For the full photo diary of this part of the tour please click here
It’s now July, it’s been a month and I am still living in Mexico City. My appreciation for the place remains but my appetite has undoubtedly mellowed over the last week. The touristic fever that gripped me for three weeks has waned and now I am ready to leave the city and return to a life on the road. A package containing my new rim and tires safely arrived from the good folks of SJS Cycles in the UK and I have been parted from my Shermy for the first time in over a year. Although still awaiting delivery of my new bottom bracket, I have dropped the bike off at Bicicletas Casa Leo Imports so they can get to work building the new wheel and sorting out a number of other issues. Never before have I entrusted others to work on her so I am more than a little nervous, an attitude reflected in the plethora of instructions, manuals and warnings I left with Rodrigo at the shop.
Although it feels as if I’ve spent the last week alternately route planning, moping and watching movies, I have in reality kept pretty busy over the last fortnight. I’ve continued my trawl around Mexico City’s museums and galleries and taken in some other attractions too. The most notable of the galleries were the Museo de Arte Moderno, Museo de Arte Popular and Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo (MUAC). The first two I thoroughly enjoyed while the latter was incredibly disappointing. The Modern Art museum is located on the edge of Chapultepec Park, the largest city park in Latin America. Although smaller than its counterparts in London it houses some interesting exhibitions. I particularly enjoyed the work of Gonzalo Lebrija who captures space and time reflected in the shiny surfaces of cars and motorcycles, an interesting take on travel photography. The museum also has an impressive sculpture garden that is really set off by the juxtapositions inherent in the surrounding environment. The Museo de Arte Popular was also very impressive, providing an insight into art’s place within the history, culture and society of Mexico. I had encountered many of the themes in this museum on my travels through the country and no doubt will continue to identify many more when I finally start moving again.
The weather here has finally reverted away from an unseasonably dry spell and now gifts daily downpours. Every afternoon the heavens open and the rain floods out of the sky, often accompanied by thunder and lightning. Sometimes it rains all day, a phenomenon I have not seen for months and months. I had ventured out to the university campus (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico) when the first thunderstorm of the season hit. The campus is impressive, a vast space and I’m sure a pleasant environment to study in. What drew me there was the Olympic stadium of the 1968 games and MUAC. The stadium was smaller than I expected but interesting in so far as taking obvious architectural inspiration from the cities Mexica ancestors. MUAC on the other hand was a huge disappointment. Billed as ‘the first museum fully created, in its architecture, management, museulogy, and interpretation, for contemporary art‘, and ‘the largest public institution in Mexico to accommodate a collection of national and international contemporary art‘, the place is much hyped. It is in fact utter shite: The space is noisy, cold and uncomfortable, the exhibits (the few that existed) were second-rate and the atmosphere generated by the staff appalling. Where as the people watching the gallery space in the Modern Art Museum where suited, smart and patiently seated, those of MUAC dressed as maintenance men and huddled throughout the space in noisy gaggles. MUAC = a pretentious waste of money and one to avoid.
On a brighter more colorful note, Denise and I ventured down town to watch the Gay Pride parade through Mexico City. These things are always quite the spectacle and it didn’t disappoint. We were treated to quite an array of flamboyance and nudity, most of the proponents of which would do well to keep their clothes on. Nothing wrong with being proud, but gay or straight, plenty wrong with being fat, ugly, naked and parading around in front of me. Where are all the handsome gays and pretty lesbians? Come on Mexico City, put some effort in! I don’t care two hoots about peoples sexuality and enjoyed the freedom with which people were expressing themselves here. The float filled with gyrating gay cowboys made me chuckle, dressed ironically in the same uniform men in the north of Mexico don to assert their macho manhood. And I was particularly intrigued by the transvestites with arse implants… I wonder what it feels like to sit down? Might be the way forward for comfortable cycling.
To reassert my heterosexuality I scratched my balls, belched loudly and made a manly trip to watch the Mexico City Diablos take on the Puebla Pericos at baseball. Only 10 pesos (50 English pennies) to get in, it is incredible value. The game was good, the Pericos winning before the rain stopped proceedings at the bottom of the seventh. I am a sports fan, an English sports fan who is really enjoying learning the nuances and finer details of the particularly American past time of baseball… its like cricket but things happen (I enjoy watching cricket anyway). The ballpark is located across the road from the velodrome from the 1968 Olympics. An interesting modern building, it looked rather sad and unused and had me wondering for the future of London’s Olympic venues. I wish I could go to a Mexican football match but I happen to have landed in DF during the break between the leagues two seasons. Maybe I’ll go and watch River Plate play Primera B football when I reach Argentina… another mighty team falls!
Finally, a constant theme in my thoughts and something I’ve dedicated a fair amount of brain energy to is the task of lightening my touring load. I read other tourists blogs and the diligence with which I study their loads is almost a sickness. Those that I respect have traveled through Central America with just rear panniers and a frame bag. Admittedly some of them have got rid of the cold weather clothing they don’t need again until Peru and others are traveling in groups and sharing the load. But I can’t help think that some of my mechanical wear is down to the weight of my load. As I think about planes to Cuba and the harsh unpaved roads and single tracks I’d like to bike I know I’d do well to lose some gear. My problem is that I use, have used and will use again everything I carry. I know much of the problem is the hiking gear I insist in carting around but don’t seem to be using much. I keep hold of it because I know I shall hike again and couldn’t bear to miss an opportunity such as my Grand Canyon experiences. It is this and my synthetic sleeping bag which takes up space but I’m not willing to lose either. I have in my ruthlessness amassed a small pile of things in the corner of the room which I shall leave but it looks pitiful next to the reintroduction of a spare tire and introduction of a mosquito net. I’m sure this is a theme that will run and run.