It’s hard to say which was more memorable: the adventure of taking public transportation or the Aztec ruins that lie just north of Mexico City. Initially, when we started toward the ruins on the Metro in Mexico City, we thought it would take about forty five minutes to an hour to get there. Teotihuacan isn’t that far away from Mexico City and though we were staying in Coyoacan (southern Mexico City), it seemed that the subway system would be quick, easy and straightforward. We would take the Metro to the Centro del Norte bus station in Mexico City, a place we’d already been before several times to get our bus tickets to Teotihuacan. Then, the bus would take us directly to the ruins.
The public transportation was easy to access. There was a metro station only about 3 blocks from our apartment. It was cheap and fast, but we had to switch subways a number of times to get to the Centro del Norte bus station. This wouldn’t have been a big deal except that Lydian had to pee. She was patient about it at first, but it was a developing issue that evolved as we switched from one train to the next. Before we got on the subway which would take us on our longest trip, we had to find some restrooms.
In order to access the rest rooms, we had to exit the metro station. This meant going up a lot of stairs. We had to buy new tickets to get back on the subway. All of this would not have been a big deal if we hadn’t been encumbered with the thought that we would be flying to Lima, Peru in two days. We were stressed and exhausted (I hate to admit it). We’d already been living in a foreign country for two months and now we were in a completely new city, poised for yet another big transition. All the thinking and stairs and searching for basic things like toilets was getting to us.
But we hopped from one subway to the next, took a potty break, and then got back on. A fat guy plopped into a seat before I was able to snag one. Lydian got to sit for part of the journey, but John and I just stood on the train. It filled up not quite to the same levels that Beijing subways did in the inner city and then slowly emptied out. On one of our last stops, the door didn’t open properly for some reason. There was a chaotic and frantic effort toward prying the door open and Lydian took an alternate route to make sure she got out of the train. We almost got separated from her and I yelled for her just as the train took off.
She was standing right next to me.
We arrived at the Centro del Norte bus station, which has an amazingly well organized line up of bus companies. We walked into the building and turned left searching for the Teotihuacan buses. As promised, they were within easy view, but there was a line. Surprisingly, the line moved quickly and the bus was scheduled to leave just two minutes before we got our tickets (they leave for Teotihuacan every 20 minutes). We hurried to the bus and took our seats, which were tight, to say the least. The man in front of me reclined his chair into my lap.
It was a 45 minute ride.
The bus pulled to a stop a couple of times on the way to the ruins. I listened to the radio playing hits from the 80’s and I was mildly entertained by this. Lydian
put in her headphones and spaced off.
At the first stop, a man with a pony tail and a ball cap stepped aboard with a guitar. He pulled the instrument out of his case and took up a position standing in the aisle right next to Lydian who was seated beside me.
Then he began to play flamenco.
With his butt in Lydian’s face.
Lydian looked at me with a wry smile on her face. The man continued to play for the rest of the ride. Then, he took off his ball cap and asked for tips. We went ahead and gave him one despite the discomfort he caused us. We figured it was a hard gig to try to make a living this way.
We arrived at Teotihuacan and it looked as though the biggest temples (Pyramid of the Sun and Moon) was miles away. We started walking toward it through the large central area. It actually wasn’t that far, but about every 50 yards, there was a wall with stairs leading over it. It was like interval training. But it was good for us. We were just getting warmed up for the climb to the top of the Sun Temple.
We did the obligatory pyramid of the sun and moon climbs. We climbed the big one first, then the shorter one (the Moon Temple). At the top of the Moon Temple stairs, we took a seat on the stairs overlooking the ruins. The sun beat down on us, but it wasn’t unpleasant perhaps because it was winter in Mexico. The ruins were much different than those at Chichen Itza. The ground looked scorched. The setting was less “intimate”. The focus at Teotihuacan seemed to be grandeur.
A Japanese woman was slowly making her up the stairs. I watched her and worried that she would fall. She seemed so at ease on the steep precipice leading up to the Moon Temple.
She came and sat down next to Lydian and started chatting with us in Spanish. Until this trip to Mexico, I’d never realized how many Japanese people speak Spanish as their second language. Apparently, Spanish is easier for them in terms of pronunciation than English.
Keiko talked with us about a variety of things. She was an artist. Formerly, she’d worked as an art teacher. She gave me her card and told me that she owned several houses in Japan if we ever decided to visit the country. She was remarkably friendly and I mused about how cool it was to go to places where random people will sit down and chat with us about random things, in a foreign language. I mean, I don’t wanna talk to everyone in the world about random stuff, but I think it’s interesting that the random people that we do talk to when we travel tend to be interesting and informative. I don’t believe that’s coincidental.
We talked a little about the nuclear power plant problems in Japan. Some other Japanese Spanish speakers from the Escuela Falcon language school had lamented the government’s efforts to cover up this problem as well.
Then it was time to go.
We headed down the central corridor. Up and over. Up and over. Every 50 yards we climbed stairs up and then down.
As with most tourist destinations, the most interesting parts were those that had almost nothing to do with the destination itself. But still, it was worth going and I’m glad we went. Teotihuacan is an impressive set of ruins, but rather than seeming big, the layout made us feel small. From our vantage point on top of the Moon Temple, it was easier to appreciate the grandeur of the place, which is perhaps why many of the photos that people put online about Teotihuacan are taken from this location.