I remember my first arrival in Mexico City more vividly perhaps than any other expedition start. I was 21, spoke no Spanish, and arrived three days earlier than the rest of my climbing group. The plane was several hours late leaving Houston and we landed at 11:30 pm in a city that houses the equivalent of half of the Canadian population. I had sketchy details of how to reach my lodging at La Casa de las Amigos and I was sh*tbaked. Fortunately, the kind young man seated beside me who was studying high school in the US and headed home for Christmas took me under his wing. He helped me navigate immigration and customs (where at that point none of the signage was in English) and we stepped out in the wonderfully exuberant mob that was almost his entire extended family.
Given the late hour, they kindly offered to drive me to the Casa. Given the late hour, we could rouse no one to answer the door. Fortunately, I had the name of the hotel where I was going to meet my climbing team and asked my guardian angels if they could drop me there. The hotel was open and they had a room. The family offered to take me home with them. I didn’t want to be a bother… I’ve always regretted not taking them up on their offer for I know now, what an amazing experience that would have been.
I slept hard that night despite the change in altitude. Mexico City is located at 7000 feet or so (both Marian and I are feeling the jump from sea level as I type). Being the shy type, I wondered if I would ever leave the security of my hotel room. “I could fast” I told myself.
Hunger and curiosity drove me out the next morning. With my phrase book in hand, I sorted out changing money, ordering breakfast, and even riding the subway. By the time the team had arrived, I’d gotten brave enough to visit several sites and ventured further afield each day.
Today as we landed I felt that same tightening in my belly. That niggling trepidation of navigating a new world with the vocabulary and skill of a toddler all tempered with a still pretty strong dose of shyness. We got through immigration and customs with our monster bags. Sorted through paying for an authorized taxi (who wants to get kidnapped on your first day). Played punch buggy (Gotta love all the VW Beetles still plying the streets) all the way to our gorgeous guest house (The Red Tree House) and I’ve been enjoying reflecting on how it feels like book ends to be back in Mexico to climb Orizaba for Oma. That time in 1986 marked a momentous change in my life when I moved to the US for love and higher education and began the path that would eventually lead to Newfoundland and tall mountains and now back to Mexico.
We have two days to explore here and acclimatize before heading to Baja California for the sea kayaking portion of our Mexican Sea to Summit expedition.