Mexico, home to one of planet Earth’s most populated cities, some of the most amazingly delicious street food and 53 of the world’s approximately 200 species of psilocybin mushrooms. Most commonly grown in cow manure, ‘magic mushrooms’ have long been used in Central American religious ceremonies because of their psychoactive and hallucinogenic properties, however in most countries around the world they are considered a controlled substance.
Users of the mushrooms have often described a ‘brain melting’ feeling as the mushrooms slowly take effect, however science has found it to be the exact opposite. A 2014 study concluded that after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms, MRI scans show that the brain “synchronizes activity among areas that would not normally be connected” – the researchers siting this discovery as the main reason users of magic mushrooms report experiencing a dreamy state after ingestion.
“We should do mushrooms!”
My girlfriend had never tried mushrooms, but the lure of a trippy adventure through the jungle was enough to have her enthusiasm running wild.
“We’d have to get to Palenque, there’s a local man that can guide us through the jungle and feed us magic mushrooms!
During our time in Guatemala we had been told by a very approachable Australian couple that if we wanted a great experience we were to talk to a local Mexican by the name of Gabriel.
“Be very careful though, a lot of local people have realised that Gabriel, because of his jungle tour, is making quite a bit of money. They have taken it upon themselves to trick unsuspecting tourists into thinking that they are Gabriel. They set a time for you to rendezvous, take your money and are never to be seen again.” Although the initial impression of getting a ‘magic tour’ seemed anything but dodgy, we had now been warned.
After booking an inexpensive bus we packed our bags and set our sights on Palenque.
Palenque is a small yet history rich Maya city that flourished between 600CE and 750CE. Located in the south of Mexico, this place is in good proximity to one of the country’s best tourist attractions…
The amazing temples of Palenque
The city of Palenque, although somewhat uneventful and mundane, is in close proximity to some of Mexico’s most amazing waterfalls, jungles and Maya ruins which was the reason we chose to take a quick 20 minute bus to get a little closer to the action.
After a quick walk around the obvious choice for accommodation was a very inviting hostel called ‘Jungle Palace’.
Clean, comfortable and very jungly – One night at this place in small cabin styled accommodation will cost you around $10 USD for a twin share.
“Keep your eyes peeled for a small Mexican man with beady eyes and long, perfectly straight dark hair.”
That was pretty much the only information we had been given on the man with mushrooms. No phone number, no meeting point, no time of the day that he was more than likely to be. I had spent the last few years of my life trying not to rely on bullshit like “luck’ or ‘fate’, but in this situation I was hoping for something similar.
As we walked though the hostel’s sizable dining area our eyes darted from one side to the other with hopes of landing on Gabriel the Mexican mushroom prince. Unfortunately our eyes were met with nothing other than fellow tourists enjoying an afternoon meal at one of the hostel restaurant’s dining tables. We would have to wait for the following day for the little legend to arrive.
“Yes, Gabriel’s shop is open today and he should be either sitting inside or somewhere around the storefront.”
Asking around for Gabriel on the previous day would’ve obviously made it easy for us, but we had tried to avoid any of the said ‘I am Gabriel’ scams and we were in no rush, so simply looking for him was something we were okay with for the first day.
“There he is!”
We had spotted him. His eyes were indeed as beady as described. His long hair, firmly tied in ponytail, bounced from side to side as he floated from one person to another, greeting people with a very sincere type of enthusiasm.
“Are you Gabriel?” My hand remained outstretched only for a split second before being met with Gabriel’s decidedly delicate handshake.
“Yes, I am Gabriel.”
I suddenly felt at ease. Living in the western world had led me to thinking that the easiest way of finding someone was to have some type of contact information, so having to approach this situation from a different and seemingly outdated angle had me feeling a little uncomfortable.
“Are you wanting to take part in my Magic Tour?” He asked with a grin that revealed a big, slightly yellowed set of teeth.
With nothing more than a set time and a “see you tomorrow” we were in.
…to be concluded