28 May, 2008

Hiking to La Fortalezza with 12 cans of Tecate, some chicharron and good company

This past Saturday, after painting the town quite red in Oaxaca, the roommates, my good friend and partner in crime Steven Brusse and I went to Mitla to visit a local site simply referred to as La Fortalezza. After checking in with a friend and going home to change into our fancy archaeology field clothes, the girls and I met back up with Steven in el centro and set off on our hike--purchasing beers and water along the way to compliment the food previously bought in the market by the good dutchman. When going on a serious hike several considerations need to be taken into account when choosing a beer--namely, what won't weigh me down severely and make what should be a pleasant though somewhat grueling hike into a short trip to hell. The answer--latas! (cans!). And in this case, the only solution was 2 six packs of Tecate...oh joy, but cold and better than nothing.

After loading up on beer and water we headed out, weaving our way through town with La Fortalezza always within sight and the occasional pause, guess and nod from Steven to let us know that we were going in the right direction. Passed two cute puppies along the way, one of which Meg and I tried unsuccessfully to kidnap for the lab but alas, it was fuzzy and fast. Sigh. Anyways, continued walking over fields and through cacti and other such things till we arrived at the base of the rather immense hill and it was pointed out that the white cross--er, not prehispanic obviously--was our goal. And la Fresa groaned, but I willed her with my mind to be a woman and take it, and she behaved for the rest of the trip up.

Again, it was pause, guess and nod from Steven as we made our way up, but as I wouldn't have know how to get up there it was all right with me, even if he did lose the trail apparently at some point...though I did joke that I would never let him navegate my ship...ya know, the one I never plan to own one day. It was about a half hour of hiking before we reached the white cross--still helluva lot easier than the torture up the hill where my site was--and our first point of interest. The cross had a ton of offerings in front:Candles, flowers, money, broken bottles of mezal and cacao beans, all very non-Catholic, which was cool. Anthropology in action, so to speak.

We continued on our way, passing through the first series of walls: and then the interior ones to reach what felt like the inner sanctum of the site. I immediately headed for shade and grabbed a cool spot while the others arranged themselves around the rock and under the shade. We downed water fairly quickly and then opened some beers--always in that order, mind you or you will end up in a bit a trouble fast as I learned to tragic but hilarious results when I graduated in 2005--and chowed down on fried pig skin, salsa and tamales. Tasty. Chilled for a bit then hiked around the site checking out the incredible vistas all around and some of the features, that which we could see under all the plant cover, all of it very sweet and cool. One could even see standing adobe walls.

Steven chilling with beer, an archaeologist's best friend.

Standing adobe walls...neato!

Incredible vista #1.
Incredible vista #2.

At one point we came upon another offering...Steven pointed out the cacao beans, flowers and velas (candles) and then I thought he said "pennies" and I was like oh cool, american pennies at an offering site. "Pennies?" I queried...but oh no. Clarification..."panties". Yep, panties. Two, in fact--one black and the other a bright neon orange. Great. Wonder what they were asking of the gods in that instance. Anyway, kept walking around and checking out the site before heading back to the shady spot and having one more beer. Around 5 or so decided it was time to head out, and this time the way down was a lot easier than going up...not simply in terms of the mechanics of up vs. down but in the simple fact that we finally had the right trail and it was a simple matter of hopping from one rock to another really and we were down before I knew it.

All in all a good 2 hours spent in pleasant company at an awesome site where there weren't any annoying tourists, poorly done reconstruction or annoying signage. Just two archaeologists, a Fresa, a biomedical illustrator and some beers and food. Good times. And to sign off, here is Steven acting the part of the explorer.

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