21.07.2009 – 28.07.2009
Tepoztlan: Portal To Another Dimension
Wasn't looking forward to the grueling ride out of Mexico City, but the time had come to suck it up and focus on making the move to Tepoztlan. I was so tense as I headed out early from Hotel Republica and toward the Zocalo on already crowded streets.
Happily, the dire apprehension was unfounded and after I made it a few blocks to the othe side of the main Zocalo plaza, it was an absolute cake walk! Only a little more than 25 minutes before I was completely out of the city and on a beautiful toll road winding through the thickly forested mountains... my motor purred easily with the soft cool wind.
The ride was so delightful with big sweeping curves and absolutely perfect temperature. There was one section where it got slightly chilly while I passed through a couple of clouds, but most of it was very relaxing. My only complaint is that it was too short! It was only a little bit over an hour before I was winding down the mountains into mystic Tepoztlan.
I'd been told that I could get a cheaper room in nearby Amatlan, believed to be the birthplace of the winged serpent god Queztalcoatl and a very mystical place. Mystical birthplaces of alleged mythical gods works for me!
The little town of Amatlan is only about 6k outside of Tepoztlan, but the road is not well marked so it took me awhile to find it. The hotel that had been recommended to me didn’t exist or I wrote it down wrong because no one there had heard of it. A dazed Mexican hippy walking along the road hadn’t heard of it either but suggested I ask around at the teepees and pointed me down a winding narrow dirt road toward one of the dramatic cliff faces.
Amatlan has a lazy and claustriphobic feel with a dramatic backdrop that looks like an ancient Chines landscape painting… as does most of the surroundings of Tepoztlan. Only, I think the views are somewhat more dramatic from the viewpoint of Tepoztlan.
After winding down the end of a muddy dirt road, I stopped the bike and looked up toward a small compound with teepees and a covered kitchen area. There was a tan, delicate man with long gold and silver hair sitting at the edge of the covered kitchen looking down toward me and asked in English if he could help me.
I asked about the hotel that’d been recommended and he said there was no place of that name anywhere in Amatlan. He then said the birthplace of Queztalcoatl was right there in that very location and that there was a portal right behind him on the cliff face. I wasn’t sure if I’d heard him correctly so I asked, “Did you say there’s a portal up there?”. He said “Yes. A portal right up there.” Tried not to laugh and asked “A portal to where?” He exclaimed, “A portal to another dimension! Why don’t you come up and have a look for yourself?”
I thought “Oh boy! This better be good.” The little man introduced himself as Ea Orgo-Maynez and after a fair amount of small talk, he directed me toward the portal. All I saw was an interesting cliff face that went up about 30 meters with a crack that started at the ground and went up in a giant arch forming what could be considered a portal shape I suppose.
Around the compound were large teepees, a temazcal dome (for sweat ceremonies), a few cabanas, hammocks and that common kitchen area decorated with lots of crystals. Indian batiks and various other mystic paraphernalia. Beneath the 'portal to another dimension", about where the crack started, there was a shrine in a small cave space full of all sorts of offerings. Ea told me to pick out any teepee I wanted, but that the whole place was booked on Saturday and I’d have to leave for a couple days. I didn’t want to do all that moving, packing, and repacking, so I took a room back in Tepoztlan instead. I told Ea that I’d like to come back and hang out a bit. He said that I was welcome to come back any time I wanted and use the kitchen or hammocks if I wanted, “Mi casa es su casa!”
Something was very odd about the whole area for me. Soon after I arrived, I began having deja vu. I’ve had deja vu before but this was different. As far as I can recall, I don’t believe I’ve ever been to Tepoztlan or Amatlan. As a photographer, if I’d been there before I certainly would have made photos of the place, it's simply too beautiful not to. Yet to the best of my knowledge, I have no photos of the place at all. The deja vu went beyond the momentary sense of familiarity. I even remembered taking the exact same photos before at some point that I ended up making this time. I remember the pink, yellow and blue abstract and struggling with how to compose the shot. I remember taking detail photos of the colored seed mosaic, the eerie convent there, etc. All of this vivid memory of a previous visit that had never occurred.
The longer I was there, the more familiar everything was... as if I were experiencing the same visit a second time. It was as if the deja vu was turned up so strong that it became unnerving. The only way I can describe it us this, let’s say you and I met for coffee one afternoon. A mutual friend joined us and talked about quitting smoking. We had a very nice chat but you were really disappointed your mocha latte. Then a lady who looked just like Betty White with a little dog came into the cafe and the dog kept barking. She was told dogs weren’t allowed inside and she left in a huff.
Ok, so we’ve got this shared memory with plenty of memorable details. Now imagine that we meet again the second day and the exact chain of events happens again, only we know it’s the first time we’re experiencing it because you just arrived from the airport that morning and have a dated ticket to prove it. There's no evidence you were even here yesterday. So, we both have this vivid memory of a whole afternoon filled with detailed vivid events that we can both easily recall, but there’s proof that it never happened. And in addition to that, you know the very next thing I'm going to say and that I'll get up in exactly 20 minutes to get a refill, then spill it on the way back to the table. This kind of vivid, persistent deja vu is what my entire stay in Tepoztlan and Amatlan felt like.
At first the feeling was interesting, but the more a tried to recall if by chance I’d been to Tepoztlan in the past, I kept coming up with no recollection at all. The backdrops of Tepoztlan and Amatlan are simply stunning. So much so, that there’s absolutely no way I would have gone there and not photographed it. Yet, I have such a detailed and vivid memory of everything about this unique place, down to the details I photographed and remembered photographing before. And no, I wasn’t on drugs.
Atop of the mountains around Tepoztlan there’s a 13 step pyramid that I was told has a very steep trek to get to it. I set out on what turned out to be the wrong trail and ended up on a ledge with a stone overhang on the oppposite side of the valley from the one with a piramide. Wasn’t a waste of time though because the view from there was spectacular in it’s own right.
The problem came when I decided to take what I thought might be a short-cut back to the bottom. The trail was already pretty rough, and the short-cut got even rougher until it ended right in front of someone's house with some sleeping dogs and decided to quietly backtrack up the trail before they awoke.
A nearby rooster crowed loudly. Looked down toward the sleeping dogs, now awake and they’d spotted me. Oh dear! (only that’s not the words I used exactly) For some reason, I've noticed Mexican dogs won’t usually attack you if you’re in town, especially if you don’t look at them directly. But, if you’re away from the town and the dog’s owner isn’t around, all bets are off.
There were six of them barking, snarling and they came lunging at me from all sides. Scambled for a rock or stick to fend them off but found nothing handy. The largest and meanest of the six sets of fangs was getting mere inches from my calves and very determined to feast on Skip meat for lunch! I do like dogs, but that affection soon melts away when it looks like I might lose some of my own tasty flesh.
The only weapon I had was my camera bag that I swung at the dogs hard enough that they’d feel it but not hard enough to bust a lens or anything. A tough balance to calculate by the way. Managed to hit a couple of them, but they scrambled back toward me as I slipped down the hillside in the mud. Found some rocks to throw, and that got me back on the trail without losing hardly any leg tissue at all. I've been bitten by street dogs in Mexico before so I never take their aggressive advances lightly.
Get this… after the episode of getting lost, taking some images from a cliff ledge, and getting attacked by a pack of vicious dogs, I remembered all of that happening before it actually happened as well.
Met a fellow named John in a coffee shop who’d been living here for about three years. He had similar strange sensations about the place as did others I met. John introduced me to a shaman who called himself Amanahuat who told me that not everyone feels the same memory strangeness there, but certain extra-sensitive types do experience very similar things to what I'd been describing. He attributed the phenomenon to the fact that the surrounding mountains are chock full of copper, crystals and amethyst and he believes these cause some minds to experience a sort of strange and varied interference tuning.
Another older Italian man I met in a coffee shop said it had something to to with the extraterrestrials who frequent the area and in addition to that I’d likely already been here in a previous life. I said that didn’t explain why I remember taking the same photos I'd been taking this time as I recalled doing in memory.
A very colorful fellow who called himself a “Cosmic Doctor”, who was trying to sell a net bag full of kittens, went on and on about how he was an activist in San Francisco and knew Harvey Milk, etc. He was very flamboyant, but was an entertaining and interesting fellow to listen to. I told him about my memory disturbance and he said many have come to this place talking about the same powerful sensations and most never leave.
Finally managed to find the correct 1.2 miles path straight up to the pyramid and oh was it a tough hike up to the top! Well worth it though, with breathtaking views.
At the top, you’re greeted by these little creatures that look like a cross between a fox and a raccoon, only with a longer snout like an anteater and longer hind legs like a cat. It was funny watching the other tourists feed them and then watch their faces contort in terror when the creatures would knock a bag of chips loose from some child’s hands and then erupt into a giant, hissing creature fight over the spilled chips.
The children wailing maniacally and bursting into tears over the mere loss of junk food gave me a fair amount of joy I’m ashamed to admit.
Oh, and yes… the entire hike, the photos, and little creatures were all a continuation of the same persistent deja vu I’d been experiencing ever since I’d first arrived.
There’s a delicacy the indigenous eat in the area that I became quite fond of called Huitlcoche, a kind of black fungus that grows on corn and tastes like mushrooms. Sounds tasty doent it? The locals scrape the chunky black stuff off the corn and fill quesadillas with it. At first I wondered if perhaps Huitlcoche had some psychoactive properties that could explain my deja vu, but was assured it does not.
There was a giant rave party that was held a few kilometers away from Tepoztlan and the whole area looked like it’d been suddenly invaded by some ultra-cool hipster tribe from Mexico City. I’d heard about the rave party before and had every intention of attending, but with all the other strangeness going on already, I somehow lost interest and chose not to go.
Wasn’t originally going to stay in Tepoztlan as long as I did. My original plan was to just spend a night and continue on to a place beneath the volcanoe known for it’s mushrooms. Given my state of mind though, I hardly thought I needed any more mind altering. Instead, after I met a cool chap named Jake who told me about another place called Malinalco, decided that would be my next destination. Looked it up and it supposedly has a history of scorcery and witches, as well as some miracle tree nearby in a place called Chalma that gushes a large spring from beneath. Christians make regular pilgrimages to this place for it's mystical healing powers. Sounded like a more logical destination than a hallucinogenic mushroom village, considering the state of my mind at the time.
Before heading to Malinalco, I went back to Amatlan to have a chat with the small gold and silver-haired man I'd met when I first arrived, Ea Orgo-Maynez, about the bizarre persistent deja vu I’d been experiencing. We chatted a good while and he said he felt the very same sensation 20 years ago and ultimately decided to move to Amatlan from California. He asked for a few details about me and my birthday so that he could calculate my Mayan name “Ajmak”. I told him that I thought maybe I was actually losing my mind. Ea said, “You’re not losing your mind. You know what’s causing it. You'll figure it out if you concentrate.”
Ea told me that he could only suggest three things to me. First, I must first be “impeccable”. Second, that I must have good intentions. And third, that I have to stop "thinking" and move toward going with pure intuition instead. Once I'm working from pure “intuition”, if I’m doing it right, my mind will will be moving so fast it won’t have time to think, I'll just "know". I'm not completely sure what he meant by the intuition part.
The next stop is Malinalco with a side trip to Chalma and bath in the springs under the miracle tree. I’m really curious if this deja vu goes away after I’ve left this place. Perhaps was just “intuiting” all along, and maybe that was really the portal to another dimension after all?