The Start – Pico de Orizaba via Mexico City and Teotihuacan

Glacier of Pico de Orizaba; photo by Ricardo Lugo

On this grey sad day – where we all awakened to the news of the death of Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, or whatever persona the talented Mr. Bowie was currently assuming – the world I returned from yesterday in Mexico seems as far away as Mars. 1930s techniques of corn production – that sums up the village life we experienced. Steep harsh terrain and 35 mph winds – that sums up the slopes of Pico de Orizaba we attempted to scale.

But to begin at the beginning. After a four hour flight from Orlando to Mexico City on AeroMexico – again enjoying the amenities that U.S. airlines seem to have completely dispensed with – we found ourselves in an extremely long customs line.  But we did get to meet an interesting young woman who was on her way to spend six months in Veracruz counting raptors and doing bird research. Interesting folks were a theme of this trip. Wait til I get to the part about our Russian hut mates on Orizaba.

We finally emerged from customs to find we were the last to pick up our luggage – our duffels were off to the side of the conveyor belt but all contents safe and sound. And the gorilla tape used for tear repair was still holding.

We must have looked like lost American tourists because it took no time for R and D, our guides, to recognize us.  They drove us to the Hotel Marie Christina in downtown Mexico City, and within a few minutes we were already undergoing a gear check. We passed! The hotel is an old Colonial building with a feel of faded glory.


That evening we met up with G, our fellow climber and excellent travel companion, and had dinner with R and D at a nearby shopping area. Somehow grilled octopus seems just right for the occasion. It was close to the Feast of the Three Kings; the Christmas lights were blazing; and children were having their photos taken with the three kings who had somehow found themselves in a high end Mexican shopping center, apparently sidetracked from their journey to the manger.

The next day we had a breakfast of frijoles and fried eggs at the hotel, and then took off for the pyramids at Teotihuacan, en route to Malinche, our first acclimatization hike.

Pyramid of the Sun
Pyramid of the Sun

Two thousand years old, the pyramids loom over the landscape like alien beings keeping tabs on the mortals below.  As you walk along the long Avenue of the Dead the massive Pyramid of the Sun peers down on your right.  Experts guess it’s the pyramid of the sun simply because it faces west (which did not seem a particularly scholarly rationale to me, but I guess it’s difficult to reach conclusions when there’s no written language). At the end of the avenue is the smaller, but somehow more graceful  Pyramid of the Moon.  G, J and I clambered to the top of each of them, figuring they were our first summits of the trip.  To the left of the Pyramid of the Moon stands the Palace of Quetzalpapalotl, with multiple pillars emblazoned with owl iconography. Apparently owl imagery is found throughout Teotihuacan.


On the way into the pyramids we saw several men high up on a pole, tethered by ropes, wearing masks and costumes. All of a sudden, playing instruments, they fanned out from the pole, whirling in circles round and down in a gradual descent. An apt analogy for our next days of mountain climbing?


Next up – the IMSS cabins and an ascent of Malinche, accompanied by three dogs.


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