The past few days I have truly been channelling my inner mountain goat, taking a tour of the Aztec Pyramids on Friday and then climbing a Volcano on Saturday. The views were stunning on both occasions, and I feel like I have seen some of the best sights of Mexico City.
On Friday I was greeted outside my hostel by a lovely little Mexican, who then drove me to the place where we were all meeting to board the mini bus that would take us on the tour. There were 7 other people on the tour – I’d specifically chosen one that was for fewer people rather than a massive bus. Only one woman was a native English speaker, and the other couples were from Peru, El Salvador, and Argentina. I spent the whole day chatting away with them all in Spanish, and they complemented me on my fluency, to my great delight.
The Tour was with Wayak Tours (just in case anyone is going to Mexico City anytime soon), and consisted of 3 stops; La Plaza de las Tres Culturas, the Shrine of Our Lady Guadaloupe, and the Pyramids of Teotihuacan. As we headed to the Plaza, our guide began to give us some history of Mexico city. He was very knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions. The Plaza turned out to be some Aztec ruins in the centre of the city, discovered when they began to excavate in order to build a new apartment block. It is called the Plaza of Three Cultures because it includes the ancient Aztec culture, the new Mexican culture that ended the Aztec rule with the arrival of Christopher Colombus, and the modern day culture of Mexico city.
After the Plaza, we boarded the bus again to go to the Shrine. This is a large area where there are multiple churches built and also the shrine to the Virgin Mary on the spot where she is believed to have appeared in the 15th Century. The Basilica was built there as a homage to the ‘only Queen of the Mexican people’, the Lady of Guadeloupe (Virgin Mary). Unfortunately, following a major earthquake, the original church began to sink at one end and became too dangerous to continue using, and so they build a newer version, which is really quite stunning.
Back on the bus, we headed towards the Pyramids, about 45km from the city. Teotihuacan is the largest site of Mesoamerican ruins still remaining. There are a few temples with the original foundations and even some of the iconic red designs on the walls. The Pyramids of the Sun and Moon Gods stand at either end of the site, with the Pyramid of the Sun standing much taller. The view from the top was amazing, although slightly tricky to reach as it seems maybe the Teotihuacans were very tall people – each step came up to my knee almost!
We reached the Pyramids at the hottest part of the day, and so it was with slight relief that we headed off for some lunch and respite from the sun. I was able to chat to the couple from Peru and El Salvador and get some travel tips from them for later on. All in all, a good trip, made that little bit more extra by the amazing royal blue suit our guide wore!
On Friday morning I got up at 5:30 in order to make it to the meeting place for the Tour at 6:30. To be honest, this wasn’t really a problem as I keep waking up at 4am anyway, which is 10am UK time. We set off in the dark to the National Park where there are two volcanoes, Popocatépetl, which is still active, and Iztaccíhuatl, which means ‘white woman’, referring to it’s snow-capped peaks. Driving in Mexico is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Firstly, there seems to be a complete absence of road lanes, and combined with the bad quality roads and the lack of suspension in the vans, it makes for an exciting journey. I managed to gain air at least twice going over some speed bumps and pot holes, and the final ascent to the foot of the volcano was along winding roads that made me more than relieved to get out of the van at the end!
We started the climb at 3,800m above sea level, and you could certainly feel the altitude! The summit of the volcano is at 5,200m, and we ascended to around 4,300. The views were just stunning the whole way up. In total, we were only walking for about 2 hours, and I would have happily gone further, but you need fancy climbing equipment to go any higher.
And so conclude my Mexican adventures! Obviously there is so much of Mexico I haven’t seen, but I do feel that I got a good sense of the country;
- Highlight: That mango from the market, yum yum yum
- Low point: Being attacked by a moth bigger than my face during a midnight toilet trip
- Lessons learnt: Altitude affects us all kids, even those with a resting heart rate of 42!
Mexico, it’s been a blast, onwards to Costa Rica! I’m really looking forward to getting to Camp Osita where I am based for the next 2 months. Having flown into San Jose today, I can already confirm that this is a beautiful country – there are mountains covered in rainforest, and I can here the birds even now in a thunderstorm! After managing to go to the wrong terminal, arriving in Costa Rica with no phone battery, and getting myself and the uber driver completely lost, I’m spending this afternoon chilling in my Airbnb before my early flight to Puerto Jimenez tomorrow. Let the real fun begin!!