This trip occurred in 2014. I had written these posts a long time ago on a different computer which I just gained access to again. I hope you enjoy Mexico as much as we did. It is a wonderful place to visit and live.
We woke up and took turns getting ready. I was the late sleeper on this trip, but not by too much. My friend usually woke me up before he showered so I had enough time to prepare to follow after he finished. This way by the time I was back to the dorm, they were done getting ready since it took longer for two people, including a woman, to go through their morning routines. We walked up a spiral staircase to the rooftop breakfast buffet. You never knew what you’d get at these places, from free fruits and oatmeal to just pancakes. This place was buffet style, a tray of eggs, tray of mashed, black beans, fruit, yogurt and cereal. The beans were great; I had to try them even though I am usually not a bean fan. When you visit somewhere, you should eat what they eat and today it was beans. I poured myself a cup of very bitter coffee and added milk. We chatted about the day’s activities, while a cool breeze blew past us. I enjoy hostels, there is always a lot of travelers and they are generally very friendly. I’ve overheard plans being made after people met to hang out at each other’s home country.
Today we were going to the pyramids outside the city, Teotihuacan. We talked with the hostel desk clerk and he immediately told us which train stop to get out at, look for a specific bus, directions he likely told countless others. Our first stop was to get water for the day at 7-11. We ended up using the same liter bottles the whole stay in the City thanks to the hostel’s large water dispensers. We weren’t taking any chances drinking from water fountains or any faucet water. The Zocolo train stop was a couple blocks away and we were soon feeling the heat of the tunnels. Actually after watching some trains come into the station, I am not sure if they are really trains, the compartments were sitting on ten huge truck tires, so maybe this was more of a bus? At every train station, there was always a couple making out either at the platform or on the ride, sometimes both. I saw many same sex couples making out on trains, at the stations or just holding hands. No one gave any mind.
We bought a full day pass to and from the pyramids, but when you buy a ticket on the bus, be prepared to stop. I’m still not sure how these buses work, we stopped at places there is no way marked as a bus stop, hell we stopped on a highway to pick up a guy. Seemed like if you were walking and waved to a bus, they would stop and then negotiate a fare based on where you were going, not necessarily the pyramids. We drove into the next district or municipality; drop off and pick up more people. Also boarding at every occasion were the snack vendors. Usually nuts, candies, and pastries were offered as the hawker walked the aisle front to back. Even on the trains, there was someone trying to sell you something.
The pyramids were 30 miles outside of the City so it took over an hour with all the stops. It reminded me a lot of all the small towns you’d drive through in west Texas, except they were all right next to each other here. We all departed the bus and walked quite a ways to enter the pyramids. We had to walk through the gift shop to enter the grounds, which also are very spread out. I believe its right around a mile from one end of the ruins to the other, lots of small stone structures dotted a very clear main path in the middle. To one side, there was an area that looked like a playing field of some sort as it was a large rectangle and what to me were dugouts on either side of the field for people to watch or wait to play. Sight line was at field level. Most structures were roped off so you couldn’t further damage them, the weather was doing a good job already. Lots of crumbling rocks, some places that no longer looked safe due to erosion, bore the age of this place. Still, you had to hand it to them, they built a large city with rocks thousands of years ago and it was still here. They created homemade concrete many centuries ago and it was still holding.
The largest pyramid was scale-able, but the way up was stairs. Nearly 90° incline was negotiated aided by a chain. Many skipped this due to fear of falling and I wonder how many have taken a header on this steep climb. Once scaled, it was for sure worth the view of the grounds. Other than mountains, this was the highest place around so you could see a bit of the City in the distance as well as rest of the ruins and mountains. As I walked around many were short of breath and one woman barfed due to the steep climb up and smog. Or maybe she had eaten too much?
Walking around the ruins were hawkers of all sorts of souvenirs. Jewelry, candy, pottery, and jaguar growlers were sold at make shift stands or by people walking the ruins. The wood was intricately carved into the shape of a jaguar’s head; an open back was used to blow air into creating a rrraaaaaaarrrraaarrrr sound, like a jaguar. Of all the usual junk souvenirs I want to buy but don’t, not buying this one is a regret. I’ve never seen this instrument since and I can imagine the fun of playing it for people or scaring them a bit, hiding in the shadows. They even painted a jaguar face onto the front for extra jaguar.
I fell asleep on the bus ride back, which took a lot longer than the ride to pyramids due to even more traffic and stops. The bus stopped several times on the highway, picking up and dropping people at random locations. I gather things were based on mileage and so long as the bus had an empty seat, they’d stop until it filled up. Our bus slowly crept along during the middle of the afternoon, it wasn’t even rush hour traffic, and this was just 2 o’clock in an overcrowded city. We wondered if we could just have the bus take us to our next destination!
We caught another train to the western part of the city. My travelers were Catholic and wanted to see another cathedral, or was it a basilica? I’m not sure I know the difference between the two.
We were headed to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I was ok with it as churches are old, ornately decorated, full of locals and free. I am into all these things when traveling. Walking up to the doors, we saw a lot of people knee crawling their way to the cathedral. There are many whose feet have never touched the floor of this church as a lot of people would walk to the threshold, cross their hearts (hope to die) and fall to their knees for the rest of the service. They were in the middle of a small wedding, I think it was, and that’s when I looked at all the stained glass and statues. Now I really understood the image on the backs of trucks, tattoos and flags, it was Lady Guadalupe.
A long, winding flight of stairs outside the main cathedral lead you to small chapel. Wow, everything was so bloody here. Lots of blood streaking down Christ’s body, head, hands, side and feet. The place actually felt like a horror movie set, it was intense.
I didn’t stay long inside, mainly due to the great view of the city just outside, but also due to the violent images. It was a long way up to the top and I noted that at nearly every level or floor, there was a food place of some sort or souvenir shop. The walk down was more pleasant, as it past flowing waterfalls and fountains with more statues of Guadalupe.
We then made our way to a restaurant for tacos. The food here in the City was similar to US Mexican foods in some ways. They had tacos, beans and rice, but what they don’t do is add vegetables or cheese. All the tacos I had were as they were described: chicken, steak, pork in a corn tortilla, nothing else. No lettuce, tomato, onion or sour cream. They do not give you free chips and salsa, maybe pickled carrots, peppers. They love Coke in México so that’s always an option at meal time. All the other tables in the restaurant had many empty bottles and it seemed that most people just ordered two at a time they drank them so fast. I did see in some convenience stores, soda was poured into a baggie with a straw. The most popular choice for beverages was reusable bottles. You’d see stacks and stacks of red plastic crates full of bottles to be returned sitting out front of most restaurants.
I really wanted to catch a wrestling match while in town and luckily in the train station we found a computer room to research options. We asked the attendant if he was into wrestling and he knew of the arena that hosted events nightly. He may have confused our inquiry as we initially got out at another event complex hosting rock music in a not so good part of town based on his directions. I only say that as there were less people around and it was not well lit. We had to snake through an open market, sometimes walking on the street to pass by the vendors. Another train to a different part of town led us to a large complex that took up half of a block. Outside the arena were taco ladies and mask sellers. We procured tickets to the match and I picked up a very excellent luchadore mask that was basically a steer’s face with long horns jutting out of the top.
The ticket prices were more expensive the closer to the mat you sat. We picked some seats on the 2nd level so we could see everything. On the far side of the arena was a long runway where each wrestler made a grand entrance with music and fireworks. It was a quite a spectacle as each luchador had their own personality and style that shown through. Not all of them wore masks, most didn’t wear them, to my surprise. Some smiled and high fived everyone, others were combative and flexed their muscles and middle fingers to boos from the crowd. The crowd also actually hissed at some of the wrestlers, mostly the female ones. They cheered the loudest for a large women with long, dark hair, dressed all in black. She sat on people and generally did whatever she could to perform moves that showcased her wide ass. Every event this night was tag team, from duos to quartets. All the matches followed the same format: each team took turns winning, each wrestler got about ten minutes of winning time where they showed off their moves. One of the teams would clearly be the most popular based on cheers and that was the team that won. It was a great time and took me back to watching wresting as a kid.
We hustled to the train after the match as it was getting to be after 10. We popped into a store where I bought a couple beers and took them up to a balcony on a lower floor of the hostel. We talked a bit while a guy slept or was passed out on a chair on the other side of the balcony. We watched a drum circle with dancing happening below, near the cathedral. Mexico City was loud, there was always something going on, a parade, musicians playing, cars honking, ambulance sirens blaring. Nearly every car was blasting tunes, there were devices of all sizes and age in every store, too. People were out at all hours too, full families with kids in tow, all walking around the plazas at 11, midnight, usually eating ice cream without a care in the world, a smile on all their face.
Zocolo when I visited.
Zocolo 2 days before visit. Read up on why they were protesting.