Teotihuacan. The name alone brings a smile to the face of all who have been there, for this enormous set of ruins, just outside Mexico City, truly brings to light the power of an empire, begun thousands of years ago. Thought to be Aztec, the city’s origins are actually a bit of a mystery, but it was the Aztecs who came upon this abandoned site and realized its power.
I had previously visited the site on a work trip to Mexico City, but it was all new to Jim. After enduring typically horrible traffic circling one of the worlds largest cities, we arrived at the comfortable camp near the ruins. Mina, and her three friendly dogs, gleefully greeted us upon arrival and were warmly welcoming. The camp itself, although a bit noisy due to it’s location, was grassy and clean, and the showers hot.
But, really we had come for the same reason all come, to climb some of the largest pyramids in the world!
Teotihuacan, quite literally, translates to “the place where Gods are created”. This pre-hispanic city once saw a population of over 25,000 people, a grand metropolis of it’s day.
Following Nina’s advice, we asked to be dropped at gate 3. This entrance put us at the far end of the site, near the Temple of the Moon. We wandered about, in awe. Although “ruin burnout” is a very real thing, it had been awhile since the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China, and we were primed. We immediately climbed to the first level of the Temple of the Moon. The first thing this taught is was that we are woefully out of shape to be climbing massive pyramids! The steps are sized for giants and, even at our height, challenging. We watched more than a few shorter persons have real difficulties in the attempt. This created the first unanswered question of the day, how on earth did a population of very short people ever make such a climb?
With our 8am arrival, we enjoyed reasonably cool temperatures, combined with almost no other travelers, and we slowly wandered from marker to marker, reading about each set of buildings and marveling anew at the ingenuity of people thousands of years ago. It is humbling to understand the intelligence of several thousand years prior, and their ability to read the seasons, create the Aztec calendar (the original, and massive, calendar is on display in the incredible National Archeology Museum in the city), and have some conveniences that we still use today.
There it was, we had reached the base of “the big boy”. The Pyramid of the Sun reaches 197 feet (60 meters) to the sky. Multiple levels of steps (248 to be exact) need to be breached in order to reach the top, and enjoy the incredible view offered. Lucky for us, these steps are significantly easier to climb than the shorter Pyramid of the Moon, and we soon reached the pinnacle. Sadly, by this time a number of others had arrived at the ruins, but it was still a special experience to stand on the top and look out over a city that stretched for 32 square miles( 83 square km).
The balance of our time was spent wandering town, generally with Mina’s three dogs joining our pack. One trip to the ATM for Aspen and I even had them follow me into the bank, where they sat in a semi-circle around me as I did my business. I have never felt more secure!
In a few short days we continued on our way, newly inspired to experience more of these ancient civilizations.
This city, as with others of its day, seemed to decline as mysteriously as it appeared. Lucky, for we travelers, the past is still available for us to explore, kept alive by the dreams of generations past.