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Travels in Mexico

Probably my favorite thing about living in Mexico—among many favorite things—is that a short drive, bus ride, or flight can take you to a whole other world.

Every corner of Mexico has pretty towns, ancient ruins, and natural areas like sunny beaches, lush jungle, and towering mountains.

Below are some photos from my travels during the past four months.

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Next to the town of Xilitla, in a mountainous sub-tropical region called the Huasteca Potosina, the surrealistic garden Las Pozas is a fascinating place to explore. Built (but unfinished) by the eccentric English artist and art patron Edward James between 1949 and 1984, Las Pozas is a series of poured-concrete structures and buildings surrounded by jungle at the foot of mountains, which even has big waterfalls and swimming holes.

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You can climb on practically everything, and every path going through deeper jungle leads to more structures, most overgrown by creeping forest. Mysterious and bizarre, it reminded me of visiting ancient ruins, though with a different history and architecture, of course.

The entire Huasteca Potosina region has streams and waterfalls, some for swimming and jumping.

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Closer to where I live, the Nevado de Toluca volcano—its native name is Xinantecatl—is a scenic and very high place to do some hiking.

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Two lakes are inside the huge crater:

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This dry flower grows all over the slopes of the volcano:

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Sierra Morelos park is right next to the town of Toluca, about an hour away from the volcano:

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Small homes, farms, and even some ancient ruins can be found on the slopes of the mountains.

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Below is Calixtlahuaca, the ruins of a Pre-hispanic city:

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Far away at the easternmost part of Mexico are the white-sand beaches and turquoise water of the Mayan Riviera on the Mexican Caribbean coast. Below is Puerto Morelos, about halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen:

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The virgin in the Cozumel public market:

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A little to the south of Playa del Carmen is Punto Venado, which has excellent mountain bike trails through the jungle and along the coast. On my ride I saw crocodiles, lots of iguanas, and a big family of coati—something like a tropical raccoon that lives in the trees in groups, like monkeys.

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Flamingos and other birds in the Xaman-Ha Bird Sanctuary near Playa del Carmen, in the Playacar gated community:

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And of course the world-famous Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza:

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On the other side of Mexico on the Pacific coast, the beach-lined bay of Acapulco is a five-hour drive from where I live, perfect for a long weekend. You can get a nice, reasonably-priced hotel right on the beach with views like this:

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Sunset over the ocean at Acapulco:

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Thanks for visiting. Stories to follow for some of these places…

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Mountain Biking on the Nevado de Toluca Volcano

The Nevado de Toluca volcano (aka Xinantecatl) dominates the horizon beyond the city of Toluca in central Mexico.

pp volcano from servicios aeros

At 15,354 feet (4,680 meters), it’s the fourth largest mountain in Mexico and about 1,000 feet higher than Mt. Whitney in California, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States.

A road goes all the way up to the rim of the crumbling, extinct crater. Inside are two deep cold lakes and great views of steep mountain slopes.

In downtown Toluca, next to the center square of churches and government buildings, Don Quixote points right at the Pico de Fraile, the highest point of the wide crater:

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Of all the great mountain biking spots around the city, the volcano is the greatest. I’ve ridden all over it, but last week was the first time I rode from my apartment downtown all the way up to the crater, and then all the way down on trails and two-tracks. Including a few short breaks, it took eight hours.

Past the tree line, the walls of the crater are barren and rocky:

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It took more than five hours just to get to the crater. Then we started the descent. You can see Toluca off in the distance:

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From here we’re about halfway back to the city. The volcano looms behind:

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My friends from cycling club Escarabajos Toluca and I have been training hard for ACA Bike, a 390-km ride from Toluca in Acapulco in November. Each weekend we do long road rides around the city.

I like road riding, but I missed mountain biking. Maybe road riding reminds me too much of commuting every day by bicycle. Or maybe it lacks the adventurous unknowns of mountain biking.

However or wherever you do it, cycling is a great activity. It’s growing fast in Mexico. If you live in Mexico and want some advice, please leave a comment below.

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And in other news, the president of Mexico recently removed the designation of the Nevado de Toluca as a national park. Was this done, as those responsible claim, to ensure better protection of this important natural area? Or was it done, as many others claim, as a way to further exploit the resources of the area?

We’ll have to wait and see. So far all the news is in Spanish, but here are some links to more information about these new developments:

Peña Nieto quita al Nevado de Toluca la categoría de Parque Nacional

Los cambios en el Nevado de Toluca, en un gráfico

Toluca la Bella – Beautiful Toluca

Toluca used to be known as Toluca la Bella. Nowadays few Mexicans would say that – even those who live here, and especially those who don’t live here but may have traveled though industrial outskirts or hit a few potholes on the maze of highways that suddenly become clogged three lane streets, with the two lanes on the side full of illegally parked cars.

But I say Toluca is beautiful. At those beautiful moments I never have my camera, but sometimes I do. These are the pictures from those moments. From my roof (azotea) you can see Toluca’s big volcano Xinantectl:

One of four churches whose bells are within earshot. This one is especially loud at 6 AM:

This one is louder:

I work here, sometimes:

A stroll through downtown, also at sunset:

The Cosmovitral:

Los Portales:

La Vaquita Negra:

Just have to throw a mountain biking shot in here:

Interesting way to sell aquariums:

I took this one through the lense of a telescope on my roof:

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