Travel begins where the supply of modern-day coffee as we know it ends.
Since I wasn’t in Italy or any other coffee-famous nation at that very moment, this first full thought of the day made more sense than one might think. All American (coffee) chains of Mexico City were left behind hours ago. What lay ahead of us was the unknown, a small village with an extra serving of desperately needed fresh air, where women in traditional clothes and men with sombreros on horseback were simply part of the picture.
Maybe and just maybe, the most authentic travel experiences begin when we leave our comfort zones behind and everything we’ve ever known. I thought so, as I looked down at the coffee in front of me. My original order of café con leche, por favor must have been interpreted to suit the local setting.
There was something nearly artisanal about the way that coffee stood in front of me in its unusual mug and its strong smell. Café de Olla: what an interesting union of so many spices and so little coffee. I imagined it being prepared in one big pot with an indefinite amount of spices floating around in it, like it is common with mulled wine in Europe.
When the milk to your coffee comes steaming hot in a small, separate glass, be sure that the usual mechanically produced cappuccino or latte macchiato which have once introduced you to the world of coffee , for now, belong to the past.
Before I left for Mexico, I was sure that the person coming back would be a different one from the one who left. Part one of this transformation consists in getting used to a lot of things. Things like realizing that far away from the big cities growing more modern every day, it is totally fine to eat your quesadilla with your hands. There is no need to worry about the locals watching, most of whom are likely to be doing the same with their breakfast as you.
I bit into my quesadilla and registered the flavor dominance of the corn tortilla enclosing the melted cheese and the champignons. Another thing worth getting used to.
Our new friend, the dog, first curious about the contents of our plates had quickly come to understand that cheese was not his thing after all. He remained seated patiently with his head on my lap, waiting for occasional pats on the head. How is it that dogs always come to the people who are afraid of them the most?
I don’t think he was anyone’s dog. Just the village’s as a whole. The 11th article of the constitution of the Republic of Uzupis in Lithuania comes to mind, which states:
“Everyone has the right to look after the dog until one of them dies.”
Near the village of Valle de Bravo we ate our breakfast in silence while the air was heavy with the smell of spices, corn tortillas and moist soil.
I wished for the skillfulness of a mountain goat as I came up and down the path to the waterfall of Cascada Velo De Novia. But no matter what any of us do, no matter our hiking experience, I am certain that the women of the village in their colorful, traditional dresses and worn moccasins will always be a step ahead of us.