Heat from the asphalt permeated the thick soles of my hiking boots and perspiration beaded on my brow as I walked from the town of San Juan de Teotihuacan to the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan. The owner of the inn where I was staying said it was a 15 minute walk, yet it had been 20 minutes since I set out and still there was no sign of the entrance, thus I started asking for assistance. One young man said the park was just a short distance ahead, while an elderly man shook his head and warned, “It’s three quarters of an hour more.” But there was no turning back now; at least I knew I was headed in the right direction.
Shedding my backpack to peel off my long sleeve shirt and tie it around my clammy waist, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. A herd of unattended sheep crossed the highway, scattering along the shoulder behind me in search of fresh grass. A bit further along, the smell of dead animal assaulted my nose, followed by the unmistakable odor of a chicken farm.
Suddenly, the bramble of bushes on my right gave way to a green pasture where a herd of gently baa-ing sheep floated like fluffy cotton balls. Their protector stood nearby, sheltering in the shade of a gnarled tree.
“Buenas dias,” I greeted him. A gap-toothed smile flashed beneath his wide-brimmed straw hat as he returned my greeting.
“Puedo tomar una photo?” I asked. Can I take a photo?
“But I would break your camera, this old face is so ugly.”
I shook my head no. “Your face has character, like mine. And you have a radiant spirit.”
“Ah, this is because I live la vida tranquila – the tranquil life – the life of my sheep.”
Beaming, Gerardo beckoned me into his pasture. I found a gap in the chain link fence and followed him down as he told me about a baby ewe that he had been bottle-feeding. Its mother had been sick and wouldn’t graze, so she was not producing milk and refused to let the little one suckle.
“Chica, ven aca,” he called. “Donde estas, chiquita?” Little girl, come here. Where are you, little one?
He continued calling as we walked toward a clump of trees and soon a tiny ewe poked its head out of the bushes and walked up to Gerardo. Snatching her up in his arms, he carried the ewe back to me. The baby reveled as I scratched its head and ears, wrinkling its wet, pink nose at me, perfectly content to be tucked under Gerardo’s arm.
We chatted for a while and then I took my leave, with assurances from Gerardo that the park was just a few hundred meters further. Indeed, just around the next curve in the highway I turned into the entrance and got my first glimpse of the Teotihuacan’s Templo del Sol – the Pyramid of the Sun.
Astonishing as it was, I smiled to myself and said a silent thank you. The Temple of the Sun is a sight seen by thousands of people each year, but only I got to meet Gerardo and his baby ewe. All because I walked 30 minutes rather than taking a taxi.