Malinalco to Cholula

Our first stop after we left Mexico City was the Pueblo Magico, Malinalco in Mexico State. Here is the view of our campsite in Malinalco. Pool is on the right and pavilion lower left. We’re on the zipline stand. The line goes right over the back of the van. (When Mexicans visit the Grand Canyon, they probably wonder where in the heck the ziplines are.)

January 12 – 20, 2019.

We left Mexico City at first light. Just like when we were planning our drive into the city two weeks earlier we spent a few days before our departure studying our route – the shortest route – out of the city. Driving through any major Mexican city is a challenging – following map directions, hoping they match up with the visual reality and dealing with the millions of other drivers on the road, who although almost always are courteous, make up their own driving rules as they go along. We figured there would be less traffic so early in the morning, making our getaway easier and quicker and although we had our Mexico City tourist driving permit we didn’t want to risk getting lost like we did when we arrived and getting stopped by the cops. That police stop ended well after showing them our permit but avoiding police interactions is one of our top goals here in Mexico (and anywhere else).

Our exit was relatively smooth and totally successful. We were now free of any deadlines or obligations for a while – no friends to meet up with or timely events for several weeks. So we looked at the Mexico map that I had created over the summer and started to wander checking out whatever struck us – Pueblos Magicos and Ruins – staying as long as we liked and hitting the road again whenever the itch to move on started to tickle.

Aztec ruins at mount overlooking Malinalco. The structure under the thatched roof (including stairs and statues) is carved out of the side of the mountain. There are very few structures in the world built like this. A circular room is shaded by the thatch.

Overlooking Malinalco from the ruins.

Street vendor with liqueurs in Malinaclo. We’d tried some of these. Delicious.

Painted halls around the courtyard in Augustino Convent, which is being restored. Building started here in 1540. Instead of martyred saints, there are stylized graphics of local flora and fauna.

Nave in Augustino Convent.

Malinalco’s Capilla (chapel) de Santa Monica.

The Capilla de la Solidad in Malinalco.

Like many of the chapels in Malinalco, Capilla de San Martin is being restored.

Mural in Malinalco.

“Better to die standing than live kneeling.”

Excellent cultural museum in Malinalco, El Museo Universitario Dr. Luis Mario Shcneider.

The name Malinalco comes from a tall grass indigenous to the area. This picture shows the ancient belief that female water and male energy (fire) intertwine, spiraling through the plant. (Nope. Didn’t get all that by reading Spanish. We had an English-speaking guide.)

Over 200 butterfly species visit Malinalco. A local lepidopterist has put samples in these mirrored display cases, which let you see the undersides of the butterflies.

Replica at the Cultural Museum of the room that was under the thatch at the ruins site.

Inside the circular room, where Aztec Eagle and Jaguar warriors let their sacrificial blood drip into the central altar.

Open air market in Malinalco. The Sunday mercado takes up a few blocks. The Wednesday event is 4-5 times as large.

Herbal remedies in the mercado. We’ve also heard open-air markets called auditorios.

Woman cooks tlacoyos on a flat pan over a wood fire. These contain lots of fillings. We tried several kinds with frijoles, squash blossoms, and cactus. They are usually topped with mole (verde or amarillo) and grated cheese.

Sunset at Malinalco campground. We had a couple of cloudy days here. Since driving inland from the Pacific Coast we’ve had mostly sunny weather with lows in the 40s and highs in the 70’s.

After Malinalco our next stop was the ruins at Xochicalco in the state of Morelos. This was a major Aztec center after the fall of Teotihuacán (near Mexico City) in 650-900.

Pano from atop a pyramid at Xochicalco.

One of the highlights at Xochicalco is the temple of the feathered serpent, which was built to commemorate an eclipse. The eclipse occured near the time of the 52 year “fire” cycle, when Aztec scholars met to tweak their calendar. On one side of the structure a calendar adjustment is depicted.

Many of the bas reliefs of the feathered serpent temple are still intact, and have been translated. Each side shows “speakers” in the coils of long snakes. Most are reading from scrolls. Some go back to Mayan times.

View of the ruins at Xochicalco.

From the ruins at Xochicalco we went to the city of Cholula near Puebla City in the state of Puebla. This gateway leads to Santa Maria Tonatzintla in the background.

Santa Maria Tonantzintla is a 16th century church built in the Mexican Baroque style.

Sorry, no cameras are allowed in Tonantzintla. So no pics of the thousands of unique wood carved faces looking down at you.

Facade of the highly ornate Iglesia de San Francisco Acatepec.

Closer view of the Mexican Baroque tile facade at Acatepec. This church was built from 1650 to 1750.

Ornate interior of San Francisco Acatepec.

In 1574 the Spanish started building the Sanctuario de la Virgen de los Remedios on the top of this hill in Cholula. As it turns out, they were atop centuries of pyramid construction.

Selected parts of the pyramid complex have been excavated, and can be toured by the public.

If you can make the walk up the side of the pyramid to Our Lady of the Remedies, you probably don’t need any of her remedies.

View from the church, looking over Cholula and accross the wide valley to the volcano El Popocatepetl.

View of excavated ruins at the base of the pyramid. The pyramid, built in six stages between 200 BCE and 800 CE, has almost twice the mass of the taller Egyptian pyramid of Giza. It is the largest man-made monument in the world.

This is a replica of a mural that was excavated in the pyramid complex. It shows the privaleged few whooping it up at pulque-fest. Men and women drink, sing, dance, puke, and poop. Good times!

Part of the exposed pyramid. Most of it is still unexcavated.

Part of the massive tunnel system under the pyramid at Chalupa.

The shops in Chalula just aren’t big enough to hold in all their wares.

A paseo runs near the ruins, leading to a big open plaza. (Our campsite was a parking lot nearby.) Here in the plaza a man undergoes a purification. He’s being slapped with herbs and will have incense waved all over him. Meanwhile, a train drives kids around the plaza, passing food and beer stands.

Costumed dancers light an incense burner before starting their chanting and dancing.

El Popocatepetl as seen from the cathedral. “El Popo”, at 17,800 feet high, is Mexico’s 2nd largest volcano. It erupted two days after this picture was taken, spewing ash four kilometers into the air above.

4 thoughts on “Malinalco to Cholula

  1. Oh how I loved reading this post! Your pics are excellent and brought back many memories.
    Jeff loved Cholula, it was one of his faves.
    Thanks for sharing all your travels. I always look forward to following your adventures.

    • Duwan said:

      Thanks Jules! Malinalco was my fave of the two cities but they were both fun.

  2. John McDonough said:

    Cool! I’d love to visit the old ruins and pyramids. Never made it that far into Mexico. Just to Ensenada.

    • Duwan said:

      Ruins are everywhere in central Mexico. We are hardly making a dent! It is so totally amazing to see such large ancient structures right here in North America.

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