We spent the first day of the new year in Oaxaca City at the Monte Alban site. Hotel Francia charges P230 an hour for the use of their van. We flagged a cab driver who took us to the site for P70.
Archaelogists say that the great city on the hill reigned for at least 1,200 years between 500 B.C. and A.D. 750 as the capital of the Zapotecs--the dominant civilization between Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico and the Maya empires of the south. Our guidebook says the name Monte Alban was probably coined by a local Spaniard because of its resemblance to a similarly named Italian hill town.
Postcards of Monte Alban will usually show you a ball court sprawling with green grass. We came during the dry season so the whole site was mostly dry and dusty. We explored the tombs using our map; the excavated artifacts are now housed in the museum by the visitor's center. One of the most impressive is Building J, an arrow-shaped base unearthed generations ago. Monte Alban's chief excavator believed that it served as an astronomical observatory.
By 11pm, we were ready to say goodbye to Oaxaca City and catch our 12:30am UNO first-class bus ride back to Mexico City. It's the same scene at the bus terminal on our first morning in Oaxaca where every member of the family is waiting for their son or daughter to board the bus back to the big city.
We closed the curtains and slept like logs all the way back to Mexico City. Happy New Year.