Here’s the next short story from my time in Mexico. It’s based on a day-trip to Teotihuacan: one of the most impressive pyramid sites in Mexico. If you like this story, then check out my book for a true story of how I travelled the world teaching English.
|Long way up!
|From the moment I arrived in Mexico, other travellers banged on about Teotihuacan. I found the spiritual experience peculiar, but inspiring.
The archaeological site was a 50 km bus ride away. On the outskirts of the capital, run down slums covered the dry landscape. Homeless Indian Mexicans kicked about piles of litter, dazed and confused. We stopped to pick up passengers and gormless kids stared into the bus, hoping someone would throw out food or money.
I was the last passenger when the driver pulled into the deserted stop. Were we at Teotihuacan? He shouted at me to get off.
“Donde?” I asked. He pointed towards a dusty, empty open space. “Donde estan los Pyramids?” I asked. He pointed into the nothingness. Only a couple of dry withering cactuses and sad scraggly trees stood in the distance. I refused to get off.
Just as the driver revved his engine to leave, a group of tourists appeared in the distance like messiahs at the end of a pilgrimage. I walked over.
After I bought a ticket in a small wooden hut I scoured the souvenir shops and smiled at the fed up sellers. I took pity and bought a Mexican flag bandana. The silk material was flimsy and failed to protect my brow from the scorching heat. I cranked through some turnstiles and the first pyramid appeared like a giant tortoise dying of thirst.
Teotihuacan was impressive. The two larger pyramids glistened in the distance and were joined by a long walkway, Calle de los Muertos- the Street of Death.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder.
“Hey dude,” said a chubby American man in his forties. His white cap was drenched with sweat. “Can you feel the energy?”
“I’m sorry, what energy would that be?”
“Cosmic energy, can’t you feel it?”
“Why now that you mention it… no,” I said, slipping away from the Cosmic Dude.
The first pyramid, The Temple of Quetzalcoatl, was a baby in comparison to the colossal parents in the distance, the Sun and Moon Pyramids. As I made my way down the Calle de los Muertos, I noticed that Cosmic Dude wasn’t the only one interested in messing with holy spirits.
In a circle in the middle of the path, a bunch of cosmic worshipers were dressed in long sleeved, loosely fitted white shirts, flimsy coloured trousers, and black headbands. They had their arms stretched out; eyes closed, and made strange murmuring noises. If someone had cranked up some dance tunes, they could have had a cosmic aerobic session, but they made do with their whiny singing. I scarpered before they summoned the Aztecs.
Then came ‘hawkers pass’. A group of locals tried to make a few bob selling ornaments, artefacts, and statues. I politely declined until one shoved a statue of a pyramid in my face. I considered buying the souvenir, but I only had enough for my return bus fare. I wanted to tell him I appreciated his talent.
“No gracias, es muy bonito pero…” His eyes lit up. I had said the magic word ‘beautiful’. He was onto me like a leech.
“Very cheap for you,” he said. “Very beautiful, you see, you see.” He followed as if I had gold cosmic stardust streaming out my arse. Eventually I scared him off with a firm stare. That was the last time I practised Spanish with a hawker.
From the base of the Sun Pyramid I felt dizzy. The blistering heat on the climb up was going to burn off a few Coronas.
“It is seventy-five metres tall, you know.” Cosmic Dude stank of body odour and sweat dripped off his chin. Had he just been wrestling with the Sun Dance Kid?
“What’s it like up there?” I asked, presuming he had already battled his way up.
“I’ll tell you in a minute, buddy. I haven’t been up yet.” I set off, leaving him glugging water.
I took my guide book’s advice and walked up the pyramid in small diagonals. A few others knew about the tip, but the majority struggled up by holding onto the metal rail. Some even crawled. The heat made the slog hard, but the view was worth the agony.
At the top, climbers high fived and patted their sweaty backs. I sat on the hot concrete floor and gazed into the openness. The wild west of Mexico stretched for miles. Shadowed mountains gloomed in the distance. A faint breeze blew on my wet brow.
The climb up had inspired me. Why had I stayed in the capital for so long? I’d become a simple tourist in a big clumsy city. I’d only met Mexicans working in bars or restaurants. I had to find a job outside the capital and start living abroad.
There must be more to Mexico.
On the way down, Cosmic Dude was only halfway up.
“What’s… it like… up there….dude?” he said, trying to catch his breath.
“You can feel the cosmic energy man,” I said. His eyes lit up.
“Awesome,” he said, leaving a stream of sweat behind. That was my last day trip outside the capital. Next was Oaxaca.