-What is it ?
- A vegetarian taco
- Nah I don't eat that shit
Our Mexican adventure was coming to an end. We parted with Emma in Palenque and headed east. There were two routes to the Guatemalan border. One through the mountains and the other on flat grounds.
The flat route led to the town of Benemerito Las Americas. We planned to stay there for the night and cross the border the next morning. We had to spend our last pesos and finish all the weed before crossing.
The first thing we noticed in Benemerito was the number of people carrying weapons. There were carrying automatic assault rifles and shotguns like it was a broom. We advanced slowly on the main street. Everyone was staring at us. It felt like the beginning of a cowboy movie. We were the only strangers in town.
There was a truck stop, the safest and cheapest option for the night. Truckers I found are friendly and helpful. It is an international community of travellers. They share the same struggles on the road, and hence are keen to help other travellers.
The parking attendant was extremely polite and welcoming. He took his time to show us the facilities and made sure we parked on flat grounds. Far away from the biting ants and mosquitoes. Then he checked on us to make sure we were comfortable. His attention was genuine, better than in a 5-star hotel.
We set camp then bought vegetables, beers and got ready to celebrate our final day in Mexico. An ice-cold beer after a sweaty day is always a great idea. It quenches the thirst and satisfies the soul. We laid back in our camping chairs and remembered the highlights of the trip. Lulled by laughter and peace of mind, we felt like kings.
I went for a shower while Marco started rolling. On the way I ran into the polite parking attendant who also worked as the security guard. His name was Sylvio, he had a fat spliff and was curious about our adventure. We shared our story and challenge about finishing all our stash. He was happy to help.
Sylvio used to be a truck driver. Now he was managing the truck stop, “más tranquilo” he said. He was 51, married with two kids and his family lived in another town. When he wasn’t with his family, Sylvio would go camping with his friends and get fucked up in the jungle. He got my attention.
- Do you sleep in tents or hammocks?
- Neither. They’re too heavy and we prefer to carry alcohol. We just sleep on the ground.
- But what about bugs, snakes and stuff?
- Yes, there are plenty of them. We use garlic.
- Yeah, we chop garlic and spread it around our sleeping spot, animals and bugs don’t like the smell so they leave us in peace.
- WHAT! Just garlic??? And how much freaking garlic do you need?
- Usually 2 kgs are good for a week-end. Leftovers are used for cooking. There is never too much garlic!
I looked at him with big wondering eyes… garlic! It would repel snakes, tarantulas and God knows what other animals creep out of the jungle.
- But what about bigger predators, jaguars or crocodiles?
- We stay away from the river so crocodiles are no concern. And for jaguars, we build a little fence all around our camp with bells that alert us if a jaguar comes too close.
We were amazed. Sylvio was the shit, a real explorer who ventured in one of the most hostile environments on the planet. He shared his stories joint after joint. Sylvio resumed his security shift, high as fuck in a place where people carried a shotgun as if it was a broom. Classic Mexican style.
We started preparing dinner and wanted to impress Sylvio with our cooking. We chopped garlic and stirred it with a habanero oil to make our base for the tacos. Then we slow-cooked the vegetables and added a secret ingredient to make a sauce. The result was delicious: fresh, flavoured and spicy.
Sylvio came back hungry. We offered him a plate but he politely declined. As any traditional Mexican, he didn’t see the point of eating a meatless taco. We insisted, told him we were working on a new recipe and his honest feedback would be a valuable test for it.
He swallowed his first bite and his red eyes opened up: “Esta muy rico!”. Sylvio was having a vegetarian taco for the first time in his 51 years and he loved it! He even played the food critic, commenting on the after taste of the habanero oil. Our recipe got approved by the most authentic middle-class Mexican.
I love travelling because it opens the mind. Sharing experiences with locals made me realize we are all the same. We all like to spend time in nature and get fucked up with friends, regardless of social class, ethnicity or age.
Getting high with a security guard on a parking lot turned out to be fun and informative. The cherry on the cake for our Mexican adventure.
Sylvio was right. In the jungle or in cooking, there is never too much garlic.