Hiking up La MalincheIn my quest for ever thinner air I spent the last weekend in Tlaxcala, a colorful Mexican state that would deserve a more prominent place on the tourist trail. Only a 2-hour bus ride from Mexico City’s TAPO bus station, the capital Tlaxcala offers a lovely central Zocalo and historical buildings within walking distance. The murals in the Government Palace depict the odyssey of the native tribes that journeyed through Mexico to found the state that was to play such an important role in the demise of the Aztecs under the steel blades of Hernan Cortes’ thugs.
Tlaxcala in August offers all sorts of thrills, ranging from the dubious privilege of having a 500 Kg T-bone steak on legs charging your back with the keenness of a creature that will exorcise eons of corridas and butchering by lodging one of his horns between your shoulder blades (see articles on the Huamantlada for more information), to climbing the Malinche volcano, named after Cortes’ infamous Mexican lover and informer.
Feeling that there was little delight to be had in being trampled by a bull and turned into a meat tortilla on Huamantla’s pavement, I settled to climbing La Malinche with my colleagues. At only 4450 meters altitude, La Malinche might not represent the same daunting challenge as the Pico de Orizaba but it makes for a lovely and accessible day-hike.
Malinche We parked near the Centro Vacacional at 8:00AM and started walking through a pleasant wooden area located at around 2800 meters altitude. Gradually the climb became steeper and eventually I emerged from the forest to face the volcano’s might. To reach the shoulder of La Malinche you have to endure a less than pleasant struggle up a sandy slope where you are likely to see some crazy athletes running down at blazing speed like wild mountain goats and proudly announcing that they had reached the summit in some incredible time (2 hours and 19 minutes was uttered to my unbelieving ears for example).
Once you manage to crawl to the shoulder of the volcano, you are rewarded with a nice view and the less endearing prospect of making your way through an area covered with boulders of varying sizes. However, the summit is not too far, and around 45 minutes later I finally stepped on the ridge of the caldera, a spectacular sight if the clouds don’t obstruct your view. A few meters more and I stood on the rocky pinnacle of Tlaxcala, after a decent 3 hours 10 minutes of efforts (oh, please do your skin a favor and use sun-block cream liberally, or you’ll be peeling for days, like I did).