Thursday, January 13, 2011

Down Historical Streets to the Big Smoke: Aguascalientes – Mexico City (26th Dec '10 -11th Jan '11)

After our decadent Christmas in Zacatecas we heaved our bellies onto our bikes and cycled south, from picturesque colonial town to picturesque colonial town. We mosied through Aguascalientes, Leon, Quanajuato, San Miguel de Allende and then Queretaro and developed a hearty dislike for cobblestone streets (great to look at but a nightmare to cycle on). We had lots of days off the bikes which were spent wondering the tiny streets, finding cathedrals, plazas and an interesting museum of death. The nights were dedicated to testing the wide assortment of street-food and checking out the Christmas celebrations. Mexico was a fantastic place to spend the festive season as Mexicans really know how to party, the decorations were extreme, the streets were alive and ponche was flowing.
We spent a number of days, including New Year's Eve, in Quanajuato, which quickly became one of my favourite towns. We rode up into the town through the tunnels and underground roads which had been built using an old drainage system and an underground river. We popped up out of the spooky tunnels and into a town of cobblestones, tiny streets, old houses layering the hills and scattered cafes and art galleries, - another town it was hard to drag ourselves away from.
After a few weeks of pottering through the interesting historical towns we started heading towards Mexico City.. that teaming metropolis which, until I actually visited, I only thought of in terms of the stereotypes of pollution, masses of people and traffic.  Mexico City is the world's third largest city, and it contains almost as many people as the whole of Australia!   
We didn't have the best introduction to the city, as we had to cycle down the main freeway towards the city, which carried almost all the traffic from the north of Mexico.

The noise and pollution of the freeway started to get to us and the team had a little breakdown on the side of the road.  We decided that we didn't want to cycle any further on the crazy freeway and so we jumped on a bus for the last 150km into the city. Not something that I had originally wanted to do but as we came into the city on 10-lane roads, with no shoulder and huge amounts of traffic I was very grateful that all five of us and our bikes were safely inside the bus and not still fighting the traffic.

Attempting to cycle the freeway wasn't the best introduction to the city but we had recovered by the time we got off the bus, rode into the centre of town and found ourselves a cheap hotel - the kind of hotel with a mirror on the ceiling above the bed... cheap and always interesting! We then spent the next six days exploring the fascinating jumble of people and buildings.
Mexico City is a vibrant and exciting city, which was fantastic to visit. It is full of art galleries, museums, palaces and markets. We wallowed in the art of Diego and Frida, we sat in cafes and people-watched, we climbed ancient pyramids and had a mural-athon around town. Jules and I cafe and bar-hopped in the gay area and were quite surprised by the openness. I blushed all through dinner as the men next to us had a very public snog-fest.
Of course we couldn't keep up our cultural activities for too long and had to come back to our lowbrow roots with a trip to the soccer and a night out at the Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling). It was great to check out the Aztec football stadium even though our football team (the Aguilas - Eagles) had a disappointing game. The wrestling on the other hand was everything it should be: men in ridiculous lycra outfits and gimp-like masks jumping on each other from great heights, a dwarf in a green gorilla suit and a contestant named “Super Porky”. Highly amusing if not slightly surreal.
So we head south out of Mexico City with a new-found love for the city and with the satisfying knowledge that Super Porky still reigns supreme in the wrestling ring.