Now that we were pros at city camping, we headed to Teotihuacan with confidence, to camp in yet another city campground. Our trip to Teotihuacan and the nearby Mayan ruins, would be punctuated by a side trip to a Mexico City AirBnB apartment, while our camper stayed safely tucked away at the campground. The Teotihuacan campground was located on the edge of town, fenced and secure, with lots of green space, and multiple campers already awaiting the return of their owners in the corner. We settled in easily and set up our camper right next to the swing set, a nice bonus for Indigo.
The next morning we woke early-ish, reminded each other to bring some water bottles for our trip to the ruins, jumped in a taxi, and quickly passed through the entrance, only to realize we’d forgotten to bring our water bottles. The water issue was quickly forgotten as we heard this crazy loud roaring sound just a couple feet behind us. After almost falling down a flight of steep stairs from the startling noise, we realized it came from a vendor selling carved jaguar whistles. We would eventually become numb to the roar of the jaguar whistles throughout our day, as they were being proffered about every 10 feet.
We declined making a purchase, and set out to conquer the largest pyramid, the Pyramid of the Sun. We were (and continue to be) very tired and achy from carrying Indigo about, so we hyped this adventure as his entry into big-boy hiking. It must have worked because Indigo hiked, with his backpack, to the top of the pyramid and back down all by himself. Although it saved Okan’s back for the day, it shot our nerves while trying to stay vigilant for a tumble as he climbed steps that were practically taller than he was. Once on the top, he showed no fear by walking too close for our comfort for a look over the side.
We got back to the bottom and headed for the Pyramid of the Moon. Without water and no place to buy some, I decided to skip climbing the next pyramid, lest I be inclined to drink what was left in Indigo’s sippy cup. Also, the crowds were getting bigger, and my legs a little weaker, so I just admired it from the bottom.
I decided instead to make a solo trek up one of the small pyramids to sit and dangle my feet over the edge for a rest. Indigo decided to chase me, and before Okan could catch him, made his own solo assent. Okan stayed away from any and all edges, and took pictures from below. Indigo and I are definitely the climbers and dare devils in our little family.
We saw Aiden and Lorraine while here, a couple with whom we shared both our city campgrounds of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, and saw them at the butterfly sanctuary. Not sure what got into me that day, but I decided to sneak up behind Aiden and pretend to steal his camera. What other way is there to say “why hello there!” to fellow travelers? The look on Aiden’s face was priceless, and I’m certainly glad he recognized my face before releasing his wrath on what he thought was a very unwise potential thief. We would get to know Aiden and Lorraine even better back at the campground, where I realized my prank couldn’t have landed on a better person. Both Aiden and Lorraine have an easy laid back nature, and are quick to smile and laugh.
Unlike the jaguar roars at the ruins, we weren’t able to get used to the extremely noisy city camping here. It was dreadful. It was a national holiday, which one we do not know, but that meant loud music and fireworks throughout the day and night, which in turn set off the dogs barking throughout the day and night. I wear hearing aids in both ears, and am able to take them out at night, but even for me it was constant and deafening all through the night.
Also enjoying the sounds of the city with us, were an amazing couple from Quebec, traveling with their four children in a small RV. I’m still in awe at how well they travel, and how they exuded calm and ease while coordinating the many activities (meal prep, car washing, creative play, yoga, colouring, etc.) for four kids. Indigo played with them a lot, and there was nothing we could do to keep him away. Each morning we watched him set up his camp chair, facing their door, waiting for them to come out. He has some major stalker issues we’ll have to tackle. Okan and I were so busy trying to get things setup for Mexico City, that we perhaps let him invade their family time a bit more than we should have. Most families wave my concerns off, saying “it’s no problem”….but I still wonder sometimes.
The town of Teotihuacan had a crazy packed marketplace with many people out and about on the streets each day. It didn’t seem to matter if it was a weekend or weekday, the town was always bustling. We were able to get decent fresh fruit and even fresher meats, such as whole chickens replete with feet. This reminded me of a little fact I learned while we lived in Singapore, that the USA is one of the leading exporters of chicken feet, otherwise known as chicken paws. You’d be hard pressed to find an American who eats chicken feet, but you will find plenty of people who eat them in other countries. I didn’t see chicken feet on many menus in Mexico, so not sure how much they are consumed here. I also tried sushi for the first time since crossing the border. There was a sushi restaurant right next to the campsite teasing me each day with it’s photos of spicy tuna rolls. Not too bad, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the limes provided with my rolls. Overall we liked the town of Teotihuacan, and hoped the experience of a busy, non-expat town, would prepare us for the bustle of Mexico City.
Although the bus to Mexico City was just a couple blocks away from our campsite, we opted to take Uber directly to our AirBnB’s doorstep located on the outer loop of Mexico City. Driving a camper truck in the city would have been impossible, along with navigating the no-driving days based on license plates, and days of the week. We would get a chance to see how the backpackers survive without their own wheels.
One of the main reasons we we stayed outside of the downtown area, was to get our travel vaccinations at the clinic in the airport terminal. They had all vaccines in stock, and the clinic was recommended by a friend. This unfortunately left us quite far from the rest of everything else in Mexico City. But we rationalized that the metro station was close by, and we could get to centre city and elsewhere fairly easily….so we thought.
I wanted to eek something productive out of our first day, and throw in a little adventure, so we jumped on the train and headed to the children’s museum. The short walk to the station was hot, made hotter by 2 wrong turns in the matter of 3 city blocks (yeah I know…we can get lost walking down a flight of stairs) and it was nice to head into the underground. The metro was pretty straight forward and mucho cheap…just 30 cents per rider with unlimited stops and connections, Indigo free. We took two trains, and discovered there are areas on the platform reserved for just women and children. I thought that was nice, but also wondered why it was needed in the first place. We got a little more lost trying to walk from the station to the museum, and arrived with only 1.5 hours until the museum closed. We still managed to get in a fair amount, and I would have come for another day, but the price was a bit too steep for us to do it again.
Of course I was beating myself up for not taking the Uber direct to the door of the museum to give us more time there. We decided the metro was too hectic for the return trip, and took Uber back to the apartment. This was our first glimpse of traffic going through the downtown area, and it was bumper to bumper during the entire drive. The rumours were true…traffic in Mexico City is a nightmare.
We took public transportation again the next morning to get our vaccinations. One train, a medium walk to the terminal, then a shuttle bus to the other terminal (they wouldn’t allow non-ticket holders to take the train between terminals). A 1.5 hour commute, and we were considered “close” to the airport. We got lost again in the airport terminal looking for the clinic, finally found it, and discovered the physician at the clinic has a thriving practice with regular patients and there were no open appointment times until after we were leaving. Oops.
Vaccination Plan B would have to wait for now. Determined to get something out of this day, we took a regular taxi 1.5 hours from the airport to the centre of town. We didn’t Uber this time, because we couldn’t figure out where the pick up location at the terminal was, and well…there were dozens of taxis sitting right in front of us. We walked around the main square admiring the buildings and even popped into a free museum. I must admit that we weren’t enjoying the sights that much, because we were stressed about the day’s events. Well, I was stressed about wasted time, the location of our AirBnB, and everything else. Okan on the other hand, was just taking pictures and would probably start thinking of Plan B after we got home. Getting home was another 1 hour Uber ride.
Okan indeed sorted out Plan B that evening and made appointments at Passport Health, an American based company located in the high-end part of town. We are loving Uber by this time, and had a nice ride, albeit a long 1.5 hours to the clinic. The mints and bottled water provided by Uber drivers was starting to feel very normal for a taxi ride. We got lots of great information, and I was relieved that I didn’t have to make any decisions about which vaccines to give Indigo. Since he’s under 6, he can’t have any except the Yellow Fever vaccine. Instead we will rely on Vitamin B1 and Bug Spray to keep him safe. Also we hear that we should drink bottled mineral/gas water instead of bottled still water to be additionally safe.
We were now in the ritzy part of town, which perhaps explains why the vaccines were double the cost of those at the airport clinic. I felt like we were on a San Francisco street, lots of swanky dressed people, modern buildings, and quaint cafes. We popped into a modern looking cafe to celebrate executing Plan B and getting our vaccines completed. I saw Pad Thai on the menu and instantly started craving it. Oh how I shouldn’t have! Didn’t taste anything like Pad Thai. I was blinded by the feeling of being back home, and should have thought twice when Pad Thai is not next to 5 other variations of Pad Thai, but rather next to spaghetti, and hamburgers, and fish tacos.
We next headed to Kidzania, an experience for kids we heard was not to be missed. Kidzania is a city built to a small scale for kids, with everything that a city has: stores, public and private services, roads, banks, hospital, etc. Kids train for a career, perform their job, and receive a paycheck. Then they get to spend their money on tangible Kidzania items and experiences. Annual members even get direct deposit into their Kidzania bank accounts and pay Kidzania Income Taxes!
Indigo went straight to the fire station to become a fire fighter. He watched his training video, learned how to put on his gear, and properly hold a fire hose. Just as the training session concludes, the firehouse ALARM rang! Oh no, a fire for the kids to put out..what perfect timing! They newly minted firefighters jumped into their truck and drove to a burning building in the Kidzania city center. The kids each dashed to a hose from which they sprayed actual water on the house until it “poof” went out (dry ice for the effects I believe). The crowd cheers and the firefighters head to the station to pick up their paychecks. I have never seen such happiness on Indigo’s face, and he retells the story of how they put out the fire with such passion…still!
He also got to work as a mechanic, once changing tires, another time changing oil and transmission fluids. He used his well-earned money on a baking class, and then a motorcycle ride. Okan and I were exhausted running around trying to help translate between Indigo and the staff, but it was definitely a good day.
The next day we went to the hospital, spending another 1.5 hours with Uber. I was getting my every 3-month blood draw. Perhaps a quick explanation of why this was required would help here. I had my thyroid removed just before we left on our trip, and now must take medications to regulate hormones…for the rest of my life. Blah, I am a walking pre-existing condition, nervous to return to the USA. But Canadian health care rocks, and my doctors allow me to send results back via email, and track my progress remotely. Surprisingly, blood results in Mexico are processed immediately, in the order received by the lab technicians, and handed to the actual patient. Could you imagine how sweet that would be in the USA, to be able to get your own results at the lab, instead of asking your doctor to release them to you? Also, no insurance was needed to manage the extremely reasonable costs. We’ve had this same efficient, professional, and reasonably priced care everywhere we’ve gone in Mexico.
We were quite finished with Mexico City by this time, and very happy to leave the following day. In the weeks following our visit, I really labored over what we could have done differently to have made it less hectic and more enjoyable. If I had it to do all over, I would have opted for a place in the center of the city, called ahead for appointments, and mapped out one outing for each day. What I would not change for a moment was relying on Uber. Uber makes getting around the city much more pleasant, and since you’ll be sitting in traffic a lot, it lets you comfortably admire the murals painted on the overpasses and buildings that are scattered all over the city. We returned home to our camper in Teotihuacan, in what would be our last Uber ride for quite some time.