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let the world end/begin again

January 1, 2015 - mirrormirror -

On the day that the World was supposed to End a couple of years back in 2012, I left the United States, bound for another crack at Mexico. I’d just about spent all of my money. I walked right on into Tijuana. Nobody stopped me, nobody wanted to see my passport, the Mexicans didn’t care.

I was trying to make it to Palenque, at the other end of the country, to meet up with an old friend from high school and join her for the Rainbow Gathering that was happening there. It was a grim and sketchy day. Tense. Matters weren’t helped when I managed to lose half of my money to scammers in the hopes of getting a discounted ticket. It was fucking stupid. Why the fuck would I trust a man with “LA” tattooed on his throat, and a woman with her eyebrows tattooed on? A fool and his money are easily parted, they say.

After that whole rigmarole, I spent most of the rest on a legitimate ticket as far as Tuxtla. Still a long ways short of Palenque; but as far as I could afford to go. It left first thing the next morning. I checked in to a cheap, semen-soaked motel and ate chips and slept.

I got on the bus with 50 pesos to my name. I got off three days later on a dusty and quiet Christmas afternoon with 11, in Tuxtla. I spent 10 of those on a bottle of water, found a piece of cardboard, made my sign for Palenque, and found a perch by the side of the highway.

I got a ride eventually with a lovely man and his two lovely daughters. They drove me down that winding highway, through forests, over ridges and valleys and hills and shantytowns. They bought me some sugarcane. We stopped at a waterfall and they bought me a big chicken and rice and tortilla lunch. It was the best ride I ever had in my life. They dropped me off on the outskirts of San Cristobal de las Casas with an hour or two of sunlight left in the sky. I made my way out to the exit going towards Palenque and put my thumb to a couple of hours of frustrating work.

Hitch hiking in iffy Mexican neighborhoods after dark is ill advised, I’d say. So I pulled the pin and walked back into to San Cristo. It was my third time through this beautiful city. I walked in and sat there in that old familiar square. That square so similar to so many others in Mexico: the ornate central dais, the fountains, pathways. I watched the people going about their Navidads. I sat on my backpack and felt like crying. Never before had I felt so far away from home.

For dinner I had to steal. I lifted three caramel sticks from a busy stall. Then I hiked back out to the edge of town, where there was a Pemex petrol station. I’d heard they let travellers camp out the back of these. They told me no. I was in a shitty neighborhood, it was late, I was tired. I walked a little ways from the station to a ditch by the side of a field on a quiet street and rolled out my sleeping bag at the bottom of it. It as a long night. A couple of times I thought I was going to get robbed or whatever when I heard people walking by or pulling up very close by in old trucks. Morning found me unmolested though. I had frost on my face. I was starving.

I just couldn’t go on without food, so I went back into town. I formulated a plan to make some pesos. I sat in the sun by the art gallery all morning making the shittiest necklaces you have ever seen with some old string, a few bottlecaps, and some small sea shells and shark teeth I’d collected in Zipolite. By the end of the day I’d sold one, for 15 pesos. I bought some corn-on-the cob for 8 pesos and saved the rest. Another long, scary, hungry, fugitive night. The next day I exchanged a rare old 20 peso coin my amigo Pablo had given me for exactly 20 pesos. I felt so cheated but I needed to get some food for the road. with my money I bought a kilo of goat’s cheese, four oranges, and a chocolate milk. I’d been getting my water from Mcdonalds washrooms and smoking butts. I hitchhiked to Palenque that day; but remember nothing of the ride. I hid all of my stuff under a tree in a farmer’s field on the road towards the ruins at dusk, and snuck into the El Panchan resort to have a hot shower before going to sleep in the field.

I went into town to check the internet. 5 pesos. I was banking on a couple of thousand to arrive any day (turns out it never arrived until the end of February). I heard from my friend Sophie, too. She’d already bailed from the Rainbow Gathering and Palenque to Tulum. She suggested I go check out the Gathering anyways, so I did. It was a crazy, muddy, beautiful, and stupid fiasco. A gathering of global hippies attempting to form some kind of big alternative communal way of life. In so many ways it was wonderful; but there was way too much blatant nudity for my tastes. I got invited to an orgy but wussed out. I was well fed at last on belly and soul food. I could go on and on about the gathering, it was fucking wild… but I won’t. Not now.

Three days later I returned to Palenque. I’d remembered that I might actually have forty or so dollars left in my old Australian bank account, And I did! Just enough to get to Tulum in a sharecab with a group of touring Argentinians. (And a pack of smokes!) I got there at last just after dark on New Year’s Eve. Again I arrived with 11 pesos. I used 10 to access the internet to try and find Sophie this time. No word from her, and no tax either. I’d made it to the end of Mexico, the end of 2012, the end of my tether… for what? I had no money, no plan. I sat forlorn in the central plaza on my backpack beneath a sculpture of an angel gazing up at a big fake christmas tree. I cried, and I prayed. I missed my Mum and felt so fucking awful that after all those years of people looking after me and trying to make a decent human being of me that I was here at the ends of the earth living this way, making all these stupid fucking choices and always losing everything and ending up broke over and over again. I was so tired of everything, so fucking tired of Mexico, so fucking tired of travelling, so fucking tired of being hungry and tired. So fucking sick and tired of being me…

Then towards me across the plaza walks this guy who looked vaguely familiar somehow. He said his name was Stefan. He was a Frenchman, couldn’t speak any English. We had to talk in Spanish; but he said he’d met me at the Rainbow Gathering. I told him of  my plightt and he was so kind to me. He game me a place to crash on his floor and a beer and some food. He treated me as a guest and a friend and made me feel like everything was going to be ok. It really felt like a miracle, that whole thing. Especially sitting under the angel there like that…

The next morning, the first day of the new  year, he had to go off to work; but send me packing with a bag full of food and 20 pesos. I walked the forty minute walk with all of my shit and was greeted at last by the beautiful tourmaline Caribbean Sea. I went for a swim and ate a tortilla with tuna, capsicum, onion, lettuce, and lime  I spent all day looking for my mate on the beaches after finding a good place to stash my crap. At the end of the day I decided to hitch back into town to see if I’d recieved any word of where exactly she might be hiding. I got a ride to the edge of town and there she was, hitchiking in the other direction, towards the beach. It was too good to be true. We had a huge hug. It was such a great meeting. She took me back to her hideout, some abandoned bungalows in the bush near the beach where she had set up shop with some friends she’d met traveling. It was somebody’s birthday. We drank wine and ate a wide variety of cheeses. It was a magnificent start to what was to be the best year of my life to date.

Sophie and her gang left a few days later bound for Belize; but I’d found a great place to lay low and get my feet back on the ground while waiting for my tax cheques. She lent me some money, and in the end my Mum did, too. It wasn’t until February 28 that I got my tax return and my ticket back to Canada. This time was the beginning of my new life. I cast a lot of things to sea in that time, and got back to peace with myself, the world, and god. Through the toughest times the realest lessons are learned. So thank God for the worst Christmas ever and the hardest fucking year of my life. I’m still here today, but I ain’t quite the same as before. Feliz Ano Nuevo!

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