Grant McWilliams

Mexico 2006 - Day 9

Today we took a tour to Mitla, Santa Maria del Tula, Hierva el Agua and a few other places. I had wanted to go to Mitla but my guidebook didn´t tell me how because it´s about 50 km down the road. Thankfully our hotel Casa Arnel had a tour again in a suburban for 300 pesos. This ended up being about $120 all together but everyone in the family thinks it was a good deal. I almost didn´t take the tour and just stay around the hotel because Piper was slowly getting sicker and I thought it would be dumb to risk her health just to see something that has been there for 2000 years and will still be there the rest of my life but she woke up in better shape than she was when she went to bed so we went.First stop was Santa Maria del Tula which is a small town with a tree. Since Mexico has about a billion towns called Santa Maria they have to give each one a last name too. So since this town used to have a bog filled with Tula plants the name ended up being Santa Maria del Tula. In this bog also was a cyprus tree. It needs a lot of water so the bog was a perfec place for it to plant it´s roots. Problem is the bog dried up after about 1950 years and the tree was still alive.


An environmentalist group got involved in saving the now dieing tree by putting a very sophisticated irrigation system under the ground to feed the tree. It drinks something like 2000 gallons a day of water. They say the tree is 2000 years old and is the largest tree in the world at about 50 feet in diameter. It´s pretty cool to look at and to think the tree almost predates humans in the area.

Next stop was a Zapotec rug shop. We watched a zapotec spin the wool, make die out of bugs from a cactus and color it with various things like baking soda. The color is unique to each persons PH balance in their skin so no two people create the same colors. He also showed us how he creates rugs on the loom. All I could think about was how much nicer the rugs in Turkey are since the Zapotec rugs are quite course and rough. It´s amazing how they create them though, very labor intensive.

Next stop was Hierva el Agua which is a waterfall that stopped running 750 years ago. You might think it strange to visit a waterfall that doesn´t fall anymore but you´d probably change your mind if you saw it. It appears to be frozen in time but what it is is the mineral deposits from 1500 years are stuck on the side of the mountain so it looks like it´s made of ice. There are two small geysers feeding two pools of water. The water is warm but not hot and you can swim in it. The pools are natural mineral buildup also on the side of the mountain. Step one meter over the edge of the pool and you find yourself in a free fall down the mountain. I´m glad the tour took us here because it´s REALLY out of the way. We drove on a winding two lane road up to about 9000 ft then turned off it onto a winding dirt road that´s seen better days and drove another 10 km or so. Sometimes the road was so small that a goat could barely pass by us. We passed several tiny villages where things are done the same way they have been for hundreds of years. On top of the tin roofs are piles of corn being dried out. In the fields are Aguava cactuses used to make Mezcal by hand. Burros are a popular mode of transportation too which made Jade happy as he pictured Mexico as being a country full of men with sombrefors riding Burros. People are very poor here. Anyway we got to the falls and spent about an hour sitting in the sulpher water. It felt quite good. I wish I had known we would have spent so much time here as I would have had the kids bring their swimming clothes.

If you know Piper you know she doesn´t do well on winding roads in cars or busses. I bought medication for her drug her up before every trip. There was however a little girl in the van that didn´t have medical help and she hurled. Poor thing.

Next stop was Mitla which was built by the Mixtecs I think. Our guide said the Zapotecs built it but my memory said the Mixtecs. It was built about 900 AD and I think the Mixtecs had taken over by then. All our guides were Zapotecs so they rarely ever mentioned the Mixtecs. Maybe they don´t like them. Anyway it´s the ruins with the fancy designs on the walls. You will see when I get pictures up. They cut each stone seperately and fit them together. There are over 100,000 stones in the walls used only for decoration. The Spanish of course built a church right behind it which shows up in all the pictures of Mitla. I tried to take pictures without the Church in them because I think there are plenty of Spanish churches down here and nobody will miss this on in my pictures.

After that we went to a small restaurant where an old Indian lady cooked the best mole rojo I´ve ever had. Quite good it was. We also ordered this plate of mixed stuff including Oaxacan cheese, sausages, chapulines (grasshoppers) and other stuff that we couldn´t recognize.

We finished the day by visiting a Mezcal factory. It amazes me this stuff is still made manually. It amazes me even more that people want to be drunk so much they´ll ferment cactus to get there.