March 26, 2006

Xochitecatl Archaeological Site (Tlaxcala), 26.03.06

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Photoset Map

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GPS Track: GPX (MapSource, et al.) or KMZ (Google Earth)

GPS Cycling Data:

Distance: 102 Km, Ascent: 1174 m, Time: 4:29 hr, Avg Speed: 23.1 Km/hr, Max Speed: 61.6 Km/hr

Travel Report:

I do not remember exactly at what time did I start this particular ride, but I do remember it was very late, about 10:30 maybe ? This ride is of the time of my beginnings as a humble cyclist, so sometimes I used to start the cycling ride not in my house, but instead in the eastern terminus of the suburban train. That saved me of cycling about 20 Km ! Cheating, eh ? But please don't forget that everyone of us has been once a beginner :-)

I don't have the exact hour I started that ride in the eastern terminus of the suburban train (named La Paz: the Peace), but it must have been about 12:00. In that time I used to start to ride a lot later, for reasons still unknown to me. I rode my way to the paid highway to Puebla (a deviation to the right before the entrance arc of Ixtapaluca). I merged with the paid highway at Km 21. From here I continued to the toll collect station at Km 35 (alt: 2250 m), where the ascent to the Llano Grande summit (alt: 3200 m) starts.

This paid highway is really a jewel to the cyclists. Although it is a paid one, and consequently cyclists have to ride on the sideway, the sideway of this highway is exceptionally flat, at least compared with other paid highways (i.e. to Cuernavaca and Toluca, for example). Another advantage is that there are several commercial stops along the highway, where you can buy water or food, if needed. Other paid highways (again, to Cuernavaca and Toluca) have seldom shops along the road.

So I made that 1000 m climbing to Llano Grande, and later, of course, its descent to Texmelucan (alt: 2250 m), reaching it at Km 75 of my route.

After Texmelucan (Puebla) I took the road to Villa Alta, which is the first town located in the state of Tlaxcala, being the frontier between both states in some point between Texmelucan and Villa Alta. In reality, the human and geographic mosaic changes very little :-) I rode later towards Tepetitla, and finally to Xochitecatitla, being this one the last town before arriving at my destination: the Archaeological Site of Xochitecatl. But before I could reach the site, I had to climb a really steep ascent of 100 m in less than 1 Km (a grade of 10 %). I finally could arrive at the archaeological site entrance at about 15:45. I left my bike at the entrance of the site as its entrance was not allowed, told me the site guards.

The first pyramid I visited was a circular one ! In fact, this is the first pyramid with circular basement and body I had ever seen. Another curiosity is that this pyramid features no stairs ! Its tiers are separated by more than 1 m, and in some cases, even 2 m. It is speculated that a ramp circled around this pyramid (in a spiral fashion) in order to allow for its climbing. Nowadays an artificial metal stair is allocated over the pyramid building to allow the access to its top. Another curiosity is that two trees are firmly rooted in this circular pyramid :-)

But another surprise wait for us at the top of the circular pyramid: a big white cross ! Over the top of an ancient nahua pyramid ! Well, this site is full of surprises. Still in our days, this very cross is the destination of numerous pilgrimages of the local people, for some reason I don't know :-( All I can extract is that this is a powerful sample of the religious syncretism that resulted from the fusion of two believing systems: the indigenous and the spanish. I think the best way you could grasp the contrast between both cultures is by having a lot at its pictures in the photoset.

Once I has finished my visit of this pyramid, I climbed my way down and directed myself to the next big pyramid: the Flower Pyramid. This one is even bigger than the previous Spiral Pyramid, and housed in its top some kind of temple. Currently, only some stones of that temple remain. Between both pyramids another buildings remain, and also, two very big pots, about 2 m in diameter ! I don't know its purpose, as they are only labeled as ceremonial pots.

Another building that is present in the site is what is termed the Volcanoes Platform. It is of low height and stands in the middle of the plaza, hence it is estimated it was the platform of a ceremonial center, that is currently destroyed.

Once I climbed my way up to the top of the Flower Pyramid, an impressive vista appeared before my eyes. The whole valley is appreciable from here. Really, the view is astounding. 360 degrees of clear vision from the top of the heights of the highest pyramid in the region ! The neighbouring archaeological site of Cacaxtla is even visible from this position. Also, on the top is present what remains of a temple built there, although currently only some vestiges remains.

Once I had enjoyed that incredible vista, I climbed down and went to the entrance for my bike, as the site was now closing. It was really a beautiful visit to an extraordinary archaeological site.

I cycle my way back to Texmelucan, passing again: Xochitecatitla, Tepetitla, Ayecac, and Villa Alta. In Texmelucan I took the bus back home, arriving at Mexico City without incidents.

Thank you for reading. Till the next journey.

March 21, 2006

Teotihuacan Archaeological Site (Mexico), 21.03.06

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GPS Cycling Data:

Distance: 115.4 Km, Ascent: 391 m, Time: 5:24 hr, Avg. Speed: 21.3 Km/hr, Max. Speed: 61.3 Km/hr.

Travel Report:

This ride was a joint ride with the Biciosos cycling group. It was programmed for that date (March 21) in order to celebrate the start of the spring equinox. We hoped to be able to enter at the archaeological site, free of charge, as this date was a festive one. Unfortunately, the entering rules have changed and free admission is allowed only on Sundays, and not merely on festive days. As this March 21 was festive, but no Sunday, we were not able to enter for free in the archaeological site. So the majority of the group decided against paying for the entrance. In this way we went instead to eat in some restaurant around the site.

The ride started at 08:00 at the Independence Angel, on Reforma. As usual (unfortunately) I had to start this ride by my own side, as I started my ride really late, I think at about 09:00. So I ride and ride along the route with the hope of being able to reach the rest of the cyclists along the road. I took Insurgentes, and later the paid highway to Tulancingo (Hidalgo). It wasn't until a few kilometers before the deviation to Teotihuacán that I could reach the rest of the group ! Well, at least, I was not more alone on the highway :-)

We entered in the commercial zone of the site. There was a lot of people ! As that day was the beginning of the spring equinox, the whole site resembled like a carnival ! People from all sort of livings we arriving and gathering together in order to celebrate this very date. Maybe I don't share the same new-age feelings or believings as them, but it was certainly fun to see the most extravagant people in the same place :-) You can have a look at this curious spring carnival at the following photoset.

As we couldn't enter in the proper archaeological site, we went for a good meal in the surroundings. After the meal, we decided to start our trip back to Mexico City. This was accomplished without problems, as this ride is certainly an easy one: just 50 Km or so and an almost null climbing, as the terrain is practically plain. We reached our destination without complications, arriving at about 18:00.

Thank you for reading. Till the next journey.

March 19, 2006

Cacaxtla Archaeological Site (Tlaxcala), 19.03.06

GPS Track Video

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GPS Cycling Data:

Distance: 120 Km, Ascent: 1419 m, Time: 5:29 hr, Avg Speed: 22 Km/hr, Max Speed: 65.3 Km/hr

Travel Report:

This ride started at the early hour of 08:30 at the sub-urban train eastern terminus La Paz. From this terminal, I merged myself with the paid highway to Puebla at Km 21, arriving later (at Km 35) at the toll collect station Huixtoco in something like 30 minutes.

As I had a little of time this occasion, I took some photos of a religious offering that stands in the highway at Km 40.8. I had always wanted to see that offering, but had never before time to stop and have a look at it. This offering stands to regret the loss of a young man at that very place, where he died at the young age of 19 :-( The offering was made by his parents. I believe the offering was made in the year 2000.

Continuing with the trend in this ride to explore places that I usually pass without stopping, I stopped to have a look at some Mirador (alt: 2800 m): a sightseeing point located just before the Medical Rescue Service. From this Mirador you can see ... nothing ! This place is better described as a trash dumpster, as there is a lot trash dumped in that very place. On the other hand, there is no vista to see in that place, as it is almost leveled with the rest of its surroundings. A proper Mirador is usually located very high above its surroundings level. But well ...

I continued climbing along the route, reaching the Llano Grande summit (alt: 3200 m) at 11:30. From there I started the descent all the way to Texmelucan (Puebla), where I took its deviation, abandoning the paid highway to Puebla.

I do remember that I lost my way after Texmelucan. The reason is that this was my first time in those regions, and I haven't still mastered the routes. So I deviated from the intended route and ended in Villa Matamoros, far far away from the correct route. But there, in Villa Matamoros, when I asked for Cacaxtla, a local driving its motorcycle with his kid promptly offered to guide me to the proper route ! That help represented for him a ride two towns away from its own, but he insisted ... so I gladly accepted :-) I must thank him here for his very kind and invaluable help :-)

Once I followed him trough two or three towns, I was finally on the right path, on the way to Tepetitla ! I entered Tepetitla by its rear side (since I was just incorporating myself to right track), There I could observe the vestiges of an ancient Hacienda (Ranch). Unfortunately, I did not get the name of that Hacienda.

After passing Tepetitla, Atoyatenco, and Xochitecatitla, I could finally arrive at Capula, town that houses the archaeological site. After climbing a final cruel ascent, I did finally arrive at Cacaxtla, target of the travel.

In Cacaxtla we can find several beautiful murals, i.e: paintings on the walls of the building complex (the Great Basement), dating back to 650 CE. This city was the center of the Olmec-Xicalanca culture. This culture was a mixture of another three cultures: nahuas, mixtecs and chocho-popolocas. The origin of this cultures was Xicalanco, in the present state of Campeche.

Cacaxtla is really a very sui generis archaeological site. It is the only one that I know, that is entirely under an immense artificial hood ! Really, the main building: the Great Basement, is entirely under a metal sheet roof of gigantic dimensions ! On a previous visit (albeit not in bike) the roof was still under construction, and visits to the site were not allowed for merely mortals. But now, two years after, the site was open for everyone. As any site is best described with pictures than with merely words, I kindly invite you to have a look at the photoset of the ride. I really do recommend you to have a profound look at the ancient murals shown in the pictures. They represent some of the best maintained and taken care of murals in the whole country.

Once I had finished my visit to the site, I rode back to Texmelucan, distant about 20 Km from Cacaxtla, This last leg of my trip was rode over relatively plain terrain. Once back in Texmelucan, I took the bus back home, where I arrived without incidents :-)

Thank you for reading :-) Till the next journey !

March 12, 2006

Llano Grande (Mexico), 12.03.06

Photoset Show

Stats: Distance: 76.7 Km, Ascent: 1100 m, Time: 3:31 hr, Avg Speed: 21.7 Km/hr, Max Speed: 65.1 Km/hr

Report: This ride started at 11:00 in the eastern terminus of the sub-urban train, named La Paz. As I was going to ride with another cyclists to another destination, but no one even showed up, I decided to ride to the Llano Grande summit (alt: 3200 m), 1000 m over the level of Mexico City, along the paid highway to Puebla.

As I had already lost a lot of time waiting for the other cyclists to appear, I decided that once I has reached the Llano Grande summit, I would turn back to home, instead of continuing my ride on the other side of the mountain.

Probably, the less boring aspect of this ride could be the photos I took :-) They are available at the following photoset.

Thank you for reading. Till the next (real) travel.

March 05, 2006

Cortes Pass (Mexico), 05.03.06

GPS Track Video

Photoset Map

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GPS Track: GPX (MapSource, et al.) or KMZ (Google Earth)

GPS Cycling Data:

Distance: 180 Km, Ascent: 1617 m, Time: 8:18 hr, Avg Speed: 21.8 Km/hr, Max Speed: 62.4 Km/hr

Travel Report:

This ride was made to reach the imposing Cortes Pass summit, a 3700 meter high pass that stands between the eastern state of Puebla and Mexico State. It was by this pass that spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes and his indigenous allies (mainly tlaxcaltecans) arrived at the Valley of México, coming from Cholula, in order to fight the Aztec empire. This pass is a saddle point located between the two volcanoes that surround Mexico City: the Popocatepetl and the Iztaccihuatl.

Three cyclists decided this time to ride to the Cortes Pass. We started the ride at the Independence Angel monument, in Reforma, Mexico City (alt: 2240 m) at about 07:00. The route we choosed this time was one that passed by a lot of towns (urban and otherwise) along it. Other route we could have taken was the paid highway to Puebla, and just before the toll collect station of Huixtoco, took the Amecameca deviation. But this time we preferred to make a route inside the densely populated south-oriental part of Mexico City. In Mexico this is kind of route is called puebleando (something like: towning).

Some of the towns we passed along our route were: Xochimilco, Tecomitl, Tenango del Aire (alt: 2350 m), Amecameca (2475 m) and Nexapa (2600 m). When we reached Amecameca there was a big street market, which made very difficult our passing by. Then came Nexapa, last town in the route, stopping there some minutes to buy water and food.

From Nexapa starts the gruelling ascent all the way to the saddle point of the Cortes Pass (alt: 3700 m). The road is only ascent. There are no more plains or descents. From Nexapa its a 18 Km long, 1100 m climbing, which gives a grade of 6.11 % over those 18 Km ! Nothing bad ... And the vistas along the road are exceptional, as during an 1100 m ascent, several ecosystems are transversed by. You can have a glimpse of the beautiful road scenics at the following photoset.

There is no much to say about the climbing except that this route is always a torture. There is no easy way to the summit. What else can one do but pedal and pedal ? Having a look at the beautiful vistas always do help a little, but the problem remains, one must continue climbing :-)

After sometime I was finally able to reach the Cortes Pass, where my friends were waiting for me, as they had arrived before to the summit. First thing I did was to eat some quesadillas ! I was starving man. After giving my stomach something, I could continue thinking and start looking the most beautiful places to take some photographs of them.

On this site there is a metal plaque that remembers the arrival of the spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés at the Mexico Valley by this very same place, almost five hundred years ago. This plaque shows Hernán Cortés (riding his horse) followed by his army (some also riding a horse, the rest by foot), formed by its spanish companions ... and his indigineous (tlaxcaltecs) allies. Interestingly, the plaque is orientated towards the west, so the image on it renders the Cortés army as if it were coming from Cholula, just as the real deal was

Although in theory the Cortes Pass has a superb view of the two volcanoes: the Popocatepetl and the Iztaccihuatl, that day there were some fires in the forests surrounding the site, so its smoke was blocking the otherwise stunning view of the volcanoes :-(

Just before departing the Cortes Pass and start the descending all the way to Amecameca, a friendly tourist offered us to take some photos of the cyclist group (with the Cortes plaque behind us), offer that we inmediately accepted.

We undertook that vertiginous descent from the Cortes Pass to Amecameca without any incident. Then we rode back by the same route: Tenango del AIre, Tecomitl, and Xochimilco. An hour or so after the mission was happily concluded, arriving safe and sound at the starting point :-)

Thank you for reading. Till the next journey.