Mexico City is inhabited by more people than live in the entire country of Australia!
So we could not imagine what it was going to be like to visit there. You dont just visit Mexico city, you experience it!
We are so grateful to know Garry who lead us in and out of the city on his BMW 1100GS or the Honda CBR 1000 and Ivonne, who has the most amazing driving skills, took us every where in the van!
On the way into Mexico City and ominous sound began eminating from the rear wheel of the Suzuki. We stopped as soon as possible to inspect and found the chain guard had broken off and was caught up in the wheel. Grant suspects it was damaged from the accident in Xalapa. We pulled it out of the way (with trusty cable ties) and Grant, in true Mexican fashion, repaired it.
Chain Guard Before
Chain Guard After
The first evening in Mexico City we were driven to Down Town and the Zocalo to see the Christmas Lights that decorated the buildings surrounding the square. At a snails pace Ivonne negotiated the traffic which was unusually heavy, allowing us plenty of time to see the scenery and the amazing light show on display.
Trades People for hire at Zocalo
There were alot of people out in the square and even in the side streets. We were surprised to see so many people and families walking about. You always hear about how dangerous Mexico City is, and for the most part, most places in Mexico City are no more dangerous than our experiences in other big cities.
That evening we visited Coyacan, a very arty and trendy suburb of Mexico City, wandering the evening markets, eating icecreams and corn on the cob.
It was a very pleasant introduction to one of the biggest cities in the world.
We made a plan for the weeks activities, scheduling time in for bike work (as we still needed to finish fixing the pannier) and a roast lamb! Something we had been craving for weeks and weeks.
Men at Work
We spent our time in Mexico City visting some of its most famous places such as:
Templo de Mayor - The remains of the greatest Aztec city in Meso-America. Most of it is now under Mexico City, which incidentally is built on an ancient lake.
Snake Head at Templo de Mayor
Cathederal - A beautiful grand church with a huge pipe organ. The whole building is sinking in to the above mentioned ancient lake and tilts. in the middle of the building there is a huge plumb bob that hangs at a very noticable angle as the building moves. While we were there the plumb bob was actually swaying, which meant that the building is moving (sinking actually!).
Zocalo - Traditonal Indian dancers were performing and there were a lot of people milling about (probably trying to steal Grants hands - inside joke).
Dancing Indians in Zocalo
Murals & Buildings - There were lots of them. The huge Diego Riviera mural of the history of Mexico is a truly amazing work or art! The post office is spectacular. The Old Government House is very interesting. Just DON'T touch the hand rails!! (inside joke - sorry if you dont get it!).
Basillica de Virgen Guadalupe - We attended mass and recieved a blessing on our Saint Christopher and Guadalupe medals. There are two Basillica's on the site, the old and the new (as well as a number of smaller chapels). The old is a deteriorating (and also sinking), restoration is underway to repair this beautiful austere hispanic building. The new Basillica is very modern and functional and was a source of great constenation due to its modern design amoungst the Catholic communities. It is estimated that some 7 million christians attended the 12th of December festival for the Virgin at this site. This is the area where the Virgin appeared before an Indian man and told him to tell the church to build a temple here on this site. The Virgin Guadalupe is a unifying force in all of Mexico.
Old and New together
Frida Kahlo museum - Very Cool. The Blue House (Casa Azul) is Frida Kahlos familiy home. Her studio and house is open to visitors and there are her and Diego Riveras paintings on display as well as other displays. Her work is testiment to her talent as a modern artist in Mexico. Grant was disappionted Salma Hyak was not in attendance. Diego Rivera`s collection of pre-hispanic art is on display in the garden too.
Garden of Casa Azul
All extremely interesting. We also had the opportunitiy to visit the Tiangues. Wall to wall street markets and shops where you can buy anything and everything you could imagine, even latches for panniers. There is a section of town called Garibaldi where you can buy Marriachi's! Well hire thier services at least! They all sit around the square in full costume and you can pay them to play a song or hire them for a function or party.
We spent a whole day at Teotihuacan. An ancient city some 50 kms from down town. It was a very intense and enjoyable experience. The Pyramid of the Sun seems to emit an amazing energy when you stand in the centre at the top. The view of the whole site from there is quite breath taking. The museum, dwarfed by the Pyramid of the Sun, is full of interesting information and artifacts from the site. It also contains a model of the whole site as it would have been during its epoch (takes up a whole room!).
Avenue of the Dead
At the stair way to Pyramid of the Sun
Mural in the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl
Afterwards we enjoyed 'almost' authentic Cornish Pasties from Pachuca (not too far from the site). They were delicous and very cheap! Pachuca was an old silver mining town that at one time in the 19th Century was settled and mined by immigrants from Cornwall, hence the legacy of the pasty!
Jules and a Pasty
Garry and Ivonne invited us to spend Christmas with them and their family in Zacatecas, so we all piled into the van and drove north to Ivonnes brother Carolos' house.
We arrived and were greeted by a house full with approximately 40 people. Christmas in Mexico is celebrated on Christmas Eve (Buena Noche). Families gather together and festivities kick off at midnight. We enjoyed a lovely meal of roast meats and vegies.
After dinner the family sang the Posada (the story of Mary and Joseph asking the inn keepers for a room for the night and being turned away and eventually finding someone who let them stay in their barn). The Baby Jesus is placed in his crib in the Nativity scene and then presents are opened. Gifts are usually clothing. Children recieve presents of toys on the 5th of January (the day of the Three Kings).
Grant and Jules bought a piņata (for the kids - of course) and filled it with sweets and peanuts. Carlos strung up a line and the smashing began! Everyone has a go at swinging a stick at the piņata while the onlookers sing a song. You start with the smallest people and work up to the bigger people. Aunty Laila at 85 was very good at it.
Bruce battling the Piņata
Whilst in Zacatecas it was really nice to catch up with our friends Federico and Ernesto. Grant also had the opportunity to meet Trevor from North Korea (Trevor is not his real name - just easier) riding a BMW650 to Tierra del Fuego at around about the same pace as us. Hopefully we will meet up with him along the way.
After three days it was time to head back to the city and make preparations to continue on our journey.
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