After a brief, very brief stint in Oaxaca, I went to Puebla, which is my last stop in Mexico. Oaxaca seemed cool, it has a pretty chill vibe for the couple hour I was there. However, I didn’t want to stay around in a bigger San Cristobal, I needed to get moving and start climbing some mountains. I made Puebla my last stop because I wanted to use this chance to get couple acclimatization climbs in for Kilimanjaro.
Puebla is surrounded by 3 volcanoes. Popocatepeyl, Iztaccihualt, and La Malintzi. Unfortunate, the best one, popo, is very active and smoking, it wasn’t allowed to climb. Thinking Malintzi at 4460 meters and Izta at 5250 meters will do the trick for me. If not, I’m willing to take a little more bus to do Pico de Orizaba at 5600+ meters, Mexico’s tallest mountain. However, I don’t have crampons and Mexico is my vacation of vacation, I don’t want to go around renting crampons that doesn’t fit and go on unnecessary midnight alpine starts.
Well, I thought Puebla is the gateway to these mountains, for God’s sake I was wrong. This is not Peru or Ecuador, where climbing shit is part of the life and its infrastructure is very well organized. I found out, even thou Malintzi is about 40 minute drive from Puebla, to get there through public transportation, you have to take a bus to Apizoca, then find a colectivo to the trail head. Izta is even more complicated even thou it’s very close. The Mexico city to Izta hiking tour does take you there, but you aren’t allowed to go to the thinly glaciated region.
Puebla is also known for its food, well, more like sweets. Many food are originated from Puebla, arabes, gorditas, mole, mole poblano, and cemitas. All kinds of shit I have never heard of. Everyone had told me to try mole, which is a sweet spicy sauce and in Puebla, its chocolatish. Other than that, all kinds of sweets are sold all over the streets. Puebla might be the diabetes capital of Mexico. In Apizaco, I bought fancy as pastries for just 3 pesos each for climbing food. Even thou the food are really famous, Mexicans in Puebla love corn dogs and french fries for God knows what reason.
The city is pretty worn down and stuff, except the Centro, the Zocalo. It is full of old buildings and colonial style churches and stuff. At this point in my life, I really don’t want to see another church anymore, I didn’t even take any photos. The streets are narrowish and with the Zocalo being the center, all the streets are labeled as South, north, east and west. There are a lot of lights on the streets and on the cathedrals through out the night.
The first day I ate stuff and watched NFL playoffs on my phone, the second day I took a 2 hour bus trip to Mexico city to watch the games at a wing stop. Wing stop is pretty good expensive and I got some the hottest wings because it was pretty cold that day. I think my Canada skin had worn off in the Mexican Caribbeans, I’m going back to feeling cold like normal people now.
I used the bus AV, and I used the bus OCC to get to Puebla. Let me tell you something, ADO is the best bus line, I’m willing to pay that extra 20 pesos to ride with them. Movie is on point, the bus is clean, and the air condition works. Every other bus are just shit.
Woke up early the next morning to hit up Malintzi. Due to public transportation red tape, I ended up at the trail head at 12:30. I had to take a bus from Puebla to Apizoca using Atah, then wait for a colectivo to go up the mountain. The colectivo had to make a stop at a nearby town and then go up with only myself.
Summit post listed the hike as super easy, 3 hours. It did took less than 3 hours to get up to the top, but it wasn’t easy. I guess the Andes had already shaped my hemoglobin to carry oxygen like a champion. My oxygen saturation must be really good. I didn’t experience much altitude problems going up despite being the first time at an altitude since Ecuador. However, the trail is damn a straight line of constant going up at a really steep slope. No switch back or anything, just a flat out line going up. My calves were feeling it. The trail turned pretty shitty toward the end too, but that was because I ended up following the hard and wrong trail. I ended up under a cliff right below the summit. I didn’t want to climb up the cliff because of my hypoxiated fingers are not trustworthy and I didn’t want to double back and climb again and risk missing the 5 o’clock colectivo pick up time at the trail head.
So I counted that as a summit and went down. Going down was super easy, gravity pretty much dragged me down the steep descent, it took an total of less than an hour. There was a camp ground with nice cabins where people go to for retreat and escape. The facility and area are super nice, but expensive. The colectivo with the same driver got there exactly at 5, and we talked a bit and he hauled me down for 20 pesos. No complains there. Summit post said mexican families bring their kids up the mountain on Saturdays and Sundays, I said that’s a lie. There is no way a bunch of soon to be diabetic fatasses gonna haul themselves up that mountain.
I took the Atah executive to Apizaco, it wasn’t much executive, given the movie doesn’t work, there was no bath room and the driver smokes in the bus. So I took the normal atah bus back, and I swear one of the wheels must have came off, because the bus bumps everywhere like there are pot holes all over the place. A colectivo is more comfortable.
I would like to mention that the bus system in Puebla is all sorts of fucked up. There are all privatized buses running different routes. They have labels on the window shield but if you don’t already know the locations, you really have no idea where all are going. I have been using my phone for answers to directions for a bit in this trip. Now I went back to the good old ways, just asking people. To my fortune, the responses have been very accurate and I have a good grasp on the bus system after 2 days. Especially to CAPU, the main station in Puebla, which is far from the city center.
The fourth day I went to Cholula because weather had gotten shitty to a point it’s no good to climb. Cholula is a very beautiful university town 30 minutes from Puebla. The bus there is absolutely awful, just shaking and shaking. The rusted metals parts of the chairs are exposed and during a shake it left a cut on my knee.
Cholula has the world’s largest pyramid by volume. Most of the pyramid looks like a dusty mound. Alot of the rocks are indiscernible. The most iconic part is the Spanish conquistadors chopped off the top and built a cathedral to show the Catholicism is the solution. What drew me to the pyramid is not the fact it’s the world’s largest, because it quite ugly. What drew me was that it has a direct view to the volcano Popo. Since I can’t do the Izta climb, I might as well savour the active conical volcano from afar. The weather was shit so I didn’t see it in its whole glory. This side of the mountain has no glacier, most likely melted by the erupting ashes. However from my bus ride to Mexico city, the other side does have glaciers. I can faintly see smokes coming out, not as ferocious as Cotopaxi, but a conical volcano with smoke is always a grandeur sight to be hold.
After the volcano, I decided to not pay to see the pyramid remaining of the sight. I ventured through the town. Alot of restaurants and bars, and its really clean. The best part was there are few people unlike the busy streets of other towns. You really get to enjoy the stucco buildings a bit more.
After a stroll through the town, I got on a bus going back and left. It’s the same shitty bus, but for 7 pesos, you get what you pay for.
I have come to realize the best street food are in the urban sections, where worn down houses line up next to each other. The best street food aren’t in the nice areas of Zocalo. I got some food in those areas and they were great and cheap as always. However, I also found couple other places near Zocalo that has great food. For example a place sells molotes which are gigantic fried empanadas with meat and cheese for 25 pesos. Another find is the mercado de sabores, the flavor market. Cheap Mexican food of all kinds in a building. I got my mole poblano there and it was cheaper than the ones sold in restaurants. The sauce is chocolaty with some spicy and sesame flavor. It tastes like something my mom would make and its covers chicken and rice. They also gave me enough tortillas to soap up the rest of the sauce.
I decided to stay one more day because it is raining outside and given the chance it stops raining, I would like to check out more of the city. However, it didn’t and I spent the day drinking beer, eating and reading. I got quite a bit in in my research for my Africa trip. The more I read, the more I want to stay there longer. Go to Uganda, go to Ethiopia, go to here, go to there. I have remind myself I need to slow down and see for myself. I will have a piece coming out before I leave on Saturday and I promise it will be good.