Thursday, 4 October 2007

Trip to the Pyramids at Teotihuacán, September 07

Judy was feeling unwell but Bev was up for the day trip to see probably the most famous archaeological site in Mexico, the Pyramids at Teotihuacán. With Barry as our guide, and having done some preparation by visiting the Teotihuacán exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology, we set off by taxi to the Indios Verdes subway station in the north of the city, where we got onto the first public bus to leave for the site. The public bus fare from there is about $2.80 US each way.

The ride takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the route and how much local traffic there is after getting off the toll road. I slept part of the way so didn't really register the time. When we arrived we followed Barry's directions and headed towards the Avenue of the Dead, the main 3 km long axis leading to the Pyramid of the Moon. We were besieged by vendors of all kinds of artefacts, not expensive but certainly not genuine. The most popular on the day seemed to be the bow and arrow sets: kids were firing off arrows, usually ahead of themselves, all day, and I half expected to see someone lose an eye before the day was out. I rather liked the ocarina type clay whistles; some of the vendors played really nicely on them but I suspect I couldn't produce a sound, let alone a tune. Masks of (fake) turquoise, obsidian, jade or shell; crystal balls and prisms; an endless variety of little pre-columbian clay figures; jewellery; rugs; ponchos - I've seen it all before and certainly didn't want to spend all day carting stuff around with me. We wondered whether each vendor has his or her own pitch and what it costs to be allowed to trade on the site; and indeed whether any of them make much of a living.

The site itself is absolutely enormous and very impressive. The Aztecs discovered the site, abandoned hundreds of years before they arrived, and constructed some myths about their continuity with the builders of Teotihuacán, but other than knowing they were a very sophisticated group of people with complex engineering and astronomical skills, and a very complex social and religious hierarchy, no-one really knows who the original inhabitants were or where they came from, nor exactly why and how their civilization declined so catastrophically. As well as the most famous Pyramids of the Sun (off the main Avenue) and Moon, there is a really outstanding museum on the site, and a much less visited part tucked away behind one of the car parks that Barry took us to, where some of the best and most colourful frescoes are preserved (see the pictures with the red background of people cavorting in Tlaloc (the Rain God)'s Paradise. As large parts are outdoors, I could take photos here without flash.) By the way, the vague tree in the photo after the nopal (cactus) bushes are what we call peppercorn trees at home! It was so nice to see some familiar vegetation I couldn't resist the photo.

Bev climbed up the Pyramid of the Sun (I went part way only, Barry not at all - he doesn't think it's appropriate to climb up such sites) and reported the view of the entire Valley from the top is absolutely breathtaking.

I have no real idea how to take a video with my camera, but by trial and error my attempts are getting less bad. The slide shows I have posted come from iPhoto on the Mac, I am sick of the music but don't know how to change it (or for what - the Mexican Hat dance would be a bit cheesy!). I have been trying to post a video of the dancing in the space in front of the Pyramid of the Sun. It always takes an age to do this, and it keeps crashing telling me I have known error, but I can't seem to find how to notify the owners of all the diagnostics they send, so I might have to give it up - in fact after two attempts which ended badly after half an hour or more spent trying to load the 23 second video, I have given up, but will try to find some way to get the video onto a website and send a link later.

After much wandering about the site, we went through the excellent museum. Many of the museums I have visited in Mexico are very well curated: the information flows wonderfully, there are great visuals and sometimes audio and video to supplement the collection of artefacts , although where there is English, it is sometimes extremely quaint. By dint of exposure I am slowly absorbing more Mexican history than I think I know. We then headed off hoping to have lunch in a restaurant in a natural cave just off the site. It looked marvelous but there was a long wait, and we had to get back to the city in time for Bev to join Judy and go to the Ballet Folklorico at 8.30 in the evening. So we went instead to a little roadside stand where we ordered some tlacoyos, with beans and cheese and mushrooms, which were pretty good, though Bev was a bit doubtful. On re-entering the site to get across the Avenue of the Dead to one of the bus stops we bought a bag of tuna , the fruit of the prickly pear, the nopal, de-prickled, peeled and ready to eat. (Do not confuse this fruit with the fish, which is called atun in Spanish.) They were extremely refreshing, sweet and delicious - the perfect dessert on a hot day. We caught a bus fairly soon to the Metro Indios Verdes, and as it is the far northern end of the line which runs to one of our two local stations in the south of the city, we took the metro all the way back, enjoying the entertainment from the ever-changing vendors and the cute kids all the way, all for the 2 peso (20cents) fare.

Bev had a fairly short interval to change, eat some supper I prepared for her and Judy, and they headed off to the Ballet Folklorico, but it will be up to them to tell you all about this spectacular artistic event as I didn't go this time so can't comment on the show nor their adventures getting to Bellas Artes and back home safely.

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