40. Teotihuacan, Mexico - Pyramids of the Sun and Moon

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May 22, 2007

Those who study these things are not sure who the inhabitants of Teotihuacan were but they believe that before its demise in about 650 AD, it was home to some 125,000 people.

It's a sizable settlement - by anyone’s standard, now or then – of 20 square kilometers and its inhabitants dominated the entire Valley of Mexico.

After returning to Tepoztlán (northwest of Mexico City) to Pepe’s campsite to collect the van, we had circled the northern edge of Mexico City for 90 minutes to reach San Juan Teotihuacan, (northeast of Mexico City). We paid $20 in tolls for the privilege of doing so.

San Juan Teotihuacan is the town next to the Teotihuacan ruins and we had spent a cold night there camped at the small but pastoral Teotihuacan Trailer Park (basically a large backyard) before rising early before getting up early to beat the fleet of tourist buses that would inevitably show up.

As we climbed the impossibly steep stone stairs to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun – one of the tallest pyramids in the world – it seemed almost incomprehensible that this amazing feat of construction could have been built over 2,000 year ago.

I also got the shivers thinking that these were the same stairs that thousands of unfortunate people had climbed before being sacrificed.

The view from the top of the pyramid is far-reaching and, in my mind, if you aren’t moved here to quietly contemplate the meaning of life, you never will.

The scale of the pyramids and the vastness of the site forces you to ask: Who were these people? What happened to them? And how does their world fit with ours, especially as it relates to what are now the prevailing religions?

The Aztecs, who came after the Teotihuacans and who discovered the ruins hundreds of years after they had been abandoned, named the street that leads from the Pyramid of the Sun to the Pyramid of the Moon, the Avenue of the Dead.

Although they chose this moniker because they believed that Teotihuacan royals had been buried alongside the street, it still seems fitting given the dry starkness of the entire site.

The Pyramid of the Moon is smaller than the Pyramid of the Sun, but the stairs up are even more a precipitous, and we had to hang onto a rope the entire way up or risk falling hard to the bottom.

We capped the day off by taking in the modern museum, closer to the south end of the site. The artifacts are presented well worth and the knowledge gained ties off the visit.

Key Facts & Figures:

-Teotihuacan's Trailer Park: $10/night
-Tolls, Tepoztlán to San Juan Teotihuacan: $20
-Teotihuacan Ruins: $7/person