A couple of months ago I was in one of the most picture perfect places that I have ever had the luxury of visiting. I lived there for about two weeks in my tent, but things weren’t quite right. I was working a lot online, causing me to lose sight of what was important – that whole making friends thing, and appreciating the beautiful multi-colored lagoon that was just a tent unzipping away. To boot, I was plagued with anxiety, in part due to my own wonky brain chemistry, while partially a demon inflicted on me by someone who turned out to be a being I never should have welcomed into my life.
As such, I never told the stories of the wonderfully odd beings that I met during my time in Bacalar. I was in no state to appreciate the beauty around me, let alone write it down in any form you would enjoy reading. Still, I wrote myself some notes to remind me. So here you are, the oddest people that graced me with their presence at Casa China, on the lagoon of Bacalar.
I hadn’t hitchhiked in a couple of months due to having met someone who paid for my busses for a good chunk of Mexico, and who I then flew to Canada to see. I don’t believe in mistakes, but I definitely could have gone without meeting this person. So when I landed back in Cancun, I was determined to hitchhike straight back out. The ATM that robbed me at the airport, however, had a different plan. No matter, after surviving an extra day in Cancun, I hit the road.
I woke up early, ecstatic to get out of Cancun – my own personal hell. After a quick collectivo ride to get out of the city, I stuck my thumb out. How I smiled at every car passing by! Look at me, look at me! I’m hitchhiking! My soul is happy once more! I don’t even care if you pick me up or not, cause look, look! MY THUMB!
It wound up being a very short day of hitching, complete with many locals providing me with advice on where would be good to hitch from. The culture in Mexico is such that even those who don’t hitch fully approve of it – a drastic change from the United States I had hitched through before arriving in Mexico.
I was stunned at the beauty of Bacalar when I arrived. This massive lagoon is complete with every color of blue and turquoise you can imagine. I pitched my tent overlooking this glory, and life truly seemed perfect for a moment.
As I sat down on one of the couches in the lobby, where I’d soon find out everyone hung out, a man sat next to me, and started chatting away. He talked, and talked, and then he talked some more. It wasn’t much of a conversation as him talking at me, but, as luck would have it, he was an interesting enough human being to warrant my ears listening away without my mouth flapping away. A rarity indeed – I don’t usually shut up.
The man started telling me that he was a shaman, and had hitchhiked to Bacalar to perform a ritual of some sort. He then began telling me about how he was on Animal Planet. Now usually if a semi-crazy person were to tell me this, I would not believe them. “Yeah, okay buddy. Sure you were,” I would normally have thought. But he had the pictures to prove it. He then went on to tell me about his expertise in the field of snakes.
He discussed how bad information gives bad perceptions – something that applies to both snakes and the world at large. Most snakes, he told me, don’t even have venom, and will not harm you. Still, people fear them. After speaking for a good 15 minutes, me listening to every word, he very casually said, “Do you want to touch a snake now?”
He had made no indication whatsoever of there being a snake present in our midst before this statement.
Then he pulled out Boris, his snake, from a pillowcase. Boris was awesome, and I loved petting him.
Later that day, I sat outside having a smoke by myself. A British girl sat next to me, and we started the usual small talk. Then an older Mexican man walked up to the hostel door.
“Coconut man!” She exclaimed excitedly. “That’s the coconut man. If you want weed, he’s your guy. He’s the man of three Cs – coconuts, cocaine, and cannabis!” Well, he had amazing coconut empanadas, which were always sitting at the front of the hostel, with a cup to place the money in on good faith, so I was quite certain the other C I partake in would also be delightful. It was. Hint: I wouldn’t touch the second C.
Later that evening, the same girl was pacing around the hostel. “Does anyone have rolling papers?” As she asked each person, no one had any to give her. The new girl lurking in the corner chimed up. “I have rolling papers…” I said in a timid manner very unusual to my character.
She played me a song on her brand new ukulele for a paper. It was a great trade.
When I myself was running low on rolling papers, I asked one of the guys who worked for accommodation at the hostel where I could buy them in town. It was a very small town, you see, and I didn’t know the name for rolling papers in Spanish. “Well, you can either get them at the craft store, or there’s a man who hangs out every night at 9 pm in the center square. He sells nothing but papers.” Well, alright then.
Later, I was sitting on my computer, when a guy I hadn’t spoken to walked up to me. He stared at me for a moment, and then giggled. Then he stared at me some more. “Sorry, it’s my birthday,” he said, walking off before I had the chance to say so much as, “Happy birthday, strange man.” He was wearing some sort of leopard print skirt.
That was only day one, and the fascinatingly odd characters by no means stopped there.
There was the Swedish man I became friends with, who was traveling with his son. He had been living in Mexico for a while, and was a fellow online earner. I asked him what he did for a living, to be met with astonishment: not only did he create crossword puzzles for a living, but he had made around 30,000 of them in his life. I was impressed.
One day I was sitting at the little chilling area right on the lagoon, at the bottom of the stairs from the hostel. My Swedish friend and his son came down the steps as I was listening to music, and enjoying the beautiful view in front of me.
“Oh, I didn’t think anyone would be here,” he said to me. “I was going to swim naked.”
“Oh, it’s okay! I can leave, there are plenty of nice spots to go hang out,” I happily replied.
“No, no, that’s not what I meant. It’s just… do you mind if I swim naked?”
“Not at all!” I replied, averting my eyes as he and his son jumped into the lagoon.
Naturally, the following day I decided that a naked swim was exactly what I needed. So while no one was down on the dock – not a person to be seen – I peeled off my clothes, and hopped in. About three minutes later, a small tourist boat sailed on by. I scampered out of the water before they got too close, but certainly gave them a lovely full naked view in the process. Happy vacation, guys.
The first day I met my German friend, we were sitting in front of the hostel making small talk. He had a very strange and mysterious pink liquid in a jar, with random bits of who knows what floating in it. The flies were swarming around it. As I observed this, wondering what on earth he was drinking, my Swedish friend sat in the background tearing feathers out of a dead bird. Who knows what was going on there. I just didn’t question it.
My German friend began the lovely daily tradition of bringing over delicious smoothies to me as I worked online. He’d never interrupt me – he would just hand me the smoothie, and walk away. This was when I learned of the tree called Moringa, whose leaves he quite often put in the smoothies. The leaves of this tree have crazy amounts of nutrients, and, apparently, you can actually live off of these leaves alone. This was one magical tree.
During this time, I was eating freakishly healthily. My body hated it. It craved sugar and junk, but finding prepackaged food fit for a vegetarian in a tiny Mexican town is easier said than done. So I mostly ate fresh fruit, guacamole, and yogurt. I was in a constant state of starvation. So when a vendor came along one day with a very odd looking treat, I inquired as to what it was.
Chunks of coconut positively smothered in caramel. Hallelujah!
So that was Bacalar. Every day was more or less the same. I’d wake up around 7 am, work for an hour, have my coffee and fruit salad breakfast, and then work again until 3 pm. Then I’d walk the 40 minutes to town, buy some food, walk or taxi back depending on how many bags I was carrying and how crazy hot it was out. I’d get stoned, and shortly thereafter realize that I was incapable of sitting still. I felt very antisocial and very anxious at that time, so I wasn’t able to socialize much. Soon after getting stoned, I’d go back to working, albeit at a much slower pace. As soon as it got cool enough out, I’d go to my tent, watch some TV on my computer, and be asleep by 10.
It wasn’t the most fascinating time in my life. And it wasn’t the happiest time in my life. But man, those characters sure kept me entertained.