Monthly Archives: January 2014

Sleeping with Volcanoes

It was getting late in the day when we started the climb up Iztaccihuatl.  This mountain  is the third highest in Mexico and the climb would take us alongside the active volcano Popocatepetl (Popo for short).  There is a refuge cabin at about 4700 m elevation (15,400 ft) that mountaineers use as an overnight stop on their way to the peak. That was our target for the night.  Although we were leaving late, the friendly staff at the visitor’s centre assured us that we could make it there before sundown. So off we went.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_0289

Unfortunately, the late start and the effects of altitude meant that we didn’t make it in time. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With headlamps on we tried our best to follow the red dots on the rocks that marked the trail, but after an hour or so of this we decided it was time to stop.  The steep climb, the uneven terrain and the high altitude meant that we could hardly take five steps before we needed a break. We knew that we must be close to the cabin, but it was getting too dangerous to keep going, so we found a flat spot to sleep for the night. The night time views of the city Puebla in the distance were really incredible from our vantage point.  And the nearby volcano, Popo, was clearly visible, it’s smoke plume glowing red due to the lava in the caldera below. IMG_0294

It was a bitterly cold night and we hadn’t carried our tent because we were planning on sleeping in the cabin.  So after brewing a pot of tea, we huddled together and waited for the morning, hoping to get at least a little sleep.  Awake for most of the night and unable to get my feet warm I remember thinking, “Screw this, it’s time to get back to the beach as soon as we get off this mountain.” IMG_0295Cuddle puddle at 15,000ft 

It’s amazing what a sunrise can do to boost your sprits though.  As soon as the sun peeked over the horizon we were up trying to bask in it’s warm glow.  Everything was more beautiful in the light of the new day, and with a fresh pot of tea on the boil and some cheese quesadillas in the pan we were a lot happier and once again able to enjoy the beautiful views and laugh about our horrible night.  It’s amazing that all of this is only about 70 km as the crow flies from Mexico City.  IMG_0305 IMG_0303

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_0316 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With breakfast in our bellies and some warmth returning to our bones we decided it was time to head back down to the van instead of continuing further up the mountain.  IMG_0329 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We said our final farewells to the smoking Popo and set our sights for the beach, and some warmer weather.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_0336

Puebla and Cholula

“Una noche mas, por favor”.  We’ve used this phrase quite a lot over the past week or so. It means “One more night, please.”  We didn’t plan to spend that much time at the trailer park here in Cholula, but we kept finding reasons to stay.

We initially camped here as a base for visiting the nearby city of Puebla. We caught the bus to and from the city and spent a couple of days checking out the cool colonial Spanish architecture, wandering the markets and lounging at cafes.

IMG_0024_2

IMG_0037

IMG_0046

IMG_0051

IMG_0070

IMG_0072

Actually, the main reason we came to Puebla was for the Monday night Lucha Libre action. After watching Nacho Libre in the van one night a few weeks ago, we all agreed that this was a must see while we’re in Mexico.  And we weren’t disappointed.

IMG_0084_2

IMG_0086

IMG_0091

I would say Lucha Libre is a fairly even mix of athleticism and comedy. There were some amazing high flying moves, but the crowd really seemed to love the underdog. One of the crowd favourites was Brazo de Plata, who looked about 50 years old and 50 kg overweight, proving that you can be a professional wrestler, no matter how much you love tacos. One of his signature moves is the “stink face” and he won his bout by sitting on an opponent. IMG_0108 (2)

IMG_0208

IMG_0243

IMG_0268

We’ve spent the last few days in and around Cholula. Watching movies in the van after dinner, or lounging in the sun reading while we thaw out after the chilly nights. Most days we walk a few blocks down to the local store for fresh produce, and to get our favourite tortillas and fresh cheese.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALocal bike shop.

We also jumped on the bikes and cruised around Cholula for a night on the town.  It’s a really sweet town with loads of hidden gems behind unmarked doors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also, we went to check out Container City, a kind of outdoor mall with shops and bars all built from used shipping containers. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That about wraps up our time here.

Teotihuacan

Scraping ice off my windshield is something I associate with Canada, not Mexico. However, after another chilly Pemex sleepover, it was scraping time. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We got an early start to Teotihuacan, an impressive Aztec ruin, just outside of Mexico City. We pulled into the gravel car park and put on all the warm clothes we could find. As I stepped out of the van, Mark burst out laughing. One of the benefits to living in a van is having no mirror. No mirror = big wooly socks and sneakers, no problem.

We arrived at Teotihuacan just as the sun was rising.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASun rising over the Temple of the Feathered Serpent

Colourful hot air balloons floated above us, as we wandered through the remnants  of this immense Aztec city.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Long Shadow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What really blew me away was the size of the city. It took us hours to climb all the pyramids and walk the length of the Avenue of the Dead, the road that runs through the centre of it all. There was evidence of residential complexes, painted murals and human sacrifice. The most awe inspiring however, were the pyramids. The great religious tributes to the gods, just tower over it all. Teotihuacan means “where the gods were created”, a name which seemed to define this ancient city.

View of ruins and the Pyramid of the Moon - Halfway up the Pyramid of the Sun

View of ruins and the Pyramid of the Moon – Halfway up the Pyramid of the Sun

From the top of the Pyramid of the Sun

From the top of the Pyramid of the Sun

From the top of the Pyramid of the Sun

From the top of the Pyramid of the Sun

Coming down Pyramid of the Sun

Coming down Pyramid of the Sun

Walking along the Avenue of the Dead towards the Pyramid of the Moon

Walking along the Avenue of the Dead towards the Pyramid of the Moon

Stairs - Pyramid of the Moon

Stairs – Pyramid of the Moon

View from Pyramid of the Moon. Pyramid of the Sun is on the left.

View from Pyramid of the Moon. Pyramid of the Sun is on the left.

I am reading Aztec, by Gary Jennings and it gave the visit much more context. I had just read about a performance, where men are attached to a pole and jump off it while continuing to play instruments. Low and behold, as we got back to the van and started making lunch we saw this…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We tend to have a lot of car park meals and today was no exception. We are usually too hungry to make it anywhere else.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA