Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Mexico City Recap

I have just one more sleep in Mexico now. And tomorrow the US, some colder weather, and another set of security questions awaits. Two weeks have flown by, and there was so much of Mexico that I didn't get to see. But then I'm not here for a holiday. Cancun can wait for another time!

Mexico's been nice, and despite the few initial hiccups, and the lack of English speaking natives, it's been good. Mexico City definitely pleasantly surprised me.

We're going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo
Today, I took a trip to the Zoo. And it was on the way to the Zoo that my photo taking got into full swing. I spotted some red squirrels, and had to make an effort at capturing them on 'film'. It did take over 100 shorts to get this, but I think it was worth the effort. Peter this one's especially for you!

After my efforts, I took a seat, placed my camera beside me, and started to enjoy my lunch. Next thing I got the fright of my life to look down and see one of the squirrels sitting on my camera. I think I may have let out an audible scream (well yelp at least). Mr. Squirrel wasn't being very shy.

A free Zoo, now that's my idea of fun. And a very nice one it is too. The bird section was particularly good. Here are just a few of the hundreds of shots I took. Enjoy.

Driving me Crazy
If there's one thing that annoys me about the Mexicans it's their lack of indicator use when driving. And it's not just the Mexicans, that annoys me about drivers of all nationalities, but the Mexicans are particularly bad at it. And in a country like this, where a green pedestrian light does not mean that you have the right of way (as cars that are turning left can still proceed), it's not only annoying, but it's also dangerous.

And that's not the only crazy thing about the driving. Now a big huge round monument in the centre of two intersecting roads suggests roundabout to me. Not so to the Mexicans. Right in the middle of one of the main roads through the city's financial district is the bizzarist junction I have ever seen. It's a bit difficult to explain, but I'll try anyway. Road A is a two way dual carriage way. Road B is a one way dual carriage way running from south to north. There is a big circular monument in the centre of where they meet. Traffic going from east to west go to the north of the monument, and traffic going from west to east go to the south of the monument, exactly as you would expect in a country where they drive on the right hand side of the road. Now the confusion comes when the traffic travelling from south to north can go either side of the monument and the traffic going from east to south, and from west to north go clockwise around it. It's all fine when the traffic lights are working, and everybody is obeying them, but I witnessed total mayhem this morning when, in heavy traffic, cars were essentially facing each other on the same piece of road. It was total chaos! Not my idea of fun!

How not to write an essay
I think that my 'How not to travel around the world' book will be followed, swiftly afterwards, by 'How not to write an essay'. In my last blog, I mentioned that I had an essay to write. It's something that I've been too busy to do for a few weeks now (i.e. something that I kept putting off), and so on Friday, with no other choice, I sat down on my hotel bed, and didn't get up until it was done. Now writing an essay in a hotel room, with a netbook, poor internet connection and no software with either spellcheck or wordcount isn't easy, believe me. But it's done now, and with any bit of luck, I'll pass it.

Just Reward?
As a reward for getting the essay done, I treated myself to a light run on Saturday morning. Or so I thought. Forty minutes into the run (I had only planned on doing 35), I finally admitted that I was lost (which wasn't easy as I pride myself on having a good sense of direction), and had no choice but to retrace my steps. All 40 minutes of them. That's ok though, I thought. I'll spend a nice relaxing afternoon in the city's historic centre. I decided to walk the whole way into town, and as I walked down Paseo de la Reforma, a beautiful tree-lined street, I contemplated if indeed this was my favourite city in the whole world. I think I may have spoken too soon. The city centre was my idea of hell. Too many people, too many beggars, too much noise. Maybe a sunny Saturday afternoon wasn't the best time to choose to 'relax' in the centre of the world's second biggest city.

Anyway, I lived to tell the tale. And to be honest it was quite interesting. But I decided to spend Sunday in the park. That was equally busy, but peaceful at the same time.

Where it all began
Now, in my opinion, there's no point in going to an Olympic host city, and not visiting the Olympic Stadium. And Mexico City is particularly significant, as that is where it all began - not the Olympics, but the general consensus that altitude affects performance. And that's part of the reason why I choose to start my Altitude Adventure right here in Mexico. It's also the Olympics where the East Africans started to dominate the distance events, and shape the world of athletics as we know it today.

The Olympic Stadium, Estadio Olimpico Universitario, as it is known locally, was built to represent the crater of a volcano. Today it is home to the Pumas de la Universidad, the National Autonomous University of Mexico's (UNAM) Premier League football team.

The Stadium is located within the Ciudad Universitaria (University City), the campus of the UNAM, the largest University in Latin America. It boasts a student population of over 300,000, and it has as many staff members (almost 35,000) as most UK Universities have students. I spent much of yesterday afternoon walking around the campus, which a UNESCO world heritage site. And what a big and beautiful campus it is. My only gripe, and it's the same gripe as I have with most of Mexico City, is why does a place with so many pedestrians have to have two main duel carriageways running through it? The park (Bosque de Chapultepec) where I have been doing most of my training, also has a couple of main roads running through it, making what is otherwise a very pleasant run, a bit of a nightmare with having to cross roads and watch traffic.

And so that's Mexico City. Much better than I anticipated, and I'm glad that I spent longer here than originally planned. And I didn't even get to visit the pyramids! It looks like things do have a way of working out for the best in the end afterall.

Next stop: LA, but just for a day. (Not an attempt at being poetic, but I'll take it all the same!)

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