Day 1: Pyramids at Teotihuacan

20080619 - 20

Navigation Links
 Trip Home Page     


The Trip

The first day was a travel day. We had to start early as the flight left from Tijuana in the morning and we had to cross the border on foot to ease logistics. The plan was to have our house-mate Jeff drive us to the crossing at Tijuana, cross the border on foot, and then take a taxi to the Tijuana airport. The plan worked well and we arrived at the airport much earlier than we expected, so we decided to have breakfast. The flight to Leon (the closest big city with an airport to Celaya) was about 3 hours. Roberto met us at the airport with a large van that could hold all 10 of us plus our luggage. Once we were loaded, we traveled about an hour to Celaya where Roberto fed us dinner at the nicest restaurant in Celaya, The Grotto.

The Grotto's interior reminded me of nice restaurants in Manhattan and the food was excellent. As a special treat, Roberto ordered a seasonal dish called escamole. The dish looked like sauteed pine nuts and was served with guacamole and corn tortillas. After we had all chowed-down, and thoroughly enjoyed the dish, Roberto revealed that escamole is really sauteed ant larvae!! The larvae are only available at the start of the rainy season and we were lucky enough to be able to sample this rare dish. Needless to say, once the actual content of the dish was revealed, there were some wrinkled noses in the group. But, all confessed that the dish was tasty and they would have it again. The balance of the meal was more conventional and was well received as we were hungry from traveling.

After dinner, Roberto returned us to our hotel so we could recover from the flight. The plan for the following day was to travel 2+ hours by van to Teotihaucan to see the pyramids and then eat at a famous restaurant near the pyramids.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw. These shots are reduced from the full size of the digital camera to 1000 pixels wide in deference to those readers that do not have "full size" screens. Nearly all of the shots came from my new, 21 megapixel Canon 1DsMark3 digital SLR. (NOTE: I have increased the size of the photos from 800x800 to 1000x1000. If you cannot see these photos without scrolling, please let me know and I will consider republishing the site in the near future. Contact me at bcaid at yahoo dot com).

We traveled several hours to get from Celaya to Teotihuacan. Our route took us by the outskirts of Mexico City which was nowhere near as nice as Celaya. The photo above shows some typical dwellings in this area.

As we got out of the van in the parking lot, we noticed a ton of red ants. They were very upset by our presence and that was surely because we had eaten their children at dinner the night before.

As is typical of lots of tourist attractions in Latin America, you must run a gauntlet of vendors to get to your destination. Here, Jackie checks out the trinkets offered by one of the vendors.

Our first view of Pyramid of the Sun. I did not realize that we would have to go up, and then down to go up. Behind that far wall is a broad boulevard that is called "Avenue of the Dead". Pyramid of the Sun is big. Really big. The estimate is that there is over a million cubic meters of material in the pyramid as it stands today.

Los Ninos assemble for a photo while Kathleen photographs the photographer.

Once we went up the first set of stairs, we then descended into the Avenue of the Dead. The current theory is that the structure in the foreground was used for ceremonial sacrifice. You can get a feel for the height of the pyramid by noting the people on the top.

Roberto obtained a licensed guide for our visit and he told the story of the pyramid and the people who built it. The opposite side of the pyramid from the Avenue of the Dead contained these buttresses to help prevent slippage of the walls of the pyramid.

The stones sticking out from the faces were put there to help secure the rock facing and to prevent slippage.

We climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. As we neared the peak, the scope of the surroundings became clear. This site is big. Above is a view of the Avenue of the Dead and some of the uncompleted excavations. The low structures with stairs are other, smaller pyramids.

The area that surrounds Teotihaucan is volcanic in origin. There are many caves in the area that are actually lava tubes and vents. Above, some of the vents that are south of the site can be seen. The guide told us that they go for miles underground and that many contain hazards. The local parents have banded together to protect their children from getting lost or hurt in these caves and have installed bars on them to prevent entry.

This building houses the archeological institute that is responsible for Teotihaucan.

From the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, the other large structure, Pyramid of the Moon, is clearly visible. Note that the top of the pyramid has not yet been fully restored.

Kai, Tina, Parker and Jackie.

Roberto, Alejandro, Mauricio and Roberto Jr.

Mark, Roberto, Bill and Kai. Note the Pyramid of the Sun in the background and the outline of the mountain in the distance. The guide claimed that the mountain was carved so that the outline would match the shape of the pyramid!!

These stairs are steep, but there is another pitch further up the face that is even steeper, nearly 60 degrees.

There were several stone animals on the Avenue of the Dead.

Some of the pottery trinkets being sold by the vendors were actually pretty cool. I did not buy any though.

The side pyramids that lined the Avenue of the Dead exhibited some amazing acoustic properties. Each one was different. The guide had us position ourselves directly in front of the stairs and then clap. The echo sounded like birds chirping. One sounded like an eagle. Frankly, it is a bit hard for me to believe that this was an intentional part of the design.

Along the Avenue of the Dead was a very well preserved depiction of a puma. Note the claws. The curators constructed a cover to prevent further deterioration.

Looking down the Avenue of the Dead. Note again the profile of the mountain versus the profile of the Pyramid of the Sun.

The priests quarters. Some of the plaster on the walls is original from 500 B.C. More vendor stalls in the rear.

Near the quarters were some very well preserved paintings. The red color was extracted from the larvae of insects that ate the prickly pear cactus in the area. The pigment was then coated with cactus juice to provide water resistance.

Some of the designs were very intricate and detailed.

More stone serpent heads. Note the curator markings on the stones in the wall.

Inside one of the chambers, green pigment on the wall paintings could be seen. The green is not as robust as the red and fades more easily.

Some of the stelea were quite detailed and well preserved.

The guide explained that this was a toilet in 500 B.C. The water was on all the time and flowed through the hole in the wall and exited through the lower hole and out to the river.

A nice stele of a stylized bird.

There were droves of school children at Teotihuacan. Each school had their own uniform. Some were track suits, like these kids above. Some had sweat suits and others had church uniforms. But, they ALL had ID badges.

A view of the planetarium from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon.

Many of the mounds near Teotihaucan are also pyramids and other ruins. But at this time, the Mexican government does not have the funds to excavate and restore these ruins.

The original plaster on the face of Pyramid of the Moon can be seen at the bottom of the photo.

On a platform about half way up Pyramid of the Moon, I spotted these new-age types doing some kind of ceremony involving chanting. These are clearly gringoes, the Home Shopping Network bag was a dead giveaway.

After we finished at Teotihaucan, Roberto took us to a famous local restaurant called La Gruta. Gruta means "cave" or "grotto" and is a restaurant that is fully contained in a lava tube. Above, the upper patio is visible on the left and the entrance stairs are on the right.

A view looking into the seating area of the cave.

Oh yes!! Yesterday it was ant larvae, today it is worms!! This is a local dish know as gusanos (worms). The worms are barbequed or fried and then served with guacamole and tortillas. How does it taste? Like chicken, of course. But, despite my assurances, Kathleen was sufficiently traumatized by the whole affair that she refused to try them.

Tina and I are getting busy with the fried pig skins.

One taco de gusano ready for consumption!!

After we finished eating, we piled back in the van for the 2 1/2 hour return drive to Celaya. We had a great time at Teotihaucan, but I should have read a bit more about the site before going. The area is rich in history and it would be very difficult to fully understand everything you see on the first visit. Thanks to Roberto for setting this up and for driving 5 hours to carry us around.

Navigation Links
Previous Adventure
Top of this Page
  Next Adventure
Trip Home Page  
Bill Caid's Home Page

Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2008, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.