Distrito Federal

The official name for Mexico City is Mexico, Distrito Federal (the Federal District).  Within the country of Mexico people refer to the capital as either just Mexico, or most commonly just as D.F.

So we finally made it to D.F (it’s worth pointing out that these letters are pronounced ‘Dee Effay in Spanish.’ For much of my life I had this perception that this city was a dirty, scary, polluted, hectic metropolis, but the reality is something completely different.

view pictures that belong with this post here

 

How to cycle to DF

16th August Teotihuacan to D.F

16th August – 1st September – D.F

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The ride itself along the highway was pretty uneventful, we passed through some pretty dodgy looking neighbourhoods along the outskirts, the highway became a lot busier and the hard shoulder disappeared for a while, which to be honest scared the crap out of me.  I was feeling pretty on edge whilst cycling due to my fall the day before.  Then there was a point where there where several turn offs along the road but just no signs, I suddenly panicked that we had taken the wrong turn off and made us both cross through all the traffic back to the other side, just to find out that we had in fact gone the right way! Not long after that we saw the ‘Welcome to Mexico City’ sign, we stopped and I just cried with relief.  There were no signposts into the centre of the city, but luckily I had been in touch with another cycle tourist, Nofri via warmshowers and he had given me a step by step guide of what signs to look out for, and when to take turn offs, so we made it into the centre without too much trouble at all.

How to stay in DF

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Nofri was on his own tour, heading north along the Pacific Coast Highway so he wasn’t able to host us, but put us in touch with his best friend Alvaro who said he could put our camping mats in the spare room, so this is where we stayed for over 2 weeks.  It was one of those places where people are coming and doing all the time, and it actually took me about 3 days to work out who actually lived there. The house full of professional jazz musicians, complete with a practice space.  There was  Alvaro, Eloite and Fernando who were all jazz musicians and music teachers, and Rodrigo a bike mechanic and bike messenger.  The mechanics operated from the home, and every night there were people having band practices.

We both actually got poorly again during our stay.  This time  with coughs, colds and me with throat infection, I think caused by lots of cycling in the rain.  The boys we stayed with were like big brothers, acting as human umbrellas as we walked down the street, cooking up soup and making all sorts of healing tea concoctions, and letting us know we were welcome to stay for as long as we needed until we were better.

Things to do in D.F

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When we arrived we told ourselves that we would be staying a week, but as the end of the first week came, we realised it wasn’t going to be possible, we wanted more time. I spent 2 and a half whole days at the Anthropology Museum, I think it may be one of the best I have visited in the world.  There was so much to see and learn about, and I now a lot more about the different indigenous groups and which areas of Mexico they occupied, I am confident in the difference between Aztecs, Mayans, where the Toltecs and the Mixtecs and the Zapotecs lived.  If you’re into this sort of thing check out these pictures. 

One day we headed to Coyacan a tranquil neighbourhood where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera used to live.  I’ve wanted to go to the Frida Kahlo museum since I was a teenager, so this was a big day for me, and a pretty emotional experience as I love her work.  The same day I went to the house where Leon Trotsky lived in whilst he was in exile here, after that I then went to the museum Diego Rivera.  He had built a pretty impressive building to house a lot of the pre-colonial artefacts that he had collected, so impressive.

At the end of our cycle of Baja California we stayed in a hostel and we made friends with Kevin and Javier, who lived in D.F.  So, 2 months after meeting them we were re-united again in the city. We spent quite a bit of time with them, Kevin took us out dancing to some really fun places, and one night we went to the Lucha Libre, the Mexican wrestling phenomenon.  We had been to the Lucha back in Guadalajara but this was the real deal, the fights were televised for prime time Saturday night viewing, and the area was huge, the moves are so comically choreographed, it makes for pretty great entertainment when accompanied with some beers.

One weekend my friends Alvaro and Fernando where playing a gig in a town about 70km away, so they decided to make weekend of it and cycle there, they invited me along for the ride, which was a lot of fun, apart from I had a horrible hangover.  The gig was amazing though, truly talented musicians.  Alvaro’s family live in the town so we were able to stay at their palatial abode, complete with swimming pool.

As you may have realised by now, we love Mexican food.  I wonder if we are the first people to actually put on weight on a bike tour.  D.F provided no exception to the rule, the new things for us were chocolate covered churros which became a dangerous addiction, Arabic Tacos were also a new thing, there was amazing street food every corner we turned.

One morning we were also woken by a earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, well the truth was I was sleeping on the floor and just assumed that a big truck was going passed or something, it seems like a pretty normal occurrence here, the city is surrounded by 12 volcano and the soil is apparently really soft.

How to ride your bike in DF

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Like in Guadalajara, Mexico D.F has a big cyclist movement, with night rides every day of the week, and a big ‘Paseo de Todo’ (Ride for All) once a month.  It’s so much fun taking part in these rides.  On the Paseo de Todo there was a film theme, so lots of people were in fancy dress, I found myself riding next to E.T in a bike basket, behind batman on a bike, whilst listening to the train spotting music, cool! In true Mexican style there were even people selling snacks from baskets on the back of their bikes, this country’s love of street food continues to amaze me!

After my fall I had some work to do on my bike, but living with a bike mechanic made this pretty easy. Rodrigo replaced my gear and brake cables for me, and he was happy for me to pay him by buying him food.  He also accompanied me to a place where I could get my front pannier rack soldered back together (all for the cost of £2.50).  We went on bike rides together around the city to buy extra spare parts that I needed.  My front pannier had also completely ripped in the fall, I couldn’t find a replacement in any shops within the city so the other Rodrigo (the cycle tourist we met in the Sierra Gorda) gave me his set, so amazingly kind and generous of him!  I was so lucky, I could have done so much more damage from falling the way that I did.

How to leave DF

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So our stay was extended due to illness, but still it was really hard to leave, we made some amazing friends and I loved this city so much.  I always assumed I would move back to London after this trip but already I can see there is a great quality of life in other places, and D.F is definitely somewhere I would like to spend a lot more time.  The temperature is cool, people are friendly, there is a great bike scene, the food is amazing and it’s close to some amazing countryside.

Mexico continues to provide and the capital was no exception.

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