Saturday, March 21, 2009

When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with mars

March 21st. The first day of spring and time for new beginnings. So when we woke up, there was no more crankiness about Mexico City because we weren’t spending the day in the city. Instead we were joining what Lonely Planey calls the throngs of new-age hippie types at Teotihuacan for the celebration of the vernal equinox. Today was a big thing at Teotihuacan almost as big as the site itself. Its 83 square kilometers where once home to over 100,000 Aztecs over 2,000 years ago.

But to get there we first had to navigate the gigantic Terminal Norte Bus Terminal. And when I say gigantic it was easily the size of any airport terminal if not bigger. With the help of a friendly counterperson we finally found the tiny Teotihuacan Bus Line and purchased our tickets ($3.30 each) for the hour long bus ride. I entertained myself by playing that international game peek-a-boo with a young girl in an adjacent seat while Adrian snored away beside me.

Traffic was stop and go with the bus occasionally going rather than stopping. Eventually it stopped going completely and I noticed many people getting off. I asked the mother of the young girl if this was Los Piramides and she replied yes and told me that they were to the right and then straight ahead. But her instructions weren’t needed as once we got off of the bus we were swallowed up by a sea of people and pulled in that direction along the highway. Both sides were lined with vendors selling everything from whistles to batteries to hubcabs to all sorts of food. And of course, water. We’d brought our own tap water filtered using our handy UV steri-pen (another awesome purchase that will help us cut down on the number of water bottles we're using in our travels) but ice cold water sure was tempting as we walked 1 kilometre down the scorching tarmac to the ticket booth.

The long walk gave me time to check out the crowd. I’d expected a bunch of international dreadlocked Burning Man escapees and while there were one or two of those, the crowd was mostly locals dressed almost exclusively in white with red sashes. Some were wearing ankle booties covered in shells that jingled when they walked and a few others had feathered headdresses. It felt more like a traditional gathering than a new-age hippie thing. In fact I’ve seen more dreadlocks in Trinty Bellwoods than I did this day.

By the time we reached the entrance, we had already been walking for an hour and both needed to pee and eat – not at the same time of course. I joined the queue at the ladies’ while Adrian unsympathetically declared his gratitude at being a male. But I got my revenge when he couldn’t find the men’s until we walked another 500 metres. Evacuation complete, we began to take in the sites.

While we couldn’t see the pyramids yet we did see a giant stripped tree trunk with 6 guys at the top hanging on to it for dear life. Wait, that would have been me. These 5 guys were hanging off of it nonchalantly before leaning back and allowing themselves to be suspended by rope tied around their ankles. While the man in the middle played a tune on a whistle and stamped the bells on his feet, the others swung around recreating the old Aztec activity that I’d seen painted on museum murals in Mexico City. It was pretty darn cool.

Just beyond that was a giant sunken square called The Citadel. Down below traditional dances were being done in large circles. The first was the largest and also the least formal – any one could join and many did, seeming to know all the steps. But beyond them were a bunch of smaller more formal circles. Everyone in these was fully decked out and performing salutations to the four directions and then finally the sun. Around the perimeter, spectators kept a respectful distance but likewise raised their arms in each direction. And when each group was done a new troupe? tribe? replaced them and started the ritual all over again.

It was now time to make our way down the Avenue of the Dead to the Temple of the Sun. But when we saw the 2 kilometre stretch in front of us we made a small detour into the overpriced restaurant back at the gates. The menu was… interesting – pasta with ant eggs, fried grasshoppers, and corn fungus. Having skipped breakfast our stomachs weren’t up for the challenge so we stuck with the tourist menu of soup, chicken and cake. A wise decision I think.

Now fuelled we began the long trek to the Temple of the Sun. It’s the biggest of the two temples at Teotihuacan, in fact it’s the third largest temple in the world, standing a whopping 250 feet tall and just about as wide. And all of it seemed covered with people. Not only were there they looped all the way up temple but it also looped around three sides of the base. And the line wasn’t moving. A quick guesstimation was that it would be at least 2 hours to get to the top, 2 hours of standing in the blazing sun. “Sod that” was Adrian’s response.

Instead we continued walking to the Temple of the Moon. It’s smaller but there were no line ups. Good thing because climbing that sucker was scary. Each step, (actually they were more like ledges because they were at least two steps tall) was an effort and the incline was incredibly steep. But we made it to the top which oddly was the one place we hadn’t encountered any water sellers, but the place we needed them the most. We snapped a few picks, took in the amazing view and then began the more treacherous trip down. Thankfully, there was a plastic-covered cable to hold on to. I lined up behind a white haired lady which I thought would give me a good excuse for going slow. No dice, as she was one of the fastest ones going down, leaving most of us in her dust. And I think the climb down was worse than the climb up – or at least that’s what the muscles in my thighs told me.

It was now 4pm and to beat the crowds vying for the last buses we decided to head back into the city. Rather than retrace our steps we took a different exit and walked down a road that skirted the outside of the park. It was actually shorter and had a bit of shade and used by as many horses as people. But it was also lined with folks selling delicious ice cold water (no water was ever more delicious), but also more of those stupid whistles (no sound was ever more annoying). Note to self: never ever buy a child a whistle. Ever.

Exhausted we easily found and caught the bus back to the city. Once at the hostal we collapsed on the bed and treated to ourselves to a traditional Aztec meal, that’s right McDonalds. Then watched Frida on the computer before falling into our deepest sleep to date.

(p.s. sorry for the back log in these posts - the slow internet connection meant uploading photos was taking forever. I'm trying to catch up now. Also I noticed that google reader just dumped the last 8 updates on there so cross your fingers that the rss feed is working now.)


Donna and Neil said...

"never ever buy a child a whistle. Ever."

Correction - buy a child either a whistle or a drum if you want to really annoy it's parents and you want to be evil!

Probably wise you stuck to the tourist menu for lunch - those bugs play havoc with your tummy not to mention their legs get stuck in your teeth! hahahaha!

Seems like you are having fun...hope you are both ok and travelling is living up to your expectations!


liz and adrian said...

i don´t know if i can be that evil. the last whistle almost found itself lodged in the throat of a toddler.

i´ve since seen all those delicacies on menus around mexico - so i guess people eat them and enjoy them but not me - well not yet and probablly not ever.

Deidra said...

Thanks for mentioning the Steri-pen. I've looked at them and thought it would be great for our own travels but my husband is a bit unsure.

Have any more information you can share about it ti help him out?

Does it fit okay in your water bottles or do you need to sterilize in a different container?

liz and adrian said...

Hi Deidra,

The Steri-Pen was good. Although now that we're in Tulum the water is still quite salty so we've not been using it (just buying bottled water while we're here).

It fits in in any water bottle - however it didn't work in our metal bottle that we brought. i think it needs to have light passing through. There are two options - one for half and one for full litre bottles.

We've got the one that runs on batteries (the cr- something camera batteries which are harder to find and a bit more expensive but last longer and take fewer). There's one version that takes 4 aa batteries and yet another that has a solar powered charger. It doesn't work on ice cubes or any other liquids. But it's small and has good reviews.

If you don't mind the initial expense it's quite handy. Definitely not a must-buy but a really good one if you don't mind spending the money.