Wednesday, February 11, 2015

On a steel horse I ride

I let my steampunkish spirit guide my bike ride this weekend. Took my steel horse (or should I say aluminium horse) for a ride down the tracks from Texcoco to Teotihuacan. 

I ride by Tulantongo, through Chiautla, beyond Chiconcuac and beyond Tezoyuca, making my first stop at the train station of San Mateo Chipiltepec. Here my horse stands resting against the wall as I take a look inside the old forgotten station. 

Stepping inside the station takes me back over one hundred years. I leave the town that stands behind me as I cross the portal. The brightness of the fields beyond the window down the passage contrast with the darkness that surrounds me as my eyes begin to adjust.

 I get close to the window and grab the late 19th century bars that protect it. I can feel the age in the texture of the iron. Worn by the years of unrelenting sun, rain and sand, yet still firmly set and standing their ground. I look through them at an entirely different landscape. Vast dry fields for growing corn, separated by lines of trees, nopales and magueyes. Small trails lead up to the hills beyond. I know they'll rise and turn and drop again before finally taking a steep climb into mount Tlaloc, a extinct volcano that stands between me and Rio Frio. I enjoy the bright landscape from the cool comfort of the station before mounting again and riding on.

The trail turns gently to the left running alongside the last houses of San Mateo and leading me through the countryside as it slowly rises up into the hills. I go under a bridge, the north eastern entrance to San Mateo, and I stumble upon two men herding their goats. After a courteous hi and good-by I turn north and follow the tracks towards Tenochtitlan. These are the last two people I'll see for a long while.

The tracks keep climbing and climbing under the unrelenting heat. A sense of detachment from modern life begins to set in. I'm nowhere and with no one near by. Stopping only makes the bike go silent, the last reminder of technology, the humming of the chain, fades into the wind. I'm left with the soft brushing of the trees under the scan wind. Something dashes through the bushes, a lizard maybe? I get off the bike and start walking as a near a bridge crossing. It runs over a creek, as I look down I see nothing but dry grass. It's been months since water ran through here and it will be months before it runs again. It would be really shitty to get stranded here.

I mount my bike again and keep pedaling. I'm travelling light today, no water, no tools, no spare parts. I must reach the next town to get something to drink before turning back. It's only a kilometer or two ahead, but not having traveled this route before makes it feel like an eternity. It's always like that isn't it? The trip back always feels shorter, there's no unknown, you're headed home, all is well. The trip to, well that is always something else. The sense of exploration, of discovering something new, the sense of risk and danger. I can only begin to imagine what it would have been to travel here 100 or 150 years ago. The same unrelenting heat, but nothing within tens of kilometers.

Further ahead the narrow hill passages open to fields and I come upon a forgotten station, aptly called Azteca. I get off the bike and sit on the warm cement, looking left and right, imagining myself waiting for the train one hundred years ago. Shaded from the sun by the roof that once stood there, I would have awaited my fortune. When will the train arrive and who will be on it? One hundred years ago, Mexico was in the middle of a revolution, one of the bloodiest in history. The train is a mixed blessing. An escape from the heat and a quick ride to the next town or an ill fate among "bandidos". I'd roll some dice and find out, but I'm way too thirsty to be thinking such things, I mount and ride off.

A kilometer or so further on I finally arrive at today's destination. The town of Xometla. I take a right off the railroad tracks and bike up to the caves, park and gotcha field in the hills. I sit down under a tree and enjoy the view of the countryside as I take a refreshing drink I just bought in town. Beyond, barely visible in the horizon, stand both the Moon and Sun pyramids of Teotihuacan. I'm perfectly aligned with the "Calzada de los Muertos" (the avenue of the dead), I could walk my way from here, down the calzada and up the Moon pyramid, but that is a journey for another day.

For now I just relax and take a moment to close my eyes and rest. It will be quite a ride back home and I'm getting hungry. Next time I'll bring more supplies and take you further down the tracks. We'll see what random encounters await.
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