Mexico Pt 4 – Getting to and around Mexico City

Note: As from the previous post, this should have been a single entry. Lets see how far I get this time against accursed WordPress and photo uploads:

Mexico City (or District Federales as it’s known in Mexico, abbreviated to DF, or more confusingly, simply Mexico. In fact, the proper name for the country is the United States of Mexico…) was the next milestone, almost directly east of us. But to get there we needed to cross 2 substantial mountain ranges, the first starting out right from Morelia. It was well into the afternoon that I glanced back to read a roadsign that said ”Morelia 50km”. We’d been climbing nonstop for hours, in fact had we turned around there, we’d been able to freewheel back to withing 4km of Morelia. And it was still another 6km to the summit, making it a hard but rewarding day in the saddle.

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Another day on the backroads
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We had the mountains to ourselves

The other plus of this as the crow flies mountainous assault on DF is that it takes us into the heart of the +3000m high forests that marks the southern terminus of the annual migration of the Monarch Butterflies, from the Great Lakes area in south eastern Canada. Basically they’d come just as far as I had, in about the same time. The sight of hundreds of thousands of butterflies weighing down the branches of trees was awe inspiring and quite humbling.

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A branch covered in Butterflies. Impressive
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But not as impressive as a whole tree in a forest of covered trees
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The park entrance, another ready excuse for some status and stuffs

We yet again dropped out of the mountains to cross a vast valley before the final push up and over into Mexico City. This time a 35km uphill took is to withing jumping height of 3600m, before the long descent into the City. The road was remarkable quiet for its proximity to a metropolis of 20 million people, and within the last 25km we were still speeding through empty and peaceful forrests.

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3 wild horses frolicking at 3500m in the mountains before the City
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A bit of unexpected wilderness 30km before the City.

My first impressions of the city were very favourable, but admittedly these were against a backdrop of very low expectations. We stayed for 2 nights with vintage bike loving Antonio and about be veterinarian Julio. They were Warm Shower hosts living in a grand old flat in a very hip and upcoming part of town, filled but trendy restaurants and bars, the likes of which would fit seamlessly into any global city. (NOTE: A re-read of this statement made me wonder what I actually know about global bars and restaurants. Jack to be honest. I just liked the city OK…) The staple attractions of the city were also of an impressively grand scale: The parks and public spaces, the monuments, the museums, the colonial buildings, the cathedral and squares. The gleaming modern skyscrapers of a financial flavour expelled all doubt that it was a city surviving only on the memory of past heydays. I was simply dazzled and charmed by everything, and reluctantly accepted that a 2 day stay was not doing the city any justice.

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A huge sculpture of light.
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And another urban installation
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We joined critical mass a brought the city to a standstill with a 2km long peleton of bikes. Great way to see the city at night.
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And more art on the main plaza
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Of quite a grand scale
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And a night at the wrestling with out hosts
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Rob even made a guest appearance

In trying to extend my stay I faced an accommodation problem: Our hosts were all leaving for the weekend, and Javier joined Antonio and his girlfriend as they left on a mini biketour south, which fitted in perfectly with his plans – It was now early in December and Javi had decided his holiday needed a holiday. He was heading back to Spain for some time in the snow, a family Christmas and maybe even a couple of weeks worth of work. Being a chef he was in high demand by his former employer it a posh ski lodge facing the looming peak season. Riding together we’d played to our individual strengths and informally accepted different areas of responsibility: I’d plot and navigate the route and Javier would deal with people and charm us into free camping or accommodation along the way. It had been a very fruitfull partnership but now I was on my ace and looking for low, or rather no-cost housing options. A failed attempt at the Casa Ciclista ended with me meeting a random other local cyclist and graphic designer, Armando, who offered me his place to stay for the night. What followed was an unexpected 45min, 20km cross city nightride to his 2 room apartment he shared with his mother. For supper we went to the neighbourhood taco shop, which was heaving on a Friday night. It took almost an hour to receive our order, but it was well worth the wait as we tucked into the delicious morsels. Perhaps the best taco’s a had in Mexico, definitely among the best. Armando and his mother were of modest means, and feeding a ravenous stranger would leave a noticeable dent on their budget, but they flat out refused my offers of squaring up. That night I was offered the makeshift bed normally used by Armando, as he and his mother shared the single bed in the tiny bedroom. I was deeply touched by the selflessness and kindness of complete strangers.

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My bed at Armando's. This was the closest you get to someone offering me the shirt of his back

In the morning I accepted that I’d exhausted my accommodation options and set out to book myself into a hostel. This allowed me the freedom to explore the city at leasure. Even 3 nights was barely enough to scratch the surface, and I’ll let the pictures tell a small part of the story.

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The earliest colonial building were built from the stones of the native temples destroyed the conquistadors.
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In the financial district the future of the city and country looks bright
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The colonial city was literally built on the ruins of the temple. Excavation being a fairly recent development.
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The past was by no means all peace and tranquility
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Burial mask found in the tombs
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The actual Myan calendar stone that caused a stir in 2012
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Olmec's and their take on things
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This mural depicts the main players of the ancient beliefs, who at the end of the day had to be pacified to ensure a good harvest of mielies. I suspect it was just an elaborate ploy to prevent the elite from tending to the fields of said maize
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Some more revolutionary murals
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The national symbol of Mexico: An eagle eating a snake perched on a cactus by a lake. This was the fulfilment of the prophesy of a nomadic Indian tribe and marked the spot where their city is to be built. And as such Mexico City was founded on a lake and is presently sinking ever further into the soft ground. And has a history of getting flooded. And earthquakes. But otherwise, awesome choice.
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Visit to the industrial feeling national library
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Arc dedicated to the Revolution. Spot the bike for scale
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Typical colonial architecture
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We were amazed by a melon sized metiorite locked in a case in California. Here 14 tons of it just sits outside a building, kept company by 3 other slightly smaller stricken galactic nomads.
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One of the Diego Riviera's in the National Palace
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Main Cathedral on the plaza
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The tourist shot
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More art outside the National Theatre
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Trying to capture the glory of the National Theatre. Squat and imposing with refined and soft edges. My favourite building.
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The almost limitless options in Mexican baking. Jack of all trades master of none I found. How I missed Fournos every time my expectations went unsatisfied

Righto. No nice polished ending as this is not the end. Read on in next post.

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