That time neither logic nor reason mattered climbing the pyramids at Teotihuacán in Mexico.
Where? Mexico City
When? October 2016
With whom? Alone to meet up with people I had met travelling
In 2015 I quit my job and made my way very slowly overland from London to Singapore. For more than half of that journey I’d travelled with two Americans and another Brit. Two years later in Mexico City we were having a reunion! This involved plenty of tequila and mezcal and laughing about old times.
We had booked transport to get to Teotihuacán, where the famous pyramid of the Sun and pyramid of the Moon are located. There is a bus that goes from the city but with a larger group the booked transport was very cheap. This made it cheaper for us and and the driver was very knowledgeable about the sites, answering all of our questions. We used this opportunity to befriend a Chilean, an Argentine and a family of Costa Ricans, but there was one man (American) who was offensive to all the senses. He would sit in the passenger seat of the minibus shouting “CUBA LIBRE” at the top of his lungs and sporadically making sexist comments throughout the journey. Many eye rolls happened.
Once we reached the Teotihuacán site, we were left to our own devices. It’s such a massive ancient city, walking from one end to the other might take a while and there are plenty of things to scramble up and climb on, so comfortable shoes are a must. We walked from the car park into the complex to be met by a small entry fee (approximately £3) before the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent). It had intricate and impressive carvings of snakes, possibly made more impressive by how they have withstood the test of time. Then we walked to what was the main street, and referred to as the Avenue of the Dead. Through this entrance (Gate 1), there is a fair amount of walking. If you’d rather skip this there are entrances at Gate 2 and 3 which minimise the distance you have to walk but you also miss out on lots of the views!
We made it to the Pyramid of the Sun in all its towering glory. We spent some time admiring it until there was nothing left to do but climb! Some of the steps were up to my torso, so for a small person it is a difficult climb (it was, upon construction, the biggest pyramid in the New World). I have mentioned that I’m quite small in previous posts, and as a result of my size I had to develop a technique to get up, as there were a lot of stairs, at points I had to be horizontal. Even the regular-sized humans found it tough, but the view from the top is well worth it. You can see over the moon pyramid and the mountains behind, whereas from the ground, the size of the moon pyramid is so great that it can completely block out the picturesque landscape behind. From the top of the Sun Pyramid, we could see the whole ancient city in its impressive magnitude and perfect symmetry. The Avenue of the Dead runs through the middle where people used to congregate for rituals held at the pyramid of the Moon. There are theories that it was engineered by an alien civilisation…
Back to the minibus and another insufferable comment from twatface in the front. We began to refer to him as “G.I. Joe”, so that we could discuss the outrageousness of his comments. We had lunch in a town called Puebla, which literally translates to “town”. This place is famous for its extravagant churches, so despite our secular nature, we decided to check them out, starting with Templo de Santo Domingo. It always astounds me to see how much money has historically been thrown at religion. I will concede that the result is some spectacular architectural feats. Gold decor surrounded me from all sides and even from above as dodgy choral music played out of the speakers. It created a relaxing atmosphere (presumably for people to pray) so we took a pew and had a break for a few minutes. Outside, we tried some chocolate from a street vendor that comes in liquid form but is milk free. I would not recommend.
Over lunch, G.I. Joe told us about some of his experiences in the US army. They were fascinating and most of us were interested in what he had to say about his time serving in Afghanistan and his training in Costa Rica. He proceeded to tell us how he is so far from being sexist that he thinks that there should be an equal representation of men and women on the front line, but unfortunately that won’t happen because women “lack the intestinal fortitude and motivation” to serve effectively. Woah woah woah.
Contemplating. Maths? Misogyny? Who knows.
Intrigued (and enraged) by his comments, I questioned him further to find the bases for his beliefs. Don’t worry people, he had stats. He informed us that one woman joined the front line, and she went AWOL (illegally missing), therefore ONE HUNDRED PER CENT OF WOMEN who have joined the front line have gone AWOL. I am a mathematician, so as you can imagine, I was genuinely astounded that he could use this as a valid argument. I asked him how many men have gone AWOL. “Oh, thousands.” Right. I can see explaining basic statistics to this man wasn’t going to be an easy feat.
Teacher mode: Activate. I attempted to enlighten him and a few of the group had a go at explaining how outrageous his beliefs about women were based on the behaviour of one woman, but when stupid people have made up their mind about something, it is very hard to change it no matter how much reason and logic you present to them. G.I. Joe also claimed that the pay gap doesn’t exist in America and women already are treated as equal in society. He said this, and then asked our driver where is the best strip club in Mexico City. Full rant at the bottom of the post.
Despite this ignorant human looming over our time, we had a great day exploring the ancient city and reading about their fascinating traditions. That evening we went to Coyoacan to experience the raved about nightlife. We started off in a bar called El Bipo, which was about a 15 minute walk from the metro, but worth it for the atmosphere. Shots are reasonable and you have to try mescal when you’re in Mexico. It’s Mexican tequila and is so hardcore. Don’t try too much, as it actually made my vision go after about three shots. We ranted and had many more eye rolls about G.I. Joe as we had a well-deserved cold drink for putting up with his BS all day. On the way back towards the metro to make our way to our Airbnb, we stopped at a few other bars that took our fancy with one dodgy looking alleyway led us to Centenario 107. Here we had the entire upstairs section to ourselves, ordered a tower of beer so we could pull our own pints and ate a lot of nachos.
Info: Mexico city is situated in a basin between mountains and volcanoes, which means that every direction gives a picturesque view of a bustling city with a mountainous backdrop. For accommodation, Airbnb is definitely the way forward with Mexico City. I flew AeroMexico as that gave me a direct flight from London, without having to cough up too much more than a flight that would have taken 43 hours with stopovers. I arrived in the middle of the night, so public transport was a no go, if this happens to you make sure you have Uber downloaded on your phone before you arrive as you’ll pay less than half the price of an airport taxi. Otherwise, the public transport in Mexico City is pretty good, if you ignore the trains opening the doors before they’ve come to a stop. The peso is the currency and most things are super cheap. I recommend going out for tacos because we found places that would do two tacos for the equivalent of 1 US dollar.
Tip of the week: Bring water and sunscreen. Sounds silly but I’d rather have to slap on some cream than be bright red and peeling for the rest of my trip. Water is a must too, if it’s hot and you’re essentially doing an obstacle course to get to the top, which you can’t not do once you’ve travelled all that way!
Product of the week: Sometimes hiking shoes seem a little OTT when you need comfortable shoes for walking but not trekking. I love the Nike Air Flyknit trainers because they are so breathable and comfortable. I wear them all the time.
Other places worth visiting: please go and see Mexican wrestling. Yes, I realise that it’s all choreographed (although I didn’t at the time) but it was great fun and very entertaining. There are floating markets in Xochimilco, which is right at the end of one of the metro lines. It was a very colourful experience on the river with performing boats with full brass bands! On Sunday the museum entry is free, and I recommend the Palacio de Bellas Artes We went to a bar called Mamba Rumba which had salsa lessons. This was a lot of fun. If you are shy, try some tequila first!
Rant continued: This man was ridiculous. He was an outright misogynist but genuinely believed he wasn’t. I was rendered speechless by his ignorance when he has access to a wealth of information.
The ‘intestinal fortitude’ comment had clearly been rehearsed as he couldn’t otherwise use a word longer than two syllables in a sentence. The conversation at lunch continued between us as I explained to him that if, say, 2000 men had gone AWOL then that’s 2000 times more men who have gone AWOL than women. He looked perplexed momentarily before bolshily exclaiming that it’s not 100% of men, and ONE HUNDRED PER CENT OF WOMEN have gone AWOL.
He also claimed the gender pay gap is a myth because he once dated a woman who earned more than he did. He did not have stats to back this one up, unsurprisingly, other than this one instance which, of course, provides him with a valid argument.
These people are dangerous. They sprout nonsense supported by skewed and unrepresentative “stats” so arrogantly and confidently that they build up a following and become believable. Brexit. Trump.