Into the heart of the cartel, Mexico city during the Day of The Dead – October 2016

My next destination took me deep into the world of the cartels, the capital of Mexico itself, Mexico City. As explained in my last post, I hadnt really been very far afield, so heading to Mexico was a first time for heading to the wild west of the globe.
I was really excited for this destination as again, another culture shock was coming, and i was now starting to thrive on anything that was completely different to what i had experienced.
After touching ground at the airport after a longish flight, there were a couple of thoughts on mind, one being that I couldnt catch my breath. After speaking to some colleagues, turns out that Mexico City is 2,250m (almost double the height of the tallest peak in the UK, Ben Nevis) above sea level (who knew!) and thus the lungs needed to adapt. The other thought was I imagined it being roasty hot…….which it wasn’t. Maybe being the season that we were there, but it was definitely jeans and hoody temperature in the evenings and trousers and t shirt during the day kinda weather.

The Great Taco Hunt

Not having to start work until the next day, we had the rest of the evening to grab some bevvies and find some authentic Mexican street food. The boy did we find what we were looking for. As you probably know, one the foods that is plentiful in Mexico is Tacos. Tacos everywhere!
We didnt venture too far from the hotel as it was late and we were hungry so we ended up in local taco joint and sunk some ice cold Sols. The tacos came up on a roasty hot iron plate with some different meats, a fresh pot of guacamole and some taco wraps to with fillings. It look incredible. 4 tacos and 4 sols later we were in a happy place, especially when food and drinks came in at a healthy ~290 Mexican Pesos which was about £12 #youWot!. I was also told that this was a slightly higher price place, and that i was promised cheaper tacos and cheaper beer!

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Happiness on a Plate

The work has ended

The next 6 days kicked in with long hours, with what felt like even longer drives back to the hotel through Mexico City (dat traffic). Race day had been and gone, and it was time to kick back for a little bit and lap up everything Mexico City has to offer including its food, beer, day of the dead festivities, and culture i.e the real Mexico.

Stumbling into Tepito – One of Mexico Cities most dangerous black markets
As i mentioned as one the donts, walking into a rough part of this place isnt ideal. Whilst trying to get a taxi into Zócalo Square which was the main square and where Daniel Craig famously help blow up in James Bond: Spectre, we got stuck in traffic (surprise). After ages in a queue, the driver decided to take a drive in an attempt to get around the traffic. We found ourselves in the biggest market i had ever seen, with some of the roughest people i had ever seen. I had read up on a place called Tepito earlier in the week and saw where it was in the map. I got checked the gps, and we were in the heart of it. We were told to lock our doors, as car muggings whilst in traffic are all very common in Mexico. The market is mostly run by the cartels and use it for a recruiting ground to get more members into the gangs.
After about an hour of avoiding eye contact, we had moved about 20 yards. The taxi driver told us it would be best to walk (in the most dangerous parts of Mexico city….sure thing!). We proceeded to to get out the car and dart down this market as fast as possible without standing out too much (which we did….like a sore thumb). Heads down, hands in pockets, and avoiding all contact possible we pretty much power walked out of that market and with 2 turns through 2 different alleys, we hit the main square we had been after. I found it odd that something so crime run could be so close to one of the most popular parts of the city.

The day of the dead
The day of the dead was in full swing at this point. Parades down the street, every other person face painted with skulls, and everywhere was candle lit.

There were lots of these decorated what looked like boats. They had been created to honor the dead. You stick a note on you chosen boat (not sure what they are called), and they are set fire with the messages going to your loved ones. It was very moving in the way that they did this.
When night time came around, the town was rife with people partying, drinking, music, and street food everwhere. The atmosphere was electric.
After almost ordering an eye filled taco, we grabbed some street food which we ate on the street (surprisingly), and grabbed some beers from a rooftop bar overlooking the square. The viewpoint combined with the lights of the square and the pumping Latin music was absolutely beautiful.

We then finished our drinks and called it a night, as it had been quite the busy day and we had to be up early the next day.

 

Teotihuacan Pyramids
With expectations to head back to the hotel and go to bed, we ended up in a hotel room party until around 3am which got very messy. Around 30 people crammed into a little hotel room and let loose on the minibar was a recipe for destruction. There awakening at 6am with a very thick head down to tequila and Kraken rum, I delicately got ready to hike some pyramids with some of the others.

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Some people peaked a little too early!

The drive out to the Teotihuacan pyramids took around an hour out of the city, and around £30 to get out there which wasnt too bad considering we had a return journey booked.
Before we got to the pyramid, the taxi driver stopped off by an old shack with and old man standing outside greeting us. He explained that he brew traditional tequila. We went through the process of how he brews his tequila (it ferments in the middle of a damn plant!). He lead us into the shack which had a make shift bar set up with multiple bottles of various infused tequilas. All of us feeling fragile, this wasnt the most ideal situation, but threw caution to the wind and had a hair of the dog who bit us the night before.
The lower % spirits infused with honey and other plant extracts were very easy to drink. I would like to say that the rest went down with as much ease, but it really didnt. I was sold though. I bought a bottle of this mans tequila which had a worm from the brewing plant floating around the bottom of it.

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5pm somewhere, right?

 

On to the pyramids. We paid about £10 and entered the site. It was far bigger than i had imagined, and we were told that we could climb to the very top of the pyramids for view points. As we had come so early, we were very much alone so without haste we climbed the Pyramid of the Moon to get some piccies and an obligatory victory selfie as we were dead after the first climb.

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I climbed dat

Once to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, I felt it necessary to get some press ups in, as my colleagues thought it would fit (as i love the gym and  to clarify i meant no disrespect to the pyramids as well 🙂 ).

 

Overall

My time at mexico had come to and end and overall i had fell in love with the place. I was gutted that i couldnt go and explore some of the more untouched regions and head out of the city, but that will be for next time. When i explained to people that i was travelling to Mexico City, i had plenty of; be carefuls, watch out, keep your valuables safe blah blah. Not exactly something i wanted to hear going to a destination for the first time. However going around the city, i found it to be relaxed and exactly how i imagined it. Local street food stalls blasting energetic Latin style music out of huge dusty speakers on the side of the road. It is what it is. It was brilliant. My advice to anyone thinking of heading out there, is not to not be put off by what you hear about Mexico City and the negatives. Like any city there are general rules of thumb: dont be a dick, dont be flash with the cash, and dont head into the worse parts of town (the last of which we accidentally found out!).
So, as they say in Mexico city, Viva La Mexico Cabrones!! Next stop, the winter wonderland of Switzerland. Peace x

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