I think I might know what you’re thinking, ‘how could our boat be in Mexico City?’ Or maybe you’re thinking, ‘are Canadians allowed to go to places in Mexico that aren’t near a beach?’ Or maybe you’re thinking, ‘Mexico is a country and a city?!? You just blew my mind.’ I should stop guessing. It’s been a long haul for us this summer, both literally and figuratively. We drove well over a hundred thousand kilometres, and passed through 29 States and 6 Provinces. We need a vacation, sailboat cruising may sound like a vacation to the uninitiated, but it can be kinda like a job at moments. So the decision was made to spend a few days unwinding and seeing the sights, but why Mexico City? Simple, we’ve spent months in this country and almost all of that time has been in tourist cities, fishing villages or National Parks on remote Islands. We’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t visit an inland Mexican City, and where are you gonna find more Mexican culture than a city with 20 million Mexicans? Before it was the Capital of Mexico it it was the administrative and financial centre for much of the Spanish Empire. Before that it was Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire. You get the picture. Our first full day in the city, we met up with our friend Sarah from Denny Island and headed way south to the very bottom of this vast metropolis. How did we do it!? Easy, Sarah’s a Mexico City expert, she knows the metro, she knows how to not get ripped off by cab drivers and she knows what time of day Uber is cheaper than a cab. Boom, we win! Xochimilco, say that three times fast. I can’t even say it one time slowly. Anyway, that’s the place where there’s canals and you can hire a boat with a guy pushing you along with a long pole. Like Venice but less romantic. Our boat driver was possibly the worst boat driver ever. He appeared to be dying of some sort of plague, he lost his pole twice and fell overboard once. All in all I highly recommend the canal trip. I should also mention that this boat was more of a party barge than a conventional boat, it has seating for 20, yet there was only three of us. There are many attractions along the canals, the one we chose to go to was the fish with feet. Apparently it’s an endangered species, very rare and unique. I felt like Charles Darwin embarking on the Beagle. Turns out the fish were in small dirty aquariums and we had to pay 10 pesos to look at them. There was also puppies at the fish place, so that was nice.
On the Uber ride from the airport, I asked the driver about the famous black market in Tepito. He looked horrified “please don’t go there, it’s not for tourists.” He went on to explain that there are so many markets in Mexico City with quality items, Tepito is full of cheap knockoffs, stolen goods, drugs and criminals. That’s why we decided to leave our cell phones and wallets at the hotel and hide our cash in several pockets. We spent about an hour and a half wandering the market and felt like we barely scratched the surface. Some of the streets are completely covered in yellow tarps suspended between the buildings. It’s a maze of store fronts and street venders selling fake brand name clothing, pirated dvds, sex toys, sporting goods, cheap electronics, comic books and almost anything else. It’s the only place I’ve been in Mexico where the smell of marijuana hangs in the air. Some of the streets are closed to automobiles but occasionally you need to leap out of the way as a motorcycle rips between the stalls.
I ended up getting a pair of knockoff Vans for 200 pesos, not a bad deal if they last a few months. Anyway, we made it out unscathed, but it’s as sketchy a neighborhood as I’ve ever been to. Later in the day we walked through the optometry district, and damn, I’ve never seen such high pressure salesmen! We were literally assaulted by men and women in lab coats hawking stylish frames at deep discounts. We quickly retreated to our hotel with sore feet and took a nap.