Monday, November 29, 2010

End of Week 16 - Angry Volcanoes and the Paso de Cortés

We woke up before sunrise on Sunday morning to catch a bus to Cholula. We were headed to the Paso de Cortés, the route between the two volcanoes that separate Puebla from Mexico City, Iztaccíhuatl y Popocatépetl. Popo, for short, is the taller one - and the active one - spewing smoke and gas constantly. Puebla feels a lot more tranquil at 6:45 am on a Sunday morning; there was no traffic, no car exhaust, and the traveling natural gas sellers and their loudspeakers weren't yet prowling the streets.

A church in Cholula.
We were meeting Cole and Jason, the Cholula gang, at 8 am in the Cholula zocalo. We caught one bus at the corner near our house to go to the bus terminal where we caught a second bus direct from Puebla to Cholula. To our surprise, the direct bus to Cholula returned directly in front of our house, which means we could have slept an extra half an hour and saved 10 pesos had we just waited for the Cholula bus. This was only a minor defeat and we were on our way.

When we arrived in the zocalo in Cholula (at 7:50 am), we learned that there was a marathon that day. Cole and Jason weren't as punctual, and had us scared that we were in the wrong Cholula (there are two), or the wrong zocalo (there are three; Puebla, Cholula 1, and Cholula 2). But we did eventually find each other, right before discovering that the streets in Cholula were closed due to the marathon, and our combi (mini van bus) that was taking us part of the way up the mountain was not running. This was a bit more of a defeat. The same thing happened to us in San Miguel de Allende, when a marathon had closed the highway to our hot spring.  But, like in San Miguel, there was another way, and after much prying of the locals, we found our combi on the other side of the city, working the leg of the route beyond the marathon.

We finally reached San Nicolas, the end of the combi route, at about 10:30 am. And again, to our suprise, the bus (this next bus was really just someone's van) was not waiting, as it usually does, in the town square. Another man was also waiting for the bus to take him from San Nicolas to the other side of the pass in Mexico State. He told us that he had been waiting for two days...

Our following of dogs.
Feeling much more defeated, and since there really wasn't much else to do in San Nicolas - other than watch Jason feed the mangy dogs - we decided to wait for the "bus". And at 11:45, our patience and lack of options finally paid off. The bus driver, who lived a few houses from teh squre, finally woke up, started his van and pulled up to the square. An hour later we were in the national park at the Paso de Cortés.

In 1519 Hernán Cortés, the Spanish Conquistador, and his men massacred an indigenous town in Cholula and traveled through this pass on their way to the valley of Mexico in order to fight the Aztec emperor Moctezuma. On the other side of the pass they found the bustling island city of Tenochtitlán, today's Mexico City, connected to the mainland by several large causeways. It was a city larger and more modern than any European city at the time.

Popo from the trail.

Pine forests.
The same pass today is a national park. The mountains are covered in deep pine forests and separated by vast alpine meadows. The start of the trail was along a road carved into the meadow, and the road bed was sand-like volcanic ash. Along the side of the road we could see different layers of soil, ash, pumice, and clay, representing different volcanic eruptions. Although it was cloaked in clouds and we couldn't see much of it, we knew that Popo was nearby, waiting to burst again.

We hiked to a nearby waterfall; it was the clearest, cleanest, coldest water I've seen in Mexico, too high to be polluted by sewers and factories. In the forest we saw several interesting birds, including a red-phase Mountain Pygmy Owl, three Seller’s Jays, a Brown Creeper, a Hairy Woodpecker, Yellow-eyed Juncos, Mexican Chickadees and a Western Bluebird.

Luckily, transportation on our return trip home was punctual, although a little bit crowded. And, most importantly, Popo didn't get angry and we weren't added to a new layer of ash along the road.

The waterfall.

1 comment:

  1. "[T]he traveling natural gas sellers and their loudspeakers weren't yet prowling the streets."

    Oh so true, but sadly, I feel like only foreigners that have lived in México can truly appreciate this comment.