We’ve been in Mexico for just over a month and have been nothing but pleased with our time here… if not downright overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness we’ve found in the local climbing community.
While Mexico certainly has its problems, they are nowhere near as severe as what’s portrayed by the US media. It’s unfortunate that so many seem to believe that the country has degenerated into a kind of lawless war-zone (not helped by the movie Desperado!) Unless you’re heading through certain northern border areas (avoided by locals and foreigners alike), you’re unlikely to run into danger. Indeed, parts of Mexico City (known here as ‘DF’) and its surrounds feel like areas in Los Angeles, and we’ve felt completely safe getting around on public transport.
Town square in Taxco, Guerrero (about 2.5 hours from Mexico City)
We arrived in Mexico City in late March after several days of tiring but fun transit from Patagonia. We were met at the airport by Carlos Garcia Ayala (aka Mac), who gave us a ride to his refugio, called Simuchi (Place of Hummingbirds), located about 45 minutes outside of Mexico City.
Mac is one of the most prolific climbers in Mexico and his list of big wall ascents includes routes in Yosemite, Peru, Spain, Norway, Morocco, Australia, Pakistan and his favourite, El Gigante in the Chihuahua Desert of Mexico (he is currently working to get funding to climb walls in Greenland and Antarctica). Mac has also been the driving force behind the bolting of El Chonta and several other prominent crags around Mexico City.
Given all of this, Mac is a great first contact for anyone arriving in Mexico. His refugio is also very affordable and the service is excellent.
Mac, el Senor del Chonta, enjoying his morning cafecito
We spent our first few weeks stationed at Refugio Simuchi, getting a feel for the area and climbing at the local crags, known as Las Manzanas (The Apples). We also did several overnight forays with Mac and his friends to Chonta and Jilo and in the process got to meet some of the more active local climbers, an eclectic and very friendly bunch, not all too dissimilar to the climbers of South Africa.
Although fairly simple, Mac has done a great job with his refugio. For $5 per person per night one can sleep on a real bed, cook in a real kitchen and take real showers! The refugio also has wi-fi, laundry, a comfy hammock that catches the sun, lots of climbing reading material (in Spanish and English), and a high ceiling to keep it cool and give it the feeling of a loft apartment. Here is a picture of the refugio off his website – while still open, the main area now sports a bit more furniture and decor.
Mac happily included us in his errands to town and trips to climbing spots, allowing us to ease into using public transport and get a good feel of the area. We cooked and hung out with him in his apartment next door and quickly felt more like friends than customers. He even taught us to make a few Mexican favorites like chiles rellenos and enchilados.
The view looking out from Refugio Simuchi.
Mac demonstrating the Philosophical Boulder, V6 at Las Manzanas
On our first morning, Mac introduced us to the wonders of Mexican food with a roadside breakfast of tomales (mashed and cooked corn wrapped in corn husks). Available just about anywhere from venders sitting behind big aluminum pots, our favorites include mole (a traditional sauce best described as chile chocolate), verde (made with tomatillosor little green, sweet tomatoes) and dulce (sweet).
Sweet tomales via horacio2007
We’ve been particularly impressed with the public transport in Mexico. You can get just about anywhere using the underground metro, public buses and local kombis (yes, those old VW kombi’s). All of these offer regular, cheap, clean and safe (so far at least) rides all over the city and countryside, which definitely beats an expensive car rental.
In case you’re worried about safety, the drivers have got you covered… just about every bus has a large crucifix proudly displayed in front.
After a few weeks at Refugio Simuchi we moved in with Emiliano. a local climber we met while climbing El Chonta who generously offered to give us a ride back when we realized we were down do our last 100 pesos (about $10) with nowhere to draw money! Emiliano is one of the more experienced climbers in Mexico and is responsible for a number of the harder lines at El Chonta.
Emiliano enjoying a welcome hands-free rest at El Chonta
Emiliano generously left us with his apartment for the month while he travels in Nepal as a guide. Since his place is nicely situated within the city, we’ll likely stay here a few weeks climbing, spanishing and urban gardening (more to come). After that, we plan to head south to the beaches of Oaxaca on the Pacific coast.
You can check out our full set of photos from Mexico here.
Coyoacan Plaza in Mexico City