I Moved To Oaxaca

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Goodbye Oaxaca Roadtrip: Day 2
Guiengola Archeological Zone

Yeah, we're in Tehuantepec to see Guingola, one of the few remaining, Open To The Public ruins in the state we have yet to see (the other's Tilantongo, and I'm not sure that one is open). Because of the time change, we were up and ready to go at 7am, but nobody else was, and as we wanted breakfast and needed water, we walked around plaintively, looking for anything open until a pair of street tree trimmers took pity on us and directed us to Restaurant Scaru, which they assured us was open. It was, so we sat down and ordered.

Now, inside this restaurant the walls are covered with brightly painted murals of IstmeƱo life, some standard, some kinda bizarre. Pictures soon. Breakfast turned out to be a bit pricey and just okay, but it was food and we knew we'd need full tummies before hiking up to Guiengola. We gave Vivani food and water, and knotted up a few empty cookie wrappers (her favorite toy, along with her palm frond hat, which we brought with us), and set off.

The ruins aren't too far outside town, and our guidebook says that you pick up a guide at the Comedor Gema, at the turnoff from Hwy 190. Well, on our last abortive attempt, the folks at Comedor Gema said, no, there's a muchacho up there already, go ahead. This time the comedor wasn't even open, so we drove past and down the dirt road. The directions in our book are awfully vague, but we figured, how hard can it be? And the road this time was nice and dry. When the road forked a sign indicated the proper direction -- pretty damn rare in Oaxaca, signage -- and we hadn't gone very far up the fork when a guy popped up from the brush at the side of the road. Our guide! Can you imagine that for your job? Sit in the shade at the side of the road (after walking there from where the bus drops you off on the highway) waiting for tourists to show up. Or more likely, not. He said the road was no good for cars, though it looked okay to me, so we parked and set off up the road, up the hill. His name was Feliciano Gonzalez, he spoke Spanish and Zapotec, so we used our crummy Spanish. G did pretty well too, quizzing Feliciano about the site's history, local stories, and the like. And Feliciano was more than willing to spill, including telling us about a series of dreams he had, where he imagined himself in Guiengola when it was a living city, meeting Cosiojeza (Cosiopi's dad) and having the king tell him that he needed to be here to be a guide and guard the site. We were all definitely on the same page.

Because of the breeze, and because it's November and the trees still green, what could have been a brutal 3km walk up the hill in the tropical sun turned out to be very nice. Pretty vegetation, vistas, and soon the start of walls indicating houses. Then we were on top of the hill, standing in the middle of Guiengola, looking at the plazas and pyramids and trying not to be blown over by the breeze, which was now a respectable wind. It did stagger us a few times, that's how strong it was.

Feliciano took us up the pyramids, showed us traces of the original painted decoration, an adobe brick with a child's footprint, a cave wall with paintings, the rich people's residence, houses, tombs, a large round tina (a bath), everywhere. He told G he couldn't take us to several interesting features because it was too dangerous. This was after he led us into a cave -- the hill on which Guiengola sits is limestone, and it's riddled with caves -- without a flashlight, and with several side caves that seemed awfully big and awfully deep in the feeble light coming from my keychain flashlight. I mean, the kind that you could fall in and seriously kill youself in. Hey! It's Mexico.

Pictures a'coming, folks. It was a pretty damn cool day; we were there from 9:30a to about 2:30p.

Now, we hunt for garnachas.


  • Hi, I was at Guingola in 1995 on my way from recently ravenged San Christobal.Viva la Zapatistas !!...
    After a long road trip from Oregon to Nayarit in my 1962 Suburban, we crossed the country to the Gulf then to the Caribben and returning Via Palenque , A stop in San Christobal, fully taken by the political and local athmosphere, we got VERY drunk,,,
    the next morning we got on the road to the Pacific.
    Anyhoo. the road to the coast is something to see ,, as we decended the Sierra Madre we are looking down on the TOP of the Pacific Range WAY HIGH. About 70k from Salina Cruze I pulled over to ..drain the lizard , went to the front of my old truck and WHAT? the friggen front bumper was about to fall off , I mean it was hanging from the only thread left.
    I thought, wow what would it be like to run over a 1962 steel bumper at 90k per hr ? Not good, Well folks it did'nt take much to send it home so there it is ...Chiapas
    Anyhoo, crossing to isthmus in Abril was Hot , Muther Fuchen Hot.
    OK... to the Ruins.
    NO PLANS that was the rule , no books, no guides, no maps, no clue. Questions at the Pemex ..thats it. As the sun dipps and we drive away from the coast, we are BURNT, TOAST, Beat and hungry. I spot a small wood sign to the right says "Ruinas Guingola". As we had camped at many "Ruinas" in the Yucatan I figuered CAMP ! Well the skinny dirt road that leads up the hill to the PARKING space to Guingola is steep, narrow, and if you are not he driver Fuchen scarry.
    Holy Hell... At the top ,, the sun is setting the view is fantastic and we were ALIVE !!
    Still shaking from not being the driver I saw the trailhead, and as nitetime approached, we decieded to camp till morning.
    Now this is the day before Easter 1995. As we started to prepare food we were damn hungry.
    Well here comes, barreling up the same scarry road is an old pick-up full of locals. We are VERY Burnt, I mean REALLY Tired. As I have learned since, you can rarely resist the invitation from a Mexican.
    We get talking in spanish and the oldest dude there is a visiting Professor of Anthropology from Toluca !! He and the other 6 membars of his family are saying , Vamanos al ruinas ! We say No way dude, it's almost dark , no way, no light. They say go we say no. On goes it till we are walking up-hill in the dark. 9 people and 3 lites. Just as we rounded the narrow rock spot we are saying to each other .. we are fuched. Well quess what folks the moon rises bright and full over the hill to light our way , at this point I have no more questions, I just FOLLOW.
    We come to the rock wall that surrounds the ancient city and our new friend sets all of us down , quiets us all, and proceades to give a prayer to the ancient gods asking premission to enter the sacared city. WOW.. being physically drained and mentally psyched my mind centers and images from frescoes (possibly from Palenque a few days past ) FLOOD through my mind. We entered .. we were taken to the small ball court , made to lay in the bleachers.. now you realize it is night, full moon no artificial light. A history is told. A game is played. Millenium has passed and I still lay on the rocks watching the game in respectfully placed in my head.
    After the game we are taken to the top of the northern temple. Our friend's Primo stands on top of the southren temple. I think cool.. The professor once again quites us and whispers " listen" and on the othe temple the primo whispers in spanish "listen " and we could hear as if he was next to us.
    Next we were taken to the Tumbas where my gringo friends explored and I waited, too spooky for me.
    Then to the big cave behind the southern temple. At this point my elementary spanish fails... well at least fails my brother Bill. We are standing at the enterence to the cave and I am the only one in our party to speak spanish, well at least try to speak spanish. Bill saying < dude I'm toast I dont want to go down there . So I start to question the professor. From my questioning it seemed that the cave opened up the the trail to the truck.... Hardly . We get to the bottom of the long cave and the Mexicans set up camp... I mean for the night..they are planning to spend the night in the dead - end cave. Well folks I am with Bill and Rick. Rick hikes ' bikes skiis and drinks VERY heavy.. He's OK. Bill on the otherhand is a med student and just knows too much. Pretty soon he is suffocating , hypoglycemic , he's fuchen DYING .. DYING in the bowles of the earth in southern mexico, many miles from home. And no shit, blaming me ! Well I did tell him that the cave leads to the truck. Mi culpa.
    Just as Bill is about (in his mind) to perish, the Mexicans notice his dispair and offer him an orange. Holy Hell !! he is gonna live! The three of us crawled out of the cave and followed the path back to the truck , ate and tried to sleep. I know know why the Mexicans spent that night in the cave.. ever heard of the Bot-Fly? Via con Huevos.........L

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