Alex and I had planned a Mexico trip for a while, wanting to go someplace before the winter holidays. Mexico is an easy choice since it’s easy to get to and the logistics are relatively straightforward. The usual visiting pilot season runs from November onwards, with general conditions (and cloud base) ramping up in December and considered "strong" in January and February. We planned to spend about 10 days in Tenancingo before relocating to Valle de Bravo for another 10 days.
|Overview of Tenancingo with the Market LZ visible in the centre (filled with vendor tents on Thursdays and Sundays)
|Christo Rey statue in Tenancingo. If walking up, it's ~1200 steps once you get to the staircase! Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
Our plan was to take the AeroCaminante bus from the Mexico City airport to Toluca (245 pesos) and then get a taxi from Toluca to Tenancingo (400-600 pesos depending on your haggling skills). The AeroCaminante ticket sales is just past the Telcel store on the second floor. Walk through the food court and you will see the ticket booths on the other side…there’s a bus every hour.
If taking the bus from the Mexico City airport, you end up at the AeroCaminante bus station in Toluca: a smaller, separate bus station from the much larger general Toluca bus station (which houses the "regular" non-Aero Caminante company, along with the myriad of other bus companies). So be aware if you plan to bus further than Toluca, you will need to get from one station to the other via 45 minutes of walking or a 10-minute taxi ride (70-100 pesos). If you choose to take a bus from Toluca to Tenancingo instead of a taxi, it'll be from the larger bus station (using the "Zina/Teo" company) and cost 44 pesos.
|Between Tenancingo and the Toluca volcano are many greenhouses, so choose your LZs carefully! Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
Daniel Pedraza and his daughter Daniela are the main points of contact if you want to arrange for drivers or access to the launches. Daniela runs a taxi company so if you require a ride she will send one of her taxi drivers to come get you. From MEX airport is 1500-2000 pesos, from Toluca is ~600 pesos.
|Petroglyphs in the jungle on the La Malinche ridge
|Lookout Rock on the La Malinche ridge. Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
To get to the Bistro launch have the taxi drive you to just outside the town of San Simon el Alto and then direct them to the Telcel tower (it’s a dirt road but passable via taxi). Launch is the field below the tower. It faces SE so you can fly there late morning or early afternoon. A local tandem pilot from Malinalco (Pablo Lopez) will often be there on weekends. Note: as of December 2023, the launch is covered in a bean crop, so you'll have to launch at the very bottom of the slot.
|Brad getting ready on the Bistro launch. November is prime wildflower season!
Bistro launch is generally considered a cross country site, so once you get high you have the choice of flying back to Tenancingo, going to Chalma to the SE, flying towards the volcano, or attempting to fly to La Malinche. If you make it to La Malinche you can then top land and have a nice siesta before re-launching for the afternoon restitution and then flying back to Tenancingo. Here is a typical flight from Bistro to La Malinche and then to Tenancingo.
If you choose to land at the bottom of Bistro, near the town of San Nicolas, a common LZ is the “Lemon field”, and there will be lots of collectivo (shared) taxis driving to Tenancingo or Malinalco from the road. Just flag one of them down and squeeze in (it should be less than 50 pesos from Malinalco area back to Tenancingo).
Another nearby flying site is called El Picacho. This can be used pretty much all day (it faces south) and you can either fly locally (landing here...don't land at the golf course!), or fly XC towards the Toluca volcano or elsewhere. Have a taxi take you to Santa Cruz Tezontepec, take the turnoff here, and drive south to the end of the road where it turns to dirt. Then keep walking for ~10 minutes (slightly downhill) until you reach launch. Here is a typical flight from El Picacho to La Malinche and back to Tenancingo. Note: the local farmer/landowner, if present, will ask you for a 50-peso launch fee.
|Above Santa Cruz, looking south. El Picacho launch is off the end of the plateau where it drops down to the Malinalco valley. Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
|La Malinche launch and the pilot's hostel. Tenancingo in the background.
On launch you will find the hostel that the Pedraza family has built. Pilots are welcome to stay there: inquire with Daniel or Daniela about pricing, and there is a bathroom, kitchen, cell signal, hot water, and electricity. There is also camping welcome on launch for those who choose to bring their own tents.
|If you sink out at La Malinche, you end up here. There is a hiking trail (1 hour) back to launch. Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
|The shared kitchen at the pilot hostel at La Malinche. Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
|The shared bedroom and bathroom with bunk beds. Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
He has several rooms, one room is bunkbeds to accommodate up to 4 pilots, and he has separate rooms for a couples or those who prefer a bit more privacy. And the kitchen is fully equipped for cooking.
|The matrimonial room at the La Malinche hostel, with a fantastic sunset view. Photo courtesy of Alex Raymont.
|Some top-landings go better than others!
If you choose to land in Tenancingo there are a couple of options. One landing zone is called 2 Trees, is directly behind launch and easy to glide to from about 2300m. Another common LZ is the Cinema, a short distance beyond 2 Trees and closer to the main road and taxis back to town. If you can make it to 2700m you can then make the glide to the Tenancingo market landing zone. Be aware that this LZ will be full of parked cars and tents on market days (Thursdays and Sundays). On these two days you will need to land in the unused corner which is closest to the powerlines and road. There is a prison close by. When approaching the landing zone make sure not to overfly the prison directly!
|La Malinche has excellent hammocks for an afternoon siesta!