We found ourselves in Mexico City for a very practical reason: it was a stopover on our way to climb Mexico’s highest volcanic mountain, Pico de Orizaba. It was our first goal within the “Volcanic 7 Summits” project. The reason I agreed to this project was less because I consider myself as being a tough mountaineer gal. Mountain hiking is very high on my favorites list, so the project of climbing the 7 volcanic summits was something I was simply interested in.
Even if I had already had experience with being on high mountains (which by the way was anything else but pleasant) by the time I was in Mexico, I did not think very much about the negative sides of high altitude or whether climbing high mountains was what I really wanted. I was simply carried away by the enthusiasm of the group and I wanted to participate.
So, Mexico City was not the focus of our trip: we were only going to spend two and a half days there, and I did not focus on it. To tell the truth, I have a close connection to nature, and I am not a huge fan of cities, especially not of huge cities. I was convinced that Mexico City was just another city of millions comparable to the ones I had already seen, but not liked. Little did I know that my mind would change so drastically and that it would have an influence on my future travel goals.
I got my very first impression of the city on our way out of it. We had arrived the night before and were picked up by our guide at 10 a.m. to go to the mountains. Our van was slowly making its way through the city, and I had time to contemplate what was on its surface: colorful houses on hills, incredibly beautiful street art, a floating cable car above us, a very culturally rich center, and very green vegetation. It was like a feast of colors and forms that my jetlagged eyes were constantly depicting. In those minutes I felt a deep sorrow inside of me that I did not expect. I would have loved to jump out of the van and get lost in those forms and colors. Something paradox was happening to me: I was on my way into spectacular nature, but I wanted to be in a busy city. I was confused because this usually never happened to me. I never seek to be in cities, but there was something that strongly drew me to Mexico City.
Once we were in the mountains at 4.200m altitude (being jetlagged after a transatlantic flight and no acclimatization, only one night spent in Mexico City), my body began showing signs of altitude sickness. It was the worst day and night I had experienced till then. However, it was only a few days later in the Piedra Grande refuge that I started to think over my traveling goals based on what I really enjoyed, and wanted.
It was during those two days that I came to realize that even if I loved mountain hiking, I was suffering from altitude sickness whenever I was over 3.000m. The truth is that in none of the cases that I had been at such high altitude was I properly acclimatized, but altitude sickness was very real for me, and I was truly suffering. Not only I felt that I flew a long way to be in a country I had never been to before only to suffer on a mountain, but I also felt that I was missing out on things I could have been exploring. Mexico City and its colors were invading my mind and telling me that what I was doing was not what I really wanted.
The decision came and I took it. What I wanted for my future trips was a mixture of hiking in nature (on heights I could handle) and experiencing culture and traditions. I promised myself I would not participate in trips that would bind me to one place for several days.
When we reached Mexico City again, I was relieved. I finally had the chance to explore it, to dive into its streets and its pulsating life. The one-and-a-half day spent in the city was fully packed with things that were otherwise done in a few days. It included riding the cable car, visiting the Teotihuacan pyramids, getting lost between the colorful houses I saw on our day out of the city, exploring the historical center, eating freshly made street food and conversating with locals, contemplating the mariachi singers in the night, dancing with locals on the streets, and partying with locals in taverns. I could not get enough. I felt happy and full of unknown energy.
I never want to go back to a country that I had already visited, but I feel different about Mexico.