Our journey on the Usumacinta River
May 2014 , 10 new friends and me decided to explore, we didn’t know how at the moment, the Usumacinta River in México.
This was the idea of a good friend, Jon Bonfiglio, director of The Clipperton Project. Who united a group of people and me to go into the unknown and travel together. We first landed at a very small town called Palizada in Campeche, Mexico. After getting to know the locals for a week , they lent us some old canoes that they used for fishing so we could explore the river. So there we were, some happy foreigners with all the passion and intention to explore.
We got our hamacs, sleeping bags and some food ready and we set out into the river on May 6th, I was pretty exited to do so because this was my birthday, so with a big smile we started canoeing against the current for at least 6 hours , 1 kilometre per hour, until we met a point were we started to go down with the current, were we did around 5-6 kilometres per hour.
The fun part about this was that we never knew where we were going to sleep. So one hour before sunset each day we looked around to see a piece of land where we could camp that night or we visited some random house of a family along the river. We just stopped where we thought it was a nice place and the locals were very welcoming. We sometimes ended having dinner with the whole family and talking with the grandma in the kitchen about old legends of the river or old stories of their family.
We had a doctor traveling with us and in exchange of giving us a place to sleep, our doctor friend Mark used to look at some family member or neighbours that were sick and recommend what to do about it, I used to translate for him. It was so loving to be able to help in some way along our time traveling the river.
Each day we woke up before the sun came up, because it was so hot around midday, that we wanted to advance as much at we could before so. Then we looked around for some shade and took lunch and a break at the hottest hours, had a nap or a swim, walked around, talked to locals and just enjoy nature around us. We use to look for mangoes and tamarindo trees, lemon trees and coconut palm trees so we could have a quick snack.
The silence you find in nature is so wonderful, after more then a week in full contact with nature you start to remember our direct connection with it and to enjoy simple things that life offers us for free. And just the adventure of being there in a place that it is so virgin and unexplored, with people that are so loving and welcoming, with no hurry to get anywhere, just living the moment and enjoying it can make you re-think your way of life.
We decided almost at the end of our journey that we wanted to advance more kilometres so we started paddling also at nigh, we took turns, while some of us slept 2 others would take care of directing the canoes, as we were going with the current it was pretty easy just to make sure we were going the right way.
This was the best part for me! When it was my turn to direct the canoe, I saw the most beautiful sky you can imagen, infinite stars and monkeys growling was all I could see and hear.
It felt like we were floating on clouds. We were just in synchrony with everything around us. It felt so safe and right. Just being part of all in that precise moment and taking in each second of our expedition as a gift of all the abundance and beauty this world has to offer.
But, as everything in life, the journey wasn´t that easy, we had some rough times also, one night we found a great camping spot in the backyard of some locals just beside the river, we had our fire running and everything set up to enjoy the night that was coming and hoped we had a good rest, when around 2 hours in our sleep a storm fell upon us, everything was flying around, all our gear got wet, we were socked in water and had to stay all nigh just sitting down in the only kind of dry spot we had under some plastic roof we had improvised, I think if we were lucky we slept maybe 1-2 hours that night.
In the morning, when the first rays of light came out we turned and looked at the river and it was full of big waves that it made it impossible for us to travel on our old small canoes. So we had to go back to the nearest small town and stayed in the only hotel (good luck there was one) there to get a rest and dry everything out.
It didn’t stop raining for the next 2-3 days!!!
So we just hang around town and started to meet and play with locals again. I think I will never forget this experience of going into the unknown and just letting your self flow literally down along the river.
I would have never imagen what was going to happen… well that´s the way to travel I guess, not knowing, not planning. Just living the moment, improvising and looking at the signals that come your way while you explore new areas. This way, your life is always full of surprises.