Back this summer, working at CJ Organic Veggies, Fred and I met a couple from Texas that were WWOOFing on a farm near Holland. We met them when we visited the farm for their annual Summer Solstice Celebration. Drew and Amber are awesome people and when they had to return to Texas we vowed to come visit them during our travels. So we drove from Arkansas to Texas early one morning –our feet especially itchy considering the awkward home we were in. During the chaotic drive (Houston traffic is absolutely insane –I got teary from the anxiety of driving through that place) to their home, we both felt the anticipation and excitement of soon seeing a familiar face.
We stayed with Drew and Amber a total of three days. In which we read (while they were at work) from their great selection, watched documentaries, chatted, and played with their puppy, Ripple. It was such a nice treat to be in the company of people our own age and mutual interest.
We drove down to A New Earth Farm located at the most southern tip of Texas and met the very friendly and funny, Thomas. He had a lot of projects he was working on but not much work for us to do. He was new to WWOOFing and after a couple days it was clear that things weren’t working out. He and his wife were not set up to accommodate other people and were not at all comfortable having another woman around. We parted on good terms –excited for a new destination and satisfied for making a good connection in Texas.
We were told by a dear friend back in Michigan about a Rainbow Gathering going on in Palenque, Mexico the whole month of December; celebrating the ominous Mayan 21st solstice. A Rainbow Gathering is basically the biggest hippie event you can imagine. There is music, communal living, everyone is in tents or hammocks, lots of arts and crafts, non-stop music, ceremonies, drugs, workshops, yoga, and everyone eats together every day. Being music festival junkies, Fred and I were instantly keen on attending. But driving all the way through Mexico to Palenque? Mexico is dangerous; you can’t go there without the promise and protection of an all-inclusive resort and fenced in beaches! It’s full of Cartels, guns, hustlers, and people who will kidnap you and tear off your skin just for being white after they sell you into sex slavery –right?! Humbled but not inhibited by this commercial fear all us American carry, we found a Facebook caravan group that orchestrated all interested people to drive from Texas to the gathering together -a safety in numbers mentality.
So when the Texas farm didn’t work out we headed straight for the scheduled meet up point in the beautiful Corpus Christi, Texas on Padre Island. Our first look at the ocean, and the first time I’ve ever camped out on an ocean beach. We were the first Rainbows to arrive but slowly more and more people trickled in.
Every day was a beach getaway dream! We filled each sun up to sun down mingling with the other travelers, painting our car, swimming in the ocean, catching unthinkable amounts of delicious fish, playing music, getting to know each other, and speculating the aspects of the adventure we were about to take on.
After about ten days on the beach (everything sufficiently rusty from the ocean air) it was time to begin the drive through Mexico. We took a tally; okay we have 25+ people, two cars, and one RV. In our car we could fit an additional two people. In the other car they only felt comfortable taking one extra person and the RV already had its seven passengers lined up. Uh oh, obviously not everyone can go.
Imagine it: a bunch of hippies on an island Gilligan style, with a common goal and fiery drive to achieve that goal. SOCIAL EXPERIMENT! It was two days of difficult decisions and a lot of very hurt feelings. One member of the beach crew had an aggressive melt down about not getting a ride, during which Fred played therapist and baby sitter. But the other hitch hikers seemed accepting of their deterioration to another path.
Fred and I ended up inviting a French speaking couple our age from Quebec, Canada into our car. Their Americanized names that we used are Valerie and P.L –they are absolutely amazing people, speaking French, English, and (hallelujah) Spanish. Valerie is upbeat, funny, and radiates sunshine and pure love and her partner P.L is a real Grizzly Adams strong man with great humor and sense of adventure. We hit it off right away. They traveled from Canada via bicycle to Texas so we strapped their road bikes to the top of our car and loaded up all their gear. The bottom of the car became a very close acquaintance with the road due to the extreme amount of extra weight. As for our fellow vehicles in the caravan there was a couple in a truck named Brett and Swenja, she originally from Germany but lived in New Zealand and he from Australia, who decided to invite Adian along for the ride. Brett and Swenja are deeply moving people, they have a lot of great wisdom that they were kind enough to share with us and also encompass an up for a party at any time type of attitude. Adian is a well-travelled gentle and sweet man the same age as us. The RV was owned by Brandon, a charismatic man with a gang of seven passengers that were all friends beforehand. And, although I’d love to go into each one of their different personality and qualities I will spare more reading. Sufficient to say we connected with each member. All of which are amazing people that are kind and fun and we fell in love with them instantly. Together they are “The Honey Bus”.
So we drove away feeling bitter sweet from our hitch hiker friends to a farm owned by a yoga teacher on the border. The owner, Travis, had been through Mexico numerous times and promised to help us plan a safe route (we made the Travis connection when a woman in a German coffee shop asked us what kind of research we were doing, he is her ex and she gave us his number right away. You got to love road magic!) While at the farm, planning our route, Brett and Swenja felt that it would be more simple and pleasurable for them to travel with just us and not The Honey Bus through Mexico, so Honey left that day to begin their journey while we took a day to chill before the driving began.
Arriving to the border at about 4 am we went through the overly complicated process of entering another country. I lost my car insurance papers and didn’t have the title to my car which became a fifteen minute spaz attack of tearing apart the car but we found it and we passed no problem. We bought the $200 Mexican car insurance -annoyed and converted $420 into Pesos.
That first day of driving through Mexico had a we’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore vibe to it, which at first was intimidating but then exciting. Having made it just past Tampico and through “The Dangerous Zone” by sun down we got a motel room. Upon arrival Fred immediately spotted the coconut trees in the front yard and climbed all the way up and dropped five down. The owner of the motel laughed with him and got out his machete and taught him how to tear off the skin and get the meat out. That day also happened to be Brett’s birthday so at night we all sang to him and made him a special birthday card and ate pasta and talked and laughed–this was the start of something very beautiful. It was real beauty; no fear or danger was in this country, like everyone was warning about in the months leading up to our departure. We felt safe and comfortable, surrounded by these friendly indigenous people who just wanted to laugh and make a living. We couldn’t have felt more welcomed.