Well, after 6 weeks of being “Chilangos”, as Mexico City residents are called, we’ve begun to settle into life here. It hasn’t been easy, but Claudia’s boss did cushion the blow by providing a furnished apartment with most of the bills paid – or you could say that you, the tax payer, did that for us. Thank you. However, even with certain things taken care of, life is strange here. We are in the middle of the frustrating process of discovering how Mexico City culture and its infrastructure work. We are also in the middle of the tropical rainy season with cyclones heading up the west coast regularly. And when they say rainy season here, they mean it. We really didn’t expect cold weather here but Mexico city sits at 7200 feet above sea level and it can can get downright chilly when it rains here – even in summer.
Transportation is interesting. Actually, we are close enough to everything we need – including Claudia’s office – to get there on foot. Taxi’s are like any big city. You have to learn which ones are safe and which ones are not a good idea. Here, the “safe” taxis are called “sitios” which depart from fixed and well known locations while any taxi you might flag down on the street is considered questionable. While I’ve heard that many times, I see thousands of Mexicans riding around in the common “non-Sitio” taxis every day. We’ve done buses and the subway here many times in the past and have had no problem. Claudia is learning to drive here and is doing quite well – at least when I’m not in the car. Driving here is frightening to say the least. We learned that freeway exit signs provide absolutely NO warning. No anticipatory “exit for Main street in 2 miles” signage seems to exist here. When you see the exit you want, you better be in the correct lane and exit immediately or face getting lost – which we did several times yesterday trying to get out of the city recently.
We traveled to Tepotzlan a few weekends ago. It’s a small mountain village with cobblestone streets and hundreds of restaurants and bars and a famous pyramid about an hour and a half drive from our apartment. Everyone in the town that has a patch vacant ground large enough to park a car offers that space for 20 – 30 (13 pesos=$US) pesos for the day. We found a great spot which was a small hotel with a wonderful restaurant next door and friendly, informative hosts. After a brief conversation and armed with some good advice, we set out for the pyramid. Here’s a good article if you are interested in the town. http://www.bestday.com/editorial/tepozteco/
We arrived at the main street to find out that there was a celebration going in progress. Literally thousands of people were in town, most of whom seemed to be climbing up to the Pyramid. The pyramid, called Tepozteco, lies at the end of a short hike which climbs straight up what seemed like about 1,500 vertical feet with absolutely no flat spots. Metal stairs were installed at one point where a vertical rock face would have stopped most hikers. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/mexico/south-of-mexico-city/tepoztlan/events/religious-spiritual/fiesta-del-templo
Hundreds of vendors lined the street approaching the pyramid trail and even extended a good way up the trail – until it became too steep. We sampled some food which included an amazing quesadilla (unlike anything I’ve had in the states) and something called a “hurache”. Hurache is a type of sandal or shoe in Mexican Spanish and are typically woven leather sandals with rubber (sometimes used tires) soles. The type you eat look just like a shoe sole but it’s actually wonderful corn flour stuffed with beans and covered with a variety of meats and vegetables. Unbelievably delicious.
Another weekend trip was right out of the south end of the city. We climbed Ajusco, an extinct volcano that forms the south western flank of the federal district. It’s a beautiful peak. There no marked trail heads but with the help of a local taco shack owner (and kite salesman) we got a great secure parking spot and directions up the mountain. Well, we ended up bushwacking but he did point us in the right direction – more or less. The climb was straight up from about 11,000 feet elevation up to 13,000 feet. A 2K foot climb usually isn’t that big of a deal but the altitude turns it into a real challenge. The dog didn’t have any problems. Check out the mountain at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajusco
Back in Mexico city, we’ve already found a great taco joint and a great pizza joint with a wood fired oven – both within a couple of minutes walk from the apartment. Grocery store is around the corner and believe it or not, Sams Club is within walking distance as is the hospital. My Spanish is starting to come back and I think we are going to be ok here. Even the dog is starting to like the place I think and she’s learning Spanish too. Drop us a line by email and let us know how you are doing.