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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
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Ruined Adventures, Teotihuacan to San Miguel

Feb 29, 2016
by John

Friends new and friends of old, there are times we must bid farewell until we can conjoin again. It must be the selfish nature of travel that holds us so tight. A commitment to self above all others, misplaced survival instinct I suppose. Parting ways always has a cost, some reviewed in retrospect, lasting love and of pain. Wanderers, beckoned to the call, forever lost to the road ahead.

This title is a tribute to dear friends of ours, Brenton & Shannon (Ruined Adventures), who ran the Pan-Am in a 4Runner. We think of them often, as we do so many, and felt it fitting as we had reached our first set of ruins on our trip. Of course it is twofold, as are most things within my head, the pun being the heartache experienced by the divergence from our closest of road friends.

We've alluded to the trials of travel a few times. Many will never understand it until they too travel themselves, as the case with most things. The macro of micro, available time devoted to emotional remediation, individual meanings of it all. Lost are not the experiences, shared memories and joy, only separation in time, devoid retribution - retaliation with rejoice. We do not say goodbye, only farewell, as the winds will ever be in our favor, we savor the reunions.

What We Did

Teotihuacán

We rolled into the Teotihuacán Trailer Park about 30 minutes after Irene & Simon, set up, then the four of us were on our way into town for lunch before visiting the pyramid complex. The Pyramid of the Sun is estimated to be the third largest in the world, we were all a little gassed after reaching the top. Simon had the idea to linger as long as we could past closing to get photos with limited people in them, Teotihuacán is a big tourist attraction and is quite close to Mexico City. While waiting we all decided it would be best to visit again the next morning when the site opened, 7am.

Setting the alarm reminded us of the fact that that's something we no longer live by. The thought of such the torture device creates stress as I type this, either way, we were roused by its devilish call around 6:00. Eventually catching a cab for 30 pesos and arriving at the western promptness of 10 minutes before 7. The security guard informed us that the gate we were at (Gate 2, closest to the Pyramid of the Sun) didn't open until 7:30 and that we should go to Gate 1, 1 km away, which would open at 7:15.

Arriving at Gate 1 a bit chilled, we were informed that this gate could not open due to the lack of a ticket salesman. We palavered, questioning our eagerness to leave the gate closest to the Pyramid of the Sun, then were joined by a local. He so succinctly put everything in perspective when he confirmed that opening time was 7, it was almost half past, then shrugged it off with "it's Mexico." We all laughed a bit, then the four grimigos walked the kilometer back to our original gate, realizing we'd have to traverse at least that distance to the Pyramid of the Sun from Gate 1.

The original guard was surprised of our return, yet a bit friendlier in his demeanor and conversation. He eventually let us know he too didn't have a ticket salesman, the reason no one could gain entry into the park. He did a little sleuthing on his radio, then told us that Gate 1 had finally opened, no chance we would walk there again. Within a few minutes, a ticket guy arrived and we were hucking it to catch what was left of the rising sun...it was almost 8. Worry not, we had the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon to ourselves for over an hour. Apparently only dumbass gringos show up at opening.

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán, Mexico

You'll need more ballons to float this baby to paradise falls

Teotihuacán, Mexico

Step aerobics start around 7, ish

Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacán, Mexico

Barney rubble

Teotihuacán, Mexico

Miss you guys

Teotihuacán, Mexico

M. C. Escher might be a critic

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán, Mexico

The four grimigos

Teotihuacán, Mexico

You'd think the pope was coming with all of this security

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacán, Mexico

The scruffy side

Teotihuacán, Mexico

Blood never spouted out, how dissapointing

Temple of the Feathered Serpent, Teotihuacán, Mexico

Ever since that Vector fellow they started radio collaring pyramids

The trailer park itself is a bit pricey at around $15 US per night. We planned to stay a few nights to figure out where we would be pointing the van next, Irene & Simon left after 2. It was a sad morning watching them drive away, the probability of running into them again is meager at best. We were obviously stressed the night before, Mandi and I got into a little tiff, there will be no substitute for Irene & Simon. To help ease our depression we were voluntarily adopted by a great group of Germans, our friends Daggi & Manni from the monarchs were at the center. Their red Hilux and fiberglass popup truck camper are a shiny example of lean and mean.

Their friends, Daggi & Lars and two pups Foppolo & Anthony, quickly became ours too. Their poptop Land Cruiser is envious - we want. Erica & Uwe, completed the trifecta of German couples, everyone open and loving. We had a wonderful dinner together, English being used as much as possible to include the sulking Americanos. Daggi & Lars and Erica & Uwe are northbound so we all traded places to see, Daggi and Manni are southbound like we are so we'll hopefully see them again further down the road.

After spending five nights at the rv park we decided it was time to go. Within minutes of liking a monarch Instagram post by Gerhard & Lesley we were all standing next to our van sharing our time apart. We had dinner together, breakfast, then another dinner before we finally left the campground, six nights in total. That's the wonder of the place. A bit pricey but a revolving door of overlanders. It's within walking distance to Teotihuacán, food, and almost anything else one could need. The blue pill to our sad goodbye, friends.

Dagi, Lars, Foppolo and Anthony

Flaunt it if you got it

Dagi and Mani

Crazy kids

Grutas Tolantongo

We were in need of a good soak but were disappointed with the warmish waters of Las Pozas. The backdrop was stunning, a bit deserty for our liking. What made Grutas Tolantongo phenomenal was the steam cave, hot and mysterious. Indiana Jones was rekindled deep within us as we explored further into its recesses. There are really three distinct areas that encompass the park. The soaking pools, the river cascades, and the steam cave with a large pool below it. We favor the latter, other travelers one or all three. A neat place with a gnarly twisted road to navigate, a test of turning radius and hairpin skill. It cost 120 pesos per person per day, camping required paying for the next day up front. Security guards wander the park just before closing to make sure anyone staying is paid up. The park is undergoing a substantial amount of construction, it's obviously a favorite so we dared not linger into the weekend. Sorry for the less than stellar pictures, our waterproof Nikon AW110 is showing some age and has started to add its own haze effect.

Grutas Tolantongo, Hidalgo, Mexico

Calgon, take me away

Grutas Tolantongo, Hidalgo, Mexico

Van life: trickling water = free shower

Grutas Tolantongo, Hidalgo, Mexico

Swimming hurdles, call Phelps to see its viability

Grutas Tolantongo, Hidalgo, Mexico

It's a tough job but someone's got to do it

Grutas Tolantongo, Hidalgo, Mexico

Sigourney Weaver will need to be dusted off to eradicate the hive

Grutas Tolantongo, Hidalgo, Mexico

Most ghosts caught on film, like ever

San Miguel de Allende

We're not into big cities, those under 200,000 residents are plenty for us. We knew SMA was more of a gringolandia but we've been dealing with a delayed package that was supposed to be in San Miguel by mid February. That's a tale for another time, we were hoping our arrival would tip karma and make all well. Instead we spent a couple days and nights exploring and eating way too much. We also ran into Erica & Uwe and their travel companions in the RV/Tennis park. We were packed in tight but made the most of it with our friends. We expect to visit SMA one or two more times until we free our detained merchandise. The prices may be a bit high, art galleries and artisan mercantiles too many, yet the convenience is easily and so willingly succumbed. We are westerners ourselves after all.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the sky

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

What does a frog have to do with it?

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Oh I see, us foreigners have to enter by the little door on the left

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

I think that pigeon is stalking us

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Mexico, brought to you by Coca-Cola

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Donkeys get the best parking spaces, what bullshit

Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

I'm not looking

The Might of the Michoacán

When we were driving to meet Irene & Simon at the Monarchs we experienced our first run in with the police. It happened at a series of speed bumps next to a controlled fire. Traffic was slowed to 4mph, we were the center of almost 30 vehicles. It took the local police almost half the topes to realize we were gringos, once spotted they started whistling and waving us over. I decided to act the fool and wave hello as I pressed on while clearing the final bump. I then leaned into the throttle expecting to put an undesirable amount of distance to prevent a pull over. In the side view I could see the frantic stopping of the crawling traffic to allow a patrol truck access to the highway, no ceasing of the throttle commenced. Not until they were finally upon our van did I pull over, the fools no wiser.

The first officer approached the passenger side, expending all energy on scanning our center console for negotiable goods. Mandi the wise had already cleared everything of value leaving only our personal water bottles. He broke his silence with asking why we didn't stop, entirely in Spanish. I, the eternal fool, replied "English". His partner and subordinate, I easily gathered, approached the driver side. I again proclaimed "English", he responded with "just a little", me "that's OK" - attempting to insert conversational control.

He asked me to shut the van off, then to exit and join him at the back. Being versed in other tales of shakedowns I knew that was the usual place of negotiation. I obliged. He asked where we were from, I responded with an annoyed look while pointing at our tag and proclaimed Florida. Frustration beginning, he asked where we were going. I turned to the first officer, the boss man, and said "the butterflies, Monarchs" then flapped my arms in a flying motion like that would help bridge the communication gap. While the bilingual officer explained our Mariposa destination to the jefe another truckfull of officers arrived. A youngster with a tactical rifle strapped to his chest joined the two conferring superiors as a bystander only.

Me, a lover of situational dominance and psychological games, perceived this as an attempt at intimidation. All in fun, I inched so close to the youngster that I was almost pressed against his weapon, Mexican close. His uncomfortableness was visible, me just beaming with an idiot's grin, oblivious. The silence was broken by my English speaking adversary, "do you have an ID". "Yes". "Can I see it"? "Sure", I pulled out my drivers license and held it slightly sideways so he could read it.

I'm not entirely sure what possessed me to not let go of it as he tugged, probably too many stories about officers holding one's license for ransom. He pulled and repeated "let me see it", I retaining my grip of iron tugging back in response. Maybe I worked in defense of too many audits, always erroring on the side of literal translation, his building frustration finally had me release my grasp. He looked at it, conversed quietly but abruptly with his boss then handed it back. Gone it was into my pocket.

They moved back a few feet to palaver, I knew I needed to continue the fool so I became overtly oblivious to their presence while checking under the van, the tires, etc., making sure to keep my back to them. Mandi was anxiously awaiting as she was still in the passenger seat unaware of anything that had transpired. Nonchalant and disinterested, I continued my phony vehicle inspection. "Ok". "What's OK, my van"? "OK, go". "Ok, thank you" with a wave. I slowly wandered around the van, still looking as though everything needed to be tip top, crawled into the driver's seat to drive on.

A bribe was never requested, maybe one was never intended. Upwards of 8 officers were present so splitting something that many times would probably create problems. Who knows why we were stopped. We were the only gringos, the only ones they were interested in. My tactics might not be a good example of how one should act. I'm the type of person that never places value of one human over another, we all eat, shit, and sleep...no different. To me it was a game, it was all in good fun!


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