Cacao Jungle Farm

I’m not a tourist, this must be said before anything else. I am entirely uninterested in following the customary gringo trails and flogging to tired and uninspired traveler traps that can be found in any guide book. Traditionally on my journey I will settle down for a few weeks or a couple months in each country and learn the culture, volunteer my work, stay with a family, and live on the land, off the grid, with the world as my oyster. I have made this a signature style of my travels, and have partaken in some amazing experiences, and written many chapters in the saga of my life. Lately I have found myself in the Guatemala cloud forests of Alta Verapaz, co-living on a 1000 acre wilderness farm  next to the largest national park in the country and a biosphere for quetzals, other rare jungle avifauna, and primeval creature life. Here I have been trading what I know in permaculture, sustainable living, and bushcraft, whilst living and working with the local Keq’chi Mayan culture.

Owned by a Belgian/Canadian man known as Lorenzo to his friends, who bought this land eight years ago, and has been living between San Marcos la Laguna on Lake Atitlan and the mountains of Teleman in Coban county. Spread across this vast landscape are many cultivated areas of profitable fruit, and spice farming. Lorenzo deals primarily in cacao and cardamom, with local merchants in the nearby town, and a brand new chocolate factory on the plantation itself. He also sells premium chocolate on Lake Atitlan, at several of the healthy food bars, and his treehouse. Part of my job here has been pouring the 1 kilo bricks of raw cacao from the metal drums into molds so they may be cooled or frozen for preservation. I’ve also been privy to the paste grinding, and bean fermenting process, but as a witness only. The work in the chocolate factory is intoxicating as the wafting aroma of theobroma humidifies the air. In the time I have not been working with the chocolate itself, I choose to study into the ethnobotany, history and alchemy of cacao, and read about the
Keq’chi culture, or take plant walks which usually bring great foraging missions. Bananas, plantains, pineapples, zapotes, figs, jackfruit, coffee, cardamom, and macuy are some of the offerings of the land. Next to the cacao work, there has been time to try my hand at curing, stretching, and tanning the large hides of bull cows. This is a difficult undertaking which require many processes of cleaning, defleshing the underside of the skin of gristle and fat, shooing away flies and bees from laying their eggs, brushing off ticks from the fur side, using lime to desicate the skin to dry, and either brain or pig lard for the tanning process. There are other steps besides this which are very difficult in all to engage with in the jungle heat.

This particular exchange is the precursor to future projects and hospitality for international backpackers to volunteer in the future, and there has been some work to renovate the dormitories, adding a Guatemalan uniqueness to the bedrooms, and humbly giving up my own bedspace for a tent spot in the forest. The plantation brings an army of over 60 workers from the local village who sweat and bear the weight of the cacao and cardamom harvesting and most of the labor intensive tasks. The perspicacity of the Keq’chi workers in admirable in their sheer willingness, and strength of ability, they are trained from a young age to work the land.

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Abundant avifauna like the quetzal, several species of parrot, toucan, and songbirds reside here, and the volunteer casa has served double as a bird hide to watch these plumed dragons drift through the skies and between the canopy of the jungle. On a short tramp out on the roads or trails, one may come to meet hundreds of psychedelically colored moths and butterflies, their patterns become enmeshed in the visual mind. I was lucky to see on several occasions the tepescuintle, a kind of stout mammal with a square head the resembles the capybara of Australia, as well as the opossum, a silver goshawk, small pigmy like deer, a large Bufo toad, tarantulas, serpents, scorpions, and a host of glowing insects, some with chemical filled thorax that bioluminesce when they fly and others like a cockroach with two headlights that guide it through jungle detritus, and a small centipede like worm with lighted chambers at its front and back. The abundance and variety of Life is astounding in this place.

At night the moonsoon rolls in and encloaks the forest with a wet mantle, while all the green things soak up its cleansing downpour. Vegetation is lush and fractal, life growing on life, each microclimate reflecting the larger ecology.  Hanging fibrous moss clings to gnarled branches, while vines of heart shaped leaves like ropes drape down from the tallest arboreal reaches like vintage curtains. Several medicines and edibles can be found on the land, including macuy, a kind of spinach, a smokeable tobacco substitute leaf resembling a large animal paw, and a jungle vine with similar psychoactive properties as ayahuasca. During my stay at the plantation, we have eaten the meat of some of the free ranging
ducks, cows, chickens and pig, as well as tilapia from an in-built pond, and the diet has remained primarily paleo based.

As my time hear draws to its close, it is easy to recall all the felt moments of experience in which I was compelled to make a choice, to stand my ground, and ultimately learn something. Next to this was my evolution and personal growth that draws down all the influence of the day into a single focus of energy and charges me with life. The scars on my body, the relationships made, the memories hologrammed into my brain are all testaments to my time in this part of the world, and now I look forward to returning to the familiar sights of home.

Witnessing the Similarities between the Popul Vuh, and the Icelandic Sagas

The Keq’chi Maya are an indigenous people that live throughout Guatemala and primarily in the states of Alta Verapaz and Peten in the cloud forests of the North. The prominence of their mythological tradition stems from  a book entitled the Popul Vuh, an ancient text that tells the stories of the early Keq’chi or Quiche, the creation of the world and different phenomena, familial geneologies, and folk legends. Through the language of exaggerated narration, memory, and representation, the Mayan Keq’chi beliefs and cosmology comes to be known. The translation I am reading is from Latin to English, and contains deep anthropological, theological, historical, and traditionalist fields in which to understand it from.

As a student of old Teutonic culture, Norse Mythology, and the Icelandic Edda and Saga literature, my usual bent is towards the branches of text that stem from the North Germanic regions, and pan-Scandinavian customs. I have read probably a few hundred works, folk stories, and legends that originate in the Icelandic tomes, yet I remain culturally sensitive in my travels and heavily influenced by the local languages and societies, so on a recent trip to Guatemala, I have been reading said book, the Popul Vuh, and without intervention on my own part have been noticing the similarities in these two vastly different branches of ancient civilization.

Kennings: Something any well read reader of the Icelandic Sagas and indeed the Edda or Amma, will indeed know and understand the use of kennings. Cheiftain Snorri Sturluson was the infamous Icelander who helped devise many of these kennings, and in my own opinion they are the lynchpin of all Icelandic mythology. They represent the advancement of language and poetry which the literate Northmen had even before the Christian Era, when almost all literature was instead composed by monks. To be simple, a kenning is a set of words or references to a single thing, idea, or phenomena. The kenning can be another way of speaking about something that is mentioned far too often, thus making it redundant, and in the Icelandic sagas, this happens a lot. For instance a Viking ship may easily be called by its name, but using kennings and compounded kennings allows the writer to implore their imagination into the subject, and the reader to create more verbally textual memories of the passage by thinking of it from a different angle. An example would be to call the ship as the ‘brine stallion’, ‘the wave horse’, ‘the vessel on the fish’s bath’, and so forth. In the Popul Vuh, I also observed this custom of using kennings in a similar fashion for instance in Ch. 7 of Part II, when a hawk is referred to as ‘he who devours snakes in the corn fields’, or when the Earth was created it was formed by ‘the Heart of Heaven, and the Heart of Earth’. The names of animals and trees are also referenced by many different words for instance the gum as ‘noh’ and ‘pericon’, and a different tree that exudes red resin is known as the ‘dragons blood’, or the ‘heart of man’. The kennings used in the Popul Vuh are indeed of a different calibre than those used in Icelandic literature, and of course for the purists they may say there is no comparison at all and each one is exclusively unique of itself, and that may be true as well, but for now I am only drawing certain arrangements of patterns between the two kinds of literature, what we might called an indigenous literacy, or ancient language style, that perhaps is lost to us now in our dialects and poetical minds.

Geneologies: The Sagas of the Norse Kings or ‘the Resultado de imagen de heimskringlaHeimskringla’ is but one major work of the Scandinavia northlands that deserves attention here, for it is literally all about geneology from the last Kings of Norway all the way back to the descendant lines of Yngvi-Frey or the Ynglings and that of Odin. Geneology and heritage in these works are sometimes daunting and monumental and it was only after several years of reading the Sagas and stories that I began to pick through them with any clarity rather than skipping through them. It is not uncommon in the first few paragraphs of a heroic saga to mention the familial ties ranging back as far as three, four, or five generations, naming each mother and father, grandmother and grandfather, each son and daughter and cousin. This can go one to the point of seeming mundanity and confusion as the Icelandic naming tradition, as in any culture had a specific set of names for males and females and names are often repeated within family lines. This kind of chaotic order of tracing geneology is fascinating for scholars but to the average reader can be offputting. A typical passage might enumarate the relatives of “Leif, who is son of Bestla and Bjorn, who also bore daughters Ingrid, Hildagard, and Solveig, and sons Ragnar, Svart, and Svein. Solveig also had two sons, one named Bjorn and the other Ivar. Leif’s grandfather was a wealthy chieftain in Iceland and had many wives ‘Astrid, Helga, and Bjork’, who in turn gave him many sons, Bjorn, Leif’s father being one of them.” I am just making this passage up but this is respectively how the opening passages of a true Icelandic saga can be expected. In the Popul Vuh, I came across this same kind of nomenclature of the men and women, and their familial ties. The opening of part II reads “Here is the story. Here are the names of Hun-Hunahpu and Vucub-Hunahpu, as they are called. Their parents were Xpiyacoc and Xmucane. During the night Hun-Hunahpu and Vucub-Hunahpu were born of Xpiyacoc and Xmucane. Well now, Hun-Hunahpu had begotten two sons, the first was called Hunbatz, and the second Hunchouen. The mother of the two sons was called Xbaquiyalo. Thus was the wife of Hun-hunahpu called. As for the other son, Vucub-Hunahpu, he had no wife, he was single.” And so it goes on like this naming off several members until all are accounted for, and then sometime later in the story they will make their appearance to some imporant degree, or be named specifically because they are to be known for some reference point of meaning.

Resultado de imagen de popul vuhDrama/Violence: Any good saga has some violence in it, and sometimes it is extremely amusing to read of the antics that a band of stoutly countrymen inflict upon each other. Iceland was a lawless country for a long time, and several parts of the glacier country was known as the utangard because of the many horse trails that crossed it, lingering with thieves, murderers and outlaws. If I remember correctly, there is a passage in one of the Sagas involving a breeched whale, wherein a conflict between two Vikings arises, and they are fighting on the back of the whale while it is being cut by others for the blubber. Here are the men in a holmgang or duel, and one of them is struck with the sword to his death. Just about every saga, even the romance genres are filled with duels, wrestling, revenge, killing, and domestic violence. In the Popul Vuh, there is also a high focus on violence and warfare.
The place of Xibalba for instance is a house of torture. When Hunahpu and Xbalanque are tricked by the Lords of Xibalba, they go through several chambers and places in which different types of discomfort, pain and violence are treated to them. They enter the house of Jaguars, where they must throw bones to the animals so that they not bite them. They go into the House of Fire, which inside ‘was only fire’, or the House of Bats, which sheletered a creature that killed using its stingers. The bizzare and strange ways of torture are also complemented with human violence, in the way the head of Hunahpu is used for play in the ball game, a kind of primitive Mayan soccer that is itself incredibly aggresive that might make the British football teams seem tame. The violence in both this Mayan/Central American literature and the far sub-arctic North are worlds apart, yet add a kind of comic relief, and may intrigue readers of general novels to reading both of these works.

The last that I wish to mention, although there may be more ties I can draw out, is the evident nature of the oral tradition. The Popul Vuh IS the word, and thus the Saga is too the story of someone or several people retelling actual events but through a lens that is subjective and often exxagerate or phantasized. Regardless, these books are dictums of the oral tradition and passing on stories from one generation to the next, and the fact that we still have them here with us, even if they be translated from heiroglyphs, runes, latin, or proto-Norse is besides the point. They have simply survived because of their remarkable nature and remain classics because they are so interesting and compelling to read. I certainly could not read nothing but Icelandic sagas for all my days sitting in a rocking chair and imagining Viking warbands conquering the land, but it is fun to indulge in that sometimes, and the same to read the very primal sources of ancient cultures through a different lense, and being able to draw from it, the sources of its humanness and roots of our language.

RUNA ov the year 2016

Each revolution around the sun marks another passage in time when the wyrd-weaving of man and his orlog is spun on the great loom, and soaked in the well. We live on the same earth as did our Teutonic forebears, and experience life through the vicarious balances of the phenomena of nature. How we interpret them is one of a different matter altogether, but one worth reflecting on. Since finding the old Gods laying deep in my soul four years ago, I have made a point to mark the calendric with the Runic wheel so to speak, and to guard each passing of time with the influence of their energies, which affect me directly. This one comes slightly late as I find myself in more remote areas of habitation in the jungles of Guatemala, the prospect of Runes, and European culture are alien here, yet still remain as ever present in the two ravens of my mind and memory.

... Nordic Mysticism on Pinterest | Runes, History articles and Calendar
:F: Volunteered much of my time in a work exchange to earn my keep in board and lodging, made reliable and accountable allies through travel and trade, earned enough money through a harvest season to afford a trip through Scandinavia, and Ireland, new perspectives on personal power and the dynamics of wealth, learned about crypto-currencies and the changing of money
:U: Learned how to de-flesh, cure, and tan a bull, understanding the deeper importance of violence in man’s history, first time procuring meat by the knife for my own hunger, worked hard building stages for a festival in Norway
:TH: Exile while traveling, lost trust in friends, found confusion and chaos in the heart of a women, overbearing forces of my personal spirit forcing me to cut through illusions of self-knowing
:A: Psychedelic experience with various chemicals and plant medicines, Theobroma food of the Gods, poetry and journalism, started writing for a travel website, learned more Spanish, Swedish, Faroese, Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, and Newfoundland language and dialect, visited the pyramid temples of Tonina
:R: Traveled extensively within Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Gotland, Ireland, and Mexico, and adapted to traveling lighter, spent my first winter away from the snows, took time off to explore domestic lifestyle
:K: Cooking extensively with fire in primitive camps, using wood fire to heat cabin home,
:X: Volunteer exchange with German family, Co-living with friends, traveling for the first time with another person, balancing borrowed time and money, traded or gifted several possessions, communal economy and mutual living in rainbow and ting gatherings, gifted my fishing knife at the grave mounds of the Viking Kings
:W: Found love, sought happiness in new places and questioned what it means to be truly fulfilled, finding different paths to having a life that enjoys me,
:H: Regenerating personal luck, dealing with illness without conventional help
:N: The struggle for survival with lack of funds, attempts to move to Australia
:I: Solitary life in off grid cabin, came to new terms of what it means to be alone, traveled on my own through Europe, lost relationships, refining intentions and focuses in life,
:J: Harvesting perennial fruits, foraging fruit in southern Mexico, experiencing summer season twice in one year, re-cycled natural and inorganic materials for sustainable housing
:P: The dark game of risk and rewards
:EI: Made personal strides in maturity, fitness, and skillset
:ALG: Equinox blot of the straw man, Cacao ceremony on winter solstice, Utiseta at the Uppsala barrows, ritual banishing and re-birth during mushroom ceremony, first LSD experience, meditations at the Borre mounds in Norway,
:S: midnight sun, extended summer, wise interaction with sun, learned more in depth about solar power, solar coffins and sun-cycles in permaculture
:T: problems with authorities in Ireland, new passport,
:B: met several beautiful women while traveling, sexual prowess, re-forged relationships with past lovers, mutual bonding with sisters,
:E: Spent time understanding the symbiotic relationships between man and animals in a primal way, co-farming with domestic livestock to achieve work,
:M: claiming masculinity and brotherhood, quality time with male friends, tribalism
:L: hot springs and lagoons in Iceland, canoeing in small remote lakes of Canada, traveled by ferry from Iceland to Faroe Islands and by boat in Vancouver island and Sweden, lived on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America, and experienced several European bodies of water
:ING: farming in grasslands, picking fruit in the border valley of Canada, expanded knowledge of permaculture and perennial fruits
:D: worked on making my days more efficient, living through paradoxical schemes and energies, probed deeply into the shadows and opposites of familiar concepts and ordinary life
:O: Found a new home in Newfoundland, visited old dwellings in Canada and stayed with family, built earthships in the Rocky mountains, stayed in a Viking village

Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey Pozas

Drive two hours through lush mountain roads from Coban, Guatemala towards El Estor, and you will eventually come to a dirt road, and a lonely sign that reads Lanquin. From here it’s another 30 minutes down the slowest 11 km stretch of trail road you can imagine
until finally you are in the hive of Lanquin itself. From every angle, the words ‘Semuc Champey’, ‘Greengos’, or ‘Retiro’, reverberate in the air. Obviously, coming from Canada, this makes me a tourist in the eyes of the local Mayans, who speak mostly Ke’qchi, and some Spanish, but know enough English to harangue you into their tourist nets. Lanquin is the central vortex for travelers visiting the Semuc Champey cascading pools. So without sounding too much like a Gringo tourist, I will relate my time hiking the jungle trails of Alta Verapaz.

Lanquin is on the active side of the mountain so to speak, on the main route from Antique to Flores, Lake Izabal or Tikal. Amidst lush vegetation, cacao plantation, breadfruit trees, and several rivers, namely the rio Coban, rio Lanquin,  and rio Dulce. In a single day you may hear dialect of English, Mayan (Ke’qchi), Spanish, French, Australian, German, and Portugese from the horde of novelty seeking backpackers making their deals and tours with the locals. The mountains of Lanquin breathe with such a pregnant diorama of life. It is simply compounded, and occupying every niche, both plant, animal and human. The scrappy dogs roam the streets looking for a morcel to fill their belly, the men work sweatingly on the  roads, while young girls hustle their cacao of many flavors at every turn.

Semuc Champey Pozas

The market is bustling with energy, but one can see the massive importation of American goods that wait to be gobbled up. Meanwhile there is a traditionalist backbone of farming; cardamom, cinnamon, cacao, coffee.. one is bare to the old world as much as the new. They also really love their Jesus here, and Sundays can be an important fiesta for song, and a celebration. I was lucky to stumble into a shrine room where three men were playing beautifully made wooden guitars and a full harp. The music under the influence of cannabis at the time was quite hypnotically beautiful.

Semuc Champey itself is steeped with expectation, and tends to deliver. Once out on the trails, the jungle enshrouds you with tender greenery, like a paradise found especially when you are alone. Hiking here, I headed to the Mirador lookout where one can have a vulture’s eye view of the cascading pools. The mineral crystal deposits on the rocks create fascinating globules of color which adorns the forest on the way up. A foray off trail leads one into more dense machete worthy jungle, where foraging for red bananas, or hunting for rare orchids and butterflies may be possible. On this occasion, a side trail leading off from El Mirador, I found myself in a stand of high canopy, and above crawled five howler monkeys, one of them being only a young kid. I watched them for nearly half an hour as they brachiated through the branches, using their tails to climb and hang while eating leaves, and occupied their nests.

Semuc Champey Pozas

Descending the trail proper from here, they began their howl in full sensurround effect, and their throated syntax filled the forest. Finally reaching the pools themselves, and the chromotherapeutic colors of the  cascading water. The pozas, are filled with small minnows that crowd around you when standing in the shallows, and nibble on the dead skin on your feet. According to my partner it is quite luxurious. One can swim from each of the six pools, down river over gleaning rocks, and slimed moss. The call of the monkeys
echoes into the rift. I did not witness any of the rare lizards or geckos, but did catch a sight of some tremendously beautiful moths and butterflies with psychedelic colors and patterns. I felt fulfilled with my time here, and thrilled to see our simian cousins thriving in their natural habitat.

Semuc Champey Pozas

Tonina Pyramid City

You may have been to Palenque, or Chichen Itza, and even had the privelege of traveling to the other pyramid cities at Giza, but not many travelers seem to go out of their way for the ruined Pyramid city of Toniná in Chiapas Mexico. This acropolis is found near Ocosingo about halfway between San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque itself, and a serious landmark along the way for those interested in the Mayan civilization that once was. Put in the coordinates of 16°54’4.39?N 92°0’34.83?W on a map, and you virtually be hovering about the central terrace of Tonina. Unlike Palenque, this is not as grand a city, and it is excavated fully, whereas Palenque is only 10-20% uncovered, the rest lying beneath jungle vines, and guarded by howler monkeys. At Tonina, you can also find the Meso-American ball court and several smaller structures, and chambered tunnels within the pyramid itself. I had a chance to visit this ancient site during a foray in Chiapas recently.

What Tonina lacks in structures, they make up for with the sculptures resembling some of those in intricacy from the Olmec civilization, and there are over a hundred of them. Most of these are representative of old Kings, or prisoners in suffering. One in particular near the ball court depicts a man kneeling with his hands tied around his back. Another circuclar tablet looks like two Mayan men trying to instigate each other by pulling the others ears from around their heads. Aerial views of the pyramid complex
itself reveal many interesting patterns, apexes, mazelike walls, and perhaps sacred characters. Many of these have alleys for walking through, and terraces at their summit. A view from the top stone after climbing the acropolis affords a panorama of the Rio Jataté, and the Ocosingo valley.

Tonina was actually is warfare with Palenque during the Mayan rule, and this is a testament to their power as they rose to dominance. The hieroglyphic texts speak of K’inich Hix Chapat as the first ruler sometime in the late 6th century. The second kings rule is depicted in monuments with captives who are bound, and mention specific
names of lords and sites that are as yet unfound in Mexico, namely ‘Annak’. The pyramid city was taken over by a kind of Palenque, K’inich Kan Balam II, and then reclaimed by K’inich B’aaknal Chaak. The ballcourt stucco scultptures are depictions of important captives taken from Palenque. It seems there is a morbid humor involved with the
ball game, and the defeat of enemies. The fourth ruler of Tonina was still yet a child when he came to power, which reveals a fascinating detail about Mayan social life. Tonina eventually fought a battle with ‘Piedras Negras’ a town on the north side of the Usumacinta River, now in Guatemala.

Tonina was not built all at once, and in total had 8 rulers, as other Kings came to restore the pyramids, and install more sculptures. Tonina is also a gravesite, and centre of many palaces such as the Palace of the Frets and Palace of the Underworld, which is invigorating to go caverning through. The late classic era of Tonina is steeped in cultural imagery of aquatic deities, dragons and monsters from the earth, so these sort of divine and bestial beings were obviously playing on the mind of the people of this time. There is also on site museum  with most of the sculptures, and there is a central tenet of violence and warfare amongst the captives, while I find in Palenque from a previous visit, more evidence of ceremony and perhaps sacramental use of plants, and shamanistic ritual. The site itself is also told in story through the hieroglyphics of the Mayan calendar, and the depictions found in the various temples; the ‘Prisoners’ and the ‘Smoking Mirrors’ has a mural that describes the legend of the four suns and the Mayan deities.

To visit Tonina I stayed at the nearby cabanas, which were comfortable bunkhouses just 2 minutes from the entrance. Tonina was also free, but accepts donations. There are some rare fruits trees growing near the pyramids, like the Yaca which is more common in Veracruz, and a relative of the Guayabana. Many of the trees host  some of the special ‘air plants’ or bryophytes that are common here. There are many Mexicans visiting the site, and less gringos,  it is not nearly as busy as Palenque or Chichen Itza. There are also horse drafters offering rides to and from the pyramids from further away. I was thoroughly impressed with Tonina and spent several hours here on the grounds, and climbing the steps or studying the pictures. If going there from San Cristobal or Palenque, make sure to go very early because the travel there takes a long time, and the road is slow, but make sure you don’t miss it if you’re following the pyramid trail.

Lake Atitlan & el Toliman Volcano

Travelers on pilgrimage from Chiapas, Mexico to Guatemala will find the route from San Cristobal to Panajachel one of the preferred nomadic routes of transport, for the ease of access, and the one day direct shuttle to and from the lake. It is also on the ‘Gringo Trail’ from Mexico. After spending four nights in San Cristobal, and visiting the Tonina pyramids near Ocosingo, I opted for this route as well, and decided to stay in a cheap backpackers hostel with a wake up call for 4 am. I didn’t need the wake up call in the end, there always
seemed to be a rooster nearby to hearken the dawn, and I was up on time to catch the early bird shuttle direct to Guatemala. From here, we ventured south through Comitan, and past passing several small pueblos with Mayan ruins, before arriving at La Semilla. At the stop on Comitan, our driver cut our dinner break short, because there were protests on the road from the rise in the Mexican gas prices. We had to take a one way dirt road, behind a slum to connect back to the main highway. At La Semilla, I had to leave the bus and get my passport stamped with an exit from Mexico and pay 500 pesos. Everyone was confused about this fee, and I had read this exit fee was already covered in the plane ticket into the country, but apparently not.

Everything went smoothly nonetheless, then we piled back into the shuttle and drove ten kilometers more, to the real frontier at Cuahtemoc. From here, we had to walk across the border and wait at the international office for several other travelers going to and from Guatemala. Men stood around holding huge stacks of pesos, and quetzals, the local currencies, and people took refuge in the shade of the collectivos. After a long wait to have the passport looked over and stamped again with an entry to Guatemala, we met our new driver who would connect us to Panajachel at Lake Atitlan, but first we would drive 5 more hours through the mountain pass, and through dense hives of urban acropolis; Huehuetenango, Chichicastenango, Xela, and finally Panajachel by dark. It was already quite late, and my main concern was finding somewhere to sleep. I was traveling with three other people, two friends from Israel and Germany, and my partner from Sweden. Our clan was quite eccentric to say the least. We asked some merchants where we could camp, and they pointed us in the direction of the playa.

Countless stray dogs wandered the streets looking for scraps, but I enjoyed their company, several of them joined us at the lake as we convened for dinner of tortillas and raw vegetables. Some village kids had been setting off fireworks, while two police officers watched apathetically, they didn’t seem to be bothered by them, and instead came to talk with us, but not for the presumed reasons. The male cop wanted to know where we were from, and said he was trying to improve his English. Fortunately my Israeli friend knew adequate Spanish, and we conversed in our own manner, and exchanged stories until they left us. I noticed that the police seemed to travel in pairs, usually a man and a woman, and I thought this intriguing. Afterwards we found camp in a grove of trees with perfect hammock distance, and I spent a rather chilled night hanging between two trunks, happy to be back in my hammock and my first night in Guatemala.

I awoke a couple hours before sunrise, and wandered along the playa wrapped in a goatwool poncho that I have carried with me on my travels. I only aroused the curiosity of the street dogs, and a few men drinking black coffee. At one far end of the playa I found a mayan circle altar, and the remains of a fire, and then went back to sit on the dock, and made myself a morning burrito, while I watched the glinting sun rise over the mountains and spread its light over Lake Atitlan and its three volcanoes. The morning harangue brought in a ceremonial music event, a rather strange mixed occasion of a baptism and a funeral, side by side, with mariachi music at full tilt. I didn’t really like the energy, and went with my companions for breakfast at a bakery to eat falafels, and cashew coffee. Afterwards I lingered at the Cacao museum and tried several of the artisan products they had on offer, cacao husk tea, dark and milk chocolate, and some of the roasted beans, I spent nearly an hour here reading over the information on the history, cultivation, and modernization of cacao, especially that of the Mayan cultural aspects, then made connections with some local growers that I would meet later.

At mid day, we boarded a boat that would take us to San Marcos, I had heard that people from the Cosmic Convergence festival were gathered here, and upon arrival I was swept by such a positive energy that soon took me captive. San Marcos is an attractor for Bohemian types, hippies, nomads, backpackers, yogis, communities, farmers, and travelers, and I met them all in one day. Every day spent here was like three spent elsewhere, it would take me an hour to walk the camino through the village because the opportunities for conversation and exchange were almost unlimited. Soon I had scribed a few pages of names and contacts of new friends, communes, destinations, and world travel tips, that were soon filling my journal. I spent the diurnal hours in the village or the surrounding mountains, foraging coffee, jocotes, avocados, and oranges, catching some wifi in a vegan cafe, and swimming in Lake Atitlan. By twilight, a warm fire by the dock, trading stories with other travelers, and getting some rest. I went out for some healthy goat cheese and pesto crepes at Shambhala, then caught a film in the back garden lounge which was shown on the projector. Another night there was a concert of folk and ethnic musics at an eco-cafe.

San Marcos seemed to be a haven for a lot of people, and it was here that I met with the most synchronicity and re-uniting with old friends. I had met a young woman from Iran in Palenque a year prior, and here met her again on the street, and only hours before a comrade from Poland whom I met in Canada while picking peaches, long haired and bearded, sitting outside a hostel. There were several other re-unitions during my time here. San Marcos is on the north of Lago Atitlan, and is steeped in dense jungle-like tree cover. It is easy to find wild fruit like avocado, jocote, mamey, coffee cherries, even mangoes in the slopes the encrater it. There is a trail loop that leads to several Mayan altars, and diving cliffs which can be accessed from San Marcos, and the neighboring town of San Pedro and Tzununa, also boast of several ecological communities, yoga retreat centres, even a zen monastery farm where the monks cultivate a lot of local products sold in town. I found it easy to find healthy food here including luxury items I could usually only find in bigger cities like kombucha, sourdough bread, kefir, organic peanut butter, and superfoods. There is a high degree of health consciousness here.

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After 6 days on Atitlan, I traveled with my partner to the south side of the lake to Santiago, here we left our pack, and then took a chicken bus to San Lucas, and then a tuk-tuk to the trail-head of the Toliman volcano. The chicken buses are something unique to Guatemala and a surefire way to get some experience and help stretch your budget while traveling. The story goes that Bluebird, one of the big American school bus companies sold several hundred buses to Guatemala to transport the children to and from school, but after the tourism boom, they started importing more and more, while this became a government project, they decided that despite the cost, they must be beautiful. In the beginning,
the farmers would take some of their chickens on board as they went to and from their lands, and this pattern soon got latched on to the name, and it stuck. Today, they are still used heavily by locals and can be just as crowded as a chicken barn, but also are the most economical way for travelers to get from town to town or long distance. They may be confusing to figure out, and look a little bit like the bus from Jack Kerouacs infamous story about the Merry Pranksters acid bus trip across America. They are flashy, but not decadent, and each one seems unique in their design. The same goes for the tuk-tuks, imported from Asia to deal with the flux of tourists. It is cheap, and fun to travel with, and lets you get places you wouldn’t normally be able to access on a full bodied collectivo truck.

We soon started off on the trail, although it was already well into the afternoon. We met with several men on their way back into town, carrying heavy sacks of coffee, with straps around their forehead, as well as youth in their early teens hauled heavy loads of avocados, or firewood stacks in extremely efficient manners. We continued to ascent and stop to catch a whiff of every new flower on the way up. As the vegetation changed from leafy vines, and tropical trees, to coffee and avocado plantations, to corn fields, and finally evergreen near the summits. At one point we came to a thrush of beautiful colored blue birds that resembled jays, though with a more tropical plumage, I felt like von Humboldt in his early days, climbing volcanoes, and studying plants on remote Central American mountains. Toliman is actually a twin volcano, with two peaks, and is within range of Volcan Atitlan. On the other side of the valley is Volcan San Pedro, and within the panoramic view of Lake Atitlan one can also see Volcan Acatenango, and Fuego, the latter of which was active, and was the object of obsession on this particular hike.

We had heard there was a cave where the locals held ceremonies, and played music, and from which one could afford a view of the erupting volcano and on a clear night could easily see the lava flows cascade down its summit. We did not in the end find the cave but did come to a cornstalk built hut with a flat terraced ground close to the top with a perfect view of Volcan Fuego a couple miles away. At nightfall there were murmurs of flute song, and possibly some chanting, which came from a couple hundred feet lower than us, I thought this might be the cave, and it was particularly especial for me to listen to it, while watching an active volcano. The sky was crystal clear and the moon nearly full in its pregnancy, so the lava eruptions were as vibrant against the cobalt black sky as street lights in a dark alley. One particular explosion flowed down the flanks of the volcano several hundred feet, and the whole cap glowed in a vivid neon red for nearly a minute, before turning black in the cool night air. The sound of the volcano and even the sensations of the vibrations could sometimes be heard from our corn field camp on the opposing end of the lake. It was a night that is permanently engrained in my memory bank and had already been translated into story more than once.

The next day would be spent getting back to Santiago to collect the packs, and take a boat over to San Pedro to spend the night. We had an Israeli style dinner in a lonely cabana bunkhouse with some friends, and caught an early bedtime to be ready for the next leg of the journey north to Lanquin, which will have to wait for another time to tell.

Oaxacan Gathering of the Rainbow People

It’s been but a moonth since I left my Atlantic island of Newfoundland, from the full moon of December and the solstitial equinoxing of the days, through the passage of yuletimes, and across the threshold of the new year. For the first time in my twenty-six times around our star, I’ve been able to spend more time under the sun, the winter snows have not climbed ’round my cabin door, and the chill has been cast off in exchange for the tropics.
This snowbird exodus to warmer climates is not new to me, but unique in its setting, this time it took me across to the other point of a continent, back to a familiar home of past traveling grounds in southern Oaxaca for the Rainbow Gathering.

After two full days of traveling by car, boat, and three planes, I left a frigid Canadian land in a -15 degree cloak, to a balmy +33 tropical paradise in Huatulco. I decided to fly via a lesser known Brazilian company this time called Airprojects, who charges in Brazilian Reals, then converts through US dollars, and then the local currency of which of course my final funds were in Canadian for which I secured the flight for extremely cheap. When arriving in Huatulco airport, I was greeted by thatched grass roofs, palm stands, aromatic winds, and a pleasant light. It was far removed from the aesthetic of every industrial airport I’ve flown to. From here I haggled a deal with a taxi to drive me the hour and a half to the Zipolite playa, where I would stay the next three nights. Zipolite and its neighboring beach Mazunte are old tramping grounds of mine, where I had lived and worked for two weeks in 2015 at the Shambhala commune. It was the original accommodation on the Zipolite playa, existing before all the other modern hotels and hostels, originally from the late 60’s. Also an early ceremonial space for the Zapatistas. The owner Gloria was close friends with the famous mushroom curandera Maria Sabina. The air of the place cleaned me of past loss. Here I met with a flitting romance, a lover from Sweden, and together we would head to the Rainbow Gathering in Rincon Bonito.

First we took a collectivo through San Augustinillo, Mazunte, and San Diego, then hitch another truck to Tonameca, and finally a taxi down a long tumultuous dirt road, fording a river, and climbing steep banks. After this we hiked several kilometers in the wrong direction, and tried vainly to ask for the way to where the river met the valley. Finally we seemed to meet the village mother, and plenty of young children, she appointed four kids to lead us back to a banana plantation that we passed on the way in, and then down a trail to the house of a local named Melardo. From here we crossed through his yard, and down a slope through more banana trees, palms, corn stalks, and patches of squash, steeply down into a rift, and found the river, following upstream until the path lead to a shallow crossing. On the way, we came upon three other travelers, a Norwegian from the FuckforForest organization and two Mexicans also looking for the Rainbow Gathering. As the sun was setting we found the camp, on the other side of the river, and crossed the current to the greetings of ‘Welcome Home’ from two naked hippies on the other side. So far, so good I thought, we were just in time for the food circle.

An archaic Hopi prophecy spake of the Rainbow People long before the first gatherings took place. “There will come a day when people of all races, colors, and creeds will put aside their differences. They will come together in love, joining hands in unification, to heal the Earth and all Her children. They will move over the Earth like a great Whirling Rainbow, bringing peace, understanding and healing everywhere they go. Many creatures thought to be extinct or mythical will resurface at this time; the great trees that perished will return almost overnight. All living things will flourish, drawing sustenance from the breast of our Mother, the Earth.”

Now the Rainbow tribe lives the world over, and is re-uniting lost souls, bohemians, beatniks, hippies, nomads, and vagabonds alike. This wasn’t my first, I slept in a grandfather oak tree for one month in Hay-on-Wye, Wales in my hammock a year and a half, and gathered for one week in Gotland for the annual Ting last summer before returning to Mexico for this union. We were small, by far a more intimate gathering, encamped on the side of a hill, next to cattle pasturage, and farm land. Papayas, bananas, and oranges grew on the fringes of the river, and frail flowered orchids dipped their grassy arms in the tumbling waters. We represented several countries together with brothers and sisters coming as far as Israel, Germany, Italy, Norway, Hawai’i, and Canada. We shared two meals a day, usually a raw porridge with a melody of local fruits, eaten around the fire. Song was part of the meal, and a collective OM grounded our intentions on family and community. The magic hat, circled around after we broke our fast, and donations of a few pesos kept food in our bellies and supplied some funds for essential tools like pots, pick-ax, plates, and cooking utensils. When nature called, we dug a pit and used the African method of cleansing ourselves. Of course, sometimes this did not always work, and a few of our family fell ill from hygiene issues. On the fourth day I burned out, and my body completely shut down, not due to hygiene but for the PH of my blood. I knew going from winter to summer in one day would eventually take its toll on me. Fortunately I summoned enough strength through my condition to submerge in the cool river several times a day, maintain enough sun exposure, and eat plenty of juicy fruits.

This happened on the solstice, when the family held a drum and cacao ceremony. I managed to drag myself to the circle for a few rounds of chocolate drinking, the first a sweet brew with honey, and the next three I took a dark blend with chili. I think this healed me, because the next day I felt relieved, and back nearly to full health, after a day of restoration, making time for yoga on the river boulders, swimming, sunbathing, and fire sitting, with a morning coffee circle cleanse shared among brothers, I felt that I had fully adapted to the Central American climate. I spent the days walking barefoot around the land, learning Spanish from a beautiful senorita, trading stories, making love, and helping with the cooking in our primitive kitchen. We ate well, despite the remoteness of our camp.
Local Mayan food, some Spanish and American imports, and little processed foods, naturally vegetarian or vegan, and once even had some late night crepes in the jungle. The presence of youth in our camp kept our spirits light, and it felt comfortable to wander in the nude. Some brothers took LSD, and made music on a marimba, and we held massage sessions and a poetry workshop in mud huts that had been reclaimed by small bats. I connected to each person in a different way, but found I could relate easily on most things, on the ethics of why and how we all got here, and held a strong appreciation for Pacha Mama, who kept us all together. Rumor was passed around of a Guatemalan Rainbow gathering, and as we started to come down from the peak of our tribal unity and look to other prospects, new plans emerged.

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On Christmas eve, most of the family left for the Pacific Coast, so we followed in tow, and spent Navidad back on the playa, at the El Peyote hostel, we were fifteen now, and we feasted on fish, chicken, wine, rice, and pancakes, with sweet breads for desert, as we watched the amber sun hide beneath sea stacks swarmed by marine birds. The following day, we lined up a good deal with a local boatman to take us out to snorkel with dolphins, and so as the Rainbow family, we traveled in caravan to Puerto Angel to find our boat, and sped out towards deeper waters. Dolphins we did find, nearly a hundred of them in a school, and they used every available opportunity to show off their aeronautic skills, as well as keeping pace in front of the hull of the boat while cruising along. From the deeps, we marooned back to a private beach to dive in swells hiding elaborate coral, swordfish, and multi-colored aquafauna. This was for me, my first time wearing a snorkel, and it felt
unnatural for me, so most of the time, I opted for free diving instead. We sailed past two rock formations near the coast, resembling an Apache warrior and a Gorilla. It was probably the best 165 pesos I ever invested. By nightfall we walked the streets, as the whole town turned to a market selling handicrafts, sandals, wood-fired pizza, psychedelic art, and apparel. Some of us danced, while I stayed on the playa and read Ram Dass and swayed in my hammock. It was near impossible to sleep without getting eaten by mosquitoes however, and I was anxious to leave. Soon we would go our separate ways, and together with me Swedish lover, a brother from Israel, and another from Germany, we took an overnight bus to San Cristobal, making our final leavings from the humid coast to the mountains of Chiapas.

Personal Power

“It doesn’t matter what one reveals or what one keeps to oneself. Everything we do, everything we are, rests on our personal power. If we have enough of it, one word uttered to us might be sufficient to change the course of our lives. But if we don’t have enough personal power, the most magnificent piece of wisdom can revealed to us and that revelation won’t make a damn bit of difference.” ~Don Juan in Tales of Power

Incredibly Trippy Portraits of Famous Psychonauts by Nicolás ...

This simple utterance, also reverberated by Tim Leary in his book Exo-Psychology is a testament to the human being, or in Don Juan’s world, the perception of the sorcerer. To recognize, one’s own personal power lies in their transparency to divine energy, through the heartbeat, one’s own soul stuff. This tenet is masqueraded by many writers and spiritual thinking minds, but its gravity, and the responsibility it entails brings in a much larger reality to contemplate.

What is the most infectious and vital thing working on a human being? A parasite? a tape worm? A cancer? No. It is an idea. A single idea can be like a rapture, a thought planted in the core of the soul, deep in the neuronic pathways of the brain. This is why consciousness, somehow matters, because even with all the academic literature and books, and information, and teachings, the mind is the source, and the memory is the agent that travels back to meet the mind in the past present. Since we can not actually remember the past exactly as it was, or predict the future precisely how it will unfold into novelty, but we can travel to these places, just as we do in the physical world. Except when we go back to these familiar destinations, they are slightly different, and our memory just forms a limited map of what what, is, will, be there. Well, what is mind? In my own opinion, I think mind acts more like an antennae, tuning into, and sending these secrets truths and messages that are known, like one’s personal power realizations.ESOTERICA: CARLOS CASTANEDA VERDAD o FRAUDE

That’s why I’ve been taking some extremely perspicacious steps into the cosmic quantum fields of consciousness, and attempting to move my spirit onto a level that has for years, discouraged and kept me at bay. It is one that worries about the body second, because it transcends the basic larval bio-survival circuits; the ego territorial bondage, the adolescent imprinted culture shackles, and the domesticated human adult circuit, it is a maturation from all of these, which was seen to really erupt in the sixties with these fifth circuit beings, the yogi/hippie, and the tantric sublime. You can look at it as a scale, where the newborn recapitulates all the stages of animality, then goes through the fraktal evolutionary cycles of unfurling into the human potential, where it starts in a kind of nadir, and builds up to a zenith of full realization that you are actually greater than your own form, because you carry something called mind, and DNA. Using these tools, your ‘personal power’, you realize you are never stuck, even as a species.

Alejandro Jodorowsky said some very wise things about the cosmic repetition of individual lives, they are essentially fragile, and impartial, that your own ego is an illusion, but once you embrace the illusion you really start to live! Essentially, you break free from the illusion because you no longer have to negate it. Dreams may be seen as surreal, or ‘unreal’, but once they become lucid, they seem indistinguishable from normal waking Alejandro Jodorowsky tarot cards |life, hallucinations under entheogenic influence can be written off as delusion and psychotic behavior but when they lead to ‘real’ life revelation and impersonation of the spirit that moves through you, you’re left wondering if reality really is in as much the sacred as the profane. After all, anything ‘surreal’, is just ‘so real’, you can barely take a handle on it.

When you have personal power, you start to move, and behave in a different way altogether. It is like a state of super-conductivity, like enlightenment, because you realize that mind is also in a symbiotic relationship with physics. There must be a man, or woman for the mind to take place, and this kind of power engenders a unique opportunity to play with the world. You move into a state of this fifth dimensional noosphere, where mind has influence over power in very interesting ways. Like instant manifestation of need, and desire, and hyper-sensual stimulus that reveal knowledge and information that you would never be able to access otherwise. I know these things because I’ve traveled to those places several times, but they are not like tourist resorts where you get to put your feet up and relax that everything is taken care of for you, they are highly charged and ephemeral spaces to exist in, and it is easy to fuck it up. It’s like taking a drug, without the right set and setting and not being prepared for it, or these places on the earth that are like these global chakras, or power spots as Don Juan told Castaneda throughout his training. They are volatile, and risky, but beautiful if you do the work and know what to do when you get there. Human nature takes courage.


I think we are in a new age, one that can’t be measured or recorded, but felt. We are literally in the process of speciation, and people are changing their lives, one thought at a time. As Don Juan put it, it’s the single idea, or thoughtform that can completely bend one’s world into shape, (in the beginning was the word), can really bring one’s perception into focus. I am grounding my own realizations of personal trust, and how much I let that emanate out into the civilizations I tend to evolve in from time to time. I feel that there is too much… giveaway, too much… marketing of instant gratification, and spiritual contentment, without the work being put into it, and people are trying to jump on the fast train to hyperspace without really working on themselves and training for the leap. Now it seems we are undergoing such a rapid sense of novelty, as Mckenna predicted with his timewave theory, that the succession of change is just like a straight line, because we are making headlines everyday. We are moving so fast into a brave new world. This is what really happened in 2012, nothing dramatic and eschatological, just a build up beyond the point of return, where the record player is going 300 rpm and you can’t even enjoy the music of the cosmos anymore, or at least it seems that way. You know, where there was once a beautiful rainforest or a chaparral is the next day a plantation or a quarry.

What I want to make straight-lined here is the point that a simple thought can change one’s world, and it can be a beautiful apostasy of personal transformation, and through the gradual allowance of set ideas and memes to take hold on one’s fabric of the self, the personal power grows in relation to it, and you begin to realize that not only is reality stranger than you suppose, it’s stranger than you can suppose. Awe-fully filled with energy, momentum, and the ability to change your life on the natch. What you’ve just become is a new identity, a new person, and in a single moment of an immediate present experience, your destiny forms a new constellation in your mind’s sky, a freshly blazed trail that leads out before you into the infinity of the horizon.

(this is my 300th post on aferalspirit, perhaps a testament to the endeavor of the thinking ape. As I tentatively look back from time to time, I see where my own mind has been traveling, what ideas I formed 5 years ago, and how I have refined, but at the same time expanded almost to no limit of potential for understanding in this world, on this long strange trip I’m on, that we are all on)

Yagé Letters review

This tome is a collection of the letters between Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, who both took individual journeys down into the Amazon searching for the Vine of Spirits, although it was not called as such at the time, and known locally as Yagé. In this redux version it is split first into Burrough’s letters, followed by Ginberg’s. It is noteworthy to mention because they are some of the first published literature concerning the ayahuasca medicine, only precluded by the Ayahuasca Analogues of Jonathon Ott, and is worth a read for those psychonauts and people interested in pharmacology, anthropology, or psychedelics. In Burroughs’ letters, a rather vulgar language pervades, and aesthetes of his earlier characters come through, such as his past addiction to drugs, being a junkie, and his homosexual tendencies. A few passages, I found that must have been quite controversial to publish at the times of the first pressings, but it is about the hunt for this plant, so I will get back to that. Burroughs’ finds some of the shamans who administer the ayahuasca brew to him on several occasions, and his letters are heavily focused on the sickness he feels at the time, and the struggles of his travels, he writes fervently sometimes in a dis-coherent manner to Ginsberg for support, and seems to approach the ayahuasca in a kind of naive way at times. Ginsbergs letters on the other hand are very humble, and he writes to Burroughs like seeking help from his guru. He perhaps has the more intense and authentic experiences in my opinion with the plant.

There are some insightful takeaways from this book, for instance, the name Yagé as the plant moniker, is not the only name for Ayahuasca, in fact it can be a different plant mixture altogether, of different herbs, and is named locally according to which tribe lands it grows in. You will have to read it yourself to find out the other names, but I was able to sit through this one in 1 day, it’s not a long or exhaustive read at all and because of its nature of dealing with this still conspicuous plant, the chewy biological information is lacking. This became a cult book, and still stands as an interesting window into the early days of how Ayahuasca made its way into the western world. A must for any connoisseur of drug literature.

Nature Loves Courage, on Travel Writing, and Journalism.

Like aged whiskey, the stories of my travels over the ages of my mid adulthood have grown in novelty, pleasure, rarity, and sometimes even believability. One of my most important and valuable possessions is a pencil, and a journal. Without these two seemingly mundane things, and a healthy mind, I would rarely be able to recall all the intimate details, the stages of growth, the works of my life, and the places I have been, in as much closely held accord, to my imagination and my memory. This blog alone has been going for over four and a half years now, and started out in my treeplanting days, when I lead a gypsy life on the roads of northern Ontario, but unlike many infamous travelers who might have been seeking something specific, I was just on a mission. I wanted to back myself with money, so I could kindle an entire lifestyle rooted in travel. And this is essentially what I am still doing, just a few months shy of four years living a nomadic world traveling life, well, when I can afford such flights of fancy.

Whenever I earn $1000, I feel rich again, the world has opened its arms to me, and I am free to wander. This kind of money would get me nowhere with a city life, after paying rent, various kinds of bills, internet, laundry, groceries, and all the unpleasantness that come with domestic living, I would be lucky to have $100 left. Sure one can find some work to do in your locality, but the fundamental questions seep in through the mind ‘full employment, or full enjoyment’? Are you happy, and what is your quality of life? Or have you traded every truth for hollow victories, every adventure for ephemeral comfort and a false sense of security? This is why I have taken my own personal oath to learn how to hack into these secrets of a traveling, engaging, cultured, intelligent, arousing, and educating lifestyle on the road (or sea, rail, air), while also earning a little coin on the side. And this is what has brought me more over the past three years especially to travel writing, and then into more public outputs in the last two months. I read with a voracious appetite, all about places I want to go, old travel accounts by the timeless personalities like; Muir, Allen Ginsberg, Thoreau, Castaneda, Ernesto Guevara, but just as much from the traveling tribe of today.

Terence McKenna, after he asked the mushroom about nature said “Nature Loves Courage”, and then asked how does Nature responded to courage “By removing obstacles”. It takes a tremendous amount of trust and bravery to do this, because you become intimately aware that the future is so uncertain. You have to sacrifice immensely, and keep sacrificing if all you have is your story, a change of clothes, some kind of documenting tool, and a few sentimental things to entertain your sanity. Tim Leary also said repeatedly” Neuro-geography,  the concept that where you are, determines who you are. And the two most important things about you is the year you were born, and your zip code. Because the generation you were born into, imprints your reality mode”. The younger generation today I see is traveling a lot more, they are getting fed up with unemployment, and the dreaded university routine struggle, and taking full years away from their home soil to go explore other cultures, countries, participate in festivals, or live abroad. I have met countless individuals, roughly around my age, who are freewheeling or tramping around the world, and they all have their story, most of them write, or photograph, or use video to make footage and document their experiences. Rarely is the older generation this perspicacious in this mode of travel. Rarely do those I meet make solid plans, and if they do, they are usually only finalized the night before, or the morning of, with loose ideas of where they want to go, but the point being, they remain open and susceptible to raw experience of the felt moment of the here and now, and immediacy of authentic being in relationship to place.

For me, as I slowly kindle the flames which ideally in 1-2 years will let me travel with relative comfort, and continuity to any country, and write about my unique experiences there, have them published, and then take time to intake it all while getting paid is a dream I think is worth chasing, and one that most people only fetishize and fantasize about. This has truly been my seed mission since the beginning. I realized that I am most efficient, and most intelligent when traveling, my mood states are higher, my love is flowing, my sense of self is firmly grounded yet leaving space for cultural sensitivity to influence my growth, the personal tremors of anxiety, depression, loneliness are almost non existent, alright maybe that last one, but at least I know that if I don’t like my situation, I can change it. Of course again this all comes at cost. So how does one master this and maintain the equilibrium needed. This existential question seems to provoke a lot of overwhelming feelings, and forces you to look at your current paradigms for living now. What is your everyday occupation and how does that sit with your innermost desires? Are you doing what you love for a living, or are you serving someone else with no reward? Are your habits in line with the relevant skills and gifts you can use to interact with the world? I started taking pictures only six years ago, not a long time at all, but I think what is special about this is that I have never felt I had lost the art of doing it. The act of taking a picture the way only I could see it, or bringing a timeless view on a mundane scene, and capturing unique shots of over-photographed subjects. It’s in the doing that excites me. I have noticed this, just from not having a camera for several months, though there have been countries I have deliberately went without one, for instance in Mexico. Yet having that tool available and ready to me all the time has often sent me miles beyond my living space to find or search for something that is new and novel to me; a plant, a natural park, an animal I have not yet met, a friend. Currently I just use one of these ‘indestructible’ cameras that are freeze-proof, shock proof, sand and dust proof, and works under water or in the rain. It is compact and has served me well through, Vancouver Island, Iceland, the Scandinavian countries, and part of Europe. Co-incidentally my past incarnations of camera have broke down due to these exact reasons.

Over the past weeks I have also started writing for a new start up company called Myadzo a travel blog, that is something like a mix between tripadvisor, instagram and lonely planet, as the entrepreneur who started it described to me. You can find some of my recent posts and journal entries there, where I use the same moniker ‘aferalspirit’. To have these outlets, though I have not taken them yet to the point where I get paid. In what has taken me over three years to even build up enough consistency, reputation, and portfolio of work both in photography (journey of the seer) and written volume, namely from this blog and a personal work blog (forebears fires), I encourage others with travel writings, and photography of your journeys to take on these same prospects, in much less time. I also welcome collaboration, if we happen to be traveling together, invites to other countries to do assignments, and photography missions, or documenting some unique cultural practices. I am not into the touristy scheme that has you go around to every coffeehouse in Paris to find the best espresso, and has you rate the National art Gallery of Prague, so on and so forth. I believe these scheduled and regimented experiences of a country are cheapened, and hinder a true expressionistic and sometimes risky trip into lands unknown, which always end in such brilliant stories that no one else can replicate.

I am working on a potential travel in the Central American lands, which I am keeping pretty hushed about, because I am still unsure if I can put it together, and when I can go, but I will surely be writing as often I can about future trips in the world, as my military rucksack takes on more weathered flag patches, and my hands tire from the constant typing and penciling of my escapades, I just continue to nourish the will to keep moving, and build up a lifetime that will be remembered, and something to tell the youth of later generations, to understand what is impossible in my own being, and always seek to remember that tomorrow is truly unknown to me.

Nothing is true, everything is permitted ~ William S. Borroughs – Yage letters

Nature Loves courage.

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