Day 12 (& 13) – Mexico City, no problema

My first morning in Mexico City, and I jump back on the bike to head off to Teotihuacan, the ancient city and pyramids about 45 minutes north of the downtown.  Arriving I grab some extra water as I’ve been warned to do this visit before the sun blazes you to death.

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My first view of the pyramids

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Carved details

The property is immense.  The main allee is 2 km long, and the climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun is 20 stories.  I have to stop several times to catch my breath.  I spend the next couple of hours exploring every nook and cranny.  The only disappointment is that every 100 feet you are accosted by someone trying to sell you souvenirs from portable racks, towels, and trays.  When Rebecca and I toured Angkor Wat in Cambodia you had to run the gauntlet at each ruins site to get past the hockers, but once inside the ruins you were left to enjoy it on your own.  Here they are everywhere, except the top of the pyramids!

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About to start the climb

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Sittin’ on top of the world, well at least on top of the Temple of the Moon

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Getting up was hard, down wasn’t much easier

As the sun is reaching its scorching maximum I’ve done my tour, and smile at the tourists just arriving.  They’re in for heat stroke for sure!

My next stop is to Texcotzingo, the Aztec gardens (at least what’s left of them).  My hosts last night had never heard of the place, and even when they found it online they still didn’t know much about it.  Fortunately I had GPS coordinates for it.  Glad I did, as the last 3 km are completely off pavement on a winding gravel, rock, boulder, and sand horse trail.  GS skills to the rescue, I make it to the top bike intact.

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The bike after off-roading to the Aztec Gardens

I find this site fascinating as the original water channels, holding pools, and terraced garden steps are still in place.  The entire time I’m there I see less than 10 people.  I have the place to myself.

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Remains of the Aztec terrace gardens

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On the way back into the city I stopped for drink. This little guy was hungry so I bought him some food too.

The next morning I’m up early to go see Templo Mayor.  This is a pyramid in downtown Mexico City that was basically torn down to build a Cathedral on top of its original site.  In the last 30 years they have been doing major archeological excavations and preservations to discover just how extensive this ancient complex it.

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Templo Mayor – pyramid under the city

Now, honestly, this is not a must see, but if you’re in the downtown, and you have an hour, go for it.

The next quest is to find the restaurant Padrino’s.  It has a massive living wall installation that I had seen online, but I don’t have an exact address, and asking around downtown nobody seems to know it.  A few times people point me in directions, and a few times they are opposite the previous person.  In the end I accidently stumbled upon it.  Beautiful!

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Padrino’s Living Wall

Then I’m off to the UNAM Botanical Gardens (University).  Another hard to find place, with many stops to ask for directions once on the massive university grounds.  I finally find a security stand and they have a map!!!

The gardens themselves are somewhat underwhelming.  They are university gardens, afterall, so are probably drastically under funded.  Much of the collection is in decline, but perhaps they are going for a more naturalized look?  The most noteworthy thing about the gardens is that it seems to be a  place for local couples to come spend the afternoon ciesta cuddled up together kissing in every quiet corner of the gardens.  This is one thing I’ve noticed about Mexican culture is that public displays of affection are rampant, unashamed, and PG rated at the least.

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Flowering Aloe Vera!

My final stop is Xochimilco, the ancient floating gardens.  Centuries ago this area was a shallow lake, and locals built floating islands from wood, reed grass, and earth.  Nowadays the islands have anchored themselves with all the giant tree roots, and what’s left are canals.  This area is nicknamed the Venice of Mexico.  I hire a boat and off we go.  A few minutes later we’ve left the city behind and are gliding smoothly along flower lined canals.  This is the most peaceful place I’ve discovered since the monarchs, and is a welcome rest from Mexico City.

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The Barcaderia (docks) in Xochimilco

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They really wanted to go for a boat ride!

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The banks of the floating gardens

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Floating garden center

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Geraniums heading to market

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I got to try poling the boat

As I finish my tour a sudden thunderstorm blows in.  I wait it out under a shop awning beside my bike.  Not long later it has subsided to a drizzle, so I throw on my rain gear and make the 45 minute, hellish traffic, ride back to the hotel.  Mexico City has been fine.  Not nearly the hell hole I had imagined it to be.  In fact, quite the opposite (except the traffic).  I’d come back for sure.

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