Day 2 and I'm already sunburned
I'm usually very sensible about sun. When I went to Venice Beach the week before, I'd been guzzling water and reapplying the spray can of sunscreen I'd bought quite religiously.
But when we left for our "sunrise tour of the pyramids" at Teotihuacan, I thought I'd be fine! It's sunrise! Even I'm not that sensitive. It would be like getting moon burn -- not impossible, but even I am probably safe there.
Nope. By the time we arrived at the pyramids, it was already 9am, and the sun was fast rising in the Eastern sky, as only you'd expect at the Pyramid of the Sun.
While we definitely beat the majority of the other tourists to the site, we were wandering around the pyramids for about two hours, with not a hint of shade in the uncovered landscape. The sun continued to rise, quickly gaining in intensity.
What's worse, we'd been encouraged to leave our backpacks in the bus, so Lia and I had only a couple of small water bottles between the two of us.
In short, by the time we'd made it back on the bus to conclude our trip, I was roasted. Specifically on my right side too, where the sun had been coming up all morning. This is what I get for wearing shorts. As I write this, my legs are just finishing the final stages of peeling big flakes of dead skin all over the apartment floor. Lovely!
But speaking of lovely, let me tell you about the actual pyramids! Our morning started in a pretty eye-opening fashion, as during actual sunrise we were driving on a bus out of Mexico City. It was rush hour, and the sight of the opposite lane of the highway -- headed into the city's downtown -- was unlike anything I'd ever seen before.
The cars and busses crammed with people were bumper to bumper, and not moving an inch. Drivers had actually parked, and were sitting on the hoods of their car, just waiting. And it stretched on for miles. Miles of unmoving gridlock traffic, of more cars than I'd ever seen before. Apparently this was just another day in Mexico City. The whole scene was only made more dramatic by the fact that the surrounding landscape was equally astonishing.
Rolling hills carried the extended neighbourhoods of Mexico City further than the eye could see, and dingy homes rode the uneven landscape, packed into every crevice of the foothills, and extending up the steep inclines until it became impossible for anybody to build higher.
Again, all of these houses were painted a bright poppy colour, making for a real treat for the eye, and a juxtaposition for the mind to process.
As we were traveling on a bus, I didn't try and take any photos. But it was truly one of the most eye-opening things I've seen, and one of the sights of Mexico City that will stick with me for the longest after this trip. There are so many people on this planet, man.
We arrived at the pyramids in little under an hour after leaving the city. We had a guide who gave the tour in both English and Spanish, so patience was key, but his proficiency in speaking about archaeology in both languages fluently was impressive. I was still struggling to order food at this point, in what had been until about a day ago my unfoundedly confident Spanish.
We learned a great deal during my two hours of burning, as Alejandro the tour guide took us around the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent -- one of the OG native people's gods -- and down the Avenue of the Dead. I'm not even going to attempt to retell everything he told us, but one of his most interesting points to me was that the pyramids weren't hollow like in Egypt, for example. They weren't tombs. They were giant stone structures, yes, but these were designed for worshipping atop of.
The whole theme of the Mexican belief in the interconnectivity of life and death, the earth, sky, and ground was all present here, as this is where it all originated from. It was such a good primer on our first proper day in the country, to then be able to pick up on that theme throughout the rest of our stay. It's super present. For example, even the Mexican flag is an eagle, representing light, defeating a snake, representing darkness, night, and evil.
The stairs of the pyramids were certainly a workout though.
The pyramid of the sun is the bigger of the main two, which Lia and I climbed first. And of course, by the time we made it to the top, we felt we'd earned the right to take many cheesy photos.
We were regrouping with the rest of our bus down the end of the avenue of the dead, at the pyramid you can clearly see from the one we'd already climbed, the pyramid of the moon. It's smaller, but as with most monuments, it was my favourite. You get to see the main one in your view! Why climb the main one, when you can have the main one in your shot?
And just in case we'd forgotten we were at a tourist site, hawkers were littered around the area, trying to sell various tat and jewellery, including pieces made out of obsidian; a local precious stone which had supported the economy there for hundreds of years before the Spanish arrived. Lia and I's favourite thing for sale was a wooden carved jaguar head which you blew into to make a growling, roaring, catty sound. It was clearly the most popular item, as almost every hawker was blowing into these things, making the weirdest soundtrack to our pyramids experience. Lia bought one for her nephew, and to annoy her sister.
After the pyramids site, our tour whizzed us around the corner to a little cluster of buildings where they hand carved obsidian gifts, had a restaurant, and made their own tequila and mezcal for a tasting. I think they figured the least they could do for the three very burnt British people on the tour was get them drunk for their afternoon.
They also made stuff like blankets and rugs, as well as other clothing and little knickknacks. Lia bought a blanket that I got to carry through the airport on my way home.
Here it is in action this week, back in Boston, as the perfect backdrop for our breakfast nachos that we ate in bed.
We'll pick up this adventure later, but for now, we were off to find some aloe vera.