2018: a splintered cricket bat smacking the face for six, outside the bounds of Bellerive Oval, across the Tasman sea and New Zealand, plonking in the South Pacific perhaps somewhere near Easter Island. Who knows. The only solution – floating in hope of good tides, better weather and full sails. The mark and handball of posthumous responsibility came with tears, organically fertilized personal growth and the acquisition of a magical vessel. The final photograph of the late David Reavis was taken immediately after he finished dab-painting the frame of a bicycle bought to aide his walking-stick stride. Inspired to follow suit, I was diverted onto other ventures in unconscious preparation for inheritance, and the day following his untimely death I was on a bus with a new set of wicked wheels at my disposal. Ten milligrams of Valium and eight hours later I disembarked at 1:30am with wide eyes and a powerful thirst. Checking-in at Bacalar’s Hostal Yaxche, the question regarding the possibility of open watering holes was met with a strange look and slow shake of the head. Deciding to wing-it taking to the bitumen sea, I surprised four staff having knock-off drinks with a very poor attempt at Spanish, requesting cerveza. They kicked me out at 3:00 with a gift of premixed bourbon and I hit the mattress like a squashed avocado.
Bacalar is simply deliciosa. After almost five weeks of unsatisfied urges for spice, I was blasted into another dimension by the hottest chili paste I’ve ever had. Usually, sitting alone at unfamiliar tacos al pastor stands can be slightly nerve-racking in itself as one ponders the stack of meat on the shawarma spit, yet on this occasion I was distracted by the colectivo de salsa that appeared upon my order. One drop of the suspiciously dark batch warned me that I was in for an interesting ride. Three tacos later and I was ordering more refrescos. Panic had set-in like the first stages of what I imagine an aneurysm might be like. Just as I’d resigned in horror to the thought I’d overdosed myself, my entire body went into a state of numbness and I was reduced to worshipping the staff, forming a small pool on the sidewalk as sweat ejaculated from my forehead with every prayer. For those adrenaline junkies out there with weak taste buds – I have no sympathy – just neck the fuck-up. Eating good chili is like smoking salvia divinorum without the uncomfortable social “psyde” effects. It massages every bodily molecule into vibrational harmony, forming an addiction that can be witnessed particularly in the culture of Thailand.
Sitting on the banks of a colourfully amorphous lake known locally as the “seven blues lagoon”, Bacalar is steeped in Mayan history, Spanish conquest and Caribbean piracy. From the beginning of the 17th century the town was under constant attack, in particular by one buccaneer of Cuban origin, Diego el Mulatto under the command of Dutchman Cornelio “Pegleg” Jol. By the mid-1600s, another – known as Abraham – sacked Bacalar and took all the women as prisoners, with the locals quick to retaliate and rescue them. This must have pissed-off the captain, because in 1652 he returned and completely decimated the town, leaving it in a state from which its inhabitants never fully recovered. Eventually in 1733 on the orders of Don Antonio de Figueroa y Silva, the construction of Fort San Felipe secured some defensive capabilities until 1847, by which time the entire Yucatán peninsular had become displaced by the expanse of the cane sugar industry. The execution of indigenous leader Manuel Antonio Ay triggered a Mayan uprising under the command of Cecilio Chi, starting “The War of the Castes”. During this period Bacalar was overtaken by the insurgents and not reclaimed by México until 1902.
Fortunately for long-winded letter-jockeys such as myself, Bacalar is home to Casa Internacional del Escritor – unfortunately discovered only after leaving the town, which is a true hub for artists and trippers alike. After a few days slothing-around and chopping vegetables with a shitty knife, the call of agua sagrada was unavoidable and – amidst the difficulty of nada español – I joined a boat tour, illuminating the area’s divide between local and touristic logic. The verdict: sometimes I hate being “just another traveller”.
The boat visited local cenotes [notably Cenote la Bruja – “of the Witch”] before heading to El Canal De Los Piratas. The old channel attracts an unfortunate number of visitors who wade in the shallows, some rubbing sulphur-slime on their bodies in Mayan tradition. The slight smell of shit permeates the nostrils as one embraces the natural alternative to massaging egos in a beauty salon. This lesson led to flapping-about with a young hippie trio from the States who were equally romanced by tales of pirates, and we scaled the fence at the Witch’s cenote to spend a good few hours there jumping out of trees and talking shit with crazy Méxicano tourists. The next day was blessed by the reappearance of some Winnipegs who learned that Mescaline, San Pedro and Peyote are similar things as we sailed around on catamarans in an attempt to drink all the rum before the Yanks caught-up. Failing that [U.S.A. had a faster yacht], we revisited the smelly channel for sunset and enjoyed the place to ourselves – the main tourist boats having dispatched beforehand. At this point I momentarily forgot the fate of the only surfing Beach Boy – Dennis Wilson – and repeatedly tried breaking my neck with dives from a deserted galleon bar. Unfortunately for some, these attempts were unsuccessful, begging another white-mud exfoliation to wash-away the fool.
Over two weeks spent on the seven shades, it dawned on better sense to curb drinking towards reading, writing and the birth of this website. Fortunately, the deadline was flexible and gave room for discovering that ingesting a certain amount of mezcal allows for slow mushroom-like hallucinations without the sudden 3:00am urge to vomit on those sleeping in the bunks below [dosage is integral]. So, having mastered the art of waking-up wasted, it was only logical at 8:00am to commandeer the coffee urn for several average brews before jumping on a colectivo to Quintana Roo’s capital for the removal of a cracked wisdom tooth. The dentist and nurse were husband and wife, and had a definite aura of unity as they spent over an hour lovingly wrenching the culprit chomper back-and-forth from my skull – extracting it with professional precision that reminds me of Bangkok. No personal gain stands from this, but the clinic deserves a plug on their $1000-peso bill. Click the link – the suave bloke on the right is mi amigo responsible for the extraction 😀
Women. A beautiful, somewhat omnipotent force driving many men insane. I suppose it is “Valentine’s Day”. In Bacalar I met a particularly lovely 18-year-old German who speaks English with a cute British accent. We decided to spend the day together and upon learning she was a vegan I offered to cook her dinner, as I’d already prepared a sauce that was suitable to her diet. Thinking myself romantic, I took-off and fetched a bottle of Casillero del Diablo before scooting back to the kitchen. Méxicanos are not typically fond of such drops, and the alcohol percentage versus price tags in comparison to other liquors reflect this clearly – you’ll be paying similarly in Australia. Méxican wine is not that great – Vino Chileno y Argentino are much more enjoyable – it’s a simple matter of climate. One can savour a good bottle of the latter in isolation, without too much guilt from the tastebuds or a projected image of desperation. Feeling a strike of red blood [forgetting this young woman’s autobus de salida was just around the corner], I took a bit longer than expected to prepare the meal. Upon popping the cork inward [true Méxicano style] and pouring the first glasses, our conversation flowed naturally to the strange and wonderful fact that her boyfriend’s name was the same as her own. In one slight step towards the stovetop, unfortunate memories of Mérida came rushing back to mind and I fought the urge to make sharp fun of the situation. It was nonetheless an enjoyable meal; she barely took a breath as I watched my creation disappear between hefty sips of a glass that soon sat empty on the table. Other guests attempted to quell grins; with magical quality she produced her backpack and we said goodbyes. I hadn’t even finished my serve.
Dreams. Fantastic beasts of things they are. First time travelling to Thailand was met with a big slap in the face from a cold turkey. After around two weeks of dentists using my mouth as a borehole, THC blood-concentration was reduced to the point where several years of unrealised psychoanalysis came thundering into my skull like a solid slug. Keeping a diary eventually led to particularly lucid dreamscapes, which is another story for another time. It’s worth mentioning however that the “crossing-over” from imagination to reality was like a shimmering curtain slowly pulled from my vision as I realised I was witnessing the sunrise through the window. My eyes must have been open while I was still in the phantasy. I began to think that if one were to stop the pot, dreams would quickly return – yet I have since learned this is not exactly the case. Many towns in México are dubbed “pueblo magico” as a kind of tourism stamp, yet Bacalar is indeed a magical part of the world, and its influence saw the return of my dreams – loooong after the absence of THC. Returning to the “royal road” was hazy at first, and struck at a distaste towards dreams from my youth. The first was simply dental somatics, and removing the tooth was like pulling a plug to the unconscious. Things began to flow. A few days off the booze led to epic benders that wound-up in jams on the lake and dissing bands for playing too much reggae. Then the recommendation of an “all-inclusive” hostel at a nearby town…
A word of warning: if you’re ever struck by the inclination to drag a pimped-out bicicleta across México, it’s a good idea to check with the bus driver before buying a ticket. Escaping Mérida saw the sting of a random $100-peso fee for the wheels, as the pass had been pre-purchased. Leaving Bacalar was less expensive and more stressful, as I abused two consecutive drivers for refusing my entry, which attracted a local crack-head who thought my tantrums were funny and wanted to make friends. Two days later however, upon the realisation the abscess on my arse was back with a vengeance, I decided to try again and was whisked-away to what can only be described as the “Byron Bay” of central America – Tulum. The Lucky Traveller Hostal is a pretty slick concept. All you can eat from three massive, quality buffet meals per day; all you can swill from a bar with flowing alcohol; free bike rental; savvy staff; a reserved beach spot with volleyball, shade and more free piss all within a relative stoned throw from the Parque Nacional [for a price you couldn’t replicate between a cheap bed and the supermarket]. If you’re keen to party on the cheap, this place is for you. Three days of drinking like a fish and shameless gluttony led to a distinctly lucid dream:
All my teeth were falling-out and I was trying to put them back-in. The physiology of the situation was so ridiculous that I realised I was asleep – yet this knowledge as such was not enough; I couldn’t control the unconscious; I failed to make them stay in my gums.
Upon waking, my ability to sit-down was lost as the butt-nipple became angry. Resigning to a local doctor, we discussed the corruption of private health sectors that prey upon worried gringos with ridiculous medical bills and the potential of foul play [as referred to “in a nutsack”]. Staphylococcus lancing and a shitload of antibiotics induced a three-day dry spell and a soiree of dreams. Exhausted and drugged to the eyeballs – drifting in and out of consciousness – it became difficult to distinguish between worlds. The final straw came to me in the form of a calm nightmare.
I’m sitting on a clifftop at a modern-day lighthouse. The keeper of the bulb is my friend: a fellow with a grey beard and stern look on his face. He tells me he used to man the post with his wife, who some years ago was swept away by a freak swell of the sea. His explanation is gesticulated, and as he does so, another such abomination rises unnaturally like a conscious blanket of water. Scrambling-away just in time as it lashes the bluff, we retreat to the rear of the building – white and stout. A moment passes and I look-around to see several ominous children walking suspiciously around the corner. They begin to throw rocks at my friend and I retaliate with rage shouting “he’s too frail, leave him alone”. The children laugh and begin to run. I give chase. I follow them into the jungle where a very large, dilapidated three-storey house eventually appears. The children scatter – they think the situation is funny. I venture fearlessly into the house and am confronted in hallways by abominations that instantly remind of scenes from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I am unafraid, yet moving with haste. There are too many of them. The house is very dirty and its deformed inhabitants all have unsettling grins on their faces. They do not appear malicious, yet threaten to somehow make me one of their kin. My sense of disgust is strong and I decide that I want to leave – after seeing all the horrors. Quickly exploring every passage and room – the kitchen is filthy – venturing upstairs I notice a slight change in decorum: dirty, lavish, gothic. Eventually spotting a ladder to the attic and [realising I’m dreaming] I decide to jump from the window which I remember seeing up there from the outside. Pushing open the hatch, my eyes fall upon the wooden lining of the inner roof and everything freezes. I can still move but my vision is stuck on the wooden panel. Flailing uselessly, I begin to panic. A few moments of this visual suspension and I realise I am not staring at the wood of the attic, but that of my bunk cubicle in the dormitory. I am awake.
The dream was too vivid to forget, so instead of writing it down I decided to sit and finish the book I’d been reading: Die Traumdeutung by Sigmund Freud, translated by James Strachey. The final chapter was a bit frustrating amidst digressions in psychological rhetoric, yet the final words of “Appendix A” were pretty funny, given the old bugger’s reputation as a misogynist. I decided to start drinking again. Latin America boasts a lack of rock’n’roll – especially punk – and within a few days I was on the roof until 4:00am yelling aggressive lyrics while the local dogs barked themselves to sleep. I was the last mutt standing. The next day I checked back into to the all-inclusive for another three nights, culminating in another bender that saw me tripping-balls again, crawling through the jungle @ 6:00am to watch sunrise from the Tulum ruins, which are beautifully nestled on the beach and usually crawling with tourists after officially opening at 8:00am. I got busted by security before this, while praying as the big ball of gas struck its first beams through the clouds, and a strange thing occurred – I still don’t know what to make of it. The guard was on a two-way radio, looking rather solemn, and through an obvious language barrier he seemed to understand my pathetic Spanish: “No touristico – mi worship del Sol”. Being marched-up from the beach I noticed three raccoon-like creatures scampering under the stairs and pointed in glee – coati. The little critters waited, and after sniffing my bare feet for a moment they began scratching feverishly until security shooed them away. It seemed as though they were trained, and I wondered if under more reproachable circumstances they would have been left to draw blood. Once we made it to the ticket booth – dreading the call of policia – some wide-eyed hippie tourists inquired as to the nature of the dawn, to which I smirked foolishly as the guard bellowed “trespasser”. He demanded $250-peso, and emptying my pockets with just over $100, the other staff rolled their eyes and told me to piss-off.
Fetching my bicycle and zig-zagging back to the hostel, my brain was too warped to realise the pain in my foot was a simple bruised ankle, and I spent the first few hours of the day blabbing shit at the bar, wolfing food and coffee like a savage while researching coati-borne infections – complaining to everybody that I’d probably contracted rabies. Sometime during my afternoon nap, I awoke to a mighty headache and projectile vomited both breakfast and lunch in one fell swoop, spending the evening in morbid pain as we watched what Americans call “The Super Bowl”.
What a bloody joke. Despite learning that Philadelphia’s victory was something to celebrate over New England’s general domination, I was far less than impressed by the ridiculous nature of this debacle referred to as “sport”. How NFL became so popular is quite beyond my comprehension, and as a fan of “Aussie Rules” it pains me to know these knuckle-heads in excess menstrual padding get red carpet access to universities and big salaries. Admittedly the culture in Australia is [to a degree] reminiscent of such idiocy, yet I have to argue that at least we play a genuine game with formidable skill and stamina requirements. The stern, rehearsed looks on the Super Bowl coaches’ faces are a stark juxtaposition to that scene of Kevin Sheedy waving his bomber jacket around his head, and were presented with enough transparency for one to recognise a lack of solidarity. The “plays” and “tactics” seem but mere formalities as these overblown jogger-naughts scramble around helplessly in hope of a touchdown. Quarterback my abscess – give me AFL!
The realisation I was sick of Tulum came while reading the first two chapters of C.J. Jung’s autobiography: Erinnerungen, Träume, Gedanken, and – skipping recommendations of Mahahual – tracks were made instead for Palenque to some of the most archaeologically significant ruins in Central America. The Templo de las Inscripciones is largely responsible for finally deciphering Maya script, which until the 1970’s had largely eluded scientists’ understanding various intricacies of the civilisation. Having been told approximately 5000 visitors per day are unleashed during peak season, being there in the low was quite peaceful as it only attracts around 500. The site itself is quite serene, nestled in thick jungle overlooking the plains towards Tabasco. Yet, boredom set-in again on admittance that drinking habits were blocking unconscious reality from my perception, which is undoubtedly an avenue by which we should all be self-obliged to travel. Awoken one night by the demonic screams of howler monkeys, I gently reminded myself that sleeping can be used as an effective tool. True to Freudian logic, the dreams rushing to my head were generally related to sexual desires, or repressed wish-fulfilments. I began thinking about women again.
Despite attempting to convince myself otherwise, and protests afforded to me by multiple people – for two years in particular I have struggled with the overwhelming evidence that women prefer arseholes over “nice guys”. The same goes in reverse, too. Some cunt holds his dick in a box at a bar while his girlfriend studies for an exam. Likewise, a woman parades around on Tinder only because she knows the man who loves her doesn’t have a smartphone. It all seems skewed. People in relationships cry blue murder and adultery, while their unconscious pulls them into a pit of tasteless orgies. It makes no sense. Watching someone roll-around a party proposing oral sex to everybody they meet will usually end in some kind of sticky affair, while someone genuinely seeking affection will fall hopelessly to sleep; alone. While two-faced peace-merchants flow like turds in a river, those akin to the water realise that humanity is a disgraceful excuse for the future. To cling to the instinct of reproduction is like dishing-out bread at communion – tasteless, dry, mouldy. The wine is shit – cheap, nasty blood. Feeding on each other like rapists we fall blissfully into a sea of unawareness as the sharks run amok with what investments are left from this overpopulated, societal mess. Oh, sorry, wrong meeting… this is a travel blog, right?
No-way. There must be weight to these cries of positivity in an amoral world, but it’s most likely that of a billion greeting cards flung flippantly on days such as this: Valentine’s. What a crock of shit. Another ugly spawn-child of Catholicism celebrated by commercialism and Christianity. If only we could recreate the myth surrounding this ridiculous occasion and behead it once more… but that won’t sell to the masses now, will it?
Oh Mother, save us from ourselves, or we’ll continue killing you while shouting “unity”. But to the defence of the earth, our world can be incomprehensibly beautiful. It is merely humanity that fails to rest the attention.
Glancing over the seven blue shades; listening to the cries of the howlers; seeing a group of wild macaws; listening to the music of great-tailed grackles. Just joy is all there’s left to cling to, as our people accidentally drop their dumbphones to another cracked screen on newsfeed, as they fall into a slumber without dreams.
While in Palenque I met a group of friends travelling together from Switzerland and gladly played the role of black sheep in the dormitory we shared on the edge of the national park – about five kilometres from the actual town. The people running the accommodation were well aware of this monopoly, selling $27-peso packs of cigarettes for a grossly inflated $60, and half decent food for an average $100. Not bearing the logic of this equation, I resorted to drying-out a Cuban cigar that’d been left in the rain by the Swiss and discovered I’m quite fond of the fatties. I imagine a real “man” nails them in one sitting, but when you actually inhale the smoke deep in your lungs, you have to rest the things periodically before a nicotine overdose grabs you by the balls – they’ll last an entire day. So anyway, feeling a bit cornered on the return bicycle ride to local prices, the decision was made to move to another town, in which I’ve luckily gravitated to this peaceful family garden for reading, writing and smoking.
San Cristobal de la Casas, the jewel of México. Learning I was meant to travel here was met with a sense of mild fear. Upon reading reports on the internet, I knew there were chances of en route hijackings and roadblocks which give this beautiful country part of its conflicted reputation. Regardless, I managed to secure my bicycle – again free of charge – celebrating in the knowledge I would finally get a taste of life outside the hostel trail. Half-way through the overnight journey I was awoken by customs officials demanding to see my passport and Méxican visa. ‘Well that’s the problem with diazepam – so many things I don’t remember’. Medicinally induced calm helped keep my body language in check, and pretty soon I was serenely muttering “Muchas gracias, amigos”. Eventually making my exit from the bus, a funny little sign on the wall of a hotel reminded that general accommodation prices are considerably cheaper here than on the typical tourist trail. In course of ironic luck, I’d even secured a local couch on which to crash.
My first day here was like being in Mérida all-over-again, yet the architecture, setting and resonant soil have an authentic quality that’s missing from the flatlands of Yucatán. There’s a reason everybody told me I would love this place, and it’s not their assumption relating to the constant flow of back-packing space oddities who come on holiday here. The first local I spoke to looked me directly in the eye and agreed that “you can feel the energy”. Like Bacalar, “San Cris” is most definitely Pueblo Magico. I naturally flocked to the local market – José Castillo Tielemans – and was confronted by colours, delights and smells that outshone the chaos and splendour of Mérida’s Lucas de Galvez. Something of the latter had me transfixed with Christmas chaos, yet simply cannot compare to the feeling of warmth generated by this considerably colder part of México; the cultural heart of Chiapas.
Next stop – Guatemala.