Getting Sick at a Healing Retreat - Puerto Escondido #1

Getting Sick at a Healing Retreat – Puerto Escondido #1

We’ve had some pretty out of the ordinary couchsurfs in the past six months. Staying with Fran in an open air dome and the back of a school bus in New Mexico comes to mind. However I think the new prize for “Most Unusual Couchsurf” now goes to our stay at “The Sanctuary” in Puerto Escondido.

Doris, Pete, and his motorcycle

The British guy who owns it is called Pete and he has a pretty detailed couchsurfing profile. Reading this, we knew that we were signing up for early morning meditation, a raw vegan diet, and afternoon yoga. I am trying to do more meditation and yoga throughout this trip and my life in general, so this appealed to me.

We pulled up late in the afternoon after a long, hot ride from Acapulco. We had heard that there were lots of topes (speed bumps – pronounced TOE-PAY) on that stretch of highway and so we decided to count them. All 236 of them. We did lose track a couple of times. Topes margin of error +/- 3 topes, 19 times out of 20.

One of the 236 topes between Acapulco and Puerto Escondido

Topes are a way of life in Mexico, they are on every highway, often unmarked and concealed in the shadow of a sneaky tree or building. We don’t have to slow down too much for them on the bikes as we have pretty good suspension. Cars, trucks and buses slow to a crawl to get over them without damaging themselves. If there is no oncoming traffic, this means we can pass whole rows of slow moving traffic while they make their way over the series of bumps. If there is oncoming traffic it is EXTREMELY frustrating being stuck behind that same row of crawling vehicles.

When we walked through the big wooden gate, the property seemed to be abandoned. After a few minutes of wandering around looking for any sign of life, we met Doris, Pete’s girlfriend. Doris is from Romania, and she welcomed us and explained that the others were doing yoga upstairs.

The sleeping/chilling building at the Sanctuary

That evening dinner was a lentil dhal soup cooked over an open fire, with salad and olive bread. I helped prepared the vegetables and keep the fire going. While at the fire I met a girl called “Star”. She is a 19 year old from Vancouver and left with just $1000 to her name. She’s been travelling around Mexico, and spent quite some time at the Rainbow Gathering in Palenque. I had never heard of the rainbow gatherings before, but it turns out they are temporary intentional communities that spring up all over the world. When I met her she was frying eggs on the fire, which I found odd in a vegan place. Turns out that they have a young cat called Peace, who they feed only fried eggs and fruit and vegetables such as papaya. I have a feeling Peace will learn to hunt birds and lizards pretty soon, as I don’t think cats are meant to be vegetarians!

I noticed when chopping the vegetables that they were spraying a clear liquid on everything. Star told me it was called MMS and was good for removing toxins.

While we were preparing dinner, Pete’s mum Ann came in. Ann was visiting from Norfolk for a couple of weeks and was staying in the hotel next door. I found Pete’s relationship with his mother fascinating. I saw Pete as the leader of this small community, one based on peace, love, meditation and positive energy. Whenever he was speaking with his mother, those ideals seemed to be forgotten. They argued about her passport, what time he’d said to come to dinner, whether she was losing her memory etc… At one point I had to sit down with her and distract her to calm the situation down. Then I stuck my foot in it by asking about her other children, one of whom left home after a visit one Christmas and never contacted any of the family again. Oops. All in all she was a sweet lady, who didn’t really understand what Pete was up to, and just wanted a nice holiday visiting her son.

Dinner that evening was delicious. Especially the dahl, which had been delicately spiced and was full of veggies and flavour. After dinner we all sat in a circle and shared our thoughts about the day, then watched a pretty strange video Pete had downloaded. It was a man who was saying something about black holes and the power of magnets. Phil and I both fell asleep part way through, but at one point the guy in the video said that he didn’t believe in the peer review process, and that Stephen Hawking had stolen some of his work…

Phil and I were assigned an open air bedroom, a corner netted off with a fine netting with two beds in it. The weather was warm enough that we slept quite comfortably there.

Our bedroom at the Sanctuary

The next day we were up at 6:15am for meditation, then a warm up before sunrise and sungazing. The meditation was good, the warm up okay, and the sungazing just downright weird. They actually wanted us to stare at the sun. Later in our visit Pete explained that there are people called “breath-tarians” who believe that since plants get their nutrition from the sun, and animals eat those plants, it is possible to cut out the steps of eating and just gain all our nutrition directly from the sun by staring at it. Needless to say, Phil and I kept our retinas intact and did not stare at the sun for any amount of time.

That day Phil wasn’t feeling well and slept a lot. Pete had been ill in the night and stayed in bed too. I chatted with the girls who were working there, Star and a French girl called Helen (or possibly Ellen, I never quite figured that out). A new volunteer arrived that afternoon as well, a lovely Croatian girl called Anya.

We visited the beach that afternoon, and enjoyed a swim and some ice cream from a little truck. We made sure to be back in time for afternoon yoga.

Helen and Jayne on the beach

Phil imitates a pelican

We were amused by the caption

Phil, Anya and I all fell completely asleep during the final relaxation. Woke up to find everyone else had left. Oops. My stomach was starting to feel distinctly queasy, with slight cramping.

That evening’s downloaded media was a radio programme about some kind of new homeopathic remedies and products. To be honest I didn’t really pay attention. Even Pete cut it short, finding it a bit tedious to listen to.

We got up super early again for meditation etc. I really, really liked the meditating, just could have done with it being after sunrise, rather than before. Unfortunately the night’s sleep hadn’t helped the situation with my stomach, I was having severe cramping spells about every 15 minutes. Ouch.

We packed up slowly and said goodbye to everyone. Both Star and Helen had left during our stay, so there was only Pete, Doris and Anya left.

I have mixed feelings about our stay at The Sanctuary. I liked Pete, he had some really insightful things to say and his heart is in the right place. However he also had a few ideas that left me reeling. I loved the meditation, and I always enjoy trying new forms of yoga. I was pretty ill for 4 or 5 days after our visit there. I think it may have to do with the MMS they were spraying on everything. I later googled it, and it has been banned by the FDA.  I guess my stomach doesn’t like industrial bleach.

While at the Sanctuary we received an email from a Californian couple called Erik and Penny ( They had found us using a website called “geofeedia” which searches social media for all publicly posted locations. We tweet our location every time we arrive somewhere new, and through that they discovered we were in Puerto Escondido, and it took them to our website.

The day we left Puerto Escondido we met up with this cool couple for a leisurely breakfast, and shared travel stories. Erik has broken a couple of ribs in the surf, and so they were staying in town for a few weeks to allow him some recovery time.

New friends brought to us by modern technology

It is when technology does things like bring us new friends, that I really appreciate living in this century!