Tepoztlan is a town well known to us, chilangos, a term used by everyone outside of Mexico City to refer to its citizens, is a place to escape when you get tired of the city. It is the perfect magical paradise to have a day of absolute spiritual connection, as my father always describes it to me whenever he talks about his adventures with his friends in Tepozotlan. A straight fact is that Tepoztlan is considered one of the Pueblos Magicos, or magical towns, in Mexico.
I went to Tepoztlan for the first time with my ex-partner; we didn't have a car, so we took the bus. It cost us around 150 pesos round trip, he knew everything about how to get there, so he took me through. That was a year before my comeback to Tepoztaln. My father, my ex-partner loved it there and always talked to me about it, and I just couldn’t keep wondering what was so magical about a little town outside the city with a mountain. "I've been there so many times, and every time is something unique; it doesn’t get old," he commented every time I asked him about it. Sadly, the time I went with him, we were just in the antique tattoo shop because he believed it was a great idea to get an enormous needle tattoo on his back that lasted around 6 hours. We didn't go on a hike, to the market, or even eat a proper meal. I was disappointed, of course, because I couldn’t get why it was magical. Regardless, I decided to go back and see it for myself.
As I finally persuade some of my friends to go to Tepoztlan and hike the Tepozteco, the most famous mountain there for its claimed vibes and old Aztec temple at the top and then return, we leave on the first Friday of January at around 9 a.m. My Spanish friend Adrian drove the four of us in his white mom-type Audi. a journey of an hour and a half with no traffic because getting out of Mexico City with traffic would take around 3 hours. The highway once out of Mexico City is similar to the ones in the United States, but with more flora and grassy mountains all over the background. I could see the few trees left, the uncut grass all over the ground, bulky cows and muddy sheep, and a few farmers walking by, either asking for money to fulfil their destiny on the other side of the wall or working to bring food to their families.
By car, it was way quicker to get there, but we had to pay around 120 pesos for the tolls between the four of us. We played all kinds of music and sang it together. Adrian is a big fan of Luis Miguel, a naturalized Mexican musician known as the Sun, so he included many of his hits.
The massive grassy mountains seemed so close and reachable when the filthy pollution was finally out of the sky, and it looked like an intense blue that reminded me of the background of Toy Story. All I could think about was my great-granduncle, Dr Atl, a famous painter well known for his magical landscapes, and his idea of creating a dream city for artists and scientists named Olinka in Tepoztaln. I was finally starting to get its elegance and singularity.
We see a sign saying, "Welcome to Tepoztlan, Pueblo Magico." I could see all my friends smiling and myself as well. I spotted the bus station where I had arrived before. "I know where to go," I said out loud, remembering the way to get to the main road where we could park the car and start to walk towards our goal, the Tepozteco.
We parked the car in a parking lot beside the big market and kiosk, exactly where the road started. As it was very early for Mexican time, I saw how the locals were starting to set up their stands for the markets. Most of the places, like restaurants, stores, and spas, were just starting to open. The colorful Tepoztlan that I was talking about was just starting to flourish.
Aware that once we came back down, everything was going to be open, Rene, my youngest friend, opted to only bring a few energy drinks and water for the trip. We agreed and went to one small local supermarket. The woman in attendance appeared to be in her 80s and was delighted to see us when we began speaking Spanish. "Nice to see national visitors," she commented when Adrian was paying.
With everything ready, we started to make our way. "Just keep going straight, all the way through Avenida del Tepozteco, until you get to the stairs, and there you make your way up," my father explained to me the night before. I told my friends, and we walked with no one else around. Andrea, Adrian’s girlfriend, was so excited but worried that she wouldn’t be able to make it to the top. "Friend, I am a smoker; if anyone is not going to make it, it is me," I said to reassure her. Adrian and René were certain that they had the strength to get there without breaking a sweat.
As we got closer to the top of the stairs, we noticed a slew of food and jewelry stands open, with people shouting all over the place if we wanted to eat, have good fortune, or simply get a souvenir. With all the madness, I finally saw the Tepozteco welcome sign.
As we progress, the stairs lose their shape, and by 20 minutes, there were only a few rocks to keep you from falling. It takes more effort than regular stairs, which is what I expected. We walk in a row, so no one gets lost. Adrian was in front, leading the way and finding a viable path; I was following him, trying to keep up as fast as I could; and Andrea and Rene were behind them, gasping for air.
When I turned and saw the woods, I remembered my father telling me about when he was younger and his friends and him took the road with no path, and I just couldn’t understand how he didn’t die out there. "Maybe it is the magic of Tepoztlan, the real thing," I tell myself.
We stopped around five times because René and Andrea couldn’t keep going. To my surprise, I felt totally fine; I was sweating and everything, but I didn’t feel bad at all. The last time we stopped, I thought Rene was going to throw up. He looks so pale and sick, totally showing he wasn’t in any good physical shape. Adrian helps him with water. After René felt better, Adrian said, "And if we stayed over?" I began to laugh because staying the night seemed surreal; however, it was a Friday, and Tepoztlan is well known not only for its magic when the sun is up but also for its wildness when the sun is down. So, we all started thinking about it.
As we got closer to the top, we arrived at a balcony that showed a view full of nature, I could even say there wasn’t a trace of human creation, it was the greenest view I have ever seen. The sound of the river and the singing of the birds were all I could hear. My friends continued, and I stayed there for a moment. In that moment, I understood the magic of the mountain because of the calmness it gave me. My shoulders relaxed so much that I couldn’t feel my back pain anymore. I was floating in harmony.
The last steep hill was the massive metal staircase to the top. "This is it, team, we can do this," Adrian kept shouting while we hiked. I lost sight of Adrian as I got to the final steps, and then I saw him again with an ancient Aztec temple. I honestly thought it was bigger when I saw him from the ground. Rene and Andrea arrived, and the four of us started jumping and shouting, so we did it. We hugged and later went into the temple area, where we were charged 30 pesos.
Tired and sweating, we sat down in the corner of the temple and contemplated the view. I don't know how to describe it because it was so pure: first, there were the massive trees that hung the mountain, then you could see the town with buildings of no more than three stories that allowed you to see the other mountains in the distance. As I looked at it, it appeared that the mountains went on indefinitely; they were one after the other, and the farther they got, the fuzzier they looked but still recognizable.
The magic won me over, so I turned to my friends and said, "Let’s stay over." They all smiled and started calling their parents, asking permission from the top of the mountain. My phone sounded, and I saw a text from my father saying, "So you are staying over, aren’t you?" He knows me so well, he already knew I would understand Tepoztlan’s magic.
Following that, we found a posada and rented two rooms. I reserve my right to talk about the wild night we lived, but I can say only this: I got an ancient needle tattoo, befriended a Cuban couple who gave me free cigars and piña coladas, and a dog named Firulas followed us all along. Sadly, Adrian didn’t let me bring the dog back home, so if I see it next time I go, I am totally taking it.