Teotihucan. I can spell it flawlessly but please, don’t ask me to say it. One of the many things I’ve learned as an adult other than to listen to your mother when she says “You don’t need student loans for rent when you have a job” is to take advantage of learning another language. One of these days I will be that nagging mother who’s kids hate me until they’re 20 when they realize I was in fact the smartest person in the room. Until then, here I am, not knowing Spanish in Mexico City trying to find some cool looking ancient pyramids 48 miles away to get lost in. Getting lost wasn’t the problem, managing to find my way back however? Eh, I was pushing it.
We landed in Mexico City for our 28 hour layover and after failing to recruit my crew to tag along, I decided screw it! I’m not an idiot. I’ve been traveling stag for nearly two years. I think I know how to avoid getting kidnapped or sold into sex trafficking. And dammit, I want some cool pictures of pyramids. I asked the concierge how to get there and he did his best to talk me out of it.
“It’s too far, do you know Spanish?”
“No. But how far is too far?”
“I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“I’m going anyway so please just give me directions.”
He paused. He hated the idea of me going alone. He tried to give me the most complicated directions possible. HA! Jokes on him.
I went outside with my holster like fannypack, grabbed an uber to the main bus station, and googled directions from his back seat. Once arriving to the bus station I followed the incredibly descriptive online directions and bought a $9 round trip bus ticket to the pyramids. It sat about 45 minutes away on the country side of Mexico, surrounded by not a damn thing.
I went through a metal scanner, asked which bus to board, boarded it, had a conductor tell me I was on the wrong bus, pull me off said bus to put me on another far more empty bus, and then it left. There was maybe one person that spoke English and all he did was nod every time I said “pyramids”. After forty minutes and writing a will in text ready to send to my mom, I saw the Pyramid of the Moon that sat on the edge of possibly one of the cutest towns ever.
All of the buildings were vibrantly colored and the sidewalks were littered with laughing children and happy humans. There was a small park we passed with teenagers playing soccer and the streets were barely wide enough for our large bus.
The passengers on the bus that we acquired during the drive down would walk up to the door while in motion and pat the driver on the shoulder as a signal to stop. This is what made me nervous because how would I know where to get off? Luckily the driver was very used to us foreign travelers and kept reassuring me via nod that I was on the right path. He was indeed correct.
Lesson 60: People in other countries that work for touristy sites may not know your language but you are not the first foreigner they’ve had to give gestured directions to. So relax.
We stopped at the edge of the town which had all dirt roads with a small kiosk where I paid [$5] to enter the grounds. Like many touristy areas, on the way into the abandoned town there were plenty of shops that sold hats, sandals, and other handmade trinkets. According to my wallet the only thing I was buying was a water and I’m glad I did.
The grounds itself were absolutely huge. With the exception of a few buildings that you could walk into and read about the former apartments and places people lived, everything was outdoors. The elevation of Mexico is much higher than that of America and with the beaming sun and miles in between pyramids, my shoulders went from chocolate to purple in two hours.
The largest pyramid, or Pyramid of the Sun, was about a mile from the entrance and had a line to go to the top. At first I didn’t understand why and once I started climbing it immediately made sense. This pyramid had no railings, no cushiony side panels, and if you happened to slip and take a tumble, you and everyone behind you were getting life-flights to the nearest emergency room. There were three levels to this 220ft high pyramid and in between those levels were areas you could stand and rest. Unfortunately with each new level came a steeper climb and on the last climb to very top, you were using your hands and hoping that the person in front of you didn’t fall, or fart.
Once to the top, however, it was amazing. The breeze was incredible and it allowed me a view of all the grounds. I saw the several pyramids and how this entire area functioned not as a tourist site but long ago, as a village.
What surprised me the most was how carefree people were about their children playing on this pyramid top. One trip and they could’ve fallen but luckily I witnessed no such thing.
What I did witness however was this adorable Colombian couple that I took a picture for. They then spoke to me on our long journey back down, saying that I was brave to venture out so far alone without knowing anyone or the language. Not only that, but they were sweet enough to walk around with me so I could have company for the rest of the day, her husband reaching out his hand for her and I as we scarcely descended the pyramid.
After our little adventure they walked me to my bus stop, gave me a hug, and wished me the best of my travels as I did the same. I love meeting nice and fascinating humans and they were no exception. I’ve learned that things that scare you, sometimes may be the best experience for you. Pay attention to your surroundings, be smart and diligent with directions, and let go. Letting go while outside of your comfort zone is very different but anytime I’ve done this, it has benefited me in more ways than one. Teotihuacan remains an authentically fond memory full of vibrant cultures and lovely strangers. And though I may never return, I’m glad I took the plunge in my own to step outside of my comfort zone.