January 15, 2008

Xochicalco Archaeological Site (Morelos), 13.01.08

This ride started at the late hour of 08:30 having as target the visit to the Xochicalco Archaeological site, in the southern state of Morelos. Departing from the center of Mexico City, we (Gabriela and me) took Tlalpan to the south all the way up to the Caminero Monument, and then we took the free Cuernavaca highway. At 2700 m altitude we made a little stop at the El Mirador restaurant, but ir was still closed (since it was early), so we had to take a view of the city from a near location.

Once resuming our trip, we made another little stop in Parres to buy some water, and, in the up-downs that exist between Parres and La Cima summit my frontal derailleur felt down and I had to repair it. Thank God I was carrying some Gabriela's Allen keys, since I do not use to carry any tools :-) Being myself not the best mechanic in town, I lost precious time in that reparation, but anyways, we could continue our trip.

Another little stop at La Cima summit to take the compulsory photograhs and we were ready to descend to Tres Marias. Since neither of us had ever visited the center of Tres Marias, we decided to have a look at that picturesque town. So we deviated to the left in Tres Marías and got to its little center. A small yet precious church is all that stands up in the center. We also decided to make good use of the stop and got a delicious hot meal (in front of the church) of fish broth, with sea food quesadillas. Could you believe that: Sea food in Tres Marías ? :-)

Once armored with that hot meal, we started the descent all the way up to Cuernavaca first, and then to Alpuyeca, via the free Acapulco highway. As for Gabriela these are her firsts cycling rides along inter-state highways, she uses to descend very carefully, so I use to pass her on the descent, but in order not to abandon her, I make svereal stops in between, so she can pass me again. Meanwhile I am waiting for her, what better thing to do than to take pictures of her descent ? :-)

We reached and crossed Cuernavaca, passing also in our way to Alpuyeca the towns of Temixco, Acatlipa and Xochitepec. Once arriving in Alpuyeca, we bought some water, as the ongoing way to Xochicalco was one of pure ascent, and the worst of all: we had to make it against the clock ! We had less than forty minutes to make a 300 m ascent along 12 kilometers (grade: 2.5 %), since the site closes its doors at 17:00. Making an exceptional effort we were able to reach the site in only 35 minutes, arriving just five minutes before closing (with an average speed of 20.6 km/hr, in that steep hills). Nothing bad for Gabriela. My most sincere congratulations to her for that final fast ascent to the site :-)

Once inside the Xochicalco (nahuatl for House of Flowers) Archaeological Site, we proceeded to have a quick look of all the buildings that comprehend that precious site. I hope the presented photograps could communicate a better meaning than my humble words when I try to describe that fabulous site. So I would recommend to have a look at the pictures so you could have a better view of all the pyramids and buildings that are located in the site.

Once concluded our visit to the site, we proceeded to start the descent back to Alpuyeca, almost in the middle of the dark, as it was already 18:40. At the beginning of the descent there was some twilight light, but as we were descending, the dark became more and more present, so we had to carry out that final descent with no light at all. Fortunately, we were finally able to arrive again in Alpuyeca in one piece :-)

Once in Alpuyeca, we proceeded to visit its simple yet beautiful white church (located at the top of a staired hill) and the main Plaza, where a picturesque green clock tower stands. Once finishing that small stop we cycled to the junction where the bus stop is located. To our disheart, we discovered that the buses that passed there had only small boxes to carry the luggage. We were not going to be able to load our bikes in those buses. So we had to rely in a big taxi to get back to Cuernavaca (taxi fare from Alpuyeca to Cuernavaca, with two bicycles and two cyclists: 130 pesos, driving along the toll highway).

The taxi drove us to the Cuernavaca Cathedral, in the center of the city, where we had a glimpse of the last part of the last mass (merely five minutes). But we were able to have a look at the interior of that precious Cathedral. Once the lights were turned off, we exited the Cathedral and started a small turn around the exterior of that gigantic church. After having taken the compulsory photographs, we rode towards the Pullman bus terminal, just a block away, where we bought our return tickets back to Mexico City (ticket fare: 65 pesos).

As we had still half an hour free, we decided to pay a quick visit to the center of Cuernavaca, to have a look at the Cuauhnahuac (Cortes Palace), Government Palace, Main Square, Clock Tower and the Morelos statue. Once our free time expired we cycled back to the Pullman terminal, where we boarded our bus back home at 22:15. For some reason (mostly traffic) the bus arrived at 00:00 in México City, so we had to cycle back our ways to our final destinations: home :-)

As usual, all the pictures of this travel are available at the following photoset. And the GPS track is also available, in both formats: GPX or KMZ .

Thank you for reading. Till the next travel !

January 07, 2008

Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Site (Mexico). 06.01.08

The ride started at 07:30, counting as a guest to our new friend: Gabriela Escudero, a determined and beautiful young cyclist that had never before attempted the one thousand meter high climbing to the Las Cruces summit (along the free Toluca highway), located in the middle of the path to the Calixtlahuaca Archaeological Site. I must aknowledge that she was able to finish that ascent with no problems at all, and also: making no stops whatsoever :-) My most sincere congratulations to her !

We started cycling along interior city streets (where we could see several fellow cyclists riding to reach their starting points, as it is customary that on Sundays several cycling rides are published) from the center of the city in order to gain access to Constituyentes Avenue, which would later took us to the free Toluca Highway. As it was early, there was no traffic at all, so we could reach really soon the junction between Constituyentes and Reforma (i.e. Palo Alto), beginning of the federal highway.

After only two hours of cycling, we were able to reach the top of Las Cruces summit (elev: 3200 m), so practically, the ride was already done :-) After a small stop at the top to take the required photos, the descent to La Marquesa and Lerma was initiated. Gabriela, being it her first time, carried out that descent in the most secure way: very carefully :-) Once in Lerma we made a stop to pay tribute to the gigantic equestrian statue of Gral. Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican southern Revolution hero.

After arriving at Toluca, it was really easy to get into Calixtlahuaca, less than ten kilometers away from the state capital, cycling along Isidro Fabela (Toluca-Atlacomulco highway). The only problem was that I had somehow forgotten the junction where I had to deviate to Calixtlahuaca (being a year and a half that I had visited that archaeological site). So, asking the locals for help (and with the aid of Gabriela) we could find another road to the town. This second road (different to the one that I had previoulsy taken) is in a better condition and measures only three kilometer.

The road I had previously taken was Río Papaloapan. But this time we took Libertad street. Libertad is far shorter (only three km) than Rio Papaloapan, and it is in better road conditions. The only problem is gaining acces to it from Isidro Fabela. Libertad is located where there are two gas stations along the Atlacomulco highway, aproximately 6 km after the center of Toluca (and cycling along I. Fabela).

Once arriving at the Calixtlahuaca (nahuatl for Houses in the Plain) Archaeological Site, we secured the bicycles at the site Museum (which unfortunately is closed as the exhibitions are being shown in another museum). Proceeding to see the several pre-hispanic buildings that were built in that ceremonial site, we took our way to the first pyramid: the Ehécatl (Wind God) Pyramid, a spyral piramid whose interior can be visited.

Calixtlahuaca was the capital city of the Matlatzinca culture. The Matlatzinca were an independent Nahuatl nation. They resisted several times the mexica conquest, rebelling at least in three ocasions against the aztec conquerors. At the last rebellion (in 1510), the Mexica emperor Moctezuma ordered the destruction of the whole region, forcing its inhabitants to migrate towards what is now the neighbouring state of Michoacan.

The sites features several impossing buildings, aside of the Ehécatl Pyramid. Walking above the Tenismo hill, the Tlaloc compound can be found. This compound houses the Tlaloc pyramid, a Royal Palace basement (believed to be a Calmecac: the náhuatl elite school) and a Tzompantli (nahuatl for Wall of Skulls).

Once concluded the visit to the archaeological site, we proceeded to visit the center of Calixtlahuaca, where a beautiful church can be appreciated). That church was closed on that Sunday because ... the religious paintings had been stolen ! Could you believe that ? No wonder why the saying goes: Little town, big inferno

We rode the last ten kilometers of the ride in order to reach Toluca, where we could appreciate its main buildings in the downtown: the Cathedral (whose interior is exceptionally beatifully decorated), the Palace of Government, Main Square, etc. Once concluded the visit to the Cathedral, we were lucky enough to find a good restaurant in the Portales, where our human appetites could be saciated. Once finishing the meal, we proceeded to cycle to the Toluca bus station, where we could finally took our bus back home (fare: 38 pesos).

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

Thank you for reading. Till the next travel !