Highs and lows of Mexico
My amigo who picks me up from the airport struggles to teach me basic Spanish greetings over the ambulance sirens and tooting horns of the haphazard traffic. He has no hope after the 25 hours of travel I have endured. As we dart through Mexico City — which looks like a hive of fire flies from the air — he tells me of butterfly-filled forests, secret underground cave networks and dramatic wrestling matches. We arrive at my accommodation and, after a quick change of lightbulbs from one room to the other, I am home sweet home in a quadruple-locked apartment. Welcome to Me-hi-co.
I soon realise the concerned responses expressed by family and friends — “What? You’re going to Mexico?” — are misinformed. How many Australians have lived in Mexico City anyway? I find the people are beautiful, their food healthy, their drinks strong and their history rich.
Mexico City’s size is intimidating, as I learn when we drive to the Teotihuacan pyramids, about 50km away. Its 8.8 million residents live in suburbs that spread for kilometres and after two hours we finally reach the city fringes and pass through arid farmland. At Teotihuacan, two giant pyramids rise from the dry earth, a lasting testament to the gods of the moon and sun. We follow a line of tourists to the top of one of the largest pyramids in the world, built in 100BC, and survey the ruins of an ancient civilisation around us.
From pyramid top to underground: we dive into the depths of cenotes, or sinkholes, and a river system on the Yutacan Peninsula. Taught to free-dive by local legend Alejandro, five of us are led through pitch-black tunnels, opening to crystal-clear freshwater pools, surrounded by tropical jungle. Alejandro dips under the water at the face of a rock wall, finds an impossibly small opening, and then instructs us to follow him to the next oasis. It takes courage, determination and skill to squeeze through the narrow tunnels, holding our breath and completely trusting our leader’s direction. He waits, arms outstretched, ready to pull us through if we panic.
But I was never panicked when I was in Mexico. And after every dark tunnel I ventured through, there was an opening into paradise that I was so grateful to have found.
“You went to Mexico?” I am asked on return. Yes I did. And it was epic.