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In April 2017, we joined American Coaster Enthusiasts for a South Of The Border trip to Mexico City's amusement parks, as well as an extra day for our own wacky tourism. Full album of photos, more than shown here, can be found at: https://goo.gl/photos/GVuLJZP9Bs8PzQ7w6

Wednesday, April 19th

Got up at 4am to get to airport on time. The flight was bumpy but otherwise uneventful...

Upon arrival at the Mexico City Airport, we discovered that every ATM was broken except one which we paced up and down the terminal until we located. Extracted 2000 pesos which ended up lasting us the entire trip. You can figure pesos to dollars by moving the decimal to the left one space, dividing in half, and then adding about 10%.

We went from booth to booth to booth trying to find where to pick up our reserved taxi, constantly getting rerouted, until we were pointed directly at a line of yellow cabs. On the ride into the city, our eyes immediately began burning, assumedly due to the heavy pollution which wasn't instantly visible, but has been written about extensively.

A few words about the city itself: For a city of 27 million inhabitants, close to three New York Cities, it's seriously in need of both urban planning and renewal. Architecture is nonconformist from one building to the next and there seems to have been a gap in construction between 1970 and 2010 - everything is either barely functional or abandoned, or new construction. Everything without armed guards is tagged with graffiti. Every street facing window has bars on it. Two blocks from our hotel was a 20-story skyscraper, abandoned, missing windows, boarded up, and covered top to bottom in street art. While things appeared intact along main thoroughfares and in Zona Rosa, infrastructure deteriorates quickly when straying, with the vast majority of the city looking at best like low-rent areas of NYC, without the apartment buildings.

The street directly in front of our hotel turned out be be completely torn up and undergoing construction, so our cab came to a halt at the intersection. To its credit, our hotel was prepared with a bellhop waiting there to grab our bags unbidden and haul them into the hotel.

The early 1900's Hotel Geneve is like a museum with lots of exhibits and eye candy, including ancient elevators and wildly dated telephones.

We ran into a couple in the lobby that we'd befriended on an earlier international trip and we all took a walk nine blocks to a grocery store I'd identified on Yelp to pick up bottled water and snacks. Prices were wildly inexpensive for an American, a couple bucks getting us a pack of bottled water and three boxes of granola bars. The store was compact as expected for its environs, but fully modern.

We'd been given dire warnings to not drink city water, avoid ice, don't eat anything that might've been exposed to external washing, and keep our eyes and mouth closed in the shower. I think some of these were overblown, as towards the end of the tour many were having ice in their fountain beverages and eating lettuce on their burgers. No one seemed to get sick.

Starving at this point, we headed towards the best place I'd researched in advance, La Casa Del Tono. Very cheap, very crowded, amazing food and lots of it, racing fast service, and a line to get in. Freebies included guac, sauces, pork rinds, and tortilla chips. I'd read their pozoles were the thing to get, so I chose to be adventurous and ordered one. Woah! It's like Mexican pho, with stewed chicken, starchy beans instead of noodles, an incredibly savory broth, and lettuce, onions, and radishes on the side. Grande size, $2.50. Everyone left happy.

Sated and exhausted, we took a nap until registration at 7pm whereupon we picked up our badges and swag and met up with folks we remembered from past trips, as well as introduced ourselves to new ones.

With them, we went out looking for ice cream, but the first place's machines were all broken and they closed while we stood there, and the second place was just a parking lot, so we gave up.

Thursday, April 20th

Got up at 5:30am for breakfast. Our room's shower floods the bathroom every day, but it appears to be by design since there's a drain in the floor as well.

Karl had been feeling increasingly sick, but just needed breakfast foods and felt better after. Breakfast was standards plus nachos, refried beans, and other not really breakfast foods. The waiters were extremely aggressive, and will make off with your plate, napkin, glass, and utensils when your back is turned. Kept having to get the table re-set.

Got on stepchild bus #3 and rode out of Mexico City. Each day we travelled out of town and back, we passed by the "suburbs" which are litle more than the exact third-world slums that you see in every documentary about global poverty. There's seeing on TV, and there's seeing it in person. It just goes on and on. It's so hard to imagine how someone living there has any hope of achievement.

Arriving at Teotihuacan, we were supposed to stop and see tequila bing made along with a tasting, but no sooner had we exited the bus than the owner came out shooing us all away due to some sort of misunderstanding, so we re-boarded and were sent packing to the temples down the road.

At the proper park entrance, the tour leads discovered that they couldn't pay the entry fee for some reason (didn't take cards?), so everyone on the buses had to pony up 70 pesos for their own admission. Just $4 USD, but things were feeling a bit fumbly at that point.

First thing off the bus, we headed toward and climbed the temple (not pyramid!) of the sun. These temples are much larger than I had anticipated, but not so big as to be impossible to surmount. Steps were between large and ridiculously steep. Taking it slow and easy due to the 7,500' altitude, we reached the summit in no time.

Back down again, then walked down the huge central pathway, called the Avenue of the Dead, to get to the Temple of the Moon.

The steps on the Temple of the Moon are much bigger than those of the Temple of the Sun, but you can only go up one flights to the first plateau. The rest of the temple was roped off as hazardous.

There were vendors wandering around all over the place trying to hock their wares, tho we'd been told not to buy anything from them before we got off the buses. They were extremely aggressive and would follow alongside as you walked, pulling out various tchotchkes and trying to get you to pay attention, asking only a dollar, and wouldn't take no for an answer. One particularly insistent one chased us halfway down the Avenue before giving up, only to rush back when he overheard me muttering to Karl that he got an A for effort.

I really wanted more time at this locale because there was so much more to see: trails, displays, vendor stalls (as opposed to the wandering ones), paths beneath the ruins (!!!), exhibits, museum buildings... But we were only given two hours which was just enough for both temples, then a photo op at the Sun before back onto the buses.

Within the park was an upscale restaurant located within a deep cave where religious ceremonies used to be conducted, called La Gruta (The Grotto). It was a partial buffet where I learned that I do not like mole sauce, but I do love me some cactus salad.

Back to Mexico City afterwards through extremely heavy traffic that took double the time getting out. There were supposed to be several stops for sightseeing, but these never materialized. Instead, we got out at La Ciudadela, a tourist market that was a dark grid of narrow alleys featuring elaborate handicrafts ranging from plateware to tiny colorful animal charaters to Dia De Los Muertos themed items. Very Indiana Jonesey. We were warned strenuously about pickpockets but never saw anything that concerned us.

Back at the hotel, we hung out for a few hours, then went to Tacontento for street tacos, followed by alcoholic ice cream at Helado Obscura. Karl had a scoop of Pink Pony (blackberry liqeur and vodka) and I had non-alcoholic strawberries and cream.

Friday, April 21st

Another morning Karl needed food to not feel sick again, so we're getting concerned that the altitude was messing with him, but luckily this was the last day he had problems.

After an uneventful bus trip to Six Flags Mexico, we were let in the back way. ERT was supposed to be on Medusa for an hour, but it wasn’t ready so we went to Superman instead.

We got one ride in but the brake block just before the bunny hops was stopping trains dead, so while everyone else went to the next ride, we stayed and tried again, this time skipping the brake block and getting the full force of the hops which really improved the ride experience. When we exited, everyone had already gone to Medusa.

At Medusa, we only got the first ride due to us. ERT just didn’t happen and kids were streaming in as the park opened, taking shortcuts through the enormous queue and cutting us off. Ride was amazing, tho, our very first Rocky Mountain Construction ride. The scourge of VR had infected it and half the riders were donning helmets to experience Galactic Attack, but we never tried it. They wouldn't let us on again until we stashed our bags, so we ran around trying to find a locker, then ran back for a second go, asking for and receiving a front row seat - woohoo!

We'd been given 13 fast passes to skip the lines on many of the major rides and, by the end of the day, we'd only managed to punch about half of them because the much-rumored hours-long lines were pretty manageable, except for the Ferris Wheel and Sky Screamer. The park also played electro-swing and vintage remix music the entire day to my great pleasure, so it was like spending the day listening to my own music collection. They also had a Mardi Gras parade which we missed twice, but I'd glimpsed featuring mostly-naked dancers pushing the limits of family-friendly. Lunch was an awful burger, chips, a soda, and candy bar - no exceptions; probably the worst park-provided lunch I'd experienced.

Most other rides were mainly just for the credits. Their boomerang and Batman: The Ride were awful head-bangers. Since we spent all day hanging out with the friends we'd met on day one, I got press-ganged into doing the haunted walkthrough, Pandemia. It was mostly drop windows and jump scares, but we had to march through single file with hands on each other's shoulders, so I just focused on the back of the person's head in front of me the whole way and was unexpectedly fine - I mean really fine with it. I guess I can do this stuff now after having survived Morey's Piers' Ghost Ship last year.

Also found Huracan, a unique brand of Top Spin that is famous in YouTube videos as "The craziest ride in the world!" It wasn't that bad at all, neither nauseating or difficult.

The option to leave at 7pm was offered at lunch and 2/3rds of the tour chose to take it. We stuck around, re-rode Medusa and did some shopping. Upon returning home after the trip, I found that, of the two shits I'd bought, one was used and soiled, and the other's decal was cracked right off the rack. Six Flags Mexico's apparel is j-u-n-k.

Continued in part 2...!


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