I woke up to near darkness out the windows of the van. The landscape must have been interesting, because dozens of lights scattered the night sky with white and amber dots. I had to blink a few times to confirm they weren’t floating lanterns.
Crawled into my pallet on the floor of the primitive dormitory around 3 a.m. Woke up to the sound of insect wings beating the air around me around 4:30. Massacred a 2-inch bug when it got too close to my pillow at 5:17. Such was my welcome to Tamaulipas, Hidalgo.
When I walked out the door the next morning, the source of those floating lanterns became clear. Steep mountainsides stretching thousands of feet above us boasted brightly-painted concrete homes. No discernible roads–just lush plátano, citrus, and guava trees, impossibly bright flowers, and homes barely clinging to the hillside.
I spent hours walking the steep, curving streets of Chapulhuacán last week. Climbed the mystery staircases I’ve come to associate with the best kind of travel–the ones that can’t help ending up somewhere very interesting.
I found some of the most breathtaking mountain views from the porches of those who live in the deepest poverty. Despite the lack of material resources, residents of the town have painted their homes in very bright, very Mexican colors. Pepto-Bismol pink, lemon yellow, tangerine, and cantaloupe-colored stucco and patched-together wooden walls hang onto the hillside at ridiculous angles.
Some members of our group hiked from Chapulhuacán to Tamaulipas, where we were staying. With hopscotch skip to avoid a steaming pile of cow manure, loose rock, or poisonous plant, we got farther and farther out of our comfort zones and lost our breath to the views and the thin mountain air.
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”