A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about nature

Fresh air, mountains and a lake

Valle de Bravo, Estado de México

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About an hour and a half's drive from Mexico City, on the new motorway that cuts out slow windy roads threading their way through the mountains, lies Valle de Bravo. This small town and its surrounding area is a popular place to escape from the big city, the traffic and the murky air which we are so used to. For a while you feel like you are far away in the mountains, inhaling fresh air and taking in deep breaths of scented pine forests and getting your eye's fill of wide horizons. We decided to head out there one day mid-week, when the chilangos (residents of Mexico City) weren't milling around.

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Valle de Bravo itself is a typical colonial-style town squatting on the mountainside above the lake. Red tiled-roofs, cobbled streets, a central square with shady trees and a kiosko in the centre, and a large Catholic church are some of its main features. It's one of Mexico's 62 Pueblos Mágicos or Magical Towns, a special status given to towns which are outstanding in one way or another, either because of the surrounding area or because of the historical and cultural treasures they contain. Thank goodness they changed its name. It was originally known as San Francisco del Valle de Temascaltepec, a real mouthful for anyone to say.

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We literally whizzed down the motorway which now coughs you out almost into the town itself and arrived to find it totally empty of tourists. It wasn't dead though. The bustling local market was in full swing with some ladies in their local dress and stands piled high with vitamin-filled fruit and vegetables. It was fascinating to wander around watching vendors scraping the spines off the cactus to make them edible, locals buying their jitomates, jjicamas and mamey fruit and young mothers with their brood of kids hovering around them. One pick-up truck was almost invisible underneath a cargo of sweet-smelling pineapples. The streets, overlooked by wooden balconies, were chaotic with pedestrians and vehicles vying for right of way. It wasn't exactly quiet. But there was a rural feel to it which Mexico City lacks.

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The best views of the lake can be seen from La Peña, or The Cliff. We asked at the local tourist information booth how long it would take to walk there. "Diez minuntos...!" Just ten minutes! It sounded reasonable so we set off, sweltering in the intense sunshine. Ten minutes later we weren't even out of the town, let alone near La Peña which we could see still in the distance. When we finally made it to the bottom, we asked how long it would take to walk up to the top, "Veinte minutes, más o menos!" Another 20 minutes? "Pues, si quiren ir en taxi, son 10 minutes." Taxi? Well now, that sounded good. We took the taxi as far up as we could, a steep ride along a one-way trail. Then came the walk up. A lady was at the gate. How long will it take to climb to the top? She told us about 15 minutes and asked us to sign a book. "Just in case." In case of what, we wondered? Was it a dangerous walk? "Mmmm, un poquito... Just a little, there are no railings. It's best not to go with small kids or if you're drunk!", she cheerfully informed us.

The views were spectacular, especially on a day like we had chosen. But the walk is definitely for those who don't get dizzy spells when looking down, or whose imaginations don't tend to run amok like mine. I declined to go up the very last part, to the very top, up those rocks.. with no railings, no nothing.. My mind was already seriously producing films of us slipping accidentally and tumbling down the rocky crags, plunging into the green water below, never to be seen again. The road down was steep. We chose to walk down rather than take another of those taxis. You never know.

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By the time we got down to the bottom again, our tongues were stuck to the roofs of our mouths. It was time to find some refreshment which turned out to be no problem at all in the main square which was surrounded by eating places and restaurants. A cold Mexican beer, enchiladas suizas, quesadillas and a fresh salad did the job.

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Then it was off for a walk down by the lakeside. Lake Avandaro was empty today. There were no sailing boats out at the moment but the weekends are usually a popular time for enjoying boating, sailing and water-skiing. Actually, the water didn't look particularly inviting along the shore and we certainly weren't tempted to go for a dip. Maybe in the middle of the lake it's cleaner. One or two hang-gliders could be seen drifting above us. Valle de Bravo is the venue for the World Hang-glinding Championships.

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We returned to the car and chugged our way along the pine-clad mountainside, following the lakeside which appeared from time to time through the trees. Cycle tracks lined the road, as did luxurious mansions, holiday homes, and even a golf course. We were searching for the "Velo de Novia" waterfall. Eventually after asking directions, we came to a sign indicating that we were near. A 15-minute walk through tall pines and along the river took us to this beautiful natural area where the falls splash down high black volcanic rock cliffs. For those who like horse-riding, this is also an option here.

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Evening crept up on us before we knew it. The light was fading as we headed back for Mexico City but we felt we had re-charged our batteries even if we'd only spent one day in the outdoors. The smell of pine trees lingered in the car for some time. That's the effect Valle de Bravo has on you.

Posted by margaretm 15:15 Archived in Mexico Tagged lakes food markets nature mexico outdoor valle_de_bravo estado_de_méxico Comments (1)

Fresh air, mountains and a lake

Valle de Bravo, Estado de México

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About an hour and a half's drive from Mexico City, on the new motorway that cuts out slow windy roads threading their way through the mountains, lies Valle de Bravo. This small town and its surrounding area is a popular place to escape from the big city, the traffic and the murky air which we are so used to. For a while you feel like you are far away in the mountains, inhaling fresh air and taking in deep breaths of scented pine forests and getting your eye's fill of wide horizons. We decided to head out there one day mid-week, when the chilangos (residents of Mexico City) weren't milling around.

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Valle de Bravo itself is a typical colonial-style town squatting on the mountainside above the lake. Red tiled-roofs, cobbled streets, a central square with shady trees and a kiosko in the centre, and a large Catholic church are some of its main features. It's one of Mexico's 62 Pueblos Mágicos or Magical Towns, a special status given to towns which are outstanding in one way or another, either because of the surrounding area or because of the historical and cultural treasures they contain. Thank goodness they changed its name. It was originally known as San Francisco del Valle de Temascaltepec, a real mouthful for anyone to say.

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We literally whizzed down the motorway which now coughs you out almost into the town itself and arrived to find it totally empty of tourists. It wasn't dead though. The bustling local market was in full swing with some ladies in their local dress and stands piled high with vitamin-filled fruit and vegetables. It was fascinating to wander around watching vendors scraping the spines off the cactus to make them edible, locals buying their jitomates, jjicamas and mamey fruit and young mothers with their brood of kids hovering around them. One pick-up truck was almost invisible underneath a cargo of sweet-smelling pineapples. The streets, overlooked by wooden balconies, were chaotic with pedestrians and vehicles vying for right of way. It wasn't exactly quiet. But there was a rural feel to it which Mexico City lacks.

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The best views of the lake can be seen from La Peña, or The Cliff. We asked at the local tourist information booth how long it would take to walk there. "Diez minuntos...!" Just ten minutes! It sounded reasonable so we set off, sweltering in the intense sunshine. Ten minutes later we weren't even out of the town, let alone near La Peña which we could see still in the distance. When we finally made it to the bottom, we asked how long it would take to walk up to the top, "Veinte minutes, más o menos!" Another 20 minutes? "Pues, si quiren ir en taxi, son 10 minutes." Taxi? Well now, that sounded good. We took the taxi as far up as we could, a steep ride along a one-way trail. Then came the walk up. A lady was at the gate. How long will it take to climb to the top? She told us about 15 minutes and asked us to sign a book. "Just in case." In case of what, we wondered? Was it a dangerous walk? "Mmmm, un poquito... Just a little, there are no railings. It's best not to go with small kids or if you're drunk!", she cheerfully informed us.

The views were spectacular, especially on a day like we had chosen. But the walk is definitely for those who don't get dizzy spells when looking down, or whose imaginations don't tend to run amok like mine. I declined to go up the very last part, to the very top, up those rocks.. with no railings, no nothing.. My mind was already seriously producing films of us slipping accidentally and tumbling down the rocky crags, plunging into the green water below, never to be seen again. The road down was steep. We chose to walk down rather than take another of those taxis. You never know.

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By the time we got down to the bottom again, our tongues were stuck to the roofs of our mouths. It was time to find some refreshment which turned out to be no problem at all in the main square which was surrounded by eating places and restaurants. A cold Mexican beer, enchiladas suizas, quesadillas and a fresh salad did the job.

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Then it was off for a walk down by the lakeside. Lake Avandaro was empty today. There were no sailing boats out at the moment but the weekends are usually a popular time for enjoying boating, sailing and water-skiing. Actually, the water didn't look particularly inviting along the shore and we certainly weren't tempted to go for a dip. Maybe in the middle of the lake it's cleaner. One or two hang-gliders could be seen drifting above us. Valle de Bravo is the venue for the World Hang-glinding Championships.

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We returned to the car and chugged our way along the pine-clad mountainside, following the lakeside which appeared from time to time through the trees. Cycle tracks lined the road, as did luxurious mansions, holiday homes, and even a golf course. We were searching for the "Velo de Novia" waterfall. Eventually after asking directions, we came to a sign indicating that we were near. A 15-minute walk through tall pines and along the river took us to this beautiful natural area where the falls splash down high black volcanic rock cliffs. For those who like horse-riding, this is also an option here.

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Evening crept up on us before we knew it. The light was fading as we headed back for Mexico City but we felt we had re-charged our batteries even if we'd only spent one day in the outdoors. The smell of pine trees lingered in the car for some time. That's the effect Valle de Bravo has on you.

Posted by margaretm 15:15 Archived in Mexico Tagged lakes food markets nature mexico outdoor valle_de_bravo estado_de_méxico Comments (1)

The coast of Oaxaca in southern Mexico

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Last weekend, Cristina, Marc and I got back from a trip to the coast of Oaxaca (pronounced "waháka") in the south of Mexico. I'm still reeling from the abundance of natural beauty, amazing wildlife, uncrowded beaches, laid-back atmosphere and indigenous flavour that we saw and experienced. It was definitely my kind of holiday. Simple accommodation, outdoor activities, heaps of exploring, and plenty of photographic opportunities.

These are some of the things we discovered:

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Local beaches

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Rereshing spots

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Fishing villages

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Ecological bungalows

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Big waves

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Pelicans in action

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Stunning sunsets

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Empty beaches

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Palm-fringed coasts

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Dolphin spotting

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Simple living

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Friendly locals

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Dreamy beaches

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Pacific breakers

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Interesting flora

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Swimming with large sea turtles

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Mexican villages

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Mangrove tours

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Peaceful lagoons

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Sleeping crocodiles

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Mexican colour

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Incredible views

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Endless white sands

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Boys with boats

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Local refreshment

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Beach rides

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Churches in squares

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Small ports

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Surfers

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Adrenalin-packed activities

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Rainbow colours

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Jungly forests

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Amazing waterfalls

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Tasty food

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Close encounters with iguanas

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Oaxacan crafts

... and many more Oaxacan delights!

Posted by margaretm 08:42 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches sea turtles coast nature dolphins palms mangroves Comments (2)

Hiking up to see the Monarch butterflies

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Monarch butterfly

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A couple of weeks ago, a group of us went to see the amazing sight of millions of Monarch butterflies wintering in the high-altitude forests near Valle de Bravo. These tiny fragile creatures are about to set off again on their long journey back up to the USA and Canada. They usually fly down in the fall, arriving in the mountain ranges near Mexico City at the beginning of November and stay until March. So impressive is this feat of nature that in 2008 UNESCO designated a mountainous area in the states of Michoacán and Estado de México as a World Heritage Site to protect the butterflies and their migration. We wanted to see them before they flew off again.

Our trip to the Valle de Bravo took a bit longer than expected with severe difficulties extracting ourselves from the traffic on the way out of DF, adding an extra one and a half hours to our anticipated journey time. We finally arrived at the Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary near Valle de Bravo, relishing the thought of getting out of the microbus and being in the fresh mountain air, far from the 3 big "Cs" of the city - concrete, congestion and contamination.

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The volcano Nevado de Toluca, Mexico's fourth highest mountain

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Countryside near Valle de Bravo

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The Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary is part of UNESCO's World Heritage Site

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The entrance fee helps conserve the butterfly sanctuary and gives work to local people

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Horses waiting to carry people up the mountain

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Some small huts at the site

Five of us decided to sweat our way along the steep dusty path making its way up the mountainside, while the rest borrowed an extra four legs to help them up, riding horseback. Our legs and lungs were stretched by the climb and the rarefied air and we found ourselves surrounded by thick vegetation and trees soaring high into the sky around us. Red, blue, yellow and white flowers dotted the path and as we climbed up, we began to see our first Monarchs resting on bushes at the side or in the tree branches overhead. Near the top, Jaime, our guide, led us to a small clearing at the edge of the steep hillside and there behind him, was a mass of orangey-coloured trees. Hundreds of thousands of butterflies had congregated in huge clumps on the branches while thousands more were flitting around in the clear mountain sky above us.

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It's more fun when there are two of you!

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A group of schoolchildren coming down singing

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Looking up at the tall trees

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Hiking up the mountainside

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Lots of moss covering the tree trunks

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Some of the wildflowers we saw along the way

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The horses wait near the top to bring the people down again

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Beautiful chestnut-coloured horse

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A lone butterfly soaking up the sun's warmth

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Thick vegetation

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We began to see more and more butterflies as we climbed higher

Jaime picked up two dead butterflies, one male and the other female, to show us the differences and told us their story, how they navigate their way down to Mexico and return. This is one of nature's most spectacular feats, a journey of thousands of kilometers, in which special butterflies four generations later are able to make their way to the very trees in Mexico where their great-grandparents had spent the winter the year before. We sat in silence, watching the mariposas monarca and listening to the wings of thousands, maybe millions, of butterflies beating together. It was an awesome moment.

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Looking towards the trees in the distance covered in butterflies

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The trees turn an orangey colour

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Huge clumps of butterflies

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Jaime, our guide, explaining the differences between the male and female butterflies

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The air was full of monarchs fluttering around in the sunshine

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Sunbathing on a branch

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Not orange flowers, but butterflies

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Me with the heavily-laden trees behind

I had visited the Butterfly Sanctuary in Angangueo, Michoacán, in December 2010 (see my blog post "The long way down - an epic journey" of 9th December 2011) at the beginning of their wintering season and now here I was mesmerised by the hundreds of beautiful orangey-black creatures flitting around in the warm spring sunshine over my head. They were fattening themselves up ready for the long journey back. It was time to say goodbye to them... and wish them well on their way. The next lot of Monarchs will be arriving here around the beginning of November, when Mexicans celebraet the Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead. According to a traditional belief, the monarchs are the souls of ancestors who are returning to earth for their annual visit. They must be welcomed and treated with great care.

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The air was thick with orange smudges

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Observing a monarch flying overhead

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How many butterflies on these branches, I wonder?

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Enjoying the sunshine

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Thick vegetation

It was far easier coming down the mountain on foot than on horseback judging by the sound of some of the riders' voices and we all met at the bottom for lunch and to buy a few souvenirs handmade by Mazahua ladies, an essential and much-needed source of income for these poor communities. Stray dogs with cute faces waited patiently for the crumbs of our sandwiches and then it was time to leave these beautiful forests and fresh mountain air and get back home. Back to city life.

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Going back to get the horses

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Walking down through the trees

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All the guides are trained and know all about the butterflies

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Pottery souvenirs

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Monarch butterfly fridge magnets

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A Mazahua lady embroidering

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This little dog was hoping to get some crumbs from us

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Blue skies behind the truck

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On our way back, we passed a field of nopales or edible cactus plants

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One of the many churches we passed along the way

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Big fluffy clouds over the mountains

Posted by margaretm 05:28 Archived in Mexico Tagged mountains nature hiking mexico_city outdoors butterflies Comments (5)

My bike's-eye-view of Chapultepec

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Chapultepec (which means Grasshopper Hill in nahuatl) is one of my favourite places for cycling, even though I've never seen any grasshoppers around, at least not yet. Frankly, I don't know what Mexico City would do without this enormous park, its much-needed lungs, which from the air looks like a vast green landlocked sea surrounded by buildings. Asphyxiate itself, I suppose. But it's more than just a mega clump of trees pumping oxygen into the air and helping us breathe. With over 686 hectares or 1,600 acres, (either way, that's an enormous green area inside a city), it's the largest urban park in Latin America and it's got a bit of everything. Thick wooded areas, lakes, bird life, monuments, nine museums, picnic tables, food stalls, restuarants, fountains, a zoo, a funfair, and the only royal castle in the Americas. Not all together, of course, but spread out. The Bosque de Chapultepec, as it's known here, is divided into three sections. The first one, where I do most of my cycling, is the oldest and most visited. A big chunk of it is fenced-in behind wrought-iron fences and gates, off-limits to vehicles and dogs, and is shut at night.

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Part of Section 1 of Chapultepec Park seen from the plane. You can see the Museo Nacional de Antropología in the bottom left corner, Chapultepec Lake in the centre and the Castle to the right.

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Trees everywhere.. looking towards Polanco from the hill where the Castle stands

Chapultepec Park has at least a hundred different faces. At different times of the day and depending on the day of the week, it can be uninhabited except for the squirrels, ducks and birds, or awash with families picknicking or boating on the lakes. It also has a thousand hidden corners, waiting to surprise you. My favourite time to visit is early on Saturday morning. This is when I like to go cycling there. When it's just me and the squirrels and rustling trees. When I can hear the water splashing in the fountains, and the lakes are like mirrors. When the soft light begins to tinge the upper layers of the wood a warm colour and solid shafts beam down through the trees to wake up the dark forest floor. It's a magical time. Early in the morning, it's easy to forget you're in one of the largest, most-populated cities on this planet. In fact, if anyone were to remind you of that fact, you'd most likely think they were hatching a far-fetched tale to see how gullible you were. It's so spotlessly clean there couldn't possibly have been anyone around the day before.

I arrive on my two wheels to discover other like-minded souls, cycling, running, or striding purposely. Some early-risers have brought their mats, find one of the those shafts of light beaming down and set about doing their yoga exercises there, enlightened. I've also seen tree-huggers, absorbing energy I suppose. And small, multi-aged groups practising martial arts. Even grandmas in curlers and baggy tracksuits, jogging along healthily. There's always so much to see. The colours of the leaves change before my eyes, the flowers rub their eyes, yawn and open up. Dewdrops like sparkling diamond necklaces adorn the bamboo thickets. Squirrels scamper around or hang upside down, motionless, on the tree trunks by their long fingernails.

As I cycle around, the park slowly begins to stir and wake up. Vendors start setting up their stalls, candyfloss sellers whip up bright pink, purple or blue clouds of the fluffy stuff, and I can smell the sweetness in the air as I ride past. A few wisps escape and waft away in the sky. The ice-man pedals around with mammoth-sized ice blocks on his tricycle, cutting it into half-metre-long lumps for his clients to put with their refrescos to keep them cold. When the crowds arrive, they are going to need sustenance. They come in their thousands, whole families, youngsters, older people. This park belongs to the chilangos, the residents of Mexico City. They come here to breathe, find shade, have fun, wander around, forget they live in the middle of so much concrete and traffic. Few foreign visitors see much of this place except for when they go on their cultural visits to the museums and castle. And maybe a boat ride.

But anyway, I will be long gone by the time everyone arrives. The secret to having Chapultepec all to myself is getting there early... and leaving early.

Join me and my bike in a photographic tour of one of our early-morning cycles around Chapultepec

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We start off in Polanco, after parking the car free-of-charge, and set off for the Monumento a Gandhi by Parque Gandhi, an area specially laid out for doing sport.

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Next we cross over Calzada Mahatma Gandhi and pedal through the woods, which are usually empty early in the morning...

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...except maybe for some squirrels and people walking their dogs.

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We come to the contemporary art museum, Museo de Rufino Tamayo, hidden among the trees.

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After that, we head for the tall blue pole which towers above us, just opposite the Museo de Antropología. This is where you can see the Voladores de Papantla "flying" at certain times during the day. (See my blog post Flying men of 26 May 2011)

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We cycle on to the Museo Nacional de Antropología, which contains the world's largest collection of ancient Mexican art and exhibits about Mexico's indigenous groups. You can easily spend days there and still not see everything. This massive monolith my bike is in front of weighs 168 tons, and is a representation of Tlaloc, the Aztec rain god. Apparently, it lay for centuries in a dry stream bed 50 km from Mexico City until it was brought here in 1964 on a specially made trailer which crossed through the city at night. 25,000 people were waiting in the Zócalo for it to arrive and welcomed it with a big fiesta.

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Here we stop to look at three giant head sculptures lying in front of the museum, the work of Mexican artist, Javier Marin.

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You can see also this poster outside, inviting you to come and watch the Ballet Folklórico de México in the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It reminds me that I must go one day, but it will have to be an excursion without my bike.

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If it's March-April, many jacaranda trees are in bloom along this stretch, turning the area a beautiful purple colour.

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Next we cross over to the central part of Paseo de la Reforma, and stop to take our photo at the famous Alas de la Ciudad (Wings of the city), also by Javier Marin.

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Opposite the Wings are some more interesting sculptures by Javier Marin.

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We have plenty of time to look at all the winged statues displayed down the centre of Reforma.

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Some Sunday mornings, Paseo de la Reforma is closed off to traffic for marathons and other races and we can cycle down it with no traffic to be seen, like today.

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This isn't a language school, but the Museo de Arte Moderno, also located in Chapultepec, worth a visit especially if you enjoy modern art.

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Next we come to the Jardin Botánico which has a small cactus garden.

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On the same side of Reforma is an interesting outdoor gallery, with a series of large photographs which changes every couple of months. It's an interesting way to find out a lot about Mexico and other places as you drive, walk or cycle along. Yes, sometimes the traffic is so thick you have lots of time to look out of your car window and learn new things.

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This one was a series of photos showing the marine wildlife of Mexico, with stunning colours.

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The current series is on Mexican dance and ballet.

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We enter the gates of Chapultepec Park near the Librería Porrúa, a glass-walled bookshop, in keeping with the tree-filled park. It has a couple of trees inside, whose branches protude through the wall and ceiling. No cars are allowed in this part of the park. We cycle past the Lago de Chapultepec, calm and peaceful at this time in the morning. Later on, it will be filled with hundreds of people boating and having picnics.

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The buildings of Polanco can be seen in the background.

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Very close by is another lake which is where they stage the outdoor ballet El Lago de los Cisnes (Swan Lake) in February and March. This event, famous here in DF, is into its 36th year. Last Saturday, we watched them setting up the scenery and stage.

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A white swan on the lake. The green colour of the water is due to the algae.

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We then pedal through the picnic area near this lake.

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Soon, many stalls along the paths will be opening, ready to sell food, snacks, souvenirs etc. All is quiet at the moment, though.

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We come across some candyfloss sellers preparing for the day ahead, making the bright blue, pink and purple candyfloss.

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One of the oldest trees in the park, this ahuehuete or Montezuma cypress, El Viejo del Agua, is over 500 years and must have seen many things in its lifetime. My bike is dwarfed by it.

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We cycle on towards the Castle, looking up at it perched on top of Chapultepec Hill. Emperor Maximilian I lived here with his wife Carlota during the Second Mexican Empire in 1864. It is also famous for being the only royal castle in the Americas.

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The castle looks down on the Monumento a los Niños Heroes de Chapultepec, honouring the six young Mexican cadets who died defending the castle during the war between Mexico and the United States, in 1847.

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A bit further along, on the way down towards El Ángel, we come to the base of the Estela de Luz which was recently inaugurated in January 2012. It was supposed to be ready in time to commemorate the Bicentenial of Independence in September 2010 but was only finished last month. Costing far more than originally planned and dogged by corruption, maybe it should change its name to Monumento a la Corrupción...

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This is the view when looking down from the Estela de Luz towards the Monumento a los Niños Heroes and the Castle.

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We turn back towards the Castle and then skirt it to the left, coming to another old tree, known as El Sargento.

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Just around the corner, tucked out of sight is an unusual place, the Audiorama, where you can listen to music surrounded by nature in a beautiful peaceful setting. Each day they have different music playing. Of course, there is no music playing at this time in the morning or we would stop here for a while.

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This side of the park is quieter, without any market stalls, and is a lovely place to cycle through in the autumn.

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Next we pedal along till we come to this fountain, visited by squirrels. I sometimes watch them drink from the water.

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Inside the park, there are lots of paths and trails to cycle along. For runners or cyclists wishing to do exercise, there is a 3-km circular route complete with signs telling you how many metres you've done...and how far you still have to go!

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A bit further along are the Baños de Moctezuma where the Aztec ruler and Emperor Maximilian used to swim. They were restored last year although there is no water in the baths now.

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We turn off the road and take a path cutting through the middle of the park where we come across a statue of Don Quijote.

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The park has some water channels in this part and is very peaceful on Saturday mornings.

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The paths are well-kept and easy to cycle along, although you can go off through the woods whenever you want.

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As we cycle around the park, we can see some unusual trees like this one, with a huge base. Names and hearts have been carved into the bark.

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Nearby is an area for kids which also has some interesting facts about Mexico and its history. Did you know that chewing gum, chicle in Spanish, comes from the sap of a Mexican tree called chicozapote?

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We pedal through the woods and watch the early morning light beaming down through the trees. It really doesn't feel like we're in the middle of one of the world's largest cities.

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Here we stop for a while and watch the squirrels scampering around and some even come up close to investigate.

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As we head down towards the far end of the park, we arrive at the Totem Pole donated to the Mexican people by Canada in 1960.

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Cycling on, we soon see the imposing statue of Nezahualcoyotl, ruler and poet and nature-lover, who preserved the large wooded areas of Chapultepec and its springs, made pools in the rocks, planted flowers, introduced animal species into the forest and ordered the construction of a zoo and botanical garden. No wonder they've honoured him with this statue and enormous system of fountains.

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Here's the long line of fountains, the perfect place to come when it gets hot.

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Water gushes out of the mouth of a wolf-like creature.

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All around are colourful displays of flowers.

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Green and shady, just what you need when cycling in the heat.

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Here we turn back up towards the main walkway and come to the so-called Frog Fountain or the Fuente de las Ranas where I often see groups of people practising martial arts early on Saturday.

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By now the stalls are beginning to open and get ready for the crowds of people.

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We turn left and arrive at the zoo, a favourite place for families, and completely free-of-charge

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This is the largest zoo in Mexico. (See my blog post If animals could talk... of 17 October 2011)

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A bit further on, we leave through the park gates and cycle along the wide pavement bordering Reforma until we arrive at the Auditorio Nacional, a large concert complex.

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We cycle back down the centre of Reforma. Around the time of Dia de Muertos, in October and November, the flower beds are planted with thousands of orange cempasuchils. This statue is near the military complex at Campo Marte.

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Finally, we cross over the other side to the Museo de Antropologia again. Part of it is surrounded by a metal fence respresenting calaveras or skulls. We make our way around the back part towards Calzado Gandhi again.

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Crossing over this street, we find ourselves in part of Parque Gandhi with trees and a running track. It is a popular place to walk dogs and I've even seen people practising bull fighting. One man holds some metal horns and charges, while the other one waves his red cape. There's never a dull moment around here.

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To end our route, we make our way back to Polanco to where we've parked the car. There used to be a big advertisement along the way and my bike always wanted to stop there. I think I know where it wants to go some day!

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And a last photo to show you what the park is like at the weekends during the day!

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Posted by margaretm 07:38 Archived in Mexico Tagged fountains nature monuments cycling mexico_city chapultepec_park Comments (0)

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