Our third (and final) excursion from the Mexican capital was to another ruin site.
A few hours to the south of Mexico City sits the elevated, UNESCO World Heritage Listed site of Xochicalco.
Early to rise again, this one was a bit more of a mission.
Firstly, a bus from the southern bus terminal would get us to the city of Cuernavaca about an hour and a half away, followed by maybe half an hour on a local collectivo (we were looking for one that said ‘Xochi’ on the windscreen) for the final leg to Xochicalco itself.
Once in Cuernavaca, we’d read that these local services ran from the mercado, so it was where we immediately made our way.
It was pretty much bedlam (although you wouldn’t know it from my photo), with buses pulling in everywhere, and us having no idea where we should stand to wait.
I spied a guy with a clipboard who was signalling drivers, so surely he was someone official… right?
So we asked, he pointed towards the end of a bus bay, so it was there that we now waited.
Perhaps ten to fifteen minutes later, we still stood there (we’d read the buses ran every half hour, so we weren’t too concerned), when a stall holder just behind us piped up and asked if we were looking for the bus to Xochicalco?
We confirmed we were, at which point he told us the buses never run from here!
Instead, maybe 5 minutes up the road sits another bus station (or perhaps just a bus stop, we weren’t 100% sure if we’d missed something amongst the Spanish, but we were certain we heard the words for blue and for white) where the buses we were after left from.
We thanked him, and with no better option, began the short walk up the road, uncertain of what exactly it was we sought.
Today it was Sarah’s keen eyes that spotted a yard that held buses in white & blue livery, so with our earlier clues fresh in mind, this looked a good bet!
…and it was! Our timing was fortunate, for minutes later we were on board a bus that was just about ready to depart on a journey that we actually had no true idea how long it may take.
Turns out it was about an hour, but for a time we were quite worried that we’d missed a stop somewhere, until eventually, signs to the site began to reappear. The bus conveniently deposited us at the path to the museum, which is where you are required to purchase your entrance tickets (you can’t get them at the ruins entrance itself).
From the entrance it was a steep-ish climb that didn’t take too long, and it was well worth the effort, as all the huffing and puffing lead us to this place…
The place was pretty stunning, kept in immaculate condition (the lawns looked ready for us to settle down on with a picnic) and what’s more, like our last trip to the ruins of Tula, we had the place pretty much to ourselves, as only 2 other people were here!
This elevated bastion was likely a highly defensible position (possibly why it was chosen), but the obvious benefit for us now, is that it has some sensational, pretty close to 360 degree views from some of its highest points!
I think the fact that all of the ruins we’ve visited to date have been vastly different has been of massive benefit to us, as it will hopefully delay the onset of what we’ve dubbed ‘ruin fatigue’ which we fear we may experience at some point.
That moment when after visiting so many of these wonderful sites, we actually become a little blasé about what stands before us…
But fear not, that certainly had not yet struck us
The site itself is built over several levels, and perched above the main plaza sits another posse of temples (likely the sites of worship for the higher priests of the city) where our wanderings took us next.
Part reconstruction/restoration I believe, part original, there sits some pretty impressive carvings around the base of one of these temples, and it is almost impossible to imagine the colour and detail when the complex was in its full glory.
Towards the back of the site, a couple of hidden gems remain tucked away, pretty much at the lowest point of the site proper.
Passing through one of the ball courts of Xochicalco, this one is particularly impressive, as it is one of the few that we’d seen, that still actually has its original stone ball rings (unfortunately, they are no longer mounted at either end of the court).
Even further on, beyond this pretty cool looking ball court sits something else that just makes you marvel even further at the wisdom of those that constructed this, and other places like it.
Tucked under the site sits a cave that has been carved by hand (you can only enter it with a guide who will unlock the gate allowing access), called ‘The Observatory’.
At the back most recess of the cavern sits a small room where a small dot of sunlight dots the floor.
Through this narrow aperture, and on the days of 14/15 of May and 28/29 of July year in, year out, the Sun passes directly overhead creating an image of the Sun on the cave floor.
That essentially ended our time at the site, our only disappointment was that we didn’t get to return to the Museum and give it a proper viewing, as when we reached the main gate, the next bus back to Cuernavaca was only 10 minutes away, and it wasn’t something we really fancied missing…
* To get here we took a bus from Mexico City’s Autobus Terminal Taxquena (Terminal Sur) with Estrella de Oro to Cuernavaca for $122.00 pesos per person (one way), for a one and a half hour journey (approx)
* For the onward journey to Xochicalco, rather than find a collectivo in the market, we instead found a bus headed to ‘Xochi’ which cost us $16.00 pesos per person (one way) from a bus station just up from the market on ‘Adolfo López Mateos’ (look for the blue & white buses) for the one hour journey (approx)
* Entrance tickets to the Xochicalco site can not be purchased at the entrance gate. Instead, be sure to stop in at the Museum located further down the hill before making the trek up to the main entrance.
* Entrance to the Observatory is included in the entrance fee to the whole Xochicalco site.