Central Mexico – a great place to explore
|Fierce Mexican face|
Central Mexico is full of amazing historical sites. Rancho Las Cascadas a luxury ranch in the Hidalgo region, North of Mexico City, makes a great base from which to explore this fascinating part of the country. This part of Mexico has far fewer tourists than Cancun and the Yucatan peninsula which is a real plus point. Discover ancient Mayan sites and shop till you drop at colourful Mexican markets. There is hardly another Gringo in sight!
Our first excursion from the ranch was to Tula, the capital of the ancient Toltec people. This is a lovely town to explore in its own right. Tula has a fascinating museum of ancient relics and is home to very ancient pyramid. Sadly all the interpretation in the museum is in Spanish. We rallied the best Spanish speakers in our group to provide some approximate translations!
|Unimpressed of Tula|
Central Mexico – home to ancient Mayan pyramids
At the top of this incredible pyramid are four huge totem-pole-like warriors carved from black basalt, over 6m high. They are quite an amazing site as they stare out across the vast landscape, and would have seemed even more intimidating in their hey day. Now they stand against the cloud streaked sky presiding over a more modern Mexican landscape.
|Big Basalt Warriors|
In Tula we had the excitement of shopping for Tequila, plus a visit to the amazing riding tack shop . You can buy beautiful leather riding boots in every imaginable colour for £20 ($40.) They also sell impressive hand made leather Western style saddles, some adorned with Mexican silver for only £140 ($280.) They were such things of beauty that I was tempted to buy one myself, and I haven’t even got a horse.
|These boots were made for riding|
Central Mexico – food festival
One day we visited a local food festival at Varreinato another nearby town. Here there are all manner of unusual things on offer to eat and drink. Giant plant filled pancakes with hot sauce, fried live maggots (well they were live to start with), snails and crickets. I tried a fried cricket. It was ok, very crunchy and salty, but I didn’t like it when one of its legs got stuck in my teeth. There was plenty of Mole (the famous Mexican chilli-chocolate sauce) and some more usual looking enchiladas and tacos and a lot of pork products. Mexicans also love giant sheets of pork crackling the size of roof tiles. Of course this can’t be any good for Mexican’s cholesterol.
|Fried crickets – delicious!|
The popular mexican drink of pulque was for sale too. This is an ancient drink fermented from the maguey plant, which is a type of Agave. Aztec priests and emperors used to call it the nectar of the gods. Apparently it was often used in rituals of human sacrifice when the priests drank it to prepare themselves for the slaughter. It was also given to the unfortunate victims for much the same purpose. Some evidence of these brutal practices have been found at the next incredible site we visited at Teotihucan – ‘City of the Gods’ -which was Mesoamerica’s greatest city.
Central Mexico – an ancient civilisation
Established around 300AD this civilisation lasted far longer than the Roman Empire. Its inhabitants worshipped the sun and the moon. The pyramids on the central Avenue of the Dead at the site, align in perfect distance of each of the orbits of the planets in our solar system. Only priests were allowed to climb the steps of the pyramids for rituals and ceremonies. Interestingly no depiction of a ruler or the tomb of a monarch has ever been found. It seems there was no monarchy here.
Its most monumental structures are the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Sun (the third-largest pyramid in the world) and the Pyramid of the Moon. One of the greatest mysteries is that no one knows what happened to the huge population that lived here. It is as if they vanished without a trace. It was the pre hispanic cosmic culture capital.
|Pyramid of the sun|
Central Mexico – incredible markets
Our last trip was to the crazy Mexican market at Jilotepec which was a real cultural treat. Apart from the fact that we actually were the only foreigners there, it was a huge colourful smorgasbord of products reflecting both traditional and modern Mexico and not to be missed.
You can buy everything from a small colourful bird, to a life size plaster Baby Jesus with false eyelashes. Calvin Klein perfume, fried fish, blue corn on the cob, fresh paddles of cactus (spines helpfully removed), or a Christmas Turkey made out of pine cones. Everything was incredibly cheap and I couldn’t resist buying heaps of things!
A substantial amount of shopping is easy to do here with very little outlay. Markets are a weak point of mine and I was well over the weight limit for luggage on my return home. The nice Mexican lady at the airport blithely overlooked my transgression completely! Viva Mexico! Find out more about the Rancho Las Cascadas here