One of the great traditions in Mexico City -- "great" like Tax Day, "great" like Black Friday -- is running out of town for puente, a three-day weekend. Ingloriously, desperately, chilangos choke the highway exits from the basin on Friday or Saturday to crowd against one another -- just like in the city -- at the most predictable of getaway destinations: Cuernavaca, Valle de Bravo, Acapulco.
Consequently, going anywhere for puente (and no one seems to ever care what the specific holiday is) can be a hectic ordeal. But we went anyway, to Tepoztlán, to test our three-day weekend survival skills.
Now, regular readers of Intersections know that I always submit to harrowing religious rituals in Mexico when the opportunity presents itself, no matter how absurd or depressing. It had been eight years since I climbed up to the Tepozteco pyramid overlooking Tepoztlán, and this time, with company, the "mystical" mountaintop beckoned once more. For no apparent reason.
After elbowing our way onto a bus at Tasqueña then fighting off the competition to get a place to stay, U. and I trudged through foot traffic to the edge of the mountain, passing shops selling items of contrived New Age-y-ness: soaps, lotions, teas, Indian fabrics, and so forth. Lots of stalls selling over-chiled micheladas.
The climb was ... rough. Disorganized, unplanned, very crowded. Rocks were loose and slippery. At times the path was nearly vertical. Poor senior citizens ... their children and grandchildren dragging them up the unforgiving cliff-sides. Near the top, the pathway narrows, forcing delirious, panting climbers to organize passage amongst themselves. Traffic backs up. One slip of the foot or wrong step, and you could be tumbling down the sharp rocks, for a while.
At the summit, pesky tejones badger you for your food. We watched as one man let his guard down, allowing a pack of the ravenous creatures to jump up and snatch away his bag of nuts. Angry and embarrassed, the man's instinct was to immediately take his cup of mineral water and hurl it at the little mammals, who in response squealed and hooted and made a big scene.
None of it felt very spiritual. It was crowded up there and there was a long waiting line to head back down. Jeez, get me out of here.
But the beauty of a beverage that you see above made it all worth it. Back down in town, we stopped at a pulquería, eager for refreshment. The proprietor had standard curados such as tomato and mango, but another option caught the eye: cerveza de raíz.
Maguey root beer, that is. And, oh man, it was fantastic. Crisp, light, the perfect level of fermentation. We started with a 12-peso cup, then went for another, at 15 pesos. Ten minutes later -- what the hell -- we got a 35-peso jug to share, sat back, and watched the crowds.
The following morning, before boarding another bus for the stop-and-go return to the city, we went for another round of cerveza de raiz, for a proper traveler's buzz.
Tepoztlán, bless you.