dental care, regular medical checks, homework tutor, PE classes, access to twice weekly hot showers, and of course nutritious food and snacks. We had a tour of both sites and were blown away by the extensive program and commitment of the staff. There really are fantastic supportive programs and dedicated people in many many places in Peru (and the world) that support the "pebble in the pond" philosophy I so love.


We decided to fly back to Lima as the bus would take 22 hours! No thanks, we had more than enough overnite bus rides and wanted to enjoy our final week without ironing out body wrinkles.

In Lima, we were able to return to the first hostal we stayed in. Francesco and Carmen are a delightful couple and so welcoming. We were greeted like we were coming home-such a treat. We enjoyed 2 nites in their home hanging out in the kitchen chatting over coffee en la maƱana and vino en la noche.

We decided to spend a couple of our remaining days at the beach, but not really knowing which beach. Carmen was so helpful providing info on places and offering to phone ahead for us if needed. We finally decided on Cerro Azul, a beach community about 2 hours south of Lima. We had no real info about the community or available accommodation, another adventure in the making for sure!

The bus dropped us at the highway and we walked toward what we hoped was the sea. Wow! What a sight awaited us; blue-green water, fine cream sand and craggy rocky outcrops with pounding surf. Spectacular. The town however was very quiet as it is now the beginning of autumn in Peru. What this meant for us was VERY limited restaurant choices. For breakfast, we stumbled on a sweet little cafe that served the most amazing "bowls" of fresh fruit juice and fried egg sandwiches- ah heaven. On the big screen TV in the corner we were witness to a classical orchestra conducted by a flamboyant Dutch violinist playing in various countries. Turns out it was the owners DVD and when we returned the following morning for breakfast guess what the waitress plugged in for our breakfast enjoyment?! Yup, all over again.


After 2 days of long beach walks, novel reading and a visit to the local municipal Museo, we headed back to the highway to pick up a bus back to Lima.

Which is where I now sit writing this final entry.

Yesterday we headed deep into Centro Lima to the Galleria de Arte and the San Francisco Iglesias and Catacombs. Both wonderful but the monastery and catacombs were definitely thought provoking. The colonial architecture in Lima Centro is worthy of more exploration but....another time.


Today we wandered around Miraflores enjoying a latte, doing some last minute shopping and transitioning.

I will miss the Peruano people, the Spanish language, the Andes, the sea and of course the culture. We have learned a lot about the history of this country, but still only scratched the surface. We have spent 3 months travelling around this large country, but still only scratched the surface.

Adios Peru, gracias por sus hospitalidad. Te queremos.


Living in Peru for 3 months would not have been so easy if it wasn't for the gracious and kind acts of many who helped maintain things in Nanaimo and else where. A huge thanks to: Amy, Lee and Brenda for taking care of our home and Per for looking after Luana. Also a huge thanks to Mary and Ger who were kind enough to house us in Vancouver and drive us about prior to and following our adventure. Thanks to all of you!

Posted by Carole and Rod 17:40 Comments (1)

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