So, quick recap: I met some cool English people in San Jose and we ate magic mushrooms together and got weird.
After maybe three hours chilling at the hammocks – three hours that felt like three days – I started to sober up and come back down to earth. Sobering up from mushrooms isn’t like sobering up from alcohol or any other drug. You don’t have a hangover or any nausea. Instead you get the nausea before you get high, about thirty minutes after you eat the mushrooms. Then the nausea passes and you’re just high, and then a few hours later that wears off too – and as it wears off you actually feel very pleasant. After being technically insane for a few hours, it’s refreshing to have your mind back.
The others kept nibbling more mushrooms, however. They had one enormous one that Joey had bought – a black, ominous-looking shroom the size of a broccoli they dubbed ‘Big Daddy’, from which ten thousand innuendos naturally ensued. As the four of them continued their trip, I nominated myself to go to the café to buy snacks. This doesn’t sound like such a big deal – but when you’re tripping, sober people are intimidating. They seem so serious. You feel very foolish speaking to them, well aware that you’re likely to burst into laughter at any moment – at, say, the ping of a microwave or the squeak of a shoe against the floor. Everything just feels so silly.
There was safety in our group – we felt comfortable with each other, and if any one of us felt a little queasy we’d check on them to see if they were okay and give them some water or sweets. Every time one of us went away to the bathroom, however – alone in a small room full of spiderwebs – the good vibes would slip away. Each time Cole returned from the loo, she was ashen faced.
“I hate the toilet.”
So yeah: I nominated myself to go to the café, because I was the only one in a fit state to do so. I strolled away from the group, thinking myself perfectly sober by now, only to realise upon entering the silent café – local San Joseans cleaning pots and sighing – that I was absolutely not sober. Overcome by the sudden change in vibe, from hammocky soul tune goodness to Proper Adult Workplace, I began to giggle as I leafed through the available crisp packets. I felt like a flamingo in a room full of pigeons. I had to literally bite my knuckles to stifle my laughter as I placed my items on the counter.
“Hola,” I croaked. “Es todo.”
The little woman behind the counter totted up my items and showed me a number on a calculator. I nodded and passed her the money, and took the change, fighting desperately to keep my face in what I imagined was a serious expression. I probably looked like Homer eating that sour sweet.
I said ‘muchas gracias’ and the lady said ‘si’. I thought this was an odd response, so I tried to be extra friendly and added ‘hasta luego’. Again, the same response: ‘si’.
Now, I don’t know about you, but in England if I said ‘thank you’ to someone and they said ‘yes’, and then I said ‘see you later’ and they said ‘yes’, I would instantly balloon, filled with hurt and righteous anger. On shrooms you’re highly sensitive to people’s feelings, particularly towards yourself. I thought about the unfriendly lady all the way back to my friends, who I found doing some sort of weird dance-yoga around the hammocks.
I began to feel very upset. Why did the little woman dislike me so? Then a horrible thought hit me: the people in these mountains have been taking mushrooms for spiritual purposes for generations. Maybe, by ingesting mushrooms casually and having our little hammock party, my friends and I were soiling their tradition. The thought gnawed at me, and I began to feel very foolish as I watched my group dance around laughing.
Well, this sort of thought pattern can ruin your whole day if you’re not careful. Instead I tried to rationalise: you only spoke to one person, Danny boy, not the whole town. Other people in the town had been very warm and friendly. She might have been having a bad day. She might be tired. She might have had some terrible news that morning. Or ‘si’ might be a perfectly normal Mexican response to ‘gracias’ – I didn’t know. I managed to settle my concerns after fifteen minutes of pondering, and settled in to eat Pringles and listen to my friends talk shit.
At around 4pm, Cole suggested we take a walk. It’s nice to have a change of scenery. We all agreed, and packed up our belongings which had somehow migrated to fill the entire terrace. We bought beers in the café, now much more sober and less embarrassing. We sipped cans of Corona as we left the hostel and walked through the town.
The town, without the fog, is far bigger than I thought. There are hundreds of little homes on the mountainside, all different colours, all on multiple levels with terraces on stilts. We waved hello to a little old lady cutting down weeds with a machete, and she waved back. We said hi to local dogs, and we saw goats and chickens and a turkey wandering free.
We polished off the rest of our mushrooms as we walked – they’re legal in San Jose due to their ancestral importance. We sat in a little café run by an old lady in a shawl, and we laughed a lot. Cole told a story that had me breathless with laughter:
Her older brother, several years ago, was on a night out with a friend. They’d been to a party and were very stoned, and they were driving to another party to continue their night. Good vibes flowing, music blasting in the car, feeling fresh, ready for the night ahead, heads bobbing to the music. On the way to the next party, Cole’s brother pulled up outside his house and told his friend he was just running inside for a second to get something. Her brother went upstairs, was too stoned to remember what he came in for, lay down and fell asleep.
For eight hours.
With his friend locked in the car outside.
When he came down in the morning, he found his friend pawing at the windows, steaming with rage.
It got funnier the more we thought about it: about the sheer joy and energy of the night coming to such an abrupt stop. At what point, we wondered, did the hope die for this guy? After five minutes he’d have been thinking ‘heyy I can’t wait to get going and head to the party’. After twenty minutes he’d likely have been looking at his watch and mumbling ‘come on mate, where are you?’ After one hour, he’d had been cursing and booting at the windows. And then the sun would have set, and the street would grow all quiet and spooky, owls hooting, and he’d be just sat in the car staring around him with wide eyes.
I laughed so much I wept buckets.
In the evening, finally completely sober, we ate some Mexican food in a little shack restaurant and had a couple of beers on the hostel terrace before bed. It was a fantastic day, full of surprises and joy and whimsy from start to finish. Usually with mushrooms you get one or two hours of giggles and then things settle into a more mellow, reflective period for the remaining two hours. This time around, however, the giggles simply never stopped. It was exactly what I wanted – and needed.
My phone was turned off for the whole day. I didn’t want to think about the outside world, about the past or the future. I didn’t want a spiritual trip at all. I don’t have any soul-searching to do right now; I’ve done enough over the past two years, and most things that play on my mind have now been neatly filofaxed away and are being dealt with incrementally, in a healthy way.
If I’d met a bunch of harem-panted shaman hippies at San Jose instead of my English friends, I wouldn’t have taken mushrooms. I didn’t want to think about my shakras or spirits or Gaia or whatever. I didn’t want to ponder the meaning of life, I didn’t want to think about what comes next and the great meaning of it all. I do that enough sober, and it’s not what I’d call a hoot. Sometimes I just want a laugh.
In that sense, the best possible people to trip with were these four down-to-earth people from England. They were grounded, they called a spade a spade, and it was perfect; nobody got too existential or ‘whoaaaa maaaan’ or ‘so my parents divorced when I was a kid and it fucked me up’. It was all just stupid jokes and funny stories and imagining absurd situations. Sometimes you need that – people to remind you of what’s right in front of you and stop you floating off.
On reflection, I feel really good about tripping in San Jose. At first I felt a little guilty for not having a ‘spiritual’ or deep trip, but in truth – why does it matter? And who decides what’s meaningful anyway? People dive into their own psyches to mend old wounds and understand life and search for happiness or contentedness: I completely get it. But making dick jokes all day with my new friends was happiness for me; no search required. So in that sense, by having a dumb, infantile trip, I stumbled upon something that many people take a very different route to achieve, though the end result is just as profound regardless: being completely, blissfully present.
After a long day with my new friends, I went to bed feeling deliciously exhausted.