Weds, April 9th: After much discussion with
Joaquin, his family, and his friends, we departed Puebla and headed for the capital of
Mexico, Mexico City, otherwise known as Mexico DF or just DF. Supposedly, not all that
long ago, DF was rated the second most dangerous city in the world. Most travellers we
asked for hotel recommendations could not help, as they gave the 25,000-inhabitant city a
miss. The very few that had been, gave it very high marks.
In order to reach the city early, we traveled the 120km on the Autopista, which was
much faster then the Federal road, but also cost $20 ($10/bike). The signage was fairly
clear, but a friendly couple from the Apoyo Vial (some form of roadside service) offered
to lead us through the traffic, first to the zocolo, and then to our hotel. The Hotel
Monte Carlo on Calle Uruguay was recommended by another traveller friend (thanks Jason).
It is located in the center of the city, only a couple of blocks from the zocolo (main
plaza), has large rooms, safe parking inside, and apparently was a favorite hotel for
D.H.Lawrence - not bad for $20! Our first impression of the city is that it is very
clean, safe, and has a very European feel, with its architecture and cobblestone streets.
We like it!
Thurs, April 10th: The Museo Anthropologia is world renowned, and even
recommended by other travellers, so of course we went for a visit. A 15-minute subway ride
($0.20) brought us to Chapultepec Park, followed by a 10-minute walk to the museum. We
spent all day roaming though the various exhibits, which started with the evolution of man
and carried through the various Indigenous Indians of Mexico and the southern USA.
I, like many of my male friends, am not a museum man and I must admit this museum
is definitely worth a visit.
Afterwards while having a sandwich in the park, we encountered the famous Totonac rain
dancers from El Tajin. Usually four, but sometimes up to 12, rain dancers and a
musician all dressed in colorful costumes climb to the top of a 30 meter pole. When
the musician starts to play, the other dancers, attached by ropes to a spinning top piece,
fling themselves off and begin a long upside down spiral decent to the ground.
Fri, April 11th: We spent the day wandering around the city, exploring the
cathedral, and entering many of the churches. Of particular interest, many of the old
buildings and churches are slanted/tilted they are literally sinking into the
ground. The tableland the city is built on is soft, and with Mexicos many
earthquakes, buildings continue to settle lower into the ground each year. Buildings that
originally had a few steps leading up to the entrances are now at or below street level.
The biggest drop known is 4 meters!
We headed to Plaza Garibaldi in the evening. Friday and Saturday nights are apparently
the best nights to see the various groups of Mariachi bands. A traditional Mariachi band
has 8 members, dressed in wonderful costumes with large sombreros, singing and playing
various string instruments and horns. The going rate is US$5 for a song, US$10 for 2, and
US$300 for an hour! There were probably a couple of hundred players hanging around the
plaza. Some were waiting to serenade lovers or birthday celebrants, others combed and
solicited the nearby restaurants, and the last group had individuals scattered along the
streets, trying to catch the eye of passing cars (for a song or for the night). Yes, we
thought they looked like prostitutes
of music. It was a wonderfully
interesting thing to see.
Sat, April 12th: Lalo of Poncho Villa Tours came to our hotel in the
morning, along with his friend Irma. We met Lalo at the Panama - Costa Rica border back in
December while he was guiding a tour, and have been in contact since. We took Lalos
truck out to Teotihuacán, the site of the famous sun and moon pyramids, located about
30-minutes outside of the city. It has some of the most remarkable relics of an ancient
civilization in the world, and dates from 300 B.C. The site, like all the others we have
seen in Mexico, is very large. We spent several hours wandering around the site, including
climbing to the top of the taller (sun) pyramid. The base is at an altitude of 2,300
meters/ 7,500 feet, and from there we climbed some 64 meters / 210 feet up "Ay
Chihuahua", it was exhausting!
In the late afternoon, Lalo and Irma took us to Plaza Ciudadela where we watched
various dance classes (not performers) practicing the Cuban rhythms of the mambo.
Afterwards, a stroll through the artesian market left our wallets a little lighter and our
baggage a bit heavier. We got back to the hotel well after dark, and plunged into an
exhaustive, deep sleep.