We follow one photographer, surfer, and overland traveller – Ross Ruddell, as he prepares to embark on an epic journey down the pan-American highway, surfing his way from California to Tierra del Fuego, over the course of three years. This is his story. You can keep up to date with Ross’s adventures right here, and at Project Bliss.
Over to Ross:
When my travel buddies and I decided to spend Christmas and NYE in Mexico City I had absolutely no clue how big this place would actually be. I pictured something like Brooklyn, but was obviously wrong.
Here are some stats I ripped from Wikipedia –
The 2009 estimated population for the city proper was approximately 8.84 million people,with a land area of 1,485 square kilometers (573 square miles). The Greater Mexico City population is 21.2 million people, making it the largest metropolitan area of the world’s western hemisphere and largest Spanish-speaking city in the world.
It’s massive. And after seeing the small, well, small ish, towns of Northern mainland Mexico (Puerto Vallarta, and the surrounding town of Sayulita have exploded in the last 15 years) I was completely astounded at the huge city rising 7,350 ft above sea level. That’s almost half-again higher than Denver.
And when I got here, a few days before Jesus’s b-day, the city was dead. Like the breath had been taken out of a colorful balloon. Deflated. It was eerie, imagine walking down 34th street in NYC on a Friday afternoon and only seeing five people.
So it was for Christmas, a laid back day spent cooking food, eating, internet-ing parents and friends and family. We watched Elf, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Die-Hard got the shaft because we were too tired from doing nothing to stay awake. It was perfect — and of course, visions of tamales danced in our heads as we fell asleep.
**SIDE STORY TIME**
7 Years ago I traveled with two friends I was living with from Hawaii to Burlington, VT. We spent a week wakeboarding, cruising around in boats, and tearing around the mountains. We spend a fair bit of time downtown, eating Mr. Mikes pizza, and watching a new friend DJ at Red Square. After our final pint at Half-Bar we decide to call it a night. I walked outside and heard Spanish being spoken by a girl. I ran up, yes, literally ran, or probably skipped actually, and said ‘Hi”, or “Hola”. We only spoke for maybe a few moments but learned she was from Mexico City, and that she taught at a summer camp in Upstate New York. For the life of me, I cannot remember what else we talked about. A few beers and seven years will do that. But, this girl, Fernanda, and I kept in contact. Sometimes we would message each other for a few days, then a few month would pass between check-ins. But somewhat consistently, we would talk, and say hi, and then continue on, each of us traveling and working. Once or twice the stars almost aligned for an actual lunch or coffee but it never worked out.
BACK TO MAIN STORY
I had messaged my old friend from Mexico City before I started this trip (the first time) and again when I was getting closer to the Capitol. Schedules finally linked up and we agreed to meet up on Wednesday. That morning I got a shower and (feeling nostalgic) packed only my 50mm f/1.8. When I met Fernanda 7 years ago I was just starting to get basic lessons in photography from the Public Affairs Shop I worked next to in Honolulu. They would occasionally give me a Nikon D1h and a fixed 50mm and let me go out and shoot very basic Coast Guard ops. I took an uber over to her apartment and did a lap around the block to explore before she pulled up and whistled an “Hola Ross!”.
Like no time had passed at all I was in the seat of my friends car headed for the massive town square.
Arriving at the Palacio de Bellas Artes I was immediately in a sensory overload.
The “Zócalo” town center was believed by Aztecs to be almost the exact center of the universe. It spans 57,600 square meters. And it was packed, the city sprung back to life and the streets swelled with locals hawking food, police directing traffic and a few tourists caught up in everything.
Fernanda and I cruised around the churches, gawked at the massive city square and took in the sights. I will never claim to be a city person, and the sheer number of human bodies had me in a bit of vertigo. But it was a beautiful vertigo. With bright colors and the smell of warm corn tortillas. Kids played in water fountains, the daytime temperature of the city around 70 degrees.
And so we spent the day, an old friend and I touring the largest Spanish speaking city in the world. It was wonderful and Im so happy I got to reconnect with Fernanda. We have plans to see more of the city this afternoon, her boyfriend has offered to take us around for the day.
The brits and I have a pretty banger NYE planned, with drinks at our flat coupled with going out downtown at night to watch the craziness.
After the New Year I plan to head back to Teotihuacan, where we have our cars locked up. Then, its South, or maybe North again. Who knows?
But, for now, and as always,
Ross Ruddell, 29
Mexico City, Mexico