29.07.2009 – 06.08.2009
Malinalco: Season of the Witch
According to my map, Malinalco appeared to be just a stone’s throw away from Tepoztlan. Only once you crossed the freeway that goes to Mexico City, the terrain is even more dramatically mountainous. Roads weren’t marked so well either. (surprise, surprise)
Missed the turn off from the main freeway and it looked like I was going to have to pay the toll to Mexico City to get to a place to turn around, then pay the dang toll again to go the other way just to get back to the turn-off I'd missed. A Mexican trucker just pointed over toward a break in the concrete-walled median and said I should cross there instead. Seemed reasonable… until I trie it and the first passing truck nearly grazed my front wheel poking out on the opposite side while I leaned forward trying to see if someone was coming. Hindsight, that was a horrible idea and I don’t recommend trying it. Came inches away from getting nailed by that truck and two more that followed. Note to self, go ahead and pay the toll to turn around even though it’s a Mexican rip-off. Better getting ripped off than getting squashed by a truck.
Was still shook up a bit after that near brush with death, but I finally found the correct turn-off. Was still unsure which way to go. I’d gone about 15km in the direction that seemed correct by the map, but the road was winding around a mountain pass and I hadn’t seen a sign to anywhere at all yet.
The first little town I came up to, I saw several Mexican gentlemen by the roadside chatting, so I pulled up to ask directions to Malinalco. They all started giving me directions at once so that I couldn't make out what any of them were saying, but I gathered they were all directing me back toward where I’d come from, to a different highway. When I asked which way to Chalma… they all started giving me directions that meant I could continue the way I was going. Chalma is only 15 minutes from Malinalco so I was really confused. So, I asked if this road would take me to Chalma and the men all agreed it would. Crossed my fingers, heart and forged ahead toward the miracle waters of Chalma.
Such a beautiful ride it turned out to be! Tall pine trees and cool temperature like you’re riding in perfect air-conditioning. Stopped in a small town for some tacos and to confirm I was still on course. Overall a very pleasant ride, but looking back I'm pretty sure I took the long way that actually took an extra hour to get there. It did also lead me through Chalma where there’s a tree that has a spring bubbling up from beneath it that Catholics make pilgrimages to. So, it all worked out to scope out Chalma on the way.
I’d read that Malinalco had some history of sorcery and witches, etc. but I never saw any evidence of anything like that other than these grass crosses that looked sort of vow-doo inspired the locals make to put over their doors. Discovered they're indeed intended to keep the devil away. Now that I think about it, if there is such reported sorcery practiced there, I'm guessing there likely wouldn’t be a billboard advertising it.
The strange thing is... that persistent deja-vu I was experiencing in Tepoztlan went away just as soon as I left. Something very odd about that place for sure. Might just have to return sometime for further investigation.
Malinalco is a very quiet town… almost too quiet, and much of the architecture seems designed for maximum privacy that's so extreme it's sort of intimidating… in a gothic dungeon sort of way. Like perhaps there’s some sort of practice going on here that folks don’t want regular folks knowing about. Still, no concrete evidence of witchcraft or sorcery at all though.
There is a great mountainous backdrop there, similar to Tepoztlan but not quite as dramatic. At the top of one of the mountains is a Mexica indian ruin site that was much easier to hike up to than the one in Tepoztlan, and a bit more interesting with more detail.
Didn’t even know about the Mexicas until I went there. Vaguely remember seeing something about them at the Anthropology museum in Mexico City a few years ago.
Sadly, the initial quietude went away the second day I was there as the entire town was transformed into a throbbing, noisy market covered in plastic tarps. It was interesting for about an hour, and then the noise and crowds got to be a bit much so I decided to take a ride back up the mountain road to check out that miracle tree in Chalma.
The Ahuehuete tree has a gushing spring coming from beneath it. Catholics make regular pilgrimages there to dance and carry Christ figurines with them to leave behind. Most Christ figures were all busted up with arms and legs missing, and I never quite got a solid explanation to the significance of all the beat up Jesus’ strapped to the fence around the tree. One fellow told me that they just get busted on the way there, but it almost looked like they were showing off just how beat up Jesus had got on the way there. Maybe something to represent suffering?
The locals were selling various sized plastic jugs so that you could carry a little miracle water home with you if you wanted some miracle juice for later. There were so many sizes and colors to choose from, that it looked like sort of a Walmart for Catholic pilgrims.
All in all, I’d have to say I really liked Malinalco. Doesn't feel like a tourist attraction at all. They also have spectacular ice cream there! Exotic flavors that were difficult to pronounce. All that I tried tasted absolutely superb. Some of the tastiest ice cream I’ve ever had in Mexico and definitely worth a trip back with spoon in hand.
Got a tip from a local for a so-called “short cut” to Puerto Escondido that allows me to avoid the insane Acapulco traffic and potential highway robbery altogether. By the map it really doesn’t look like it'd be a shortcut, but I’m going to go with it and see if I just happen get a bit lucky this time.
Hoping the ride isn’t too rough because I’m starting to feel a bit ragged. Not sure if it’s the “gripa", allergies, or some sort of mystery flu. I just know my joints are getting a bit stiff, feel a little feverish, and have the pain of a sore throat coming on. That could all be due to the fact I was sleeping with the window open and the chilly mountain air at night, after sweating up a storm climbing up to see the ruins, etc. Quien sabe?
Think I’ll just try to ride through it and hope I can sweat it out on the long ride to Puerto Escondido. Onward! Wish me luck.