After leaving Taxco we ventured closer to Mexico City to Cuernavaca which would be our last stop before finally making it to the capital. We had an interesting four days here, nothing too eventful but just full enough.
We didn’t have any accommodation booked but Tom had done his research and knew that there was a street which had a lot of budget hotels near to both the Centro and the bus station. I’m always happy when the bus station is near the center of town because it means I don’t have to lump my heavy pack too far. We soon found the hotel Tom had looked into and as it was cheap and clean we were happy enough to spend a few nights. Within 24 hours and after walking to and from the hotel a few times we clued onto the fact that there were some “working girls” who frequented another hotel a few doors down. Luckily we didn’t choose that hotel!
Arriving early afternoon we had sufficient time to go out and explore the Centro. After walking through the plazas we found ourselves outside the Palacio de Cortes, a grand stone building which houses the regional museum. The museum was interesting and well put together even though it had little English signage, just one overview of each room. The building has been renovated and restored over the years but still has areas where you can see the original building as well as the Pre-hispanic remains the palace was built on.
After a few hours in the museum we wandered up to the cathedral where a wedding had just taken place (yes another wedding, we keep gate crashing them on our church investigations). As the throngs of well dressed wedding guests were getting in the way of our photos, or our touristy-ness getting in the way of the wedding, we left to return another day.
Starving we started a search for food. Why is it that when you are not hungry and on the hunt for food every second shop is a restaurant, there are street vendors on every corner and great food smells keep wafting through the air. But when actually needing and wanting food you can’t seem to find any?
Anyway we found dinner in the form of a Chinese buffet. A bit of a risk as surely it’s a great way to get food poisoning but it hit the spot and we stuffed face. Large quantities of actual vegetables was a change of pace too. Luckily we didn’t get sick from it and the next days in Cuernavaca continued in a straightforward manner.
The main attraction in Cuernavaca is the archaeological site an hour out of the city called Xochicalco. After the fall of Teotihuacan it was the largest city in the region and would be the biggest ruins we had visited to date.
We ended up with a late-ish start after getting brunch in the market, which is huge. After our second attempt, locating the correct bus was successful and we had the majority of the afternoon to explore the ruins.
Again the signs in the site museum were in Spanish, this was OK as we didn’t really have enough time for doing a thorough look at all the exhibits. So we browsed the museum and headed up the hill to see the ruins. Although the area didn’t seem that large it took us at least three hours to wander through everything. The Xochicalco archaeological site has three ball courts, one major pyramid and other smaller pyramids, alters, temples and platforms. On the highest part is the Temple of the Feathered Serpent. It’s not a huge pyramid but had the most beautiful carved stone friezes all the way around. Almost at closing time we found our way to what’s called the observatory; a small man made cave under the acropolis area of the site. Inside is a light tube that was used (they think) for observing a solstice around June. The light which filters through into the cave during this time forms a perfect hexagon. While we were there the light was just a hazy beam but still interesting.
After a big brunch/lunch and some bakery snacks in the afternoon we didn’t need a large dinner. Still wanting to see the city we walked into the plazas which were humming with people. A torta and smoothie were easy options for a light dinner and we ate them on a bench while watching the world go by. I’m still surprised at how many people and families are out late in the evening here, even with small children.
The next morning we ate at the small cafe/restaurant in our hotel. Just simple Mexican desayuno (breakfast, usually available until mid afternoon) options; choices are generally the same wherever you eat and centre around dishes like eggs, enchiladas or chilaquiles with juice, smoothies or coffee.
We were on our way to another archaeological site, this time inside the city and walking distance away. The walk took us through a neighbourhood that we afterwards thought might not be the safest but we soon made it to Teopanzolco. The site is small, we really should have visited the previous day and seen Xochicalco second. Being the only visitors there we took our time and had fun exploring and taking silly photos, some with self timer. The thing I liked most about this set of ruins was you could see how the pyramids had been built. When it was decided that the pyramid wasn’t big enough they would extend it and encase the existing structure underneath the new one. In the case of Teopanzolco the excavation meant you could plainly see the two sets of stairs in the pyramid; the original one which had been uncovered and the newer on top.
We walked back via a different route and returned through the mercado. As I said earlier this market was large and we spent an hour exploring it. Tom dragged me through the shoe section because I keep saying how cheap or pretty the shoes were. We saw strange live insects in some of the fruit/vegetable booths. Not sure of the purpose but we assume for eating? We found some super cheap agua frescas and each got one to rehydrate; mango for Tom and melon for me! Yum Yum!
For our last full day in Cuernavaca we visited a cool cafe with a slight hippy vibe and some tasty breakfast options before heading onwards to the Museo de la Ciudad which was more like a gallery before visiting Jardin Borda. The gardens were just OK. Probably nice in their hey-day but a little dull and run down now. We have seen nicer gardens elsewhere. Next stop was back to the cathedral to get some photos without a wedding party in the vicinity.
Our major stop for the day was the Museo Robert Brady. He was an American, who lived in Mexico and obviously loved travelling and collecting things. The rooms of the house are full of artefacts, sculptures, paintings and other objects from all around the world. We even saw a Maori canoe bailer on display. Apart from the collection the house itself is absolutely stunning; beautiful stonework outside with ivy over the walls and pretty rooms overlooking a pool and lawn.
As our next stop would be Mexico City we spent a few hours doing some research on accommodation. Deciding to use Air-bnb we finalised a choice and set off for our final dinner in Cuernavaca. That night we ate dinner while watching an impressive thunder storm. We timed it perfectly so we didn’t get rained on while looking for a restaurant or afterwards heading back to the hotel.
Not needing to take a lengthy bus journey we packed up the final morning in a leisurely fashion. Leaving our packs with the reception at the hotel we went for a final walk to the mercado for a lunch of tortas and to the bus station to check the bus times. Taking the long way back to the hotel (in the opposite direction) we found a cute church and a small museum with historic photos of the city. The building the museum is housed in looked like a fairytale cottage.
Finally heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags we passed a Panaderia and giving in to my sweet tooth we picked up a treat each. The bakeries in Mexico are amazing, before coming to this country I never associated Mexico with baked goods!
Boarding our first luxury class bus we finally headed towards Mexico City.