Travel of the mind – Part I: Roberto Barrios.

Sometimes travel memories aren’t big thrills. No adrenaline rush, you don’t hear the gushing of blood pumping through your veins. Sometimes, those memories are just about being at the right place with the right people. No ticking off those precious ‘must-sees’ of that bucket list of yours, nor taking pictures every 5 seconds to be sure you’re capturing the moment. You aren’t. Those won’t be the best memories. Although you’d wish you had pictures. A lot of my travel memories only exist in my head and sometimes, the flashbacks are bright because of a sudden smell or a similar landscape that triggers the remembrance of those souvenirs of time. What I will share here, are some of those memories. I won’t always define time and place, nor  the people I share this moments with. – I never do anyway, the people who were there will know, that’s the most important – Some of those memories are very personal stories which nobody of the people who know me have ever heard, while others can be very happy/stupid/hilarious and told already plenty of times, maybe even some will be painful and sad. Traveling is not only fun and laughter all the time, it can be heartbreaking. All the memories I’ll write about, are the ones who left a big impression on me, being incredibly sad or blissfully happy. Memories I’ll try to remember a year, ten years, a lifetime from now. Memories that leave my fingers aching to write them down, to turn the blurry images inside my brain into full sentences.

One boiling hot summer day in Mexico. One of the days where little droplets of sweat appear in the nape of your neck and long hairs irritatingly keep on sticking to your wet skin. The humidity of the jungle can feel like a crushing weight on your shoulders, especially during daytime. Sleeping in a small hut in the middle of that jungle didn’t left me with a lot of comfort during the nightly hours, though a loudly spinning fan provided at least a little bit of relief from the wet hotness surrounding me. We decided to go to the waterfalls of Roberto Barrios that day. A group of girls and guys from different parts of the world – although I could say most of them came from ‘a land down under’ – , which I’ve met in that very same jungle, sleeping in some very similar huts and dorms. Some I met earlier, in another city, with other memories, while others of our group were new to me. What we all had in common, was the urge to relax and have a day off of exploring famous Mayan ruins in the suffocating heat. To escape the flocks of tourists streaming out of buses to visit those same famous Mayan ruins. To wash the dust and sweat off of our bodies and feel fresh and reborn, before the humidity kicks in again and leaves numerous sweat stains on our clothes.

Roberto Barrios. Never heard about it before that day. Until now, I didn’t even thought about checking its existence in my Lonely Planet. At that moment, it was just a name, just a place, just a destination. It was just supposed to be there, waiting for us to jump into its cooling streams and climb onto its natural staircases in the rocks, a if they were manmade. Hidden for eyes that only set foot in places on pre-arranged tours, driven by air-conditioned coaches. It takes some effort to get there. Catch the right bus, for example. – Not always easy when there are no regular bus-stops, but you’ll always find a friendly local to point you into the right direction. – Though buses aren’t always buses, buses could also be pick-up trucks with some wooden planks in the back serving as benches. And how I loved rides in the back of a pick-up. Hair in the wind, firmly grabbing the prefabricated sides of the truck, having the most wondrous views flashing by. That, while speeding on dirt roads dotted with uncountable holes, leaving you bouncing back and forth while trying to hold on. Ultimate feeling of freedom. With a bruise or two. Same story for the ride to the waterfalls. After filling our imaginary lunch boxes – read: stocking up on tomatoes, cheese, sandwiches and avocado – the journey began.


After bouncing back and forth, over muddy roads and through indigenous villages, the driver delivered us in one piece at our destination. We paid for the ride, hopped off and headed straight into the jungle. From a distance, you could already hear it. The air was filled with sounds of laughter, water splashing high up in the air. Streams and flows of water finding its way down, leaving swooshing noises passing down the rocks. Still no more than trees in sight. We climbed our way up on muddy walkways through the bushes, leaving everybody with ever growing sweat stains their shirts. There they were. Pools with the bluest turquoise color my eyes had ever seen. One pool flowing over in another one, and another one, and another one. Only to be separated by levels of yellowish rocks rising up in height, as high as we could see. To the left, a high jump down into the bluest blue lake. A couple of seconds, we all just stood there, awestruck. How beautiful can nature be?

What followed, was one of those what I call ‘pink cloud and purple haze’-days. Discovering several levels of waterfall, just by climbing on the rock formations all the way up to the upper levels and jump down pool after pool. Lying in the shallow water, chatting with the others or dreaming away while tiny little fish nibble at your feet. Letting your skin dry after several dives in the crystal clear water, to leap back in when the sun starts to heath up your skin. Moments of laughter, shared by new found friends. Deep conversations on a bouncy log in the lake below. About the future and traveling and life. To just switch back to sliding down the stream and screaming like a child when hitting the water. Basic lunch that tastes like a five course meal in a Michelin star restaurant. Numerous jumps and bombs, splashing water on everybody near. The best of all was finding a place like this, hidden, almost untouched. The day passed by in a blur and while I try to bring it into words, I can’t. Image after image of doing nothing in the jungle, amongst strangers that are friends. Water, the sun and dreams. All together one day in the Mexican jungle.

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