30.06.2009 – 04.07.2009
La Magia de Xilitla
The problem with poking your head up into the clouds is that eventually you must float back down to solid ground. Not so much a problem per se, but definitely has to be considered and understood before lift off.
Xilitla is a special place with it’s own magic, but it does have a considerable population to deal with and the usual hassles that you don’t have to deal with in the wide open desert. Doesn’t take long to get into Xilitla’s groove at all... though I think it’s better to ease in with an interim stop somewhere along the way instead of diving in immediately after desert bliss.
One on the many things I really love a out Xilitla, besides the surreal gardens of Edward James (Las Pozas), and the balmy subtropical exotica that’s so green you’ll swear you’re experiencing the actual meaning of the word for the first time, is the way the town feels somewhat lost in time. It’s a tourist destination that doesn’t feel like one. Feels like the town couldn’t care less whether visitors came or not.
This was my fourth or fifth visit to Xilitla and it was a bit of a mixed bag this time. The woman I rent a room from became very doting toward me, talking constantly and or nagging about me closing the door more gently, or the volume on the T.V. was too loud, or I was getting in too late at 11PM, etc. She was like that the last time I visited but tolerable. This time she was not tolerable at all. I would have just moved to a different hotel, but she has a garage that’s easy to pull the bike into, it’s clean, and she always rents me the room at almost a third of what she charges everyone else. Others attempt to haggle, but I’ve never seen her budge.
After settled, decided to take a little stroll down the winding dirt road that takes you to Las Pozas. It was a bit late, but the walk alone through that luscious alien-green foliage is worth the hike. Near the entrance of the jardin de magia, there was a bohemian camp with a trippy facade and teepees for rent. Seemed like a swell time to check them out in case I wanted to sleep closer to the gardens at some point. Didn’t catch what the place was called, but I knew right away, it was my kind of digs. Soft, surreal shapes and colors with actual teepees jutting upward as an oddly appropriate backdrop. Yes, this would be the place I’d drag Mescalito to and chill for at least one afternoon!
Couldn’t find anyone around to inquire about accommodation, so I just wandered about checking out the details and how well it all sort of blended in with the surrounding exotic botany.
There were a line of bus station chairs on bright red frames and painted to look like clouds in the sky against a veggie-green wall that I simply had to frame up. A lovely girl appeared but paid me no mind. Asked about the place and learned her name was China. Can’t remember if she said she was Swiss or Swedish, but she preferred to speak in Spanish.
We chatted a good while about the place and she showed me the teepees. She also mentioned a party or concert they were having later that evening and that I’d be welcome. Her demeanor was so relaxing and pleasant that I found myself telling her about a healing experience I’d had a few years ago. Strange thing is that I have since decided to keep that story to myself for the most part, but here I was sharing it with China and attempting the story in broken Spanish. She seemed entranced by the story until we were interrupted by another lively young bohemian who seemed anxious about the evening’s festivities, but also seemed like her mind was in another realm. The young bohemian looked familiar and when our eyes met she stopped speaking. She said she knew we must know each other from somewhere, though neither of us could pinpoint from where. I suggested that perhaps we’d each already met in a dual premonition and that this was our first physical-world meeting. She insisted that I simply must attend their art event that evening, and I supposed Mescalito might be welcome to come along as well. The setting and vibe seemed absolutely perfect.
The doting hotel landlady problem came to a head when I mentioned that I might get in a bit late that evening and miss the imposed curfew. I asked if the second key I was given would open the gate. Mary Elena, the landlady, was appalled she’d inadvertently given me the gate key and snatched the keys from my hand saying that the key didn’t work after midnight. Stood there baffled as to why a key might not work after a specific time, as she quickly removed the gate key from the ring and handed my room key back. Couldn’t believe it!
Mary Elena kept muttering something about hippies, alcohol and drugs. I didn’t feel like arguing with her about it and figured that since I’d likely be eating a bit of leftover peyote I’d likely not feel like socializing anyway. Ate one plant and then went to kill a little time at the Internet cafe. Really didn’t expect such a small amount would do much at all, but it wasn’t more than half an hour before that the computer screen had an irritating bright glow as my mind began to light up. Figured I’d best go ahead and begin the hike down the jungle path to the teepees while I still could walk reasonably well.
Again, the increased eye sensitivity was not expected from such a light dose, but very much welcome since I’d neglected to bring a flashlight. There was no moon and the fireflies were much brighter than I could ever recall them being as they served to light my way.
Before the darkest part of the path began, I passed the town’s slaughterhouse. There were a dozen or so steers and cows quietly waiting in the narrow corral while the butchers in white rubber galoshes sharpened their steely knives and quietly smoked cigarettes in the heavy darkness. The general hush in the air was deafening, and I kept walking... trying not to think about what was obviously about to happen..
The event was surreal in that it was happening in such a remote place. Somehow it seemed to work out very well. Met a 60-something, bearded man from Texas who calls himself "The Captain", or maybe that was his given nickname by the locals. He was drinking hard liquor and chain-smoking as we discussed everything from oceanography to religion and the Illuminati.
Never saw the girl who’d invited me since as I’d expected. Did see China though. She waved and flashed a warm smile. She also indicated that she was very much interested in continuing the chat we’d had in the afternoon regarding the remote healing we chatted about earlier. However, Mescalito was urging me to get back out in the darkness to commune with the fireflies for the long walk back up the mountain path to the hotel... hopefully before I’d be locked out for the night.
Even though it was getting close to midnight, I took my time enjoying the firefly glow and the sounds of the slumbering jungle. Until I passed the slaughterhouse again and noticed there was only one sad steer left in the corral with no other sound than the hideous buzz of a giant spinning saw tearing through bone. This will sound silly I’m sure, since I’m not a vegetarian, but I almost just stood there and cried. I know it’s just the way it is in our culture, but I have to admit, all the meat eaten in Xilitla since that night made me feel a little bit ill. Wonder what it is about psychoactive plants that make the mind dwell on religion, philosophy and tend to give me the feeling that we aren't supposed to be eating our brother and sister beings in this shared animal kingdom?
When I made it back to the hotel, the door had been left slightly open but because it was so dark, I accidentally pulled it shut and had to knock anyway. Mary Elena was visibly annoyed. When I asked her for water, she refused and said it was all locked up and she didn’t have the key.
After the long hike up the hill and still stimulated, I was really thirsty. So I angrily told Mary Elena that I was going out to find a bottle of water to buy since she wouldn’t give me any (even though it was supposed to be included with the room). She said everything was already closed and that I should not have gone to be with those hippies. She said I would have to wait until morning to have water. At this point I believe I raised my voice and told "La Trolla" that I didn’t care what she said, that I was thirsty, and was going out to find water... that if she locked me out because of this, I’d return in the morning for my things. Man! Talk about a royal buzz kill!
Thankfully, I did find an open tienda with water fairly quick and returned to a gate that was once left ajar.
The following days were a little awkward around Mary Elena, though she did seem to get the hint that I'd had enough. There was plenty of water after that and no more mention of curfew, hippies, or doors not being closed quietly enough. As it turns out, the Captain told me she’d also made his life a living Hell while he stayed there a few months ago. He’d heard that she had a child when she was younger who’d died a long and drawn out death from a horrible disease. And, that she really hadn’t ever been right in the head ever since. Started to feel a little sorry for her, especially with how sad she looked when it was time for me to leave.
The next few days I explored the region on my motorcycle. Mary Elena had told me about an amazingly beautiful place higher in the mountains called La Trinidad. She assured me that the road was good all the way there and that I simply must go there. So convincing she was about this place the last time I visited, simply had to see this heavenly place.
In short, she was very wrong and the road was not paved all the way. It was badly eroded and littered with large jagged rocks. Many of the so-called paved parts were really just concrete single tracks with drop offs on each side to a bed of more jagged rock. They’re called “rampas” and tough going on a motorcycle especially when they’re broken in places with no way to pull over or room to stop and put your feet down. Throw in the occasional dog flashing his fangs at your ankles, and you’ve got a less than pleasant motorcycle ride on your hands.
Finally get to this place and was met by a man wielding a rusty machete demanding I pay him $50 pesos to enter his village. I look around and don’t see much more than a farm in the mountains. He says they have a cave I can see and some cascades, but the whole idea of being extorted by a man with a machete just didn’t sit right. So, I turned around and rode back down the mountain.
When I got back I told Mary Elena that the road wasn’t paved and was very dangerous. I gathered that she likely has never even been there. She said they have a rare bird in La Trinidad that isn’t found anywhere else in the world. However, because they don’t have the bird in an avery, few had even seen it. She also mentioned some rare plants that also grow there. Not quite worth risking your life for to be honest.
Instead, I went to swim in some amazing springs in the most gorgeous setting called El Nacimiento and visited the most colorfully strange place called Aguacatitla. Aguacatitla is known as a center for Curranderas (medicine women). The place's decor is difficult to describe. Sort of a cross between Oz, Disneyland and Wonkaland, but decorated by Smurfs. I think it’s basically a still functioning factory of natural medicines sold to curranderas. It’s mystical founder Dr. Domingo “Beto” Ramon died a few years ago and has an elaborate tomb on the property. I’m told there are still herbal doctors there you can pay for a consultation. I just went for the color.
The last day I spent with the last of my peyote stash wandering about Las Pozas and swimming in the magical cascadas decorated with strange columns and giant organic shapes and concrete mushrooms.
Toward the end of the day I saw the Captain taking a swim. He was feeling good because he’d made it a whole day without a drink and believes the spring is good for his chain-smoking induced angina. Oh, and he was also feelin’ groovy with a fresh beard trim. Promised myself I wouldn’t become one of those annoying ex-smoker types, but I just couldn’t stand by and say nothing while this charming gentleman sailor, writer, and biologist was obviously trying to kill himself with hooch and tobacco. At the end of the day, I think I did nothing more than make a nuisance of myself.
The Captain wad going to stop by the teepees for a visit and said I should stop by for a ride back up the mountain. I wanted to visit China and her boyfriend Rodolfo anyway.
When I got there they were all sitting around a large table with a nearly finished bottle of wine. There was another charming woman there from Spain who China had told about the remote healing story and she too wanted to hear about it for herself. Only, she didn’t speak much English and the peyote was now making speaking in Spanish a bit more challenging than usual. It was a splendid twilight with magical light all about so I decided to comply and did my best.
The Captain was making excuses for his glass of wine, but I hadn’t even noticed. Explained to him that I really didn’t care. It was his life and body. It was up to him if he wanted to check out early or stick around awhile longer to enjoy a little bit more of the fireflies and magic twilight glow. His life wasn’t any of my bees wax.
After I said I was headed toward Mexico City and then onto Tepozatlan… Rodolfo, with all our story-telling talk of “La Magia”, said I must go to a special party that’s happening in Tepozatlan on July 11-12th. He gave me a flyer for the party with info, but it looked like simply a giant rave to me. Still, might be worth serendipitously checking out.
Left the following morning on what I thought was going to be a breezy ride down the mountain and fairly flat all the way to San Juan del Rio where I am now. I was wrong. Though the ride was stunningly beautiful, it was also the most harrowing ride I’ve been on to date. Not only was it not flat, it was constant blind hairpin curves all the way down the mountain, after first climbing several thousand more feet up in altitude where the temperature dropped significantly amidst threatening storm clouds and thunder.
Keeping your mind that focused on every detail of the road and gorgeous scenery was spine-tingling exhilaration for sure, but also absolutely exhausting
Here in San Juan del Rio, haven’t quite figured out why a couple of Mexicans I’d met recommended it for a stop. Suppose it has a certain rustic charm, though it has yet to charm me much in the slightest. I’ve hardly made any new images here at all. Seems to be a nice enough place to live and the people are very friendly. Just, not very inspiring. Decent place to rest and break up a long ride though.
Had a splitting headache from the industrial pollution, my joints ached from being tensed up for nearly 5 hours, I felt a bit feverish, and my skin itched from the cheap hotel soap. Before I left Xilitla I learned that they’d had an outbreak of mosquito-born Dengue Fever. Didn’t worry about it until I looked it up and found out the CDC had reported a comeback of Dengue Fever in Mexico this year. The symptoms are a sudden and severe headache, fever, aching joints, and a rash. Ay caramba!
About 36 hours later, started to feel right as rain again. Guess I’m good to go ahead now and will make the next hop to Mexico City in the morning. Happy 4th of July to all the American readers! Have a great one and wish me buena suerte for the next dive into the heart of the beast that is Mexico City!