Sunday, January 13, 2008
Since I was a little kid, I've always wanted to go to Mexico City. Kell was traveling last summer so since she was flying from the DR, I ended up flying by myself down to Mexico City. The flight was fairly unenventful. It was a 4 or 5 hour direct flight down to Mexico City. As we were preparing for the final descent, I could see the city limits. Huge. I don't think there's anywhere in Mexico City where you can see the whole city at one place.
I made it through customs, and asked about taking a taxi versus the metro. I was told to just take the metro. I wasn't sure how it would be, as every guidebook and the State page on mexico advises people not to take the metro, or at least be careful about it. And that women traveling alone shouldn't do it. Well, since it was the middle of the day, I thought I could handle it. Needless to say, I went to the front train which is for women and children only and had no problem.
However, at that point I realized I had thrown away the directions to the hostel at Baltimore. I remembered which metro stop I was staying at and just went there. I found an internet cafe, looked up the direction-asked someone where it was and made it to the casa de amigos--the Quaker hostel we were staying at. I dropped off my stuff in our room and headed out to get lunch. I went for a lunch that was less than $2.5o american and was a 3 course meal. The highlights of the meal were the fresh corn tortillas (made to order) and the green sauce. I fell in love with the green sauce. Of course I had to have a licuado. I think I just had a banana one.
I still had several hours to burn until Kelli arrived at the hostel. Our hostel was a few blocks from the museo de revolucion (Museum to the 1910 Mexican Revolution). I ended up on a free tour and got a history of Mexico that was a little different than what I was ever taught. Very, very interesting. Afterwards, I walked around where we were staying, bought some snacks and bottled water and then headed back to the hostel.
Kell arrived back to the hostel and we had a happy reunion. We then went back out and walked around. We metro'd down to the Zocalo and took a look at where the temple of the sun was. The main street of Mexico City down to the Zocalo was emptied of cars and full of protestors. Needless to say, the protests actually had a family feel to them (there were carnival rides for little kids etc) and we decided to just walk back to our hostel since we really weren't that far.
We were both kind of hungry so we ended up getting tacos. The guy charged us about a dollar for the tacos...needless to say, we didn't go back to that vendor. Gringo priced tacos? Lame. We
walked back to the hostel and crashed.
We started out the day with breakfast with the Quakers. Upon arriving at the Quaker hostel the day before, (our mothers were happier we were staying with them) we found out they did a 15 peso desayuno. It was fruit cereal, egg with zucchini and water or coffee. We ate with the Quakers(Hippy Gringos and a few Mexicanos...good discussion) and then took off for the metro. We arrived at the stop for the museo anthopological and then accidentally went the wrong way. We turned around, asked for directions and made it to the Anthropology Museum.
The Anthropology museum in Mexico City has captured my imagination since I was a kid in Vernal. The museum was huge. I'm sure I could go back and still learn just as I did the half-day we were there. There's 23 rooms in the museum. We walked in about half of them. Kell bought a English audio guide which was worthless and I piggybacked onto a tour. We saw so many amazing pieces. It was the first time I ever experienced museum overload between the pieces, the stories, and it all...it blew my mind. The Aztec and Mayan rooms? Phenomenal. Oh yeah, I want to go back.
Anyway, we left at about 2 and got lunch by the "lake." I had an avacado torta (sandwich) which was just so-so. Afterwards, we headed to the Basilica a Guadalupe. Talk about a crazy ol' time. We got there in mid-day (one of the few days it was hot!) and our jaws dropped. There were 5 different churches dedicated to the Virgin; the new church, the old church, a little church on the spot where Juan Diego had the vision and another one that we never went down to see. All of this is on a hill overlooking part of the city. We went into the old church (which had visible earthquake damage) and then walked up the hill to the church which was on the spot where Juan Diego claimed to see the Virgin. In that church, I really liked the murals on the walls. Anyway, before we left, we walked up to the new church to see the mantle where the image appeared. Interesting, it looked just like a 17th Century religious painting. That being said, I'm really glad we went there.
Afterwards, we decided to walk to the plaza de tres culturas. While walking, we realized that we were walking in a part of town that we probably shouldn't be walking in. We found a bus and went to the plaza which was amongst housing developments. It was a little sketchy, but in reality--parts of DC are much more run down. We looked around, and then jumped on a bus and jumped back off at a metro station. We went back to the hostel and Kelli took her clothes to the laundromat and then had dinner and licuados de leche.
We didn't eat breakfast with the Quakers. Kelli was wearing the same clothes for a third day and felt a little embarrassed so we just ate breakfast when we got to the bus station. We took a bus to Teotihuacan . We got there and there was a rope demonstration. One guy was playing an instrument and 4 guys twirled around, being held only by their ankle with rope. We crashed a tour which was in Spanish. I believe it was a free tour. We learned all about Quetzocoatl temple, and the significance of a lot of different things. We learned about other temples and buildings in that structure.
The tour we jumped on was a soccer team of all latinos who were from California. Their coach asked us to spend the week with them watching their games and hanging out. We were tempted but there was other things we wanted to do down there.
We then walked over to the inside of one of the smaller temples. However, there was a group of gringos doing some sort of ceremony complete with ummit was the weirdest thing. It almost looked like a Lesbian Wiccan commitment ceremony. They were chanting and one person would go up to a crack in the rock and lift their arms and chant and then go and kiss their partner. We then went up to the temple del sol-the 2nd tallest pyramid in the americas and third in the world. It was rainy, but pretty cool up there.
Afterwards we walked over to another temple and looked around. Some of the original paintings were barely visible there. We walked up to the top of the Moon pyramid and sat on top for a bit and looked around. We walked over to the Museum of teotihucan which was really cool. There was a model of what Teotihuacan probably looked like and a bunch of artifacts.
Afterwards, we took the bus back to Mexico City and got some tamales at the vendor there at the bus station. Those tamales and hot chocolate rocked. By that time, it was getting kind of late so we went back to the hostel neighborhood to pack our stuff to head to Oaxaca in the morning. We ate 4 for a dollar mini tacos that rocked. Seriously awesome. We then got banana licuados and called it a night.
We got up pretty early, headed to the bus station and realized we were at the wrong bus station. We needed the West bus station to get a bus to Oaxaca so we took the metro to the other terminal on the other side of the city. We got a bus, no problem and while we waited we got some food. As I was eating, I tore a gash into the side of my mouth with my teeth. Not the smartest thing to do, especially in the birthplace of chili peppers.
Anyway, as we were on the bus leaving the city, I saw a truck full of dead, plucked chickens in the bed. No wrapping or anything on them in August...um yeah-made me even that much more suspicious of chicken in Latin America.
The buses down there are pretty cool and comfortable. Three movies were shown. I didn't get much sleep like usual so the movies were welcome. I mostly watched the scenery which was pretty cool.
The pacific side of Latin America from Chile to Mexico away from the equator looks a lot like the pacific side of the United States, except Latin America is often bigger. We passed some pretty steep canyons and jagged mountains. We made a few stops in some towns on the way.
We saw a lot of poverty, cornfields, and desert landscape. We made it to Oaxaca and caught a bus to our hostel. The hostel was 5 dollars a piece a night.
We stayed in a mixed dorm, but everyone there was nice and friendly.
We threw our bags on our beds and then went down to the centro. There was a popsicle/ice cream shop right next to the hostel on the corner and I ended up getting a mango y chile popsicle. That was interesting. Especially with the gash in my mouth.
We walked around, saw more protestors, saw that the municipal building had most of the windows broken on the first level so we didn't get to see the murals in there. We walked around, checked out the cathedral, did a little shopping and then went to eat. As we were walking to El Bicho to eat, it started raining. Hard. We made it into the restaurant and ordered a feast for 6...except there was two of us. Needless to say, it was a memorable, delicious, introduction to Oaxacan food and los moles.
The ruins at Alban seem to be more intricate than the ones at Teotihuacan. We walked over to the far end and on top of the pyramid. Then we noticed the artwork that was still visible on the rocks (I want to say some of this was restored) of men dancing.
The Observatory was closed, probably due to the strikes, but it was still a striking ruin from the outside. We then walked over to the otherside and struck up a conversation with an older gentleman who told me about the mythology of the Zapotec people and then we both bought a clay figurines from him. After we bought them, he kept telling me how they were pieces he found in his corn field.
I didn't believe him, but then he told me more stories about being a tomb raider, about how many, many people raided tombs and Monte Alban and how he had just sold a bunch of pieces to a Californian a few weeks ago. I related this to Kelli later, and we both hope our pieces are fake...
Anyway, Monte Alban was artificially leveled, and is pretty flat. Its on top of a hill that overlooks a mountain range and has two valleys on either side, one looks an awfully lot like Kamas Valley, and the other Ashley Valley(Vernal).
Theres buildings on both sides of the site, and a field and the observatory in the middle towards the far corner. There's a ball court as you enter the ruin. After spending a couple of hours walking around the ruins, we walked over to the museum and spent some time there. We then went back into the city and had tacos at a street vendor's cart. It was one of those meals that you say a silent prayer that you won't regret the meal, but neither of us got sick. Afterwords we went to a prehispanic art museum and then went to dinner.
We once again ordered too much and feasted on seafood. Then we did a little shopping before we went back to the pension.
We got up and went to catch a bus over to Mitla to see the ruins there, and spend some time outside of Oaxaca City. The bus ride took a hour and we rapidly were out in a rural area.
We got off the bus and checked out the ruins at Mitla. The ruins at Mitla were Zapotec, like Monte Alban, and Mixtec. The ruins were ramsacked and then a colonial church was built on top of the largest temple so today, there's a church in basically the middle of the ruins complex. These ruins were more intricate than Teotihuacan or even Monte Alban.
We walked around for a while and then it was about lunch time. Across from the church was several stalls of women cooking food. We got flautas and quesadillas. Both were excellent, and Kelli still talks about the squash flower and string cheese quesadilla we had. As we were waiting for our food, a funeral procession went by.
After we ate, we did some shopping and then headed back to town. We went to Tule, to see the largest tree in MesoAmerica. The Tree was massive, and there was a church built right next to it. We marveled at the tree, had a mid-day snack of enchiladas and shaved ice and then went back to Oaxaca. At Oaxaca, we went around the Cathedral and then ate another large dinner.