Backpacking Mexico 2005
I took a look at this travel blog post about backpacking Mexico again in 2017. The first thing that I realised, is that this must have been the very first travel blog post I ever wrote! The second thing, is I realised my writing style has changed over time. I was left with a choice. I could rewrite the post, or perhaps just tidy it up a little. I've decided to take the latter approach, as I actually found it interesting reading back on my backpacking Mexico experiences. For example, I had completely forgotten that my backpack didn't turn up! Here then, are my mainly unedited experiences backpacking Mexico in 2005. For a more updated version of things to see when backpacking Mexico, check this out – what to see when visiting Mexico.
The journey to Mexico
Buenos tardes!! My trip started at Great Doddington Working Mens Club, where I had to enjoy/endure a Bush Pigs gig whilst waiting for a lift to the airport. After they had finished playing to an incredible cross section of the gene puddle, I helped my brother pack up, and at 01.00 am we were on our way to the airport. I managed to grab a couple of hours sleep in the waiting hall, and then booked in for 05.15. Caught the plane to Madrid and then the connecting one to Mexico City with no major hassles.
The 13 hour flight was a bit boring, with far too few food breaks for my liking, but you can't have it all!! Breezed through customs, and then waited for my luggage. And waited. And waited. You know how every time you wait for your luggage, you have this nagging suspicion it is never going to come, followed by the joy of seeing it trundle along? Well, I just didn't get to feel the joy this time! Seems that some bright spark had decided to send it on to Barcelona for me. There wasn't much that anyone could do about it, so I filled in the forms, and headed into the main airport arrivals section with the promise that my backpack would be delivered to the hotel the next day.
Getting from Mexico City Airport to the Centre
In Mexico city airport, there are two stands from which to book a taxi :- pro taxis and one marked authorisad taxi, so I went with that one, and it cost 125 pesos to the hotel. Hotel Isabel is a very big old place, with tall ceilings and large, spacious rooms. I'd prebooked a single room with bathroom for five nights at 200 pesos which is pretty good value for a capital city. Ok, there are cheaper places, but sometimes its a false economy to book somewhere dirt cheap for the first few days. It's much better for me to get over jet lag and into the swing of things in my own space and at my own time.
So, quick list of the stuff I had with me. Toothbrush and toothpaste, laptop, and camera. Bugger. Luckily, the room had towels and soap, so that solved my immediate problems, but I had no fresh clothes, and I'd already been in mine for over 36 hours. Hold on, what's that at the bottom of my hand luggage… Lynx deodorant!! You beauty!! With the power of lynx, I'd be able to keep the same clothes on for days!!!..and then I fell asleep.
First Full Day In Mexico
Day 2. Nice breakfast at the hotel, and wandered into the zocola (the main square in Mexican cities). Made a telephone call to check on my backpack, and they said it might be with me the following day. Oh well. At the Zocola, I bought a two day pass for the tourist bus, which does a route of all the major sites. A word of warning. If your backpack containing your sunblock and aftersun is lost, and you have no hair, don´t ride on an open top bus for three hours, else you might go a touch red!! Had lunch, bought a razor blade, decided to veg. Did a lot of thinking about what to do if the rucksack was permanently lost, and was saved the worse case scenario when it arrived later in the evening. Oh, after-sun and clean pants!!!
Sightseeing in Mexico City
Day3 First stop was the Templo Mayor, practically the only Aztec ruin left within Mexico city itself. I won´t say that it was the most outstanding site that I've ever visited, but it was interesting all the same. The museum showed just how completely the conquistadors levelled the Aztec empire.
Back onto the tourist bus, and I saw a demonstration being carried out by a thousand men in their swimming trunks. Not quite sure what that one was all about, and quite frankly I was a bit worried to ask! Got dropped off at the Museo Nacional de Antroplogia, and spent a fair few hours wandering around it. Its an amazing museum, which focuses on the major meso-american civilisation and cultures. A must see, and I recommend hiring the electronic guide to get a bit more out of it.
Visiting Teotihuacan Pyramids
Next day was Teotihuacan, and getting there via the Mexico city underground was an experience, especially during rush hour. It only turned into a rugby scrum twice down there, but my height advantage saw me through. Anyway…
At the height of its power and influence, Teotihuacan must have been the most imposing city in the Americas, with a population suggested to be anywhere between 80,000 and 200,000 people. It is doubtful whether those people would have lived in the religious area which we now know as Teotihuacan, but they would certainly have lived in the surrounding countryside and paid tribute to the centre.
Building the Teotihuacan Pyramids
Building started in the area as early as 600BC, and the pyramids which are now the sites dominating feature were likely to have been completed by 200AD. The Teotihuacan civilisation's influence can be seen in other sites , who would have been trading partners, located in what are now modern Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.
As with all great civilisations though, decline was inevitable. Whether through over farming, climatic change, social upheaval, war or all those things, by the time of the Aztecs Teotihuacan was a ruin full of mystery. To them, it represented a holy place from a long forgotten era, shrouded in myth, and it was they who gave it the name Teotihuacan, or ‘The Place Where Men Became Gods’.
Although the Temple of the Sun is the largest and most eye catching structure on the site, I believe the Temple of the Moon to be the most important one. The 2 km long ‘Street of the Dead’ heads directly to the Temple of the Moon and not the Temple of the Sun, and Moon ceremonies were in all probability held more often than Sun ceremonies.
There was very little shade at Teotihuacan, but it was good to rest in what there was, and think that 2000 years ago some ancient builder took time out here too. I wonder if he knew what he was building, and that it would last for so long? After a while, it was time to move on and return to the hotel, although its splendour would always stay with me.
A bus to Oaxaca
The next day, it was time to continue the backpacking Mexico experience, and catch a bus to Oaxaca (pronounced oWhacka). Sweet, no worries. On arrival in the city, I jumped into a cab and went to Hostal Don Mario. It was a bit of a shambles, but the people there were friendly enough.
The next day, it was off to a tour of…
I took a tour to Monte Alban, as I wanted to see if having a guide would be any better than just reading about a site and then ‘doing it’ myself, and as I thought he was pretty good, it was money well spent. This site is set on a flattened out hill top, with impressive views over the valley below. Whoever created the site must have commanded a huge workforce to build the place, which involved levelling the ground and raising the buildings without the aid of the wheel or beasts of burden. Again to keep the city supplied must have involved a lot of work, as with no naturally occurring sources of water, it would have been carried up and stored in vast urns during the dry season.
Thoughts on Monte Alban
Unlike Teotihuacan, with whom the city had trading links, there were no colossal pyramids, but rather smaller (still pretty big though!!) temples. One of the most interesting parts of the site, was the area in which stone tablets called ‘the dancers’ were found, depicting ‘Olmec’ characters in various poses. The Olmecs have distinctively African features, and mystery surrounds their origins as does the meaning of the stone tablets. To some, they are a medical textbook, showing birthing positions and deformities. To others, they are sacrificial victims, prisoners, or dancers. I go with the medical textbook theory.