We have heard from many people about the trajineras in Xochimilco, how much fun they are.
So finally we had the opportunity to experience them ourselves.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, from wikipedia – Xochimilco is best known for its canals, which are left from what was an extensive lake and canal system that connected most of the settlements of the Valley of Mexico. These canals, along with artificial islands called chinampas, attract tourists and other city residents to ride on colorful gondola-like boats called “trajineras” around the 170 km (110 mi) of canals. This canal and chinampa system, as a vestige of the area’s pre-Hispanic past, has made Xochimilco a World Heritage Site. In 1950, Paramahansa Yogananda in his celebrated classic Autobiography of a Yogi wrote that if there is a scenic beauty contest, Xochimilco will get the First Prize. However, severe environmental degradation of the canals and chinampas has brought that status into question. 1
Tom and I, and friends Deb and Reg hired a driver to take us first to the Dolores Olmedo museum, which is amazing, and then to take us to Xochimilco for a ride on the canals in a trajinera.
We had purchased a few things for a boat ride lunch, a baguette, cheese, fruit, and of course some wine.
Our driver set us up with a boat and we all got onboard and situated.
These boats are ‘poled’ similar to the gondola boats in Venice, although these guys use long barkpeeled trees. They are quite eneven and rough.
Almost immediately upon taking off from the boat launch area we are set upon by vendors, want to buy a soda, want to buy a beer, want a few songs by mariachis, by a merengue band, what about popcorn, chips, stuffed animals, jewelry, shirts, mexican panchos? It all comes up next to you on your boat and offers you their best deal.
We declinded all but a mariachi serenade.
The boats move slowly through the water offering you plenty of time to visit, eat, purchase if desired, and enjoy the scenery. There are some pretty amazing viveros, aka nurseries, along the way, and people who live along the canals are taking advantage of the opportunity and offering bathrooms facilities, food concessions, exotic animal experiences – want your picture taken with a snake draped over your shoulders?
The water is a dark greenish gray, and there is enough trash and litter floating there to put you off.
Overall we enjoyed our trip, there were a few scenic areas, a few water birds, and it was peaceful enough once we got away from all the other boats and the vendors.
Apparently, and we had never heard of this before, but there is a boat lift that can convey your trajinera over to an ecologic area where not many boats go so that it is more natural, and clean, and picturesque. This ecological trip will take a few hours, cost more, and must be arranged ahead of time.
We had arranged a 2 hour trip, not knowing any better, and apparently we hadn’t brought nearly enough wine because after an hour we were like, ok, let’s get out of here.
A one hour trip is more than enough, because for a 2 hour trip the poler just stops poling.
Anyway, we enjoyed the experience but agreed that one hour is plenty, as is doing it once, unless you have a lot of booze with you.
some pretty interesting info here on the wiki page, http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xochimilco