Knowle to Mexico City

Trip Start Dec 08, 2004
Trip End Dec 07, 2005

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Wednesday, December 8, 2004

And so it all begins, we left Knowle behind at 8.00AM, 1 hour later than planned due to 3 hours sleep the night before! It was a nervous jounrney down the M40 through thick fog, thanks to Rog for the lift.

We bought the last few things we needed from Heathrow and we made out last few calls/texts to family & friends to say our goodbyes. We were both very quiet and nervous, it was finally starting to sink in, exactly what we are doing!

The Flight was very smooth, a little turbulance over Irish, Canadian and Gulf of Mexico coasts. 11 hours later to the minute we landed in Mexico City.

The descent into Mexico city gave us our first insight into the magnitude of the place. About 10 miles out the pilot was completing the last series of radar turns to line up for the runway. Each turn gave us a view of the city as the plane banked from side to side. It was built up as far as the eye could see in every direction, at least 20 miles each way. We could clearly see the mountain range which encircles the basin of Mexico City. You really can see why Mexico is the biggest city in the world. It covers 1200 sq miles and houses (if you can call them all houses) 20 million people. The scale is unlike anything in the western world.

We walk about 3 miles through the airport complex to pick up our baggage, via the passport, visa and custom checkpoints.

We spot a hotel booth just as we are leaving the arrivals section of the airport, and decide to see if we can book anything for the night there. Its 7pm and we still have no where confirmed to stay.

Our 1st choice Hostal Moneda was fully booked, our 2nd choice Hostal Catedral was also full, hmm alarm bells starting to ring. 3rd hostal full, 1st hotel full, 2nd full, 3rd full, ut oh! finally the 4th hotel had a room, so we booked it over the phone immediately. Hotel Roble.

Through the exit gate into a huge crowd of awaiting mexicans, definately a feeling of bunnys in headlights! We spot a taxi sign and head for that exit. We had already been advised only to use the transport terreste taxis which are fixed price and safe city run taxis.

We shared the ride to our hotel with 2 couples, one American and the other Swedish
So, here we are in a taxi in the biggest city in the world. The first thing you notice is the air quality, it really is suffocating and leaves you short of breath. Not surprisingly Mexico (as the locals rather confusingly refer to Mexico City) is also the most polluted city in the world. This is due to a combination of factors including partial combustion of fuels due to altitude, the numbers of old cars with no cat converters and often no exhaust systems at all, and the basin location (its very hard for air to escape the encircling mountains, cold air blowing over the top keeps the warm air and the pollution firmly in the city).

The taxi journey takes around 30 minutes through the busy and chaotic streets, a death wish is definately required if you want to drive around this city yourself!
There are VW beetles (old type) everywhere. Mexico was the last place to make them and production only stopped a couple of years ago. Most of the taxis are green and white beetles, in various states of disrepair.

The traffic noise is immense, factor in the screeching tyres and breaks and the use of the horn at every stop, driving in mexico is a carnival of its own.
We are heading to the Centro Historico, our chosen spot to stay. Our hotel is 2 blocks south of the famous Zocalo plaza.

As we enter the Zocalo for the 1st time the first thing we notice is the enormous Mexican flag hanging in the centre. The Cathedral is an exhilerating backdrop to the wide open space of the Zocalo. The Palace runs all down the east side, and their are other equally impressive buildings on the other sides.

There are people everywhere, and the one thing we cant understand is the amount of people carrying boxes of all sizes, either on their backs or on sack type trucks, there are literally thousands of them, what are they all for?

Once through the Zocalo we drop off the other 2 couples and finally arrive at our hotel.
We check in and the room is far better than we expected. Nice clean bathroom with shower, a good firm bed with a new matress and the room overlooks a quiet street.

We unpack and decide to get some food. The restaurant attached to the Hotel has just closed (9pm) so we ask the receptionist for the closest restaurant, he tells us its 3 blocks west. We set off west byut after 1 block we realise we are in a deserted street in the biggest city in the world, and the next street is pitch black, time to head back to the hotel! We buy some water from reception and collapsed into bed, sleep followed very quickly.
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