Tepotzteco: Mates on Masochist Mountain!
This wonderful place is well worth a visit..Heh Heh!Click thumbnail to view full-size
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.