17.08.2009 – 19.08.2009
San Jose del Pacifico: Oscuro
Lugged all my gear back down three flights of stairs and repacked the bike in temps that were already sweltering by 8AM. Just kept telling myself that it’d be good to be completely drenched in sweat before taking off because it’d be cooler once I got up to speed. Not so. I was just hot, wet, and miserable.
The ride back up the Oaxacan coastline toward Pochutla, though hot and sticky, was uneventful and mostly pleasant. There were two military check points, but they didn’t even bother to have me even slow down to ask for my papers and ask me if I was carrying drugs, weapons, or money.
Riding up the road toward from Pochutla to Oaxaca City is one of the most spectacular roads I’ve ridden in Mexico! Very dangerous, but the over two hours of thrilling hairpin turns whipping to both sides going up, up, and up is definitely worth it. I’m not sure how high up in altitude you get, but I’ve read it's in excess of 10,000 feet in at least one section. Great vistas, pine trees, and cool temp that feel like fresh air conditioning.
Ahhh…. Finally, I wasn’t boiling in my own skin. Even the road was in good shape and well maintained. No stray branches knocked down from big trucks, and not that much traffic either. Another time I rode this route, there was a thin ayer of fallen pine needles on the road that felt slick as ice in places. Not so this time. Overall, it was a spectacular and very exciting ride for just under two hours. The first time I rode it over a year ago, it took me over two and a half hours!
While I was in Puerto Escondido and trying to break the fever, I looked up San Jose del Pacifico online and pulled up an article about an American girl who’d been brutally murdered in San Jose del Pacifico less than a year ago. The article went into more detail than I’ll go into here, but suffice it to say it was NOT the sort of thing one wants to be reading right before they’re going there. You see, although San Jose del Pacifico is up in the mountains of Oaxaca and dramatically beautiful in parts… it’s also a known destination for a reasonably powerful mushroom species called “Derrumbes”.
There’s an Indian name for this species that translates roughly to either God’s children, or God’s meat. I've had much experience with this species over the years, but I wouldn't in any way want to condone its casual use. It can quite frightening and you can end up getting yourself in a place that’s tough to get out of. That being said, I’ve had experiences in the past with this fungus that make the very real risks worth it to me.
The problem of this article corrupting my mind was certainly something to consider, but I’d ridden my motorcycle too far in the worst part of the year, the rainy season, (the only time these mushrooms grow), and with fever to not go through with it.
Upon arrival, I went straight the place I’ve stayed before. but it was full. A more primitive place I’d stayed another time, many years ago had a cheap room or two left and grabbed the one with the best view. I remembered the old Indian woman I'd rented from to be very kind to me and this time was no different. The digs were basic, but secure with a spectacular view and the fact I didn’t have to haul my gear down down a muddy path like I did the last time was huge bonus. I rode my bike right up to the door of my room .
Asked around for mushrooms and because they’d recently had plenty of rain, Derrumbes were in great supply. Still, I decided I should likely take a full day to try and clear my head of what I’d read about that poor girl murdered with machetes and perhaps another day for the fever to drop a bit more.
You see, although I was definitely feeling better than I had in Puerto Escondido when laid up with allegedly the Swine flu, the fever hadn’t actually dropped quite back down to normal yet. The severe headaches and aching joints had subsided, but I was definitely still feverish. This concerned me a bit, but the cooler mountain temps were making it more tolerable that the stifling heat below at sea level and I was trying to forge ahead with a mind over matter sort of approach.
The first person I’d asked about buying Derrumbes pointed me toward a small cabin. The older Mexican fellow was laying in a hammock and seemed familiar. I think I got Derrumbes from him on another visit several years ago. He seemed to recognize me as well. His first price seemed a little on the high side so I offered him a bit less per “viaje” (trip) since I was going to buy two. He accepted and I told him I thought perhaps the quantity might not be hefty enough for a big American like myself. He assured me that the quantity was more than sufficient and that I possessed a large“maestro” (teacher) Derrumbe mushroom in each viaje trip.
The next day I felt I was as ready as I was ever going to be to dive into the psychedelic bliss, though the thoughts of that poor American girl still haunted.
Decided to begin in the evening and ride it on through the night. This began well enough, but soon descended into a terrifying psychological experience. Downward I went into a heavy darkness that I couldn’t escape from. Felt as low as I’ve ever felt before. No, actually much lower. No hope. Just wondering how much longer I’d have to live through it before it’d all finally be over. I won’t trouble you with any more detail, but it was not what I’d bargained for at all. This is one of the risks you take when you’re screwing around with your brain chemistry kids. Sometimes it ain’t so much fun. And this time was one of those experiences. It likely had something to do with that article I’d read about the murdered girl, and the fact I’d been so sick just days prior, not to mention a bit of fever still lingering.
Eventually, it wore off and the relief of it finally being over alone was actually extremely euphoric.
The next day, shook it off and mostly tried to get my head reasonably straight again. Since this sort of thing has happened before, but always randomly, figured the odds of repeating the experience a second night would be fairly low.
Later that afternoon I decided to dive in one more time, but to ease-in slowly this time, and during the daylight hours. Took a walk in the forest instead. Most times you can influence the direction of the viaje trip by making sure your general input and surroundings are positive. Sometimes as simple as changing the music you're listening to.
Set out on a dirt road and toward the surrounding pine forests. After about an hour of hiking and several photos, the viaje crept up on me. This time felt like it was actually going to be worse than the first time. A storm was also moving in over a distant mountain and decided I better start looking for shelter or heading back to my room.
Couldn’t get over the feeling that these mountains had some unseen darkness whispering through the pines. Something ancient and heavy. Something that felt like the origin of all darkness. The place where the source of the blackest magic is drawn from. And, I felt an overwhelming since of dread. Granted, the mushrooms had a lot to do with this, but I’ve felt this to a much lesser degree in these mountains even without the fungus. The Derrumbe just seem to make me more sensitive to this “other” sensation for some reason.
Why would I do this? Why was it going so poorly the second night in a row? Began to really concentrate on previous “trips” in these mountains and began to realize that my pleasant memories were quite likely from solely that final stage when you feel a great deal of relief that the induced psychosis is finally over. To go from such a low point full of darkness and psychological chaos, back up to reasonably normal state of mind… can be a very pleasant experience, but it begs the question…. why put yourself through so much darkness just to feel the pleasure of relief? Sort of like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer just because it feels so good when you stop.
The more I focused on past experience, the more I remembered that there had always been a very dark first period to the viaje trip experience. Followed by varying degrees of ecstatic relief. Much to think about later, and really starting to reconsider this whole idea of experimenting with one’s somewhat balanced brain chemistry as not being such a swell idea.
Fortunately, these Derrumbes generally give you back your sanity after about 5-8hrs, depending on strength and quantity imbibed. After about 6hrs, I felt completely back to normal and so happy it was finally over. However, I still felt that certain darkness that seemed to lurk in the forest shadows. Again, I’ve felt it before in this place even without the Derrumbe. Almost feels like “it” knows you’re there and “it” wants something. What this is, I haven’t a clue.
The storm rolled through and seemed to just hang relentless in the whole region. The amount of lightning produced was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before or since. The effects of the Derrumbe had died down about three hours prior and it was around midnight. Simply couldn’t believe the level of lightning that was being produced. So bright! The light intensity was like what I’d imagine a nuclear blast might produce. So blinding, and rapid strobing that almost made me dizzy. Tthe sound of that thunder! It sounded like two planet-sized boulders being shot at each other by ornery god-children. Kind of a giant grumbling sound that shook the walls and earthen floor with a subsonic level that you could feel in your bones. Being up at altitude inside of one of these storms is a completely different experience than being in a storm closer to sea level.
Sat up in my bed studying the structure of the little cabana I'd rented and wondered if perhaps I should look for sturdier shelter. It was solid concrete, and I’m certain it wasn’t the first storm it’d seen, so I decided I’d not worry about it. Besides, where else would I go?
About then there was another rapid succession of lighting flashes that nearly blinded me again. Looked up the wall from my bed and saw what looked like shapeless but roundish balls of multi-colored light forming. There was one larger one about the size of a basketball or maybe a little bigger, and a few smaller ones that were less round. They appeared to have multiple colors that changed and morphed before fading away.
At first I figured the Derrumbe were still affecting me so I went outside the room to see if I still felt sure-footed or in any other way still “altered”. I felt just fine. Nothing seemed enhanced and all other senses simply felt as normal as they ever do. Completely straight and back to normal. I watched in awe the lighting that seemed to be almost constantly connecting with the surrounding mountaintops and the massive cloud that engulfed their peaks.
Again, I sat up in my bed and waited to see if the morphing shapes of light came back. They did. Not exactly like the first time, but very similar in different locations within the room. Figured they must be some sort of static-electrical phenomenon like ball lighting or something. But then I noticed something else. When the light was bright enough, I’d see shadows on the wall. They just looked like normal shadows. But then they changed into something that was not like a shadow at all. They all melded into something that seemed like it had no texture and was just a large absence of light taking over the wall behind the shapeless spheres of colored morphing light.
Don’t know if they were associated with each other, but I sort of felt like they weren’t. The lights didn’t really frighten me so much. It was just sort of a fascination and wonder sensation. However, the velvety blackness growing and moving did give me a horrible feeling of dread. Like something was in the room with me. Sat still and quiet for a while in pure terror. This blackness came back again and I whispered for it to show itself. It grew even larger, and then slowly dissipated. The wall then was back to having the regular normal shadows. The lights came back a couple times before disappearing.
Yes, I’m aware that this was all just likely some hallucination brought on by the Derrumbe mushrooms and intensely bright flashing lightning might have had some effect as well. I do have a fair amount of experience with how these things have affected me in the past though. And this time was very different. Add to that, the Derrumbe had absolutely worn off several hours prior. There could easily have been some residual effects. And my state of mind going into these viajes this time was not where it should have been. All very easy to explain away. Decide for yourself, but from my perspective… this place in the mountains has something else going on that I can’t explain. Can’t say that I’ll ever return, but if I do… I don’t think I’ll do it alone next time. And, my mind and general circumstances will have to be absolutely pristine for me to even consider taking that risk again… if ever. There’s a darkness there for me that I remember experiencing before. I’m strangely fascinated and seduced to know more, but at the same time thinking perhaps I should stay in the “light” and forget about the dark for a while. All I know is that I’m leaving this place immediately and will ride as long as I can to put as much distance between me and this place.
Oaxaca City is the next city about 2-3 hours away, but that’s still not far enough away from here. Besides, it’s also the last day of the biggest festival they have in Oaxaca all year called Guelaguetza. I’ve been to this festival before and it’s very impressive to see once. Just way too many people to be enjoyable and there’s likely not a free room available in the city anyway. Not too mention it’s not far enough away from the extreme dark dread I’m fleeing from.
Will try to make it to Puebla near Mexico City, but if all goes well I’d like to make it all the way to Toluca. By the map, that looks like the absolute furthest place from here I can make it in one day if I'm lucky crossing Mexico City without problems. Wish me suerte!