One of things I had been most looking forward to was, Xilitla. I wont deny it, I knew very little about Xilitla. In fact all I knew was that someone at a party while here in Mexico mentioned I should see it; which meant a Google image search later and I was convinced on going.
[ Xilitla, is the name of a town/village that English aristocrat and eccentric: Edward James, took upon himself to try and buy back in 1940s. He had fallen in love with this part of the world and set about his business in conceiving a surrealist intervention into the jungle, creating an infinite architecture, this was the bullet point info I had on the place. ]
The drive there, was nothing short of amazing, winding up the mountain range on our way there with staggering views was impressive but as we descended down in through the mountains, the road conditions and the situation just got a whole lot more bizarre. Keep in mind this drive wasn’t exactly a “long” drive but the last half of the journey took took more than twice as long as the first half. After Jalpan de la Sierra we were engulfed in dense mist, the roads winding ever so tightly, it was like a cold day in a jungle, the views were limited and the trees looked exotic from what you could see. With the mist came rain and a lot of it… we were now in a cold jungle in rain season and it was terrifying and yet exciting, the temperature was cold, the views were limited and the car now had developed an error warning light suggesting we shifted up a gear (it was an automatic).
While call me arrogant, go on… call it! 😉 I had very little patience for driving behind cars doing (no word of a lie) 30 km/h (less than 20mph) , despite the visibility being limited and the road being windy and the rain and the mist and the car playing up, I wasn’t having it. We still had a long way to go, and despite the other cars on the road, we still were making very little progress. I guess somewhat justified in my actions, overtaking trucks and slow moving cars certainly got us into town about 4 hours sooner than we would have if we stayed behind the crawlers, although that said, we didn’t manage to get to Xilitla until 10pm and still we had nowhere to stay that night!!
Let me paint you a picture: imagine if you would, late at night in heavy rain, with dense dense dense fog, arriving at an un-signposted town on the side of a mountain that looks like it survived a war with Russia (but was on the losing side), and let’s go back to more heavy rain and top that off with zero phone reception (which ordinarily would be fine if you weren’t in need of a hotel for the night), and a car that was pretty much on its last legs. We stopped outside a hand-drawn sign saying “Hotel”, it was full. We went to the next one (a little further down the same road), it too was full but suggested we tried the one previous, back and forth and finally we got to find the brother of the hotel owner who happened to have spare rooms in his house, given the abundant options, we took it. It was cheap, and the old boy “Alturo” was friendly as he was camp, and both in equal measures he was. What a character!
The following morning didn’t surprise us with any sun, it was a misty jungle place that was cold, and I mean 2 jumpers, a hat and my motorcycle jacket kind of weather. We went for breakfast at one of the neighbouring hotels, which later transpired that they’re all related, the hotel owners are all brothers and the the gent we were staying with was yet another. While Xilitla biggest export is coffee production, and the hotel owners’ family own the coffee farms of the area, the coffee was frankly a little on the watery side of diluted.
We had been suggested to drive to the Edward James “park” (if you would) but after hearing the road was unmade and condition Rosa’s car was in, we decided to count our blessings we got this far, and walked it. As we walked through and round the windy track down to the park, it was good for setting the tone, one minute looking back across the valley you could see the town, next you couldn’t, next you could see a mountain beyond, next you struggled to see the end of the tree beside you. It was like someone was giving you an eye test with those funny lenses.
We did the right thing and booked a guide to walk us around the gardens, so much information we’d not known or would not have seen if it weren’t for the guide and despite it being only 2 hours it felt like you could have done with another 4 days worth of it. We spent another few hours walking around the surrealist madness in the middle of the jungle. Each and every angle was an amazing vista. We walked back tired and also pumped about the amazing day there. Unfortunately, after dropping off all our kit at the house, and in more rain and fog … we couldn’t find a place to eat, we sat a while in one restaurant and then left and went to another, finally we were served but only a sub-par meal.
The following morning, with more mist, rain and cold, we clambered about town looking for somewhere to eat breakfast; the hotel from the day before was not serving breakfast because it was Sunday, and we had to go to the next hotel, which by chance was yet another sibling to the previous hotel… very surreal situation where all the hotels are owned by the same family. During our breakfast Alturo, our host we were staying in and joined us and exclaimed he had been looking for us all over town to have breakfast with us.