Tepotzteco: Mates on Masochist Mountain!

This wonderful place is well worth a visit..Heh Heh!

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the startthe chapel, or House of TepotztecoCoatimundiBeer stop at entranceHalf way!Wiew from summitTepotzlan market food sectionFruit and VegArtisaneria
the start
the start
the chapel, or House of Tepotzteco
the chapel, or House of Tepotzteco
Beer stop at entrance
Beer stop at entrance
Half way!
Half way!
Wiew from summit
Wiew from summit
Tepotzlan market food section
Tepotzlan market food section
Fruit and Veg
Fruit and Veg

For fit or the crazed only!

Ascending to the god of Pulque

(Notes follow on village)

You need to be a cross between a mountain goat and Alain Robert to truly enjoy sweating up the steep flagstone steps to the top of the mountain in Tepotzlan, Morelos, Mexico, where is located the House of the God, Tepozteco. If you don't know who Robert is, look on Google like I did.

Don't be fooled by the fact I said "steps." They are more like ledges in a cliff face in places, not to mention a couple of steep, rusty iron ladders, and it seems to go on forever. Also, you can be quite snarly at the athletic club members, kids, dogs and all the fitter than thou who push past while you're huffing and puffing and wishing you had smoked 'cause then, you might have died years before and not - as you are quite sure - you will any moment on this insane venture.

It doesn't help after an hour of erratic toil to be told by the smiling and relieved survivors on the way down that you are "only half-way!" People are such sadists and they recognise a masochist when they see one.

I had two companions with me, who I shall name and shame. They were Ron Siemiginowski and his 12-year-old son, Oliver, from Albany, Australia. They decided to give up at about the half way point, just as I was going to suggest it was all too much for Oliver (who could have skipped up no problem really). That did it, my Viking blood was up. "I'm going to get up there," I wheezed. Ron and Oliver looked concerned, I was a 240 pound middle-aged bloke then. But the Diogenes are not quitters, let me tell you; I once had a relative live in a barrel all his life and he never complained! OK, I'm not really Diogenes, but what's in a name? It's the athletic competition that counts and in my case, the sheer survival on the day.

I suppose the ascent as the bird flies would be only about one mile. And it is extraordinarily scenic, a long, green shaded tunnel under what might be eucalyptus trees, until you get to the worst 500 yards; the last bit with the ladders like those on a battleship. (They lean backwards over the void at one point...my giddy aunt, they do!). And the fact a horde of 100 pound Mexicans have flowed easily over them does not guarantee their standing up under my weight.

Anyway, proudly, I made it, because many don't and there are so many ankle injuries, plus the odd cardiac arrest, that paramedics stand by all day at the busy times. I shuddered when I read that as getting someone down from the top of this place would be a terrifying ordeal for victim and aids. ..if it were too late, I expect they just throw them off the top!

I want to add in case any reader wants to do this, the steps aren't steps, that's misleading, they are huge slabs, some about three foot higher than the one previously encountered. You have to reach, jump, clamber and climb. This is for reasonably fit people only. There is a club in which members run up and down for hours to stay fit! How I detest them!!

On top, there is someone selling tickets...it was 14 pesos when I went - about a buck, it will be 100 now I expect, but still nothing for the view you get over the village and the mountains of the Sierra Madre - unforgettable. You can - or could - buy welcome drinks up there and some people take a picnic up with them as the summit is an extensive, grassed area and rather lovely.

The microscopic - from the ground - chapel, or "House," to the god, is actually quite large. There are also some fascinating creatures sharing the whole experience with you, the "Coatis," or "coatamundis," strange animals, like Spaniel-sized rats with pointed tails and noses. They are omnivorous (eat tourists!) and related to racoons. There are hordes of them, but they won't be handled and can bite, I was told. "So can I," I snarled at one! He seemed amused as he bared 2-inch fangs, easily trumping my NHS dentures. The real problem with the 'coatis, I found out, is they root around all over the place and send quite large rocks down on the perspiring tourists still labouring up the path. Take a .357 with you, is my recommendation. (just kidding, they are soooo cute!).

Tepotzlan is very special. The population are descended from the Aztecs and still speak Nahuatl - as well as Spanish (some). Tepotzteco is the ancient god of pulque, the libation made from cactus juice. When the Conquering Spaniards arrived, they hurled the image of their god from the mountain and, so the legend goes, it survived the drop and cursed the Spanish who were, indeed, booted out of Mexico at some later date. Apparently, he also cursed the poor visitors to Tepotzlan, imbuing them with the illogical and dangerous desire to climb the mountain and pay homage to his chapel.

I flew back down the mountain feeling very superior to find my cowardly companions sprawled on comfy chairs enjoying beer, coke and tacos. They never did believe I’d made it, I don’t think...or they were too ashamed to face it!

Ron and Olly: if you read this, let’s go back there some day and I’ll be the one that waits while you two go up - at least you, Oliver! Can’t let the Poms win everything...that’ll just be ashes in your mouth! Heh Heh.


As I have had a positive response to this article by hubbers who are interested in the place, I add the following:-

I have written several hubs about my second home, Mexico, and avoid the usual touristy fluff as there are many good guide books to provide that.

But Tepotzlan might satisfy people looking to see what Mexico's Indian heritage is all about. There is a fabulous, varied market: both with native artisans work and imported items from Asia. Also good food on Sundays, the big market day. So far - at least up to the time I was last there - the market has avoided most of the nasty tourist junk you find everywhere.

If you are going up Tepotzteco, do arrive early and ascend in the cool, this village, situated in a bowl in the mountains at about 2,000 feet, does get very warm at midday.

The other thing is parking as this is another popular destination made horrible by too many cars, as is Taxco and Guanajuato, etc. If you get here by 8:30 AM, no trouble finding a spot; after that, it's a task. there are local buses from Cuernavaca and good coaches from Mexico City.



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Comments 12 comments

Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

The steps are bad enough, but a backward leaning ladder over the void...like yikes! You are braver than me!

I have encountered a coatamundi in a small private Ontario zoo and silly me I actually stuck my finger into the enclosure to shove a "zoo supplied" banana through and had one fast critter grab my finger...but I was fortunate and it was gentle, only extracting the banana and sauntering away while I slowly and gingerly removed my finger intact. Ever since I have thought of them as so adorable!

I think I will pass on Tepotzteco, however I appreciated reading about your excursion!

j.amie profile image

j.amie 6 years ago from PA

This reminds me of a place I visited in Aalesund, Norway. It is a little restaurant on top of a mountain, with paths and steps the entire way up. Of course you can drive up the other side if you don't mind hairpin turns, but why do that? Besides, I didn’t rent a car. No need to rent a car with busses to everywhere in half hour increments. Man I miss Norway.

Since I’m apparently masochist as well - I would probably join that torture loving club running up and down the Tepotzlan mountain. I can’t say how long I would last, of course ;) but I would be determined to give it a shot.

A spaniel-sized rat of the raccoon family .....and he thinks it’s cute.....?

Speaking of Scandinavia - I once had a cactus flavored wine cooler in a Mexican restaurant in Lund, Sweden. The idea to eat Mexican food in Sweden wasn’t mine - but I was perplexed by anything being cactus-flavored so I had to try it. I still don’t know what it tasted like - cactus I guess. It wasn't like frog legs or aligator, you know, where you have something to compare it to...and it certainly didn’t taste like tequila.

diogenes 6 years ago

Hi Scribenet: They are cute critters and not really fierce at all. But they have put up with legions of tourists and are sick of em. They come right up to you for titbits but just shy away at the last minute when you go to pull their tails, er, stroke them...Bob

diogenes 6 years ago

Good day, Jamie: I would live in Scandanavia perhaps if it were not so bloody cold most of the time and so expensive, too. I like Norway, especially Bergen and the fiords. Did you visit Greig's hang out in the mountains by a lake where he wrote a lot of his best music? That wine cooler is a new one on me, sounds delicious. You must be fit if you think you can run up and down Tepotzteco...maybe with me chasing you!

Have a good weekend


Pachuca213 6 years ago

This was awesome! And you know what...I would love to visit there. I could actually have a conversation with the indigenous people because I learned the basics of the Nahuatl language back when I was younger, I thought it was interesting. That's where I got my Pachuca name from the Nahuatl root words “Pachoacan,” meaning place of silver and gold, and “patlachuican,” meaning place of tears. Loved this tremendously!

diogenes 6 years ago

Hi Pachuquita: Well, you're not that far away to visit. The whole area is lovely, Cuernavaca as well, I lived there in the late 1990's. You could practise your Nahuatl on the natives. But you can't get "klahuanke!" (borracho in Nahuatl, but I may not have spelled it correctly)...Thanks for warm comment...R

Jaymeyaroch profile image

Jaymeyaroch 6 years ago from Somewhere between today and yesterday.

I love interesting new places. I hope you get to go back, it seems like a lovely place.

diogenes 6 years ago

Hi Jameyaroch. I have been back many times to Tepotzlan, but I let others climb the mountain: once was enough for me! I hope to go to Mexico for several months later this year as it really is where my heart reposes: certainly not in the awful UK these days. Thanks for comment....Bob

Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Mexico sounds so nice right now. I love Guanajuato and thought of retiring there. Cozumel stole my heart at one time too, but now is way too touristy what with the cruise ships making it a base of operations.

I can actually pronounce the names of the Aztec and Mayan gods as I paint them, but would love to visit their "homes" more often.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Austinstar: I lived for many years in Mexico and travelled over most of it, well, we say that, but the truth is we only do the usual routes and can't possibly see all the thousands of towns and villages. I ended up in South Baja - La Paz - and love it, although it is not the most "Mexican" of places. I never thought I'd leave, actually, but destiny thought otherwise - for the moment. Thanks for comment Bob

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

It must have a great experiences, in spite of the aches and pains. Mexico ia certainly a fascinating country with their ancient, long history right up to today. Even I might not be able to go there your hub was so well written painting the picture. Thank you, Bob, and have great New Year

diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Same to you, HH. Well, if you get a chance to go to Mexico, it's highly recommended and I have never seen any of the violence they rave about in the press. In general, Mexicans are friendly, peace-loving people, far more so that the Spanish...Bob

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