Lisa, from Canada, asked me over breakfast what my plans were for the day. I said none, since I was supposed to leave Mexico City that day but decided to stay one more day. She said she has a group going to the floating gardens of Xochimilco and asked if I would like to come along. I said sure why not. By meeting time we had 7 people in our group, big enough to split the cost of the “trajinera” (boat). The way to Xochimilco turned out to be a long one consisting of a vey long metro ride, then switching to a very long train ride, plus a few blocks of walking. When we got to the entrance we were shocked at the price they gave us: 1200 pesos. We were expecting it to cost just 200 pesos (according to our trusted guide book) so we were convinced they were cheating us. They said the 200 pesos was the price last week for a 1 hour ride. (I noticed this about Mexico, prices change all the time.) A couple of boat “drivers” came to talk to us, one finally came down to 700 pesos for a 2 hour ride and no more. Splitting between 7 people, it was decent enough. We finally agreed, maneuvered our way to our trajinera, and sailed away.
The canals of Xochimilco is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Mexican families would come here and have a picnic while sailing along the canals on a trajinera. There are artificial floating gardens called “chinampas” along the canals. Trajineras with food and knickknacks for sale, and mariachi band for hire would float by. Some boats have loud music, with people dancing and partying.
We passed by a replica of the doll island. The original doll island was created by a man named Julian Barrera. From what I understood from our spanish boat driver, this is Julian’s story: he would pick up broken dolls from the canals and tie them on the trees in the island. Some say he did this to ward off evil spirits and appease the spirit of a dead girl he found in the canals. Eventually he had over 1000 dolls pinned to the trees on the island. I can only imagine what a sight that must be. This island is accessible on the 4 hour tour (we only paid for 2 hours.) This is what the replica looks like:
Our boat driver, Vicente, was a very nice man. He has been doing this job for 40 years. He had me feel his hands to show how hard it got from steering the boat using a very long pole. Of course, he let us take pictures steering the boat: