San Jose del Pacifico is a small one-street town in the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range in the south of Oaxaca state. Most likely you will pass through here on your way from Oaxaca city to the Pacific coast beach towns of Puerto Escondido, Mazunte and Zipolite. It is a convenient stop to break the journey and most tourists just stop for a few minutes for a toilet break or to grab a snack. This is a real shame, because they are missing out on the two things the town is famous for – spectacular sunsets and magic mushrooms. There is plenty of basic accommodation available in the town itself, but I stayed slightly out of town at the Puesta del Sol cabanas (log cabins). This was fantastic. The cabins are set on the side of the mountain with spectacular views of the valley and incredible sunsets. They are self-contained, allowing almost total privacy (very important for a magic mushrooms experience) and cosy at night with an open fire to ward off the evening chill (it’s cold at night up in them mountains, but each day is gloriously fine and sunny).
What are Magic Mushrooms?
Magic Mushrooms are various types of fungi found all over the world containing a strong hallucinogen, psilocybin. They are non-toxic (you may get some nausea initially), non-addictive and have no after-effects/hangover (unless you count that old hippie guy walking around naked on the beach who took an extra strong dose in 1973). Typical effects range from, at low doses, euphoria and sensory enhancement, “visuals” – colourful geographic patterns and computer graphics with eyes closed; to religious and spiritual experiences, complete loss of contact with reality, going insane, etc at high doses. This explains why so many hippies walk around with tied-dyed shirts and images of Buddha, Jesus and Ganesh (the fat dude with the elephant head).
Magic mushrooms have huge therapeutic potential because they allow us to experience a different level of consciousness or reality. This a logical, rational, and non-emotive reality which allows us to examine our lives objectively and identify our faults and find solutions for these. The experience of a “trip” also gives you a far greater appreciation of nature and your relationship and connection with the universe (what I refer to as “spirituality”). However, as the experience and be intense and sometimes quite overwhelming (especially for novice users), due to panic and hysteria, the fungi have been labelled as a “drug”, although they are a natural substance (ok, call to nature is a false logic), have been used safely for millennia by ancient cultures in religious ceremonies and a are world away from the abusive and addictive drugs, like cocaine and alcohol. This has therefore seriously limited scientific research and has labelled users as criminals.
San Jose del Pacifico and Magic Mushrooms
Magic Mushrooms are freely available in San Jose del Pacifico. They are sold openly in a store in the one main street and images of them appear prominently in their art and handicrafts. They are legal here because they are considered sacred and are used in ceremonies with local “shaman” or elders to achieve contact with the gods and spirit world. If fact, the locals start taking them in childhood – it’s a real family affair with young’uns and grannies all joining in. They are normally only available during the rainy season, but then are sold dried or preserved in honey until supplies run out.
I decided to take the promotional deal of a Temazcal/mushrooms double whammy. A Temazcal is a type of traditional sweat lodge, a small dome made of earth or stones and heated with hot coals. Water mixed with all kinds of healthy herbs is poured on the coals to produce a steam and an intense heat. The effects are similar to that of saunas in Europe – you feel completely amazing and cleansed afterwards, which is a perfect preparation for a mushroom experience in which a calm and relaxed mind is an essential pre-requisite.
I decided to make a tea and took a whole dose. An american guy at my cabanas had tried them the day before and had described the effects as “mediocre”. I, on the other hand, experienced mild and pleasant, but unspectacular effects, enjoying the beauty of my natural surroundings and the spectacular sunsets.
My conclusion – San Jose del Pacifico is one of those magical, secret places, not known to (foreign) tourists which you can discover by accident. This is why I love travelling and why the experience is so special. If you get the chance to pass by this part of world, make sure you spend a couple of days here.