In October of 2003, I was traveling in Mexico on business. Any other time that I had been to Mexico on business, I had traveled to a U.S. border town and crossed over for the day. For this trip, we were supposed to travel into Mexico City. I was traveling with two other Americans. One was on the flight with me. We were supposed to me the other man at the airport in Mexico City. He worked for the company we were visiting. He was going to meet us in the airport but we were unable to locate him. The plan was for us to meet him and take a 2 hour bus ride to Santiago de Queretaro, a city that is northwest of Mexico City. We waited for a while but finally decided to go on to the bus station in the airport. But we didn’t know our way around the airport. I don’t read Spanish but the guy that I traveled with did. It didn’t matter. We couldn’t find the bus station. We were walking by a cab stand in the airport and I guess we looked a little too lost. A man asked if he could help and we asked for directions to the bus station. He asked where we wanted to go. We knew better than to go with him but was very insistent that we go with him. He promised he could take us wherever we wanted to go. We were able to get away from him and we finally found the bus station. We hadn’t found our third traveling companion but we decided to proceed on to our destination.
The bus trip was interesting. I had never been to Mexico City before. Mexico City is the largest city in the western hemisphere with over 21 million people. The streets were tight and crowded. I looked out the windows of the bus and it seemed like it we were right on top of the other vehicles on the road. When I looked out the front window, it looked like it would be impossible to fit the bus in the hole in the traffic where we were supposed to go. The traffic was slow. The city looked like it was only half built or crumbling. It seemed like it took forever for us to get out of town.
When the bus arrived at the station in Santiago de Queretaro, we decided to take a taxi to our hotel. The taxis in this town worked different that they do in the U.S. Before we went to the curb to the taxi, we went to a stand inside the bus station. At this stand, we told someone where we wanted to go and we paid them. We were given a ticket that we took to the cab in the front of the line outside. When the cab driver opened his trunk to put our luggage in, I saw a watermelon. It was not a whole watermelon. It was a three-quarter watermelon. It wasn’t in a cooler. It was just rolling around in the back of this cab, as much as a three-quarter watermelon can roll. It had no plastic wrap or anything else protecting it. And it would be rolling around with our luggage.
We arrived at our hotel and later that evening, we met the other member of our party. If we had waited for him at the airport, we could have taken a van instead of the bus ride. But we would have missed the watermelon encounter.
Our business was scheduled to take place on October 30th and 31st. We were able to complete our work on the 30th. At the end of the day, the people we were visiting offered us two options for the next day. The first was to take us back to the airport early on Halloween so that we could try to catch an earlier flight. The other option was to spend Halloween at the pyramids. We decided to take the second option.
On the evening of the 30th, we went to a restaurant by the side of a lake. I remember having a couple of margaritas with my meal. After the meal and dessert, someone suggested that we sip some tequila. I had never sipped tequila before. I have never had it any other way but in a margarita. But it was about time to try some sipping tequila. The tequila that is used for sipping is made with 100% agave. They bring you a glass about the size of a shot glass with the tequila. They also bring another glass about the same size with a drink called sangrita. Sangrita that is authentic to the region where they started drinking it has orange juice, lime juice, grenadine and hot sauce. It can also have jalapenos. Some variations that common even in Mexico have tomato juice instead of grenadine. You take a sip of the tequila and then take a sip of the sangrita to cleanse your palate. It was very good. I didn’t overdo it, but I had plenty.
The next day, we went to the pyramids in the ancient city of Teotihuacan which is northeast of Mexico City. During pre-Columbian times, it was the largest city in the western hemisphere. When our van arrived at the site, a small group of people approached us to try and sell use souvenirs. They all looked like they knew they weren’t going to make any sales and slightly annoyed that they had to get up and try to sell us anything. Even though it was late October, it was very warm at sunny. As we walked from the parking lot to the actual site, we stopped at some shops to pick up gifts. I also bought a hat to protect my head from the sun. If sneakers were available, I would have picked some of them up too. I had not anticipated this side trip when I packed for the trip and only packed dress shoes. This would involve much walking.
The site has two large pyramids. The largest is called The Pyramid of the Sun. It was the first one we arrived at. There were stairs just to get to the base of this pyramid but there were also stairs all the way to the top. Someone asked if we wanted to climb to the top. Since I had never been to the top of one of the largest structures in the world, I thought it was a great opportunity. So we started climbing. I was 10 years younger then and in much better physical condition. But I wasn't exercising regularly at that time and the climb was demanding. The steps on the pyramid are very tall. I decided that the Aztecs or whoever built this structure must have been people with extremely long legs. They have a cable that runs from the base of the pyramid to the top to serve as a handrail and it came in handy. We were probably about a third of the way up the steps we I became happy that I was behind a family with some small, slow kids. It was probably about this same time that I began to smell tequila. I was sweating tequila from the night before. There was also a place on the stairs where the people with small, slow children could turn around and go down. But I decided that I would continue on. It didn't matter that I had no one to blame in front of me for my slow pace.
I know that the steps didn't get any taller but it seemed like they did. I know the pyramid didn't get any taller but it seemed like it did. As we got closer to the top, I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I decided that I was going to die on the top of a pyramid where they once sacrificed humans. We finally made it to the top. I know the view was beautiful but I don’t remember much about it. There was no rail around the top of the pyramid and I’m afraid of heights. I considered what it would be like to slide down one of sides without the steps. I decided this would take even more energy that walking down and I probably wouldn't survive. I was able to get a reasonable rest before we started down. While it was easier going down, it still took a lot of energy. When we reached the bottom, someone in our group said, “Let’s go to the other pyramid!”
I wanted to go to the other one but there was discussion of climbing it too. The large path between the two pyramids is called The Avenue of the Dead. I thought that I would be dead if we attempted to climb the second one. We took our time looking at the structures between the two pyramids. There were buildings with many rooms but it was hard to tell what they were used for. I was able to find a couple of places where I could sit down. The short stops gave me much needed rest. But when we arrived at the base of the Pyramid of the Moon, I was having second thoughts about climbing to the top of it. Most of the rest of my group started up the steps. I was going in that direction but was lagging way behind. I stepped up the first two steps when a guard came out and closed that pyramid. I’m not sure why, but I was very happy. I was re-energized and knew for certain I could make the long walk back to the van.
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