December 11, 2007

Xochitecatl Archaeological Site (Tlaxcala). 09.12.07

This was a wonderful ride since I had the opportunity to take a lot of pictures of several multitudes of pilgrims that were travelling in a pilgrimage to pay homage to the Lady of Guadalupe of the Tepeyac, main devotion figure in whole Mexico, whose main celebration is carried on every December 12th. People were walking and cycling along every pasable trail, road and highway from the eastern part of the mountain pass that separates the Mexico Valley from the Puebla and Tlaxcala states. Just bear in mind that this mountain pass climbs ... ¡ one thousand meters (up to an elevation of more than 3200 m) ! And people were walking carrying not only their personal belongings to pass a night, plus water and food, but also ¡ big and heavy religious icons (made of glass and wood) ! Certainly it is not factless that saying that goes: the faith moves mountains.

I had the opportunity to observe the Pilgrims since I took the free highway to Puebla, in Ixtapaluca. From this point on, countless pilgrims on foot and cycling could be observed in a human chain that climbed all the way up to the Llano Grande summit, and descended later to Texmelucan, like a human river. I really think that the photos of this human spectacle will have a more lasting impact that my humble words.

Once in Texmelucan, I took the road to Villa Alta, Tepetitla and Atoyatenco. Mistakenly, I continued cycling to Xochitecatitla, but had to return over my footsteps, since the gruesome climbing that is the entrance to the Xochitecatl site was just after Atoyatenco. In fact, I arrived at the Cacaxtla entrance, closed now for restoration (heavy rains had damaged the gigantic roof that covers the whole Cacaxtla site).

After a gruesome 8 % grade, 200 m climbing I could finally arrive at the Xochitecatl Archaeological Site. For the first time (I had been there at least twice) I could enter in the site's Museum. Very rich indeed. Lots of fine ceramics and religious pottery.

I proceeded then to the visit to the Xochitecatl Pyramids, including: the Spiral Pyramid , the Serpent Building and the Flower Pyramid. The spiral pyramid has at the top of it a big white cross, a prime example of the religious syncretism that is commonly found in Mexico. From the top of the Flower Pyramid, the adjacent closed Cacaxtla site can be observed.

Once concluded the visit time, I cycled my way back to Texmelucan, where I could take some photos of its magnificent Cathedral and not less interesting Plaza and kiosk. At 19:00 I went to the AU bus terminal, where I could take my bus back home to Mexico City (fare: 60 pesos).

All the photos of this travel are available at the following photoset. And the GPS track is also available, in both formats: GPX and KMZ.

Thank you for reading. Till the next travel :-)

October 04, 2007

Convents Route II (Morelos), 30.09.07 - 01.10.07

Since a long time ago, I had desired to ride the Convents Route (built in the XVI century) in the southern state of Morelos. But I had first to complete the visits to the archaeological sites of several pre-Hispanic cultures in Central Mexico (as a mean to pay a tribute to the original inhabitants of these lands). Now, as it seems like I have already completed the visits to almost all archaeological sites in the states of: Mexico, Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala and Hidalgo, I could finally engage in this long desired route through the eleven convents in Morelos that have been declared by the UNESCO as World's Cultural Heritage.

In last week ride, I could visit three of those convents (since they were in my route to the Yautepec archaeological site), namely, the Convents of: Totolapan, Tlayacapan and Oaxtepec. The Convent of Tepoztlán has already been visited in a previous ride this year. In this way, I could arrange a route to know the remaining seven convents, the Convents of: Atlatlahucán, Yecapixtla, Ocuituco, Tetela del Volcan, Hueyapan, Zacualpan de Amilpas and Jantetelco.

The route taken involved arriving firstly at the convent of Atlatlahucan via Amecameca, and then riding down to Cuautla (Morelos). In order to arrive at Amecameca, I decided to take a new route to me, riding this time through Tenango del Aire and Ayapango. In this way, I could avoid climbing an extra 100 m that is required in the toll highway to Amecameca. But I still used the Puebla toll highway in order to bypass Chalco, deviating from it at the Cocotitlán branch.

So, let's start this report from where all things get started: at the beginning. The ride began at the really late hour of 10:40. I took Fray Servando Av. (where I had the opportunity to observe the cyclists riding in the ongoing Ciclotón in Mexico City) to gain access to the Zaragoza Av. Zaragoza is a long and wide avenue that converts itself later in both toll and free Puebla highways (at Los Reyes junction). At the intersection of those two inter-state highway stands what is currently a gigantic traffic jam covering several kilometers in length (owed to the building of an elevated pass). Once crossed that mess, I took the toll Puebla highway, and left it just before the Huixtoco toll station, in order to take the Chalco branch. After crossing the Puente Colorado toll station, I continued cycling along the toll Chalco highway, but at the Cocotitlan deviation I branched out south in order to arrive at Temamatla, Tenango del Aire and Ayapango. I should add that the road between Ayapango and Amecameca is one of unsurmountable beauty: a clean and pristine countryside with no sight of towns, almost plain, and surrounded at both sides of the road by colourful flowers and green grass: an idyllic scene, in fact.

Arriving at Amecameca, I took the Cuautla free highway, passing on my route the towns of Ozumba and Tepetlixpa. Tepetlixpa is the last town before the descent towards Cuautla starts, so, if you need to purchase water or food, please do it there. On my way down to Atlatlahucán, I crossed the town of Nepantla, place where Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (the best writer in her time) was born in 1651, and also a destination of one of my previous rides. At my arrival to the Atlatlahucan branch, I exited the Cuautla highway and cycled upwards to Atlatlahucan, arriving promptly at the convent, located in the main square of the town.

The San Mateo Convent of Atlatlahucan features an austere yet imposing all white monumental facade, being probably built at the top of a pre-Hispanic temple. As a result of this construction, the convent lies above the rest of the town. When I was there, a funeral procession (coffin included) was arriving at the church, so I had the opportunity to closely observe this funeral mass. A musical band accompanied the funeral, playing some local marches. In fact, that was a busy church, since it seems that just previous to my arrival, another mass, this time maybe from some fifteen-years party, had been just finished (by the looks of the gathered people in front of the church). I should add that, being that day September 30th, the entire state of Morelos was in party mood, as that day marks the birthday of Independence War hero and leader: Jose Maria Morelos, whom with Miguel Hidalgo, is one of the founding fathers of Mexico (in fact, Morelos took the leadership of the Independence War at the hanging and death by the Spanish crown of Miguel Hidalgo). So, I had the sheer luck of being able to observe all the convents visited along the route (Atlatlahucan included) being decorated by a multitude of floral crowns and arrangements. The convent houses also some wings that appear to be abandoned, with no maintenance at sight, just the facade is stunning white. The atrium of the convent is enormous and well maintained, featuring a pleasant green grass cover.

Once finishing my visit to that convent, I cycled again towards the Cuautla highway, and four kilometers down after the junction, I arrived at the Yecapixtla branch, which I took and started the ascent, from 1500 m at the branch, all the way up to Tetela del Volcan, at 2250 m. But I had first to arrive at Yecapixtla.

The San Juan Bautista Convent of Yecapixtla (built in 1535) features an equally imposing and gigantic facade (albeit a little less white), with a Gothic rose above the door, being the arch of the door also beautifully sculpted in stone, depicting some heraldic and angels. The atrium again was immense (albeit a little less maintained). But the interior of the church was magnificent, beautifully painted and decorated, with a precious white altar. The convent itself features no more than a single floor, but the walls that compose the garden's arches are precious, as they present beautifully preserved paintings and inscriptions of several religious people (as saints and popes) plus icons, along with Bible passages (like the Cruxifiction). In fact, not only the walls of the arches, but also the whole ceilings are covered by geometric figures (like octagons and crosses). The garden seems to feature a well in its middle.

After one hour of visit (curiously, I averaged one hour for each convent visit), I decided to resume the ride, continuing cycling upwards, this time towards Ocuituco, where 300 m of steep climbing were required to arrive at this town.

The Santiago Apostol Convent in Ocuituco features a beautiful ancient yellow facade, with a single bell tower. Time has left its mark in that facade, but no without a reason: this convent was the first to be built in America by the Augustine order in 1533 ! As the town was in party mood, the convent door had been enriched with a floral arch surrounding the entrance, depicting several religious passages. As the mass was beginning, I could observe several people arriving at the church, speaking in Nahuatl. Also the dressing of several women (mostly the older ones) started to resemble different from what we could term now contemporary fashion, more in the style of the original peoples of those towns. The interior of the church is painted in a smooth peach color, presenting a modest yet imposing white high altar. The interior of the convent features two floors, with a water spring in the middle of the garden. Its walls are painted in white, while the curved ceiling is decorated with geometric designs. The atrium of the church features a big cross, decorated by a floral arrangement. Outside of the convent, a picturesque (painted in strong blue) local market can be appreciated.

It was time now to continue cycling upwards, this time to the town of Tetela del Volcan, being required to climb almost 400 m to arrive at this town, located at an altitude of 2260 m. The ascent from Metepec to Tetela is a particularly steep one, specially inside Tetela (the Convent is located in the highest point in Tetela). I had to climb all the road inside Tetela standing on my pedals, as I was so exhausted (and the grade of the ascent was so cruel) that by just sitting on my bike I was not going to make that climb. But alas ! When I arrived finally at Tetela (at 19:15) ... there was a big party in the town ! But first business. So I headed directly to the convent.

The Convent of San Juan Bautista in Tetela del Volcan features what looks to me as the most austere facade of this series of convents. It is painted in a yellow peach colour, presenting only one bell tower (but its clock is working). The church interior is painted in pristine white. I has scarcely time to take the last shots of the convent, as it was now 19:30 and the darkness was looming. Once taken the compulsory pictures of this Augustine convent, I decided to turn my attention to a much more mundane topic of interest: the party !

From all the towns along the route that I had made that day in Morelos, Tetela was the place where I could find the biggest party. There was a lot of people gathering in the main square of the town, all taking part in the unconmesurability of La Fiesta. In that party at Tetela del Volcan (its biggest party of the year) I saw things that I had never been able to observe before. For example: I saw donkeys with floral crowns, which later I was told were part in some donkey runnings . I saw also a children competition, in order to see which child could catch an oil-covered little pig. In fact, there were several of those competitions. I saw another tournament, this time involving climbing an oil-covered mast, which at its top had prizes for the winners. I saw a lot of yet unseen things to me. That was my biggest reward: to know unknown things to me. There were a lot of fireworks also and another contest, this time involving the riding of a mechanical bull. Remarkably, I also had the opportunity of taking some photographs of the Queen of Tetela, meaning the victorious lady (and accompanying princesses) in the beauty pageant of Tetela del Volcán. Beautiful ladies indeed.

At 22:00 I had to make up my mind, since it was too late to do any other thing different than looking for a place to sleep. The party was going to continue all night long (till 04:00 next day), so I must find a hotel, just before the accommodations were fully booked. I decided to pass the night in Tetela, since from this point I could continue the route of the Convents the next day, and even, return to Mexico City cycling, but I had to be well rested for that matter. So, I started asking for directions for a place to sleep, and fortunately, I could find a hotel no more than three blocks away from the center: the St Valentin drugstore. Really, that drugstore (coupled with its sister clinic and laboratory) featured also a small yet clean hotel: the hotel Mirador del Volcan. So I ringed and ringed and finally a clerk got out and listened to my need, offering me a room for 150 pesos, which I promptly took. Once solved the accommodation problem, I had to sort out the next question: What to eat ? After leaving my bicycle (as I always do in these occasions) and the rest of my cycling equipment in my room, I went to the center of Tetela to purchase some food (mainly cheese, meat, soda) in a convenience store. I could also buy some local fruits in the street. Once armoured with my dinning/breakfast, I returned to the hotel. I would like to had been able to attend the ongoing party (and dancing ball), but I had to sleep for the next day cycling. All night long the dancing music continued (till 04:00 next day), the fireworks also continued their spectacle, and, after the music had subsidized, some pistol shots were listened, as is customary for those town parties :-)

I woke up next day at 08:00, just in time to take some clear photographs of the Popocatepetl volcano (difficult to see later, since it gets covered by clouds early). Once I had taken a bath and arranged my bicycle and cycling equipment, I started the ride at about 10:00, this time with the goal to reach the town of Hueyapan. So I climbed back to the center of Tetela del Volcan and took the sinuous descent road to Alpanocan, in a tip of the eastern state of Puebla. This town features a modest yet interesting church painted in pink. After briefly visiting Alpanocan's Municipal Palace, I resumed the trip to Hueyapan, entering again in the Morelos state. The road between Alpanocan and Hueyapan is one of sinuous and steep ascent nature, requiring climbing 250 m to reach Hueyapan. In Hueyapan (farthest point in our route) I found its Convent closed. So I had to rely on photographs taken from the door of the convent. That town is known for its prominent use of Nahuatl as a common language. Unfortunately, as I arrived there on Monday, all the people that use to arrive at the market were absent at that moment, so I could not grasp any hint of spoken Nahuatl. The only people I found on the plaza were secondary school students, whom with high probability would have never spoken a word of Nahuatl, being its use confined to the older generations. Once I finished my visit to the picturesque town of Hueyapan, I resumed my trip, this time cycling downwards to Tlacotepec (where I stopped a little to admire its beautiful white church) and later to Zacualpan de Amilpas.

The La Inmaculada Concepción Convent in Zacualpan de Amilpas is one of the most beautiful convents I could appreciate in the whole trip. The convent itself is maintained in pristine conditions, being built with some pink stones resembling pink marble. Its facade its superbly clean. The convent even features two bell towers (something not so common). The church interior is every bit as beautiful as its exterior, all in white painted with simple yet elegant paintings as decoration. The walls of the arched corridors of the convent feature clearly restaurated frescoes, depicting religious images and saints. The convent comprises two tiers, featuring a central yard, complete with a water spring in its center.

Next point in the route was the Convent of Jantetelco, so I cycled downwards for the last point of interest in the route, arriving promptly at Jantetelco. Unfortunately, the convent was closed for the public visits, as its architectural integrity has been compromised by the fall of a lighting a couple of months before. The fallen lighting was so strong that one of the church vaults had broken under the force of the lighting, rendering the whole church structure unstable, and now prone to fell over its occupants. For this reason, the masses in that church are being carried outside as open air masses.

Being Jantetelco the last point of visiting interest along the route, I decided trying to do a promptly return to Mexico City. For this return to be made, first thing to be done was to arrive at Cuautla. So, from Jantetelco I cycled to Amayuca (where I could take a couple of shots of its beautiful church), and then, I took the Cuautla highway, a nice asphalted and well painted mostly plain highway. At my arrival to Cuautla, I branched to out to the Mexico City free highway, via Chalco. This return leg to Mexico City involved a 1150 m climbing. Along the uphill road I crossed the Yecapixtla and Tlayacapan branches, arriving later back at Nepantla. Uphill I crossed Yecapixtla again, and a little later I could arrive finally in Amecameca, at 19:00.

As soon as I arrived at Temamatla, the darkness was complete. I had thought that once reaching back Amecameca, the return leg to Mexico City was almost completed, as all the climbing was now behind me. But alas ! I hadn't taken into account that darkness was looming, so what is under normal (diurnal) conditions a pleasant ride, turned out to be a highly extenuous and tiring cycling ride once the night had set on. Having no lights, I had to continuously try to guess and infere where I could find holes along the pavement. Determined to use as much public electric lighting as possible, I decided to cross the entire (urbanized) Chalco Valley. Once crossed the Chalco Valley, I could ride along the free Puebla highway trough Ixtapaluca and later Los Reyes, where I could finally reach the Zaragoza Avenue. Cycling along this road, I could finally arrive at the TAPO bus terminal, near the center of the city. From there all I required to arrive at home was a short ride south along Union Congress Av, and voilá: I was finally back at home's security, after a three hundreds kilometers long ride (and a three thousands meter climbing) !

As usual, all photographs are available in the photoset
(just in case you still haven't seen them). And the GPS Track is also available in both formats: KMZ (Google Earth), or GPX (MapSource, et al).

Thank you for reading. Till the next travel.

September 25, 2007

Yautepec Archaeological Site + Convents Route I (Morelos), 23.09.07

This ride started at the late hour of 10:10. The final destination was the visit to the Yautepec Archaeological Site, in the southern state of Morelos. But along this ride, a visit to the Convents Route was also planned ! I could visit some of the most interesting Convents in Morelos, already declared World Heritage by the UNESCO, and located in the following towns (or cities): Totolapan, Tlayacapan, Oaxtepec and Cuernavaca.

In order to ride this route from Mexico City center, I took Tlalpan Av. to the south and later Division del Norte Av, which would take me directly to Xochimilco and later to San Gregorio Atlapulco, exit point to the Oaxtepec highway.

Once along this highway, and passing along the way Milpa Alta and Tlacotenco, a moderate ascent (grade: 3 %) starts towards La Loma summit (alt: 2900 m). In that sightseeing point I stopped a little to take the compulsory photographs, and later I continued the ride downwards. Six kilometers after passing the town of San FelipeNeri, I took a left branch that would lead me firstly towards Nepopualco (a small yet beautiful town lost in the middle of nowhere where I could take some cosy photos of its simple yet beautiful church), and later, to Totolapan.

In Totolapan I headed directly towards its magnificent Convent. It features an impressive facade and equally imponent atrium. Unfortunately, this convent presents no museum at all. After admiring its architecture, I decided to continue the ride. I went to the center of Totolapan where in its market I could finally eat some 3 kilograms of fruit (between bananas, apples and tunas), which was badly needed at this rather early hour.

In Totolapan I could finally have a glimpse of several people that use Nahuatl as their language ! Some of them even fancied their custom dresses. I sincerely hope I could find more of this towns where people still speak Nahuatl (the language the Aztecs used before the Spanish conquest) in my future rides.

I continued the ride this time towards Tlayacapan, a town largely know for its
clay and ceramic pottery. I headed again directly to its center, where its magnificent Convent is located (in the same square the Convent, Municipal Palace and market can be found). The atrium there was even bigger, and the facade of the convent, simply monumental. And best of all, this Convent did feature a Museum. Although the entry was not free (fee: 10 pesos), taking photographs was not allowed, not even without flash. So I could not present you the beauties that are located inside the Convent's walls: precious frescoes, marvelous oil pictures, magnificent architecture and as a premium: some mummies from boys and girls (from the past centuries upper classes) buried in the gardens of the convent.

Once finished the visit, I proceeded riding towards Oaxtepec, arriving promptly (as the road is pure descent) at its Convent in the center of the town. Unfortunately, I arrived some 30 minutes later than the Convent's opening hours (it closes at 17:00). So I had to content myself with taking some pictures of its facade (not at all as imposing as the facades I had already seen in other convents in this very same journey, anyway). After paying a sort visit to the church adjacent to the convent, I abandoned Oaxtepec, riding this time towards Cocoyoc, where I took the right branch towards Yautepec.

Searching for the archaeological site I arrived unexpectedly first at Yautepec center, so I had to undo my path a little, finally arriving at the site at 18:40, again 40 minutes later than the closing hour. Fortunately, the site master was kind enough to allow me a short and quick visit to the site (once I exposed my motives and route), so I could finally present you the photographs of this beautiful and impressive archaeological site. The site features a royal Palace that whose use was reserved for the Aztec nobility. Basements of rooms and corridors are clearly visible. The site area is really big, as it comprises a whole block. In fact, the site is even bigger, withpre-Hispanic buildings buried under presently built houses.

At 20:00 (when I finish the visit to the site) and already under the cover of the night, I continued the ride, this time towards Cuernavaca (Morelos state capital), crossing in my way the famous Wolfs Canyon (Cañón de Lobos), a high-grade climb that would take me towards La Joya (where I could purchase a much needed water bottle) and later to Jiutepec and finally to Cuernavaca. The problem at crossing the Wolfs Canyon was not really the climbing (although a considerable effort was required), but that I had to made that ascent without solar light, guiding myself only by the passing cars lights. Once I arrived at la Joya (first town after the Canyon) I considered myself safe, since from there, I could ride aided by the occasional urban lights.

Once In Cuernavaca, I paid a short visit to its main square, where the Government Palace and Plaza are located. I headed then to the Pullman bus station to take the 22:15 bus back to Mexico City (fare: 63 pesos), which put me in Taxqueña South bus terminal at merely 23:25, which in turn enabled me to use the subway (closing hour: 00:00) to arrive at my house some half hour later.

As usual, all photographs are available in the following photoset
. The GPS track is available in both formats: GPX and KMZ.

Thank you for reading. Till the next travel.

September 10, 2007

Olintepec Archaeological Site (Morelos) + Nepantla de Sor Juana (Mexico), 09.09.07

This ride started last Sunday at the very late hour of 09:45. The two main places to visit in this journey were the Olintepec Archaeological Site in the southern state of Morelos, and Nepantla, a little town where the best writer of her time was born: Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, in the south-eastern tip of the Mexico State.

In order to reach Nepantla from Mexico City center (elev: 2240 m), I had first to arrive at Amecameca. There are several ways to reach Amecameca. I took the one with the least traffic signals or road crosses: the Puebla toll highway (via the Zaragoza Avenue) up to the Chalco toll station, and then, using the Chalco bypass, I reached Tlalmanalco (alt: 2400 m). After a short climb (elev: 2550 m) I descended towards Amecameca. Using the Amecameca bypass, I headed directly to Tepetlixpa, last town before the descent to Cuautla starts.

Seven kilometers after Tepetlixpa is located San Miguel Nepantla, little town where in 1651 Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was born. Her house (or what is still left of it) is now surrounded by a luxurious, modern and beautiful Cultural Center, sponsored by the Mexico State government. After paying a 10 pesos fee, I was granted access to the two wings that conform the Cultural Center. The first wing houses the remains of Sor Juana house. The second wing presents a beautifully decorated Museum dedicated to Sor Juana. Unfortunately, taking photographs (even without flash !) is not allowed in both Museum wings interiors, so I can only present you photographs of the external garden of the Cultural Center, which in turn houses several statues of Sor Juana, beautifully placed along the green garden. The external walls of the Museum also present (printed on metallic plates), several sonnets, authored by Sor Juana. You can see all the pictures in the above linked Photoset Show.

The Museum wing that houses the Sor Juana exposition presents several portraits of the beloved female poet, as well as personal items, and most important: a chronological sequence of her life path and writings, from her birth in Nepantla, till her dead in the Sn. Geronimo Convent, in the (then imperial) Mexico City. This exposition presents the ordeals that Sor Juana must endure in order to satisfy her intellectual prowess, and also, how must she obey the final orders from the Catholic Church to sell all her four-thousand-books library and associated scientific instrumental, and refrain from continue writing and reading any other matter out of the clerical realm. So virulent was the attack the Catholic Church put upon her, that she signed her resignation letter (Answer to Sor Filotea) with the following words: "I, the worst woman of the world", written with her own blood.

As a tribute to her intelligence and courage, lets review one of her most famous poems: "Stubborn Men"

You mulish men, accusing
woman without reason,
not seeing you occasion
the very wrong you blame:

since you, with craving unsurpassed,
have sought for their disdain,
why do you hope for their good works
when you urge them on to ill?

You assail all their resistance,
then, speaking seriously,
you say it was frivolity,
forgetting all your diligence.

What most resembles the bravery
of your mad opinion
is the boy who summons the bogeyman
and then cowers in fear of him.

You hope, with mulish presumption,
to find the one you seek:
for the one you court, a Thaïs;
but possessing her, Lucrecia.

Whose humor could be more odd
than he who, lacking judgment,
himself fogs up the mirror,
then laments that it's not clear?

Of their favor and their disdain
you hold the same condition:
complaining if they treat you ill;
mocking them, if they love you well.

A fair opinion no woman can win,
no matter how discrete she is;
if she won't admit you, she is mean,
and if she does, she's frivolous.

You're always so stubbornly mulish
that, using your unbalanced scale,
you blame one woman for being cruel,
the other one, for being easy.

For how can she be temperate
when you are wooing after her,
if her being mean offends you
and her being easy maddens?

Yet between the anger and the grief
that your taste recounts,
blessed the woman who doesn't love you,
and go complain for all you're worth.

Your lover's grief gives
wings to their liberties,
yet after making them so bad
you hope to find them very good.

Whose blame should be the greater
in an ill-starred passion:
she who, begged-for, falls,
or he who, fallen, begs her?

Or who deserves more blame,
though both of them do ill:
she who sins for pay,
or he who pays for sin?

So why are you so afraid
of the blame that is your own?
Love them just as you have made them,
or make them as you seek to find.

Just stop your soliciting
and then, with all the more reason,
you may denounce the infatuation
of the woman who comes to beg for you.

With all these arms, then, I have proved
that what you wield is arrogance,
for in your promises and your demands
you join up devil, flesh, and world.

Once I finished the visit to the Museum and House of Sor Juana, I continued my way downwards to Cuautla, Anenecuilco and Ayala City (in that order), finally arriving in Olintepec at 16:30.

The Olintepec Archaeological Site is located in the homonymous town, 5.5 km after Ayala City. Although this site is not very impressive by its size, it is a peaceful place to know, and one of the last archaeological sites in Morelos that I still remained unknown for me :-) The site features a pyramidal structure (Hill 1), where almost two hundreds ritual burials have been discovered. Although being populated since 1500 BC, the city of Olintepec was made tributary of the Aztec empire in the Late Post-Classic period (1350-1520 CE), tributing to the Tlahuica city of Huaxtepec. On the top of the pyramid stand now the vestiges of what resemble to me as a Christian building: namely a church. This custom of the Spanish conquerors of building a christian church over the top of pre-Hispanic temples, with the very same stones that were used to built the pre-Hispanic temple is one of their most recurrent themes. I had seen such custom in action in several other sites (Cholula and Tepapayeca, to name a few). Here we have seen another sad example :-(

After finishing my visit to the Olintepec site, I cycled upwards, now back to Cuautla. On my way back, I decided to pay a short visit to the Museum that presents the house where Gral. Emiliano Zapata was born. This Museum is located in Anenecuilco (between Ayala City and Cuautla). Zapata was the leader of the Southern Mexican Revolution (1910-1921). In the that exposition, a beautifully painted mural (fresco) can be appreciated, depicting Zapata's ideals and his motto: "The land belongs to those who work it with their own hands".

At my arrival at Cuautla (at 19:00) I could again observe the crowded Plaza that Cuautla turns itself each Sunday. Lots and lots of people ! The Sunday dancing (danzón) was in its place, in front of the State Government Palace. I spend some time enjoying the human spectacle, but after a while I decided that it was time now to get back home. Fortunately, since the last bus to Mexico City departed at 20:00 (74 pesos fare), just five minutes after I purchased my ticket ! After a couple of hours I arrived at the Taxqueña bus terminal, and then, using the subway, I promptly arrived back at the safety of home :-)

All the photos of this travel are available at the following photoset. And the GPS track is available in both formats: GPX or KMZ.

Thank you for reading. Till the next journey.

August 28, 2007

Cholula Archaeological Site + Texmelucan (Puebla), 26.08.07

Photoset Map

Full Photoset Show

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

GPS Cycling Data:

Distance: 160 Km, Total Ascent: 1302 m, Total Descent: 1260 m, Time: 06:11 hr, Avg. Speed: 24.3 Km/hr, Max Speed: 73.5 Km/hr, Energy Expended: 26.85 MJ, Power: 302 W.

Travel Report:

This ride started last Sunday at 08:20, almost three hours later than intended, as I had hoped to be able to start cycling at 05:30. I took my usual route to Puebla from Mexico City center: Ignacio Zaragoza Av. to the southeast of the city, in order to reach the junction between both free and toll Puebla highways in Los Reyes. By the way, this time the road was closed to all automotive traffic at the junction, so it was a pleasure cycling alone in the beginning of the free highway. In fact, I could take some surreal photographs of the building site that is now located in both highways. After that point, I continued cycling along the free highway, crossing on my way the whole county of Ixtapaluca. Once this county ends, the mountain climbing towards the Llano Grande summit (elev: 3220 m) starts after passing the town of Zoquiapan (elev: 3260 m).

As this time I was being chased by several fellow cyclists, I could not take any photos of the landscape in the ascent. But anyway, you have already seen lots of pictures of that ascent in my previous reports of that route to Puebla. From Zoquiapan, where I arrived at 09:55, I needed 90 minutes to reach the Llano Grande summit. Along that climb I was fortunate enough to see several cyclists that were already riding the return descent from the summit towards the Mexico City Valley. Once at Llano Grande, I found another cyclist that was climbing from Texmelucan (Puebla) towards the summit (i.e. from the other side of the mountain). As I, once I had crowned the port, started my descent towards Texmelucan, that fellow rider (who happened to live in Tlaxcala) and me cycled together a good part of the ride towards Texmelucan. It was surely fun to talk and ride that descent at more than 60 km/hr, simultaneously, although a little bit dangerous.

At my arrival at Texmelucan and before continuing my trip towards Cholula, I could pay a long overdue visit to the beautiful white church of St Mary Magdalene, in Texmelucan. This precious all white church is located not in the center of Texmelucan, but along the highway to Huejotzingo. I was fortunate enough to arrive at the church just when the most revered moment of the mass was taking place, so I could see how all the people in the church, including also the ones that could not enter in the shrine (as it was already full) and were standing out of the church,kneeled down at the consagration . By the way, it was also fine to note that there were several bicycles standing at the front of the church. After finishing my visit to this church, I went to the center of the city to buy another liter of isotonic drink and something to eat.

Once cycling again, I took the highway to Huejotzingo, which is a beautiful road in pristine conditions. It even features a side line for bicycles ! At my arrival at Huejotzingo, I decided not to stop there, as I had already obtained photos from its enormous and beautifully orange painted church. But when I reached the town of Santa Maria Zacatepec, I had to made a due stop, since this town houses a beautiful blue church, an impressive clock tower built with orange bricks, and a simple yet stunning big kiosk, built with the same orange bricks as the clock tower. I had previously desired several times to stop in Zacatepec on my way to Puebla, just to have a look at that impressive architectural group, but I had been unable to do that before, as the whole architectural group is located in the top of a hill, which is accessed only by stairways ... and this ascent is very difficult to perform riding a bicycle :-)

Ten kilometers or so after Zacatepec, I could finally reach Cholula, and, after crossing its main square, I could arrive at last in the Cholula Archaeological Site, which houses the largest man-made structure by volume in the world ! First of all, I had to leave my bicycle in a secure place, as I (obviously) was not going to be allowed to enter in the Great Pyramid with it.

Inside the Great Pyramid we (the visitors) could roam across a network of tunnels that travel across the pyramid's interior. You can have a look of those dramatic pictures in the photoset. The corridors inter-connect via staircases with the different levels of the interior, as there are several pyramids, one built atop the other, in the interior of that Great Pyramid.

Once outside the pyramid (and after recovering the lost sight, owed to the stark contrast with daylight), the church of Our Lady of Remedies could be seen at the top of the pyramid. It was a custom for the Spanish conquerors to built a christian church at the top of the most importantpre-Hispanic temples, and this case, sadly, was no exception.

Outside the Great Pyramid stands the adjoining Archaeological Site. This huge site comprehends several impressive pre-Hispanic buildings: a Teotihuacan building, Stone Courtyard, Altars Courtyard, Mexica Altar, Building F, Buildings 1 - 6, and an Offerings Altar. As it is said that an image is worth a thousand words, I do sincerely recommend you having a look at the extensive array of photographs taken at the site, in the above linked photoset.

When I was almost exiting the site, at the foot of the Building F (the only staircase that has been restored to its initial state) I had the opportunity to observe a magnificent spectacle: the Papantla flyers ! It is really a unique chance to observe that aerial dance !

After finishing my visit to this incredible rich site, I went for my bicycle and, after crossing the center of Cholula, and its beautiful arches and Cathedral, I started the return leg of my journey. Please note that owed to the extension of the archaeological site, it was now 17:30, so my priority was now to arrive at Texmelucan, since the whole return to Mexico City in bicycle was now impossible given the hour.

But the big problem started as soon as I was leaving Cholula: a diluvial rain started to fall ! In just some minutes the whole highway to Texmelucan had been converted into a river ! I was riding in a stream of water of half meter (yes, 50 cm) deep ! I had never cycled inside that kind of water stream. And worst of all, it was an uphill road. But it was not even a road now: the water had covered the whole road (both ways) with a stream of more than half meter of deep. As the rain continued to fall, as soon as I found a place where to take cover from the rain, I stopped my insane riding. But the water level continued to rise, facing me with the possibility that the very place where I was standing were soon covered also by water. What course of action should I take ? If I rode downhill towards Cholula I was going to face more water, but at least a big city. If I choosed to ride uphills, I could find less water, but the ride was going to be a lot harder for the slope, and the next big city (Huejotzingo) was more distant than Cholula. What should I do if this crazy rain continues ?

Fortunately, after half an hour the rain stopped as by magic, so the stream over the road stopped to rise. I decided then to continue my ride uphills, towards Huejotzingo and Texmelucan. I still had to ride inside that half meter deep water stream, but it was only in the following couple of kilometers, since as far as I continued ascending, the volume of water that I found on the road diminished with the height, up to a point where, happily, no more water stream was on the road ! I can not imagine what those kind of rains could do to human settlements if the rain would last several hours, as is the case with hurricane rains.

From that point it was a piece of cake the return to Texmelucan, although a slight rain continued, there were no more rivers on the highway. In this way I could safely arrive at Texmelucan at 19:50, where I purchased my return bus ticket (AU lines, 54 pesos fare). The bus departed at 20:10, arriving in Mexico City a couple of hours later at the TAPO bus terminal. From there a short subway trip and I was again in the safety of home, albeit wet all the way to the marrow !

Thank you for reading. Till the next journey.

August 21, 2007

Teotihuacan Archaeological Site + Acolman Ex-Convent (Mexico State), 19.08.07

Photoset Map

Full Photoset Show

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

GPS Cycling Data:

Distance: 108 Km, Total Ascent: 550 m, Total Descent: 525 m, Time: 04:03 hr, Avg. Speed: 25.80 Km/hr, Max Speed: 57.90 Km/hr, Energy Expended: 20.21 MJ, Power: 346.60 W.

Travel Report:

This ride started at 12:20 (since I had to attend some previous appointments that Sunday's morning). Being so late, I decided to make a long due ride that I had not made because its destination is relatively too near from Mexico City: the cycling ride towards the Teotihuacan Archaeological Site !

This archaeological site is only 50 km distant from Mexico City center. I had been there a lot of times before (once with the companion of fellow cyclists), but I had never gone cycling to Teotihuacan and entered in the archaeological site, in order to ascend the Sun Pyramid. Well, now I had opportunity to change this fact, and pay my debts :-)

I took Eje Central Avenue (to the north) in order to gain access to Insurgentes Norte Av. Insurgentes put me directly at the Pachuca exit highway. There were (as usual) two roads to ride towards Teotihuacan: the free and the toll highways. As I have already rode a number of times on the toll highway, I decided that this time I would use the free highway, an unknown route for me :-)

So, in Ecatepec I branched out to take the free Pachuca highway, passing soon by Venta de Carpio, where I could find a gigantic second-hand automotive market. There were kilometers of second-hand autos looking for a new owner. Next town on the route wasTepexpan . Along the ride I entered in the town of Acolman. I was already passing by it, when a fortuitous look made me realize I was going to miss something serious: the Augustine Ex-Convent of Acolman.

This Ex-Convent (a national museum) is located at the exit of Acolman, in Teotihuacan direction. I could have really missed it. Just the sheer quantity of autos trying to find a place to park made me look in the right direction. I didn't have all the time in the world, but somehow I arrived to the instantaneous conclusion that maybe I was not going to have the time and opportunity to re-visit thatimponent and enormous convent. So, making a U-turn I entered in the parking area of the site.

When I entered in the convent's atrium, I was mesmerized by the size and elegance of the building. Its sheer size imposes immediately upon the visitors. But it is its simplicity and cleanliness of lines that blow up its stunning image. It is difficult to imagine such a big yet simple religious building. And, on top of all, the Ex-Convent is located in the middle of an immense atrium, beautifully decorated with a green carpet of grass. An idyllic scene, indeed.

The facade of the convent depicts several religious images (saints and angels) beautifully sculpted in stone and built on the top of columns ofplateresque style. The arch of the door of the temple is also beautifully sculpted with religious images. A significant fact of this convent is that it is still in almost pristine conservation conditions, in spite of being built between 1539 and 1560. It really seems as the time had stopped its march on this convent. I have seen modern churches which look older than this preciously preserved Acolman Convent.

Once inside the Convent's Museum, a lot of colonial religious oil paintings can be appreciated, along with an extensive exposition of objects used by the Augustine monks that once inhabited the walls of that Convent. Not only religious items can be appreciated, but alsochapells, adoratoriums and monk's cells can be seen there. The convent features several interior halls, which house orange trees and sometimes, a water spring or a stone cross. The corridors of the convent are impressive by its elegance and size, flanked by columns and arches ofplateresque style. The jewels of the convent are the frescoes that depict some scenes of Christ Passion. Those frescoes are still admirably well preserved, as you can observe in the photographs shown in the Photoset.

After such a magnificent visit to the Acolman Ex-Convent, all that was still required was to cycle at top speed non stop ... in order to arrive at a decent hour at the Teotihuacan Archaeological Site, where I arrived at 15:50 (last entry hour is 17:30).

The Teotihuacan Archaeological Site is by far, the biggest site in Mexico, having covered in its cultural apogee a total of 38 square kilometers. with a population if 170,000 inhabitants. It houses two enormous pyramids: Sun's and Moon's, a big avenue (Dead's Avenue), several temples (to Quetzalcoatl, between them) and residential buildings. The Sun Pyramid is one of the biggest in America (second only to the GreatCholula Pyramid).

Once in the site, I swiftly proceeded to take some pictures of the Dead's Avenue, the Moon Pyramid, and of course, of the Sun Pyramid. The bad news was that rain had started to fall at my arrival at Teotihuacan ... never stopping while I was roaming around the site. So I had to made the whole visit under rainfall. Having no other course at hand, I started to climb the Sun Pyramid. I was fortunate enough to obtain some precious pictures of the vistas at the top of the pyramid, although I had towhitstand the rain and strong wind at the top of the building. I would strongly recommend you having a look at the photos of the site at the above linked Photoset show.

Owed to the rain, I had to shorten my visit to the site, so as soon as I climbed down the pyramid, I decided it was time to start the return leg of the trip, since rain was not going to stop any moment now. I cycled back towards Mexico City, riding in the toll highway up to the toll station, where I had to take a bypass, since this is the one and only toll station where bicycles are not allowed to pass. From there I took the road through Ecatepec, taking later Centenario Avenue in order to ride towards the center of Mexico City, using at the end Congreso de la Union Av, which finally delivered me (after branching out in Boturini) to the safety of home, which I reached at 19:30, with full solar light (at last) !

Thank you for reading. Till the next travel.

August 14, 2007

Jonacatepec Las Pilas Archaeological Site + Cuautla (Morelos), 12.08.07

Map Navigation: This dynamic Trackmap shows the GPS track (red line) and some geo-referenced photos (red dots) of the cycling tour. Wheel up and wheel down your mouse to zoom in or zoom out the map. Click on any point in the map to center it on that point. Or just drag the map with your mouse. To see the photos, hoover the mouse over the red dots. Click on the photo to go to the picture page.

Photoset Map

Photoset Show

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

GPS Cycling Data:

Distance: 155 Km, Total Ascent: 822 m, Total Descent: 1,633 m, Time: 05:44:12 hr, Avg. Speed: 26.60 Km/hr, Max Speed: 64.70 Km/hr, Energy Expended: 23.47 MJ, Power: 284 W.

Travel Report:

This ride started at the very late hour of 10:00 (sadly). I guess that as I knew beforehand that this particular ride was not going to be one of extraordinary difficulty, I subconsciously decided to start it late. Well, that momentarily suited to me, as I had a previous hard Saturday, being able to go to sleep only at 02:00 on Sunday :-(

The purpose of this ride was to visit the Las Pilas Archaeological Site, in the town of Jonacatepec, in the southern state of Morelos. Jonacatepec is located 30 km south-east of Cuautla. So I had first to arrive in Cuautla. I decided to take to least-effort path from Mexico City: cycling first towards Amecameca, and from there, descending to Cuautla. The other route involves first arriving at Cuernavaca (Morelos capital), and from there riding again to Cuautla. But the route to Amecameca only involves a light ascent to 2,550 m (in Amecameca) from the 2,250 of Mexico City level. In contrast, to arrive at Cuernavaca, La Cima summit (3,000 m) must be reached first. So, the route selection was a no-brainer, although in the past I had once taken the Cuernavaca path, since I didn't know about the Amecameca route.

To reach Amecameca there also (at least) two routes. One involves crossing the south-east sector of Mexico City, reaching Tlahuac, and from there exiting the city in Amecameca direction. This is a picturesque route, since a lot of interesting city neighbourhoods are visited, being them one of the most intriguing quarters inhabited by the indigenous population of Mexico City. But this route has also the disadvantage of being too slow, since it comprises cycling along the usual city inter-quarters streets, with stop lights and traffic-negotiating corners. The other route involves arriving in Amecameca using the paid Puebla highway. This route is much less glamorous, since it only features a big and wide inter-state highway, and the associated landscapes which can be appreciated along the route ... but it is fast. No traffic lights, no corners to be worried about its traffic ... and no topes (asphalt protuberances on the road's asphalt carpet, built to deliberately slow down the traffic, in order to protect the pedestrians from speeding cars).

I took then the Zaragoza Avenue, in order to exit from Mexico City center to the toll Puebla highway. Fortunately, the gigantic traffic jam (owed to the construction of a big traffic distributor) that is usually in the place where both the free and toll Puebla highways diverge was not present at this time. I hope I had the same luck in my fore coming rides towards Puebla. This time I took the toll highway, since the Amecameca highway starts just before the Huixtoco toll station, along the Puebla toll highway.

Just at beginning of the toll highway, at Km 18, a 2 % slope opens the welcome, it is just an 80 m climb, but there was where I could reach some cyclists that were riding before me. Once again, I could ride with companion, although merely momentarily. A cyclist and me were trying to outdo the other, with this little race lasting up to the Huixtoco toll station (km 33), beating me in the last 500 meters or so. But anyway, it was a hell of fun riding against a fellow cyclist :-)

At the Huixtoco toll station I branched out of the Puebla highway, entering in the Chalco highway. The road to Chalco is a plain one, since Chalco was once a lacustre region, up to not much time ago. Fun starts at the Chalco exit, passing Tlapala, with a moderate ascent towards Tlalmanalco (2,400 m)n and later on the road to Amecameca, where a small summit of 2,550 m must be reached before descending to Amecameca (2,450 m). But heck, that was all the ascent I had to do in order to arrive in Cuautla, since from Amecameca there is only descent towards Cuautla.

In Amecameca (where I arrived after 2 hours of cycling) I took the by-pass to circumnavigate the city. I always choose the by-pass (if available), since they avoid me the ungrateful task of slowing me down passing by the center of a town I had already visited. But when the center of a town is located along the highway, I try not to lose the opportunity to pay a short visit to its main square.

Along the route, I reached Tepetlixpa, last town before the real descent towards Cuautla starts. It is a very commercial town, very apt for cliche-filling tourists. A lot of restaurants along both sides of the road offering cecina, a sort of dried and salt cooked cow meat, a really recurrent dish on that region. It seemed to me that the most appreciated cecina comes from Yecapixtla, a town in the neighbourhood. Why from Yecapixtla ? I really don't know (neither care).

I descended then from Tepetlixpa (2,333 m) to Nepantla (2.056 m) where Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was born in 1651. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz was the best writer of her time. She was also a nun and a poet. I curse myself for not stopping in Nepantla in my route to Cuautla, but honestly, I was unaware of the fact that I was passing by Nepantla along the descent. I promise next time I remake the route towards Cuautla (hopefully, in two weeks time), pay a much obliged visit to the town that saw birth the tenth muse, America's phoenix.

I arrived at the Cuautla entrance just before 14:00. There is an impressive welcoming arch at the entrance of the city, decorated with a mural depicting Morelos and Zapata, both national heroes of Mexico. Morelos was the chief architecture of the Independence War (1810-1821) after Hidalgo hanging by the spanish, and Zapata was the leader of the southern Revolution War (1910-1921), assassinated by orders of fellow revolutionary Carranza. Sad history, indeed.

After buying water at Cuautla entrance, I took the by-pass in order to avoid the havoc of traffic in the city center. After 7 km of by-pass, I could finally enter in the Izúcar de Matamoros (Puebla) highway. This road is a well pavemented, clearly marked road, decorated with stunning vistas alongside: a cyclist paradise, albeit full of up and down-hill swings. After 16 km, having passed by the towns of Tlayecac, I reached Amayuca, where the Jonacatepec deviation stands. From Amayuca, it's only a 3.5 km down road what was left to me before finally reaching the Las Pilas sites, arriving there at 15:40.

Las Pilas archaeological site (which has been inhabited since 1,000 BC) is unique is some interesting way: it is the only site (up to my knowledge) that is housed in a swimming pool recreation center ! Really ! In fact, I was just hoping that I would have to pay to 30 pesos required by the swimming pool administration (although on Sundays, there is no fee for the archaeological sites), but no. The door that gives access to the archaeological site is a different one, being it run by the INAH (National archaeology sites administration). Curiously, both doors (swimming pool and INAH) gave access to the same track :-) Man ...

Once being admited, the track that leads to the site passes by the pools :-) I guess that you could just jump into the water, if you were inclined to do (and avoid paying the fee), but I had no time for such divertimentos, unfortunately, as I had a mission to run: the visit to the site :-)

The Las Pilas site is not a gigantic site like others (Cholula or Xochicalco, just for mentioning some), being rather one of modest dimensions. But it is interesting in its own way, as the site features channels, as a unique water collecting system. In fact, must of the pyramids and temples in the region are associated with the water cult, which had its main religious deity in Tlaloc (rain god). The main function of those channels was to collect the water that came of the water springs, drive it to a central register box, and from there, conduct the water towards a big receptor located in the South-west bound of the plaza. From here water was diverged towards the population centers and agricultural fields. In fact, those channels (and associated water cult) were so important to the population, that some of the out-of-use channels were used to perform ceremonial burials. In those burials, the people was earthed in the channels in special positions, like the Lotus, accompanied by religious artifacts, as the small statuettes (Tepictocton) representing the Tlaloques: Tlaloc helpers. Aside from the engineering feats of this site, it was a beautiful place to be. The green grass put an idyllic touch to the scene, along the delicately modulated slopes of the hills that built the site.

Once finished the visit, I proceeded to visit the downtown, where a beautiful yet abandoned Augustine St. August Ex-Convent can be appreciated in all its past glory. It certainly give its viewers an impossible feeling of melancholy. You can have a look at it in the photoset.

It was time now for the return leg of the journey, although merely to Cuautla. I rode back towards Amayuca (a gentle uphill slope), where I could buy a much needed water replacement, since those places are really hot indeed, and the sun had been the Highness it is accustomed to be, with no rain or even clouds that interfere with its power. From Amayuca I cycled back towards Cuautla, reaching its downtown at 18:30.

The Cuautla's downtown was absurdly full of people ! More people per square meter than in the Mexico City Zocalo ! I asked a local if there was some festivity in town, just to explain myself the cause of so much people, and he told me that no special fiesta was hold on that Sunday, It was just that every Sunday was the same. There was a Danzón public ball between the kiosk and the municipal palace. A lot of elder people were taking part. It was an interesting show to witness. After taking some pictures of the beautiful and imposing Cathedral, I decided to return to Mexico City.

At 19:30 I took the Estrella Roja bus (74 pesos fare), which, owing to the rainful weather conditions along the highway, a trip that is usually made in 2:30 hours, this time was accomplished in 5 hours ! Arriving in Mexico City at 00:30, there was no more Metro (subway, closes at 00:00) to take this time to arrive home, so a modest ride from the South Bus Terminal (in Taxqueña) to the center of the city was all that was required to arrive back at home's safety :-)

Thank you for reading. Till the next travel.

August 07, 2007

Tepexi de Rodriguez + Tecali de Herrera (Puebla), 05.08.07

Map Navigation: This dynamic Trackmap shows the GPS track (red line) and some geo-referenced photos (red dots) of the cycling tour. Wheel up and wheel down your mouse to zoom in or zoom out the map. Click on any point in the map to center it on that point. Or just drag the map with your mouse. To see the photos, hoover the mouse over the red dots. Click on the photo to go to the picture page.

Photoset Map

Photoset Show

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

GPS Cycling Data:

Distance: 228 Km, Total Ascent: 2,056 m, Total Descent: 2,469 m, Time: 9:43 hr, Avg. Speed: 23.4 Km/hr, Max Speed: 64 Km/hr, Energy Expended: 39.12 MJ, Power: 280 W.

Travel Report:

Alas ! At last, a ride that starts early ! At 05:55 I was already taking the first picture of the journey. This means that at 06:00 I was already cycling towards my destination: the Tepexi el Viejo Archaeological Site, in the eastern state of Puebla.

From my house (near Mexico City center) I took Fray Servando Av., in order to gain access to Ignacio Zaragoza Av., a very long avenue that drives directly to both (free and toll) Puebla highways. I choosed to take the free highway, reaching the start of the Puebla free highway (and the end of the urban zone) at 07:15. According to this timetable, I could start the next time the ride half an hour before, at 05:30, since at 06:45 there is already sunlight on the road.

The landscapes along the route at that early hour, just when the sun has still not risen, were breath taking. It was almost phantasmal the combination of light in the sky and darkness on the mountains. The sun behind the mountains gave a strong contrast between day and shadows. It is maybe because I am not really accustomed to get up before the sun that those landscapes seemed strangely alien for me, just as if I were in another planet :-) You can have a glimpse of those precious vistas at the photoset show.

From Mexico City level (2,240 m) I continued the ascent to Avila Camacho (elev: 2,900 m), and later, up to the Llano Grande summit (elev: 3,200 m). On my way up to the summit, I was blessed with the companion of several fellow cyclists, die-hard ones. They were climbing this summit with one-speed bicycles ! You have to have legs if you want to climb this 1,000 m ascent along just 20 km (grade: 5 %) with just one gear ! And I have still to say that I was overrun by some of those formidable cyclists (but not by all).

A fellow cyclist and me reached the Llano Grande summit at 09:00, from where a steep descent drove me to Rio Frio, and after the Potrero Bridge, also to Santa Rita Tlahuapan, first town on the road once the Zoquiapan National Park ends.

Continuing the descent, I crossed several towns like: San Matías Tlalancaleca, San Lucas, San Rafael Tlanalapan, finally arriving in San Martin Texmelucan at 10:10. In Texmelucan I made a short stop in order to buy some fresh fruit and water.

From Texmelucan I took the road to Huexotzingo. This free highway is superbly pavemented, it even features a side lane, of the same quality as the car lanes ! A God gift. Besides, along the road some impressive vistas of the volcanoes could be appreciated. Reaching Huexotzingo at 11:30, I decided to pay a short visit to its beautiful church, decorated with a stunning and incredible beautiful orange color.

Later on the road I reached Cholula, home of the imposing Cholula Archaological Site, already visited (if you are interested, you could review my previous Cholula report). I could not enter in the city, since time was a scarce resource, so I continued by the Quetzalcoatl boulevard (painfully bad pavemented) towards Puebla City.

In Puebla City, again, I could not enter in the center of the city, since I had already been there, and more important: the clock was ticking. So I by-passed the center using the Circuito and soon gained access to the Valsequillo Boulevard, road that would take me directly to the Africam (an open-air Zoo), in the Valsequillo Dam. From the Valsequillo branch, the route took me towards Tecali de Herrera, a place which reputedly was once the house of Quetzalcoatl.

In Tecalli de Herrera a beautiful church can be appreciated but, its main attraction is the Franciscan Ex-Convent (properly a Basilica: three naves separated by columnades with semicircular arches), built between 1540 and 1569. It is an enormous and gigantic ruin, that in this day consists merely on its mail walls, columns and arches, since the rest of the building is no more ... even its wood roof was taking apart, for making a bull rodeo in 1920. Could you imagine that ?

I would certainly recommend you having a look at the imposing views of that gigantic Ex-Convent in the photoset. Those views are certainly a kind of its own. In fact, this was the first time I had ever seen such a magnificent opus, turned down to its mere ruins and vestiges.

From Tecali and before I reached Ahuatepec, only cruel desert awaited me. The landscapes of those desert places made me remeber the phrase that Dante (in the Divine Comedy) put at Hell's entrance: Abandon all Hope all You who enter here. Man ... the desert is indeed a desolated place. I was just hoping nothing bad occurred me (as a broken chain or whatever other mechanical failure) in those desolated realms. At some point in the road I found the famous Sifon, an enormous aqueduct cliff bypass. It is really an imposing piece of architecture. I don't know when that Sifon aqueduct was built, or by whom, but certainly it's a breath-taking building, not just by its enormous size, but also by its location: in the middle of a desert.

In Ahuatepec the desert finishes and lots of water appears from no-where (as far as I could see). As soon as I was reaching Ahuatepec, the humidity of the air increased, and for a reason: there is an open water channel, that coming from Ahuatepec, I imagine, supply water to Tecali. In fact, there is so much abundance of water after Ahuatepec, that in Atoyatempan (the following town), I could observe fields being irrigated ... by aspersion ! Just a few kilometers after the desert. A strange land, indeed.

In Tepeyahualco (next town along the route) I decided to make a second short stop, because I was starving, and lacking water. After the renewal of my reserves, I cycled towards the last stop before reaching the destination: Molcaxac. Molcaxac is a picturesque town, last big town before Tepexi. I decided to pay a short visit to its simple yet beautiful church, painted with a pale blue color, and its adornments in white.

Just before I reached Tepexi de Rodríguez, along the road I could enjoy and
indescribable view: A Saguaro forest. I had only seen once the Saguaros (on a previous car travel to Oaxaca), but this time I could stop along the road and breath its beauty. Being the saguaros desert plants that grow to an enormous size, the panoramic view was just incredible. The sheer beauty of those desert plants and the imposing silence of the valley gave the scene an almost surreal atmosphere. And in the background, my destination: Tepexi de Rodríguez.

I reached Tepexi de Rodriguez at 19:30. I went straight forward to the church, to have a look at it and to take the compulsory photograph. From the church the road to the Tepexi el Viejo archaeological Site could be observed. It was a 10-km off-road hill-crossing way. I needed at least a couple of hours to get to the site and return to the town, and I had only 30 minutes of light ... Man, what else could I do ? Nothing. I had to accept the fact that on that day, I was not being able to visit the site. Although I had started the journey at 06:00 and I had tried not to make too many stops, the full route (up to the archaeological site) proved to be, at the end of the day, too long to be made in only one day. I need two days for that visit.

So, after accepting that fact, I had to contempt myself with roaming around town and taking pictures of it. Another problem: the return to Mexico City: the last bus to Puebla had already departed at 19:30, with the following bus passing by at 04:00. I was tempted to pay one room in the town's hotel, but heck, I had never needed a hotel room (on my previous one-day cycling tours), so, I was not going to change this trend ! I went to the local market to eat some (ten) tacos de cabeza (only delicacy available in town), roamed a little more, and when I was so tired that I could stand no more, I went to the town's park, in order to rest at least three hours, just to wait the oncoming 04:00 bus to Puebla. I almost felt asleep, but then I remember the cost of my equipment, and somehow I lost the sleep, having to contempt myself with resting the body, although not the mind. At 03:45 I went to the junction were the bus was going to pass and waited.

The town at that hour made me remember Comala, the ghost town of the Pedro Páramo Rulfo novel. The town resembled in fact a ghostly town. I was just half-heartily waiting to appear some anima at the round of the corner :-) Anyway, the bus arrived punctually at 04:15, and for a fare of 65 pesos (plus a 10 pesos unofficial fare for the bicycle) I arrived in Puebla's CAPU (bus central station) at 06:30, from where I again took another bus, this time direct to Mexico City (82 pesos), which departing at 06:50, put me again in Mexico City (at the TAPO eastern bus terminal) a little before 09:00 (delay caused by lots of traffic at that rush hour). A 10-minutes cycling ride and I was again back at home's safety, but with a hard day oncoming ... and hardly any sleep. But heck, this is what cycling is all about, isn't it ? :-)

Thank you for reading. Till the next travel.

July 30, 2007

Huamango Archaeological Site + Acambay (Mexico). 29.07.07

Map Navigation: This dynamic Trackmap shows the GPS track (red line) and some geo-referenced photos (red dots) of the cycling tour. Wheel up and wheel down your mouse to zoom in or zoom out the map. Click on any point in the map to center it on that point. Or just drag the map with your mouse. To see the photos, hoover the mouse over the red dots. Click on the photo to go to the picture page.

Photoset Map

Photoset Show

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

GPS Cycling Data:

Distance: 166 Km, Total Ascent: 1,840 m, Total Descent: 1,575 m, Time: 7:17 hr, Avg. Speed: 22.7 Km/hr, Max Speed: 72.2 Km/hr, Energy Expended: 32 MJ, Power: 306 W.

Travel Report:

This ride started past 07:00 (one hour later than expected). I took the usual route to Toluca (Constituyentes, and later, the Toluca free highway). On my way up to Las Cruces summit, I was lucky enough to find several fellow cyclists riding along the ascent ! As I am already accustomed to ride solo, this companion was a very fortunate coincide for me :-) I could take some photos of them after reaching the summit at 09:00.

After La Marquesa I continued descending towards Lerma and Toluca, where I took the Atlacomulco branch (just where the Tollo God monument stands) at 10:10. I knew that the Huamango Archaeological Site closes on Sundays at 15:00, so had to make few stops (if any) to take photographs along the route. This saddened me a little, as I love taking pictures of the landscapes and important landmarks of the road, but this time, I had no time for such divertimentos. From Toluca, I had less than five hours to reach the site, and the clock was ticking.

Fortunately enough, I had already made the same route (up to Atlacomulco) just a couple of weeks before, when I paid a visit to the Mazahua Ceremonial Center, so, if you are in the mood of having a look at the beautiful landscapes along the route, please check my previous Mazahua CC report.

The road between Toluca, Ixtlahuaca and Atlacomulco is a superb paid highway. It even features a good side lane (plus the two usual automotive traffic lanes). But as I had no time to lose, I decided not to use the side lane (a little bumpier), using instead the right side of the first traffic lane. In this way I could ride a little faster. I had thought that the autos would be honking me for using their lane (existing an available side lane), but to my fortune, the drivers along that highway were always courteous and polite, by-passing me using their left lane ! This was important, since cycling that 60 km ride on the cars lane is always an uneasy ride :-)

The 60 km highway to Atlacomulco is mainly a plain ride. The weather was beautiful: not a strong sun, no rain and no winds: a cyclists dream ! This allowed me reaching Ixtlahuaca at
11:30 and Atlacomulco at 12:50. (My self-imposed limit for reaching Atlacomulco was 13:00).

After stopping a little in Atlacomulco for buying water and some food, I started the required climbing along the road towards Acambay. This climbing consists of two peaks, the first of 200 m and the second of about 100 m, nothing to worry, but I had already started cycling with an eye in the clock.

I stooped once more in Acambay (reached at 14:11) to replenish my water bottle as I knew a good ascent was in front of me: an almost 400 m climbing in 7 km (grade: 5.71 %), with the last leg of the journey (after the site landmark in Dongú Puerto) being a cruel climbing: 150 m of ascent in only 1.5 km: a 10 % grade ! This road has even deep markings on the pavement, in order to avoid autos skidding !

Everything was going right, I passed Dongú, Dongú Puerto, Bovini ... and passing by the site entrance, I continued riding, this time downwards to La Florida, where a police man gave me the bad news: I had already passed the Huamango Site entrance. Man ! I was already 100 m down. So I had to re-climb those 100 m (with the clock against me) and from Dongú Puerto, take now the right path towards the site.

I managed to made those climbs and at 15:10 I could finally reach the Huamango Archaeological Site, situated at an elevation of 2,900 m (GPS coordinates: 19.978985796, -99.864121629).

After 160 Km and 1,850 m of climbing I had arrived ten minutes later ! Man ... but I had to do something. So I talked to the site guardian, whom by an extremely fortunate coincidence, was still at the site, picking some things on his truck. So I told him from where I was cycling, and the purpose of my visit. I politely asked him if, by any chance, he could allow me to enter in the site, just in order to take the compulsory photographs. After some tries, he acceded .. and I could finally enter in the site !

More than happy I roamed a little across the site, taking some pictures of the incredible beautiful Otomian buildings. Those buildings included a Palace, a Warrior Temple (with a christian cross at its top) and an Adoratorium. There are even still some vestiges of the stone wall that once protected the ancient city.

The guard had allowed me only a limited amount of time to visit the site, so I could not make a more detailed tour. I just could have a look at its more imposing features. But they were anyway imposing enough to stunne me. Besides, the whole site is covered with a beautiful green grass carpet :-)

After finishing my visit, I started a slalom descent (400 m in 5 km) towards Acambay, where I had planned a visit to its center and man square. But, the weather had thought otherwise, since as soon as I entered in Acambay, a cold diluvial rain (hail inluded) started to fall ... Man, is good to be in town when one of those rains starts to fall !

I waited for half an hour, hoping the rain would soon disappear and let me make my visit to the town's main square, but after waiting almost an hour, with the rain showing no signs of weaning, I decided to take the bus to Mexico City.

I had previously planned cycling back towards Atlacomulco at least, since I had plenty of time in this ride, but no one with a healthy mind was not going to ride under hail, if he could avoid it :-) So I left this time the rain for the next occasion and, for a 85 pesos fare, I boarded the 18:00 direct bus, from Acambay to Mexico City, which promptly (after 2.5 hours) delivered me to home's safety :-)

Thank you for reading. Till the next travel.