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.

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