July 17, 2007

Mazahua Ceremonial Center (Mexico), 15.07.07

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: 230 Km, Total Ascent: 2,360 m, Total Descent: 1,971 m, Time: 10:21 hr, Avg. Speed: 22.2 Km/hr, Max Speed: 73.1 Km/hr, Energy Expended: 42 MJ, Power: 282 W.

Travel Report:

At 08:30 (I know, too late), I started this ride towards the Huamango Archaeological Site, in the northern extreme of the Mexico State. I took, as usual Constituyentes Avenue (just 4.7 Km from home), in order to have access to the free Toluca Highway, reaching the Tres Cruces summit (elev: 3,200 m) 1:45 hr later. From here comes a fast descent to Lerma (2600 m), and then a gentle slope towards Toluca, capital of the Mexico State.

At the Tollo God Monument, I took the Atlacomulco branch. After this beautiful bypass, I entered in the toll Atlacomulco highway, a superbly pavemented road linking those important cities: Toluca and Atlacomulco. The highway is full of impressive vistas, and, in spite of the late hour, I could found two more fellow cyclists along the road. The terrain of the road towards the city of Ixtlahuaca is painfully plain, honouring the Ixtlahuaca name, nahuatl for In the Plains.

Between both toll stations I could have a look at the Pasteje Hacienda entrance. This Hacienda, now a site of the IUSA industrial complex, is also a famed bull (and horse) breeding ranch.

At my arrival at Atlacomulco, I had to re-check my possibilities. Although my stated goal for this cycling ride was to reach the Huamango Archaeological Site (25 km north of Atlacomulco, after passing Acambay), this site closes at 15:00 on Sundays ... and it was already 14:05 ! That was the moment I cursed myself for starting the ride almost three hours later than intended :-(

So I had to re-think my route. I decided then to visit instead the Mazahua Ceremonial Center ! I had already heard something about this ceremonial center. That it was the Mazahua equivalent of the Otomi Ceremonial Center, also in the Mexico State (both built by ex state governor Jiménez Cantú, in the 70's), but I had not the faintest clue about how to arrive at it ! That is the problem that aroses when you make changes along the route. But I had at least the old and proven method of navigation by asking ... Just ask the locals :-) You know: asking for directions can lead you to Rome.

So, after asking some locals in the way, I took the Atlacomulco bypass, and then ride back to the south, in order to reach a town named San Felipe del Progreso (picturesque name, if any). From there, I continued my way to San Agustin Mextepec, and then, leaving behind those plains I had started to love, a new ascent started: the climbing towards San Pedro el Alto.

The visit to San Pedro el Alto paid by itself all the hardships of the travel. Its Church is beautiful, but the lucky point was a religious pilgrimage made by the inhabitants of the surrounding of San Pedro el Alto to the church, carrying a full-size image of the Carmen Virgin (the one with a kid on her arms) across all the quarters of the surrounding towns.

I found the procession at my exit of San Pedro el Alto, and they were already coming from uphills. I did not get their starting point, but it must be really uphills. The procession was entirely composed of women, as just women seemed to be allowed to carry the religious images and flags. Those women were fully dressed in a yellow (and sometimes blue) ceremonial dress, complete with a special hat, and each of them carried a small religious image on their dresses. I should mention that I found quite beautiful those yellow dresses.

Once the vividly coloured procession had passed my position, it stopped in front of a house and the owner of that house kneeled down in front of the Carmen Virgin image ... and started to pray to it, on the street ! I was 15 meters away from that meeting, when a man directing the procession invited me to get into the meeting and continuing taking photos ! He also instructed the people to make me a little spare room in the middle of the meeting, in front of the Virgin image. An best of all, he told the people: This is our culture ! That was my lucky day :-) I really do suggest you to have a look of the photos of this religious procession at the Photoshow link.

Once the procession moved on, I continued my way uphills, towards San Jerónimo Navati and Santa Ana Nichi. As you can see, the names of those towns are no more in nahuatl laguage, but instead in Mazahua language, so that meant I was nearing the destination of my ride :-) Just before the Santa Ana Nichi deviation, I took the branch that would take me directly to the Mazahua Ceremonial Center, located at al elevation of almost 2900 m (GPS coordinates: 19.573214594, -99.960342441).

Once there, I was lucky enough to be granted the entrance (after paying a 12 pesos fare). This Mazahua Ceremonial Center is not as impressive as the Otomi Ceremonial Center (being it certainly not as extensive as the Otomi), but it certainly has its own dignity. It has three buildings that resemble big huts (they house the Museum and Exhibits Collection). In front of the buildings stands a stoned plaza, with stone-made stairways. The Museum had already closed, but I managed my way for taking photos of some Museum exhibits ... across its big glass windows :-) Once I roamed a little bit across the site, I decided to leave, as rain was looming.

At the Mazahua CC exit, I was confronted with the big question: How do I get out from here ? Having not planned this route beforehand, I did not know which way did I have to take in order to arrive back at home. I asked a local woman (just at the Mazahua CC exit) and she presented me two options: one was to remake my path towards Ixtlahuaca, and then ride the toll highway to Toluca. The other option was to continue cycling uphills towards a town named Yebucivi, and then descend to the highway to Toluca (I intended to take the bus back to Mexico City from Toluca). She made me clear that getting back to Ixtlahuaca was far more harder since there were a lot more climbings along that road. So, I choosed to continue my upward road towards Yebucivi and Toluca. It was a completely unknown route to me, but, at the end of the day, it proofed itself as the most reliable way to arrive at Toluca.

15 km later, I arrived at the highest point in the route: Yebucivi (elev: 3000 m), a Mazahua town lost in the top of the hills. I must comment that on my ride on those heights, I did always find towns and people, in spite of the height and apparent solitude. It seemed to me that those towns were in place since hundreds of years, and that its people just liked them so much, that abandoning their hometown was just an unthoughtful action.

After Yebucivi comes a steep descent towards San Joaquin del Monte, at the junction with the 15 federal highway to Toluca. At least in the civilization ! But from here I still had 45 km to go, with rain, and darkness looming, as it was already 20:10 ! The great advantage was that the strong descents were already behind me. Under the cover of the rain I cycled my way towards San Miguel Almoloya and San Luis Mextepec, riding also under full cover of the night. The weather conditions (rain + night) were so dangerous, that a SUV driver stopped along the highway and offered me a lift ... invitation which I politely declined, just because I was sure I could finish this ride without motorized help :-) Talk about nonsense ! But anyway, I would like to thank the SUV driver for his offer.

At the end of the highway, I found an Oxxo shop (best cyclist's friend) where I could purchase chocolate bars and a big Moka coffee, which enabled me regain my body heat, previously lost in the rain. A little later, I arrived at the Toluca Center at 22:10, where I was lucky enough to take a couple of nocturnal shots of the Cathedral and Government Palace. After that I cycled my way towards the bus station in order to take the bus back home (last bus to Mexico City departs at 22:30, fare: 34 pesos).

Thank you for reading. Till the next travel.

1 comment:

Hollito said...

230 kilometers...that's quite impressing! :-)
If I would have to make 230 km on my trusty old trekking bike, in the evening you would have to get me off the bike with a forklifter! :-)))
Thank you for the interesting report.

Regards, Hollito