Monday morning I woke up to the sound of rain. Damn. Today was the day I had planned to go to Teotihuacan. Located just an hour outside of Mexico City, Teotihuacan was the largest Pre-Columbian city in the Americas, and a must-do for me. I would not let the rain deter me – I was going.
It was early enough that the Metrobus wasn’t crowded, so my commute to the Terminal del Norte was painless, although the walk between the Potrero Station and the Terminal is not one I would suggest to the uneasy traveler. Finding the blue triangle sign that signaled the bus to Teotihuacan was easy, and after paying MX$88 for ida y vuelta I was told my bus would leave in 5 minutes. 15 minutes later I boarded the bus marked “Piramides.”
I had almost forgotten what taking a bus in Latin America was like. Someone greeted me by putting three chocolate bars on the seat next to me, then came back around asking for money for them. Someone else walked the aisle offering nuts for sale. Halfway through the journey a duo boarded with acoustic guitars to serenade us. I smiled at it all.
By the time I arrived at Teotihuacan the rain had stopped, and I realized I had timed it just right. Whether it was the morning rain, the 10 am arrival, or the day after Sunday, when it is free for Mexicans, or a combination of all three, I was practically alone. There were a handful of other people taking their time exploring the ruins, but for the most part it was a peaceful morning there.
I proceeded down the Avenue of the Dead, the main thoroughfare of the ancient town. I could see the gigantic pyramids lurking ahead but I took my time reaching them. Along the way were brief informative plaques and other subsidiary ruins to climb around on. The whole procession required climbing up and down over staircases into plateaus, a system devised to combat the incline of the site.
Then I reached the final plateau. To my right was the towering Pyramid of the Sun. As I approached I looked up at the daunting staircase I was about to climb. Without a break in my step I began the ascent, and about halfway up remembered that Mexico City is at elevation. At least that’s what I’m blaming for the quickness with which I lost my breath. But I powered on and made it to the top, where the view was beyond rewarding. Not only could I see the extent of the old city and the Pyramid of the Moon at the Avenue of the Dead’s end, but I could see the entire valley around me and the mountains in the distance. The top of the Pyramid of the Sun was believed to be a sacred place with strong energy, and there is no denying that it felt special up there.
After taking it all in and having some lovely conversations with an Australian couple and an American man – a welcomed reminder of how easy it is to meet people no matter where you are – I moved on. The hawkers were starting to appear and I wanted to make it to the Pyramid of the Sun before it was too crowded. The road ended in a square surrounded by the ruins of temples. It was a humbling space. I climbed the shorter ascent up the Pyramid of the Sun and looked back out at the town I had traversed. Even though it is in ruins, it is still impressive.
I liked it there so much that I decided to linger for a while, so I found a temple on the main square but off to the side where I could be alone. I sat at the top and took it all in. I meditated. I wondered at the ancient civilization that had built such a place and the beauty of what remained.
When the jovial Chinese tourists came up my pyramid to take a picture in my spot I took that as my sign to go. I had enjoyed a relatively quiet morning in Teotihuacan, but the masses were coming. I walked out and a bus back to the city was waiting in the parking lot; it left just a few minutes after I boarded.
Teotihuacan affected me more than I thought it would. I was in awe of it, and I recommend everyone go there. But beyond the site itself was the moment I had at the top of my pyramid, when I looked out at the spectacle below me and said to myself, “I’m back.”