Ivies and Pyramids

Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times
— Asian Proverb

Our time in Mexico City had been flowing smoothly, but the two of us knew that before our time ended, we had to visit the pyramids of Teotihuacán.  Mexico City was the cultural portion of our vacation, and this archaeological site was legendary.  It was less than an hour’s ride away from where we were staying so it was not inconvenient at all.

The biggest decision you must decide after you commit to visiting Teotihuacán is whether or not you would like to go on a group tour.  Most of the tours we saw on Viator were between $50-80 USD and incredibly lengthy (like 7-12 hours long).  After doing a bit of a Google stalking session, I determined that it was indeed possible and safe for us to get to the pyramids on our own.  I am appreciative of these two sites for their visuals and details:

So, on Saturday morning after sleeping way past the scheduled 7:30am, we tried to figure out our transportation to the bus terminal.  The subway was possible, but taking three different lines sounded like a headache.  I downloaded the ServiTaxi app but my requests refused to take.  After perusing through the names of DF's cab companies, I screamed with joy when I realized Uber was in Mexico City! What a relief! One minor problem solved! Our driver was incredibly friendly and showed us sites while we were in transit to the bus terminal.  He even allowed us to play our own music, and TaQuana graciously schooled him on Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill. Our Uber driver also drove with a sense of caution that the taxi drivers just did not have, so I did not feel as though I was prone to be in another car accident anytime soon.

You must make sure that you head to Metro Autobuses del Norte, as there are a few bus terminals.  Once we got to the terminal, we followed the bloggers’ directions for walking towards Gate 8.  In some rushed Spanish, I managed to secure two roundtrip tickets for TaQuana and me to hit the pyramids! Our bus was to leave at 10:15 and it was currently 10:10, so I did not get the time to explore around the terminal.

After clearing through security, we stood outside waiting for the bus.  As mentioned, while our ticket stated 10:15, that was actually the time our bus was due to pull up.  The bus was not in the nicest of conditions, but it will indeed get you to your destination safely.  The driver was pretty calm on the road (I have no idea why I had the image of speeding through the Mexican mountains in my head).  As we passed through the towns, I noticed how colorful the homes in the mountains were.  They reminded me of the buildings in Old San Juan that I immediately adored.  However, these homes did not only focus on pastels, as there were deep purples and hot pinks, adding to the scheme.  I was not expecting to see that in mountainous terrain, but surprise!

The bus driver, or a vendor will yell, “piramides”, when it is time for you to get to your stop.  As soon as you step off the bus, prepare to get swarmed (especially if you stick out like we did).  My first steps in Teotihuacán included vendors with jewelry, water, or offers to physically get you to the pyramids so that you do not need to walk.  We were able to finagle our way into the site and pay our $64MXN.  Once again, before you even get to any information, there is a flea market like setup of hats, sunscreen, shirts, tote bags, sunglasses, and anything else you could possible need during your excursion.  While some of the items were cute, we bypassed them looking for the first set of pyramids.  We were well on our way to the first set when TaQuana spotted a vendor with an elephant…and I later saw the cutest onyx frog. Blame our respective sororities. Wink wink.

The first set of pyramids that you see are what I would like to call “mild”.  The worst part about them is the lack of railing; it is all up to the physical capabilities of your body and mental toughness.  The climbs are not too severe, but the fact that you could trip at any time is slightly unnerving to the novice hiker wearing sandals (whoops).  You could go up, you could go down, you could whip out your selfie stick, and that made me extremely pleased.  In fact, while the two of us were doing our respective sorority stances, a group of four Asians from the country do not know, studied us pretty well.  They were kind enough to take the pictures for us, but I was completely shocked when one of the young ladies proceeded to do an ivy stance!  It was actually funny and flattering.  And yes, of course, they wanted to take pictures with us, but unfortunately I did not capture it on my phone, only theirs.

After getting acquainted with the “mild” pyramids, we set forth for the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon.  That was a task in itself!  On each set of stairs, there would be a vendor that placed themselves just where you needed to walk so it was hard to avoid them.  They would usually oblige to the “no gracias”, but as we got closer to the Pyramid of the Sun, they began to get a bit relentless.  This was the first time that we were being followed and almost grabbed to look at a piece of jewelry we had already seen.  What did not help in matters was the fact that there was thunder starting to brew, and it was getting increasingly louder, but as we know, I like a challenge and wanted to climb the pyramid anyway!

After running up one medium-sized pyramid, I knew I should take my time on the Pyramid of the Sun as this was the largest one.  About one level up, you will notice how your breathing has to change due to the difference in altitude.  By mid-level, I was sweating.  By the time we made it to the top I was praising Jesus and panting, but I made it!  The view was incredible and the thunder was loud.  Being on top of something so massive made the big problems I had in my personal life seem small.  When you think about how old the pyramids were, and how they are still standing with their immaculate details, it can be overwhelming.  It might be the nerd in me, but I felt honored to be standing in such a historical place.

We were able to capture some great photos before starting our trek down to the site.  Now, climbing the pyramid was physically daunting, but descending was the mental game.  There would sometimes be a rope that flopped as people moved it, so there was nothing sturdy for you to hold.  You were going to get a true experience of how it was done in Mesoamerica.  After you’re done and looking for the exits, you will find more strategically placed vendors and restaurants aiming to lure you in with specials and deals.  Remember: barter, barter, barter!

Much to our relief, the bus that returned to Metro Autobuses del Norte was much newer and had the best prize of all, air conditioning! We were able to recline and enjoy the scenic 40-minute route home.  As we did not have cell phone service, we secured an authorized taxi for $120MXN and headed home.  Considering the fact that the only thing we had in our system before / during / after the pyramid hike were water and chips, we made our stop at Pirate’s Burgers where we devoured our meal and enjoyed an early night’s slumber.

Courtney’s Suggestions for Teotihuacán:

  1. Bring a pair of closed toe shoes with good traction. For some reason, I wore the same pair of white sandals throughout the duration of the ENTIRE trip (Cancún included) even though I was well aware that we were going to an archaeological site.
  2. Bring Mexican currency (i.e. pesos) if you have any inclination that you might want to pick up a few souvenirs. Please do not be that person begging for them to take your dollars. Yes, some stands might accept Visa, most do not.
  3. WATCH the currency you receive. We do not believe that it was with mal intent, but I received a counterfeit $200 MXN bill at the bus terminal while receiving my change and rushing for the bus (but hey, it will be glued into my travel scrapbook).
  4. Keep a supply-filled sack / backpack. Vendors will be on the bus / pyramid site trying to sell you water, soda, snacks, and food. Don’t blow your budget on things that you can bring yourself, as they let you bring it into the site.
  5. Try your best not to get frustrated! It can be annoying after you have climbed up and down a 250ft pyramid to have vendors relentlessly in your face trying to sell you the same frog you purchased a mile ago.  Keep going with “no gracias”, but when the time calls for it, elevate your voice when absolutely necessary (i.e. someone grabbing you or following you).

Peace and Blessings,

Courtney