Hiking and Hallucinating in Hungary

Greetings, dear reader, I hope that all is going well. I'm currently writing from a hostel in Košice Slovakia. The rain is pouring down in droves, and I've curled up with my laptop and a fine pint of Slovakian craft beer. So far things in Slovakia have been a challenge. Lots of hunger, little help from the bank I use, as well as some fine company. But, I'll describe my adventures in Slovakia in the next blog post. I still have over one hundred kilometers before I reach Poland, so that post won't be up for some time.

Anyway, moving on to Hungary...

After spending an extended amount of time in Oradea (my hosts there were just too damn kind and inviting), I was driven to the outskirts of the city and began my walk to the Hungarian border. All in all, everything was very easy. Flat, lots of pavement, and that's about it.

 It's pretty. Pretty darn flat.

It's pretty. Pretty darn flat.

The Hungarian section of the E3 is a 250 kilometer section of the Great Plain Blue trail. The Blue trail is an 800 kilometer trail that wraps around the entire country, covering the rolling hills in the west, and the Great Hungarian Plains in the East. The E3 section is on the eastern side of Hungary, and good lord is it flat. No mountains, no hills, just flat pavement and sandy work roads.

After my hike in the Apuseni mountains in Romania, I was looking forward to having a few days of walking on flat roads, but after the first eight hours of walking I learned my lesson. Flat pavement is still exhausting and painful on the feet, and the plains are incredibly dull. You can only see so many fields of corn and dying sunflowers before both lose their charm, meaning that I spent a significant amount of time plugged in to my headphones listening to podcasts in order to keep my mind stimulated.

While the walking in Hungary wasn't exceptional or terribly interesting, I did manage to have an amazing time in Hungary. There were drugs and rock and roll, new friends were made, and I fell in love with Budapest. I'll start from the beginning...

 The signs.

The signs.

August 12-14: The Friends

Not long after crossing the Hungarian border, I was stopped by the police. This usually happens near borders, but I could tell that the officers were much more skeptical about my American passport and my reasons for being in Hungary than my previous encounters with the local police. Within the first two days of walking I was stopped close to ten times. I was always allowed to continue on my way, but only after assuring the officers that I was going to Slovakia and would not be staying in Hungary for very long. It was a little bizarre at first, but I've come to realize that many Hungarians in the smaller towns are worried about foreigners. This is not true about every Hungarian, but people are starting to become a bit colder the farther I walk West.

The trail was easy enough to follow. The markings here are three stripes, two white and one blue. They're painted on trees or posts every 100 meters or so making getting lost close to impossible. Every once in a while you come across a sign that point you towards the next village or point of interest, so I always had a good sense of where I was going. The signs also listed the number of kilometers to the next main location. How civilized!

My first night I walked close to fifty kilometers, and only stopped because I needed to find water for the next day's trek. I walked into a darkened village around 21:00. None of the houses had their lights on, and the only water pumps I could find had signs with the word ivoviz (potable water) with a line crossed through. I continued my exploration of the sleepy town and eventually found a house that had evidence of life inside. I asked the gentleman in the house whether there was any drinking water available in town. He shook his head, but quickly disappeared into another room in the house. When he returned he was carrying a 2.5 liter bottle of water. He handed me the bottle, wished me luck, and sent me on my way. 

At this point I realized that I wasn't going to have an easy time walking in the darkness, so I went off in search of a place to camp. Within 300 meters of leaving the man's house, I was stopped by two police officers driving a military-grade vehicle. We went through the usual motions: pull out passport, explain where I'm going, when I'll be leaving, etc. I eventually asked where there might be a place to camp that was nearby.

 The view from the farm in Western Hungary.

The view from the farm in Western Hungary.

The officers were confused, then repeatedly told me that I would have to walk another 30 kilometers to Debrecen to find accommodations. I politely explained that I had just walked 50 kilometers and that I wouldn't be able to walk to Debrecen that night. The officers became distressed. They started making calls to their superiors and asked for advice. I was told the same advice over and over again. Walk to Debrecen. Eventually I pointed to my tent. "Camping?" The officers looked around, spoke amongst themselves in Hungarian, then pointed to an abandoned house. "Camp there. Just leave as soon as you can." I thanked them, made up my camp, and soon they were gone. Dinner was a salami sandwich and some Romanian chocolates that my hosts in Oradea had given me for my journey.

I left early the next morning, just before the birds and the villagers had woken up. I walked to the next town, found a cafe, and looked at my map. I saw that the trail came within several kilometers of the Hungarian city Debrecen, and thought to myself about how nice it would be to see a real Hungarian city during my travels. I was only going to be in Hungary for a week after all, and I wasn't going to be visiting Budapest any time soon. I managed to connect to a cafe's wifi and scoured Couchsurfing to see whether if there was anyone who could host me at the last minute. If no one could host, I wouldn't go to Debrecen. If I could find a host, well then, that's fate isn't it?

An hour or so after I had messaged several people, there was one kind soul who was willing to give me a place to stay for the night. Shiva, my would-be host, messaged me that there was another surfer staying at her house but that I was more than welcome to join them for a night or two. It was decided, I was going to Debrecen and dig deeper into the Hungarian culture. I began walking. Many cars on the road honked at me and waved while I walked. I remember spending most of the walk to Debrecen singing and ad libbing songs of joy, love and adventure. The mind does some bizarre things when the body walks.

Sooner than later I was in Debrecen. I walked around in wonder, staring at the renovated and pristine Baroque buildings of eras past. The city center was pristine, people were walking around in droves, and there were a multitude of shops and cafes. Ah lord, there was life here. It felt wonderful to be surrounded by the company of strangers.

Hungary is a seemingly wealthier country compared to the other countries that I've been walking through. Streets are clean, roads are well maintained, building aren't falling apart, and the houses are much more attractive compared to those in Bulgaria. Debrecen is a charming city, and I felt that I had made the right choice in walking there.

 Buildings in the center of Debrecen.

Buildings in the center of Debrecen.

After arriving in front of Shiva's apartment complex, I was brought inside and was soon introduced to Piotr (who also goes by Morgan), the other Couchsurfer. Piotr is a young man of 22 who has been traveling through Europe for the past several months. Polish by birth, his family left Poland for Iceland when he was nine years old. After spending, as I'm sure he would agree, too much time in Iceland, he decided to sell all of his belongings in favor of buying a backpack and a tent, then began to hitchhike from England to Thailand. 

Shiva, my host, is a very sweet and compassionate Persian woman with long black hair and sparkling brown eyes. Her family left Iran for Toronto, where she soon became fluent in English and was raised among the Canucks. Upon graduating high school, Shiva left for Hungary to pursue a medical degree. Apparently university for medicine is much more affordable in Hungary. She's spent the last six years in intensive study, but after meeting her boyfriend, Szabi, she learned to let loose and enjoy more of the sensorial pleasures that this world has to offer.

My introduction to these kind souls went swimmingly. After taking a much needed shower and changing into my clean clothes I was presented with the plan for the evening. Debrecen just began celebrating a week of various festivities, and tonight there was going to be a beer festival. If you know me by now, you can already presume how excited I was by this plan. All we were waiting for was for Szabi to arrive from Budapest. 

Szabi, with his headful of curly hair and multicolored pants, soon entered the apartment. He's a tranquil man who always seemed to have a smile on his face. Our party of three had been joined by another kind soul. Shiva cooked up a wonderful Iranian meal for dinner, and soon we were off to the festival.

Upon arriving at the festival, I learned that none of my fellow compatriots enjoy beer, so I was going to be the only one imbibing in the glorious beverage. While my hosts sipped on wine spritzers, I indulged in the array of Czech, Belgian and Hungarian craft beers available. Oh, it was wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. Not long after that we were walking back to the apartment, laughing and chatting the whole way.

 Piotr, Shiva and Szabi looking for something to drink that isn't beer.

Piotr, Shiva and Szabi looking for something to drink that isn't beer.

We ended the evening with hookah and more wine. During the last conversation of the evening, Szabi and Piotr started talking about Piotr's plan for the next week. Szabi had told Piotr about a community farm in the hills of Western Hungary, and Piotr was interested in seeing more of what Hungary had to offer.

That's when Shiva and Szabi mentioned the psychedelic festival that Szabi was going to be performing in (he's a keyboard player in a psychedelic post-rock band). The festival is a private event with limited invitees. Only 200 people are allowed to go to the festival, and nearly everyone knows a member of the band who hosts the festival. Szabi said that he's friends with half of the people who attend the festival every year, and mentioned that he could get Piotr a ticket if the hitchhiker so pleased. Piotr accepted the offer, and everyone in the room was excited for all of the fun that would take place that next week.

Shiva looked over to me and explained that this festival was the best festival Hungary had to offer and that I really ought to consider delaying my trip. I thought about it...should I continue my hike, or should I take another week off from walking and party like a hippie rock star? It didn't take too long for me to change my plans. How often do you get presented with an opportunity to go to a private festival, especially when you're in another country?

August 15-18: Csobánkapuszta

It was decided, I was to join Shiva and Piotr to Budapest, then I would follow Piotr to the farm that Szabi had so highly recommended. It was a Woofing farm that accepted volunteer labor in exchange for food and a place to camp. Apparently the community there is a very accepting group and wouldn't be bothered if two travelers showed up on their land, so we wouldn't have any problems.

Getting to Csobánkapuszta was an adventure in and of itself. Located in the hills of Western Hungary, Piotr and I missed several trains that would have gotten us there sooner, but we eventually arrived at the nearest train station and began the six kilometer walk to the farm. About ten minutes of walking later, a car saw our big thumbs pointed to the sky and slowed down. The gentleman driving the car asked us where we were going, then mentioned that he knew the farm very well. He offered to drive us all the way to the farm if we so liked, but first, would we like a glass of wine at his house? We couldn't say no.

When the man driving the car said house, I had pictured a quaint building somewhere in the next village that would look like every other house that I've seen in Hungary. Then he pulled up to a driveway with grandiose gates, and then I saw that he was taking us to his chateau. After getting out of the car, he disappeared to find a few glasses and a bottle of wine while his wife greeted us and sat us down to enjoy some homemade snacks.

 This photo just doesn't do the place justice...

This photo just doesn't do the place justice...

It turns out that the man driving the car is a composer and cellist by trade, but he and his wife are very involved in raising the status of their village, Bercel, into an international destination. The composer's wife brought out her laptop and immediately began showing us slideshows of the projects they were working on.

One project (and it was a beautiful project) was to transform one of the abandoned mines in town to a large concert hall for performances and meetings. They were also working with the Woofing organization to make Bercel the headquarters for Hungary's Woof chapter, meaning that more and more volunteers would be able to help Bercel become an organic farm paradise. The couple are passionate about Bercel, so much so that they began purchasing homes in the village, only to give them to young families or individuals who are interested in transforming dilapidated houses into beautiful homes. They offered me a home to live in for several years, and I have to admit, the offer is tempting...

After drinks and some snacks, we piled into the composer's car and were off to the farm. Upon arrival, I was amazed. I had entered a world of pristine nature, beautiful campgrounds, and all inhabited by incredibly friendly residents. The composer and his wife knew most of the community, and soon began chatting away. Piotr and I made camp, ate a can of beans for dinner, and got around to introducing ourselves to the travelers, volunteers, residents and other cast of characters who were staying on the farm.

 This sums of the philosophy of the farm.

This sums of the philosophy of the farm.

There were the two French girls, both students, who had just arrived in order to volunteer on the farm and escape from university life. Both were very shy at first, but as time went on, they warmed up a bit to my traveling partner and me. Next was Sebastian, a man born in Germany who gave up the German label years ago. His hair was in short, but orderly, dreadlocks, and he had a wild look in his eyes. He had spent a lot of time living off the grid in the Australian outback and learned to live off of only what the land would provide, he at one point had burned every document that identified who he is (his traveling became severely limited after this), and he was an incredibly kind character.

We soon met the head organizer of the farm, Dani, and learned that his mind was somewhere in another dimension. "You human beings are such curious characters" is a typical Dani statement. He was happy to see us there, and he really didn't seem to care or be bothered by anything anyone was doing. Every so often he would appear with some wacky tobacky, share the goods, then disappear into his camper to drink pálinka

We met a few other residents, Peter, a fantastic cook and organizer for an upcoming festival. Georgy, a man with intense eyes and a work ethic that would put anyone else to shame (wake up at 5:00, don't stop working until 23:00). There was the second Peter, a young and cheerful man who is essentially the Hungarian version of Huckleberry Finn (he wore a straw hat every day, played a reed pipe and always walked barefoot). This second Peter offered us the flowers of a psychedelic plant (it'll give you some visuals...maybe) just to see what would happen. Nothing did happen, but I hope that this gives you a sense of what the camp was like.

While there were many other interesting characters who came and went, there is one person that I feel obliged to write about: Kevin. Kevin is a forty year old German who bounced like a pogo stick every time he laughed, and he was laughing after nearly every sentence he finished. No one could ever completely understand what Kevin was saying. From his thick Bavarian accent to his rushed sentences, you were lucky to be able to pick up 45% of what the man was saying. 

 On the hunt for fruit, goat's milk and pálinka.

On the hunt for fruit, goat's milk and pálinka.

By the time Piotr and I had arrived, Kevin had been at the farm for several weeks. Originally coming for a psychedelic festival, Kevin's "friend" abandoned him and happened to take nearly all of Kevin's possessions with him. Kevin had been living for free at the farm with only the clothes on his back, his tent, and a wealth of money.

During the three days I spent at the farm, I never saw Kevin wake up before 13:00. Once he would wake up, he would eat whatever free food was available, then would make the six kilometer walk to the nearest village to purchase a case of beer. Upon returning to the farm he would begin to smoke like a chimney, usually mixing his cigarettes with the devil's lettuce, then would rant about whatever came to his mind. It was extremely difficult to understand the man and I am still unsure as to what we talked about. After the majority of people there would go to bed, Kevin would start playing German techno from his phone and would routinely go out to the woods to dance and imitate Poi dancers with whatever light show app he had on his phone.

I did eventually discover the secret behind Kevin's joviality. During my last night at the farm, Georgy invited me to learn how to make flatbread. After he had finally kneaded the dough, around 23:00, Georgy put the bread on the wood-fire stove and asked if I would be so kind as to flip the dough once it was ready. Thinking that it shouldn't take longer than half an hour, I agreed to watch the bread and flip it when the time came. Georgy left, and Kevin took his place. As soon as Georgy disappeared into the darkness, the German techno began.

An hour went by. The bread was nowhere near ready, and my patience was wearing thin. Kevin would occasionally roll me a cigarette in order to help me stay awake, but he wouldn't turn the music on his phone off. I looked into Kevin's eyes and I could tell that he was on something.

Eventually Kevin asked if I wanted to relax, and pulled out a plastic baggy full of white powder. Before I could ask, Kevin licked his finger, put his finger in the bag, then licked all of the white powder that had been attached to his finger. "MDMA!" He said. Afterwards was a roar of laughter. He zipped up the bag, then handed it over to me. I politely declined his offer. It turns out Kevin had been rolling on MDMA for the past several weeks. As soon as he would wake up, he would take a dab or two then go on with the rest of his day only to re-dose every several hours or so. That would explain how he could listen to such awful techno all day...

 Piotr in the kitchen playing his ukulele.

Piotr in the kitchen playing his ukulele.

Staying at the farm was an absolute pleasure. Being put to work for my food and my stay gave me a sense of usefulness that I cannot remember having. My feet learned to love the mud, and my body felt stronger from the all organic vegetarian meals whose ingredients came straight from the garden. I picked fruits, made syrups, cleared brush, and, best of all, ate the biggest raspberries that I have ever seen. I've developed a lot of respect for all organic farms. I do hope that more spring up in the future.

By the end of our three nights, Piotr and I were becoming antsy. The festival had already started, and it was time that we got to moving. After making our goodbyes and promising to come back someday, we hitched a ride into town and started making our way to Börzsönystock (imagine Birkenstock, but replace the -k with -sion).

August 18-21: Börzsönystock Part 1

Getting to the festival took much longer than we had anticipated. We were only 50 kilometers away from the festival grounds and assumed that hitchhiking wouldn't be much of a problem. As I'm sure you already can foresee, hitchhiking from one small village to another is not an easy task. So we made the most of it. We walked, we missed busses only to catch others, and we finally had to take the slowest train in the world in order to get to a village Shiva could pick us up from. We spent an entire day trying to get to the festival, but lord, it was so worth it.

 The festival.

The festival.

Upon arriving to the campgrounds where the festival was taking place, I could tell that I was going to enjoy myself immensely. Families with children were running around, tents were set up in all parts of the camping grounds, and, most importantly, there was space. It was impossible to feel crowded, there were only 200 people after all, and I was one of them.

Being at a private festival was both fascinating and a little alienating. Shiva, Piotr and myself were the only outsiders to the festival. Szabi and everyone else had been going for the last 10 years. Nearly everyone was curious to know just how on earth an Icelander, a Persian and an American had found out about their festival, but everyone was incredibly happy to share the good vibrations.

The first night was rock and post-punk themed. After flying high from the farm, Piotr and I ended up sharing a bottle of vodka (the Polish love their vodka) and grooving to the tunes. There was shisha, cheap food, and all in all a grand old time.

Before we embarked on our journey, Piotr and I were wise enough to purchase food for the week. It was some cereal, some snacks like chocolate and chips, and many, many, cans of beans. We shared everything. When we would eat from one of our cans, we would alternate spoons. When it came to chocolate, we measured out half with absolute precision. Chips were also measured by alternating handfuls. As we both learned, you build a special bond with a person when you share a cold can of beans.

 Rock and roll at the festival.

Rock and roll at the festival.

The next night was a much more relaxing day. I lounged in a hammock and our group participated in a Hungarian wine tasting. I couldn't understand a damn word of what was being said, but the wine was mighty tasty. Szabi was busy setting up for his band's set as well as the DJ stage, but he seemed to be in good spirits. There was more shisha and more smoke, more alcohol, and all in all, a pleasant day.

The third and final day of the festival was one hell of a day. One member of our party had a connection who was carrying a suitcase that would have made Hunter S. Thompson proud. One of the many goodies inside this case was one substance that still has me shaken up: The spirit molecule, otherwise known as DMT. 

Now, I was never planning on trying DMT, I'm not a huge fan of powerful psychedelics. While they are incredibly useful for self-discovery and for reflection, the experience of a "bad trip" is horrifying. Now, there is no such thing as a "bad trip". Anyone going through a "bad trip" is having that trip for a reason, and, when one digs deep enough, realizes that there is a lesson to be learned from it. One person in our party was determined to experience the earth-shattering experience of DMT, and I agreed to watch over them, just to make sure that nothing went wrong.

We found a pristine island near a creek and covered in the forests. We were still close to the camp grounds, but far enough away to be in our own private Eden. I rolled up the changa for the psychonaut and handed him the DMT cigarette. Their hands were shaking when they grabbed the cigarette, but as soon as they started smoking it, their body relaxed and a smile appeared on their face.

 The DJ stage.

The DJ stage.

In a matter of seconds, the psychonaut handed me the rest of the cigarette, and they laid back to disappear into another dimension. Several minutes later they came out of their stupor, and they were amazed. Now, of course this is all paraphrasing, but they essentially said: "I met Anubis...I saw the Egyptian gods. They were watching me, indifferent but curious all at the same time. They were huge...I need to go back." They finished the rest of the .3 grams of the changa, this time inhaling more of the smoke that smelled of oriental incense. This time they were in their own world for over ten minutes.

Upon coming out of their second stupor, the psychonaut was curious, but so very content. Apparently they had been transported to an alien village where hundreds of villagers had come out to greet the psychonaut. There were colors and shapes that could not exist in our world, but it all felt so very real. The psychonaut rattled on and on about their experience, all of which I no longer can remember at this point. It was a powerful journey for the psychonaut, and it got me to thinking.

The psychonaut was excited by their explorations, and the excitement rubbed off on me. Seeing how I was at a psychedelic festival it only seemed appropriate that I try a psychedelic. And if this one only lasted for ten minutes, well, that would be just dandy. I went out to find The Man With the Bag.

I procured .2 grams of the changa from the Man With the Bag. The rest of the group was excited to see what beautiful discoveries that I would find on my trip, and everyone gathered round to make sure that nothing horrible would happen. I sat on the blanket, rolled up a cigarette, and began my journey.

(Note: Like all psychedelic experiences, words simply cannot do justice to explain what I saw and felt during my journey. While my words will undoubtedly fall flat, I will do my best to illustrate what I experienced after smoking DMT. I will utilize the Socratic method of questioning in order to pry into my experience and hopefully elucidate the beauty of my journey as much of possible.)

Divine Meditation Training Inside the Infinite

What is this DMT, and what purpose does it have?

N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, otherwise known as DMT, is one hell of a molecule that seems to be everywhere. The molecule was first synthesized in 1931, but has since been discovered floating around in both plants (DMT is the main molecule inside ayahuasca)  as well as mammalian organisms. In fact, there's a little DMT that is flowing through your brain as your reading this.

How much is known about DMT?

Not much is known about DMT in the brain, but it theorized that DMT is produced in the pineal gland which would help explain why the pineal gland and spiritual experiences seem to be so closely tied together. This otherworldly molecule has been dubbed the Spirit Molecule (you can find a documentary of the same name on YouTube), but it is still such a mysterious drug. One thing is for certain, it's one of if not the most powerful psychedelic in the world.

Why is so little known about this molecule?

Psychedelic research was halted in after the United States' War on Drugs. It has only been relatively recently that some neuroscientists and psychologists are studying the effects of psychedelics on the mind.

For what reason were you taking this drug?

I've known of DMT for some time now. I've never been one to actively pursue it, so when I saw an opportunity to experience something that notorious for changing a person's perspective, I took it. After watching the psychonaut go through their trip, I figured that 15 minutes of my life in another world sounded rather fascinating.

Are you sure it wasn't just because you wanted to get high?

I will admit that there is that desire that underlies all drug use, but the end that I was searching for was an experience that I would never forget, and DMT seemed to be a proper means to achieving that end.

What about the possibility of physical dependence?

There is no risk of physical dependence to the molecule. There are no withdrawals, no aches, not even much of a desire to stay in that place. In honesty, I can't imagine partaking DMT more than once or twice in a lifetime. The experience is so overwhelming that to go to that world over and over again would alter your perception of the into a state that I'd rather stay away from.

I've met a number of people who are involved in the cult of ayahuasca, and I know that that the tribes in the Amazon have used that sacred experience as a means of self-improvement as well as a way to explain the metaphysical. The folks who are believers in "la medicina" are all healthy individuals and, from what I've seen, appear to be happier than they've ever been in their life. That path is for some people, but it isn't for me.

Do you regret smoking DMT?

Absolutely not. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Ever since that day, I've reflect on what I experienced at least several times a day.

So, what did you physically experience?

The best metaphor to use in this case is a rollercoaster. Within seconds my body began to tingle, and I felt a rush of lightness come over my entire body. I looked at my hand that held the cigarette, and I became confused as to why I should continue smoking for I could not remember how to breathe. I knew that I was breathing, but the thought of inhaling seemed alien, so I put the cigarette to the side and stared at my surroundings. That's when the world started to hum.

What did you see when your eyes were awake?

I saw colors turn into living beings that moved and pulsated. A log with some mold growing on it turned into the most intriguing entity. It was almost as though the colors had become like insects crawling over a block of material in empty space. The trees above me providing shade started to weave into a mandala, and every color was more vibrant than I've ever seen in my life. My sense of depth was completely distorted. Eventually my instincts kicked in a told my body that to lie down and close my eyes would be a comfortable feeling. So I did.

What happened when you closed your eyes?

I felt as though I had just opened my eyes to a new reality. Shapes of immense scale were in front of me, and there were flashes of lights and colors that I had never seen combined. The humming earlier grew in intensity, and I felt as though I was looking at the internal structure of what stays hidden from our sober perception. Almost as though I was looking at the metaphysical mechanics of what we call reality. Whenever I turned my head, I was looking around this new world. Then things started to fade.

Fade? Why fade?

I had not smoked much of the cigarette, so the experience was extremely brief.

Did you partake in more of the cigarette?

Absolutely. I had just begun to explore this realm and I was not quite ready to leave. My caretaker told me that I hadn't inhaled that much smoke and handed me the cigarette for me to finish.

Did you finish it?

That I did.

Did you go back to that world?

Not right away. I kept my eyes open to stare at our world again. The colors and patterns were hypnotizing, but also seemed so natural. I looked to one of my caretakers and they smiled back at me. I started to giggle, then laid back in the ground in the fetal position.

Did you eventually close your eyes?

I did.

What did you see?

I saw giant entities staring at me. Surrounded by pillars and towers of organic materials.

Giant entities?

Yes, giants. They had large heads and looked humanoid, but I couldn't see their face. I don't think they even had faces. They were these beings of pure light and energy, but all with a greenish glow to them. I felt like I was staring into a humanoid version of the Aurora Borealis.

Did they say anything?

Possibly, but the humming was so loud that I couldn't hear anything. I tried to communicate to them. I remember thinking telepathically: "Hello, I'm just here on a visit. It's nice to meet you." That's when I turned my head.

And? What did you see?

A female figure that I knew was a mother. She had the most magnificent red glow, and a serene face, something similar to the Madonna. She didn't say a word, but I knew that she wanted me to lay in her lap. I moved closer to her (my physical body was now in the mud and the grass), and she held me. I felt like I was in the pieta, but rather than weep for her dying son, this mother brought me closer in an embrace and loved me. 

Loved you?

Yes, loved. There weren't any words said between us, but there was no room for words. We had moved beyond them and relied on the feeling of harmony. There was this intense feeling of absolute gratitude, adoration, and, for lack of a better word, love.

There was no need for fear or for sadness, and I felt as though I had been shed of the anxieties of being human only to be clothed in a harmonious blend of energy and love. There was no joy, but instead pure love and the understanding that I was becoming a part of the infinite. This was death, and my lord, it was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen.

My heart rang out with the most intense light, and I felt as though I had come home to a place that I had been before, but couldn't remember how I had gotten there. I had some innate sense of recognition and felt a close sense of belonging, but it still appeared so foreign to my limited perspective.

The mother looked at me and gave me a humongous hug that charged every molecule in my body, then she let me go. I remember not being upset about her leaving me, I could understand it. She knew that I needed to go back to where I belong, but I also knew that I would come back to her someday. 

Is this when the experience faded away?

Indeed. Soon the intensity of colors subsided, the humming and buzzing started to soften, but that sensation of love remained with me. I began to breathe in the air around me, and oxygen felt as satisfying as a cold glass of water on a summer's day. I was smiling, and my head was racing with thoughts.

Did you learn a lesson from this experience?

I don't know if I learned a lesson, but rather felt a lesson. I felt as though I had died and gone back to a land that I knew. I felt like I was loved, and I felt as though this maternal spirit was behind what occurs in the world. I told my caretakers that I know that the Earth and Universe is rooting for me, and that I am loved.

Can you really believe that you are loved by the Universe?

I can believe it, but I can't prove it. I suppose, in a way, I've developed some kind of confused faith in the greater powers beyond.

So, by taking a powerful psychedelic, you believe that you encountered an entity that exists in reality rather than be just a hallucination?

From a skeptical point of view, I did just hallucinate and overrode my pineal gland's natural process by flooding it with more DMT than my brain has ever had in its life. What I saw was purely subjective, and, from what I know, has not been experienced by anyone else (at least on the record). We know that when one ingests DMT that they will hallucinate, and typically people see similar tropes and have similar experiences. So yes, if you want to be on the safe side, don't believe that what I've just described is, in fact, a piece of reality. I could never provide evidence that it exists, and I highly doubt that any human could prove it while using the current version of the scientific method.

So, if you know that the skeptical side provides a much more reasonable explanation for what you experienced why do you have faith?

It's only based on a feeling, and that is all. People who meditate for decades, or pray every day for decades have been shown to have enlarged pineal glands, and perhaps this is why these practices help the individual develop a sense of a spiritual connection to the metaphysical. My pineal gland got taken for a ride, and the rest of my brain has since been recovering by making connections between the several premises that were presented before it. My sense of feelings were altered in such a way, that I can only understand it in simple terms.

Such as?

That I am loved, that I will die, and Death is only but a path that will lead me to somewhere else. Where that is I have no idea. I don't even know what you would call it. But I sincerely hope that Death takes me back to Her. 

What five words would best describe your experience?

Infinite, South American, Organic, Fetal, Death.

How long did the experience last for?

Including the first plunge? Around 12 minutes.

Would you want to smoke DMT again?

Eventually, but not for a very, very long time. Perhaps someday on my deathbed.

Would you recommend DMT?

I think that many people would benefit from DMT, but it isn't for everyone. Some people don't need to be taken out of their body and put into a strange land. Every experience is different, and everyone has a different ride. Some are pleasant, others are not. I wish that everyone in the world could have seen and felt what I experienced, but I also know that that is impossible. Perhaps I got lucky, or perhaps the molecule wanted to teach me something. Who knows?

Thus concludes the DMT experience. Now back to the show.

 Much love to this wonderful place helping me meet Her.

Much love to this wonderful place helping me meet Her.

Börzsönystock Part 2

As I'm sure you can understand, my brain was in a very different space for the rest of the day. Nature was incredibly beautiful, and I had never felt so safe while being in my body. We spent the day listening to more music and lounging about, I participated in a Hungarian beer tasting (and I still couldn't understand a word of what anyone was saying), then we got ready for the final concert.

I had procured a little bit of MDMA from the Man With the Bag. Just enough to feel something, but not too much to go crazy or dance my butt off. I have had several experiences with MDMA before, now this was just another ride of exploring the cosmos.

I remember the music being quite good. The bands all rocked, we danced, and everyone at the festival was having a blast. The last band completed their last few songs, and the fireworks were launched. For a private festival among friends, these folks knew how to rock.

I was feeling a bit more isolated after having given myself a dose. I was lost in thought about my experience earlier that day, my journey and my life, and very much regretted taking a synthetic stimulant. I realize that I no longer care for such drugs, so that will be the last time in my life that I partake in them. If you take drugs to have fun, but you don't actually have fun, why take them at all?

Someone thought up of going for a night hike, and I was excited. The moon was humongous and full, and the thought of being in the woods sounded wonderful. There weren't that many of us, but we had a solid group of seven. That's when I met Tomas.

 Step on through to the other side.

Step on through to the other side.

Tomas is a quiet and gentle soul with deep and dark eyes. We started with small chat, but we soon discovered that we both had a serious love for literature, and we began dabbling in aesthetic philosophy while geeking out over Dostoevsky, Joyce, Hemingway, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Camus and more. My brain was racing with thoughts (I suppose that is the one benefit of taking a stimulant), and Tomas was keeping up, enthralled that he was talking to a likeminded soul.

We walked in the woods for several hours, but it felt as though it was only ten minutes. We went back to camp were Szabi was a DJ for the "Chill" stage, and we sat and listened, still chatting all the way. Near the end of our conversation, around 5 in the morning, Tomas said, in his gentle but warm way:

"It's rare to meet one of those people in your life who, after only speaking to them for several hours, have changed the way you look and perceive the world forever. Thank you Chris. Thank you for being that guy. But now, I need to take a shower and go to bed. Thank you for giving me a beautiful memory."

All I could say was a thank you in return, and felt a little choked up inside. After that, it was time for sleep. 

August 21-23: Budapest

Waking up the next morning was a challenge. Staying up until 5:30 does not lend itself to good sleep, then taking a stimulant like MDMA leads to even worse sleep. I woke up around 9:30 and already the festival had transformed from a place of celebration to a normal campground. Everyone else was still fast asleep, so I decided to help clean up the campgrounds and prepare for a departure. Shiva and Szabi were thinking of staying for another day and that did not sound terribly appealing. Budapest was only an hour away, and exploring Hungary's capital sounded much more interesting than another day of camping.

I eventually woke Piotr up and asked him if he wanted to join me. He agreed, so I told him to pack up as fast as possible. There was a bus we could catch in half an hour, and we could make it so long as he was ready to go. Lord, that man could pack. I talked to Shiva about getting a ride to the bus stop, and she agreed. Five minutes later, we caught the bus to a train station, then we were on our way to Budapest.

Budapest is an amazing city. Full of beautiful architecture, shops, and culture, you feel something when you're in Budapest. You feel a heartbeat pulsating, and it's an addictive feeling. We arrived late in the evening and managed to find a hostel. Being a weekend in the summer season, nearly everything was booked. We managed to find one hostel with a private room and jumped at the opportunity. After a week of camping with hippies and a bunch of festival-goers, some privacy sounded delightful.

The room only had one double bed, but we didn't mind. Once you share a can of beans with a man, you don't mind sharing everything. After getting situated in our room, we walked around town a bit. Piotr enjoyed an amazing sandwich, and I found a "Mexican" restaurant and satisfied my craving for foreign food.

After our dinner, we went to a communist themed ruin bar (Hungary is riddled with ruin bars) and ordered a drink. As soon as we sat outside a strange young man joined us. He began asking us the typical traveler questions (where are you from, what are you doing, etc.), then he moved into the bizarre. "Don't you know that the world is flat?" Piotr and I looked at each other. "Yeah, the world is flat, and the government doesn't want you to know about it.".

This type of conversation went on for several hours. Piotr went back to the hostel to go to bed, but I stayed awake and kept this strange man company. I've never met a conspiracy theorist before, and it was an amazing opportunity to study how bizarre the human brain can be. Essentially everything is a conspiracy, 9/11 was faked, aliens are real, Einstein and Sagan are paid shills by the government to distract humanity from the truth, Bill Hicks didn't die but instead got plastic surgery and changed his politics in order to become the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (now that's ironic), gravity doesn't exist and the Bible was written by the devil (but Jesus is still our Lord and Savior).

I was dumbfounded. Just how the hell does a person learn this? Eventually an English chap joined our table, and I felt so sorry for him. The strange man started his diatribe all over again, until the English chap mentioned that he taught physics for a living. The strange man wasn't too happy about this, so he disappeared into his apartment, only to return with a guitar.

We eventually started playing songs, singing, drinking more beers, and having a grand old time. Regardless of the fact that the strange man was a bit loony, he was able to sing and play the guitar pretty well. I ended up staying out until five in the morning that night, only to return to the hostel to go to bed.

The next day was full of rain. Seeing how we only had one proper day in Budapest, Piotr and I decided to walk around regardless of the weather. We saw some sights, got soaked, drank coffee, talked about art, and had a lovely time. In the evening we essentially repeated the night before. Piotr went to bed, and I went out and met some more interesting folks. Oh Budapest, you're a strange land, but you're also a wonderful city.

August 23-August 28: Onwards to Slovakia

Before I knew it, my time in Western Hungary was over. Shiva, Piotr and I took a carpool ride back to Debrecen where we spent one final night together. We made a toast to all of our health, then went to bed. 

Waking up to go walking felt rather bizarre. I had just become so very close to these new friends, and I saw the pleasure of having a traveling partner for an adventure. Now I was back to being alone, and my feet were forced into submission by my boots. For example, my pinky toe became so crushed that the toe nail fell off from blunt trauma. The toe felt better afterwards, but it was a painful week.

The sand and the pavement weren't pleasant, and my feet suffered for it. The sand was so fine that it slipped into your hiking socks thereby grating your feet. I couldn't ever get all of the sand out of my socks, so I lived with the free, nine-hour exfoliation. It was ever so delightful..

 You only get to the mountains once you reach the Slovakian border.

You only get to the mountains once you reach the Slovakian border.

After having walked some thirty kilometers, I entered another small village. The sun was setting, and I needed to find a place to camp. I spotted a bar some forty meters away from me, and I could hear music and people inside. Thinking that this was the best option for finding advice, I walked over to the bar and stepped inside.

The bar wasn't crowded. Only three older men sipping their beers and one older woman serving them. All of them were very surprised to see me, and I could tell that my presence did not make them comfortable. The woman behind the bar smiled, and I asked her if there was anywhere I could camp. She looked confused. "Camp?" I explained my situation, and her eyes opened wide. "No worry, I'll help you."

She immediately got to calling her mother and her sister and asked them for advice. During her several calls, the woman behind the bar told me that, if nothing worked, I could stay at her house. All that I would need to do is just wait for thirty minutes. That wasn't a problem for me, so I sat down, and one of the guys in the bar bought me a beer.

Then, the Fat Man walked in. He was tall and his hair had lost its luster. He was also very obese. As soon as he saw me in the bar he scowled. He then started to interrogate me in Hungarian. I apologized, I couldn't respond in Hungarian. The few words I did understand were when he would point his finger at me and ask: "Terrorist? Islam?" I would shake my head and say no, I'm from California and I'm walking to Slovakia. For that half hour His intensity never changed. I would offer my hand to shake his, but he didn't want to get close to me.

The Fat Man eventually took the woman from behind the bar to the back room. They argued in a whisper, then both of them returned. The woman looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. "I'm sorry," she said. "I can't help you. Goodbye."

With that I was kicked out of the bar. It was now 20:15, and the sun had set. I didn't mind the fact that the woman changed her mind, I just wish that it had happened sooner. Then I would at least be able to see the road that I'm walking on. After walking into the town center, I saw another bar and walked inside to ask the same question. The gal behind the bar, a girl of around 19, mentioned that there was a priest who might be able to help me, and that I should go there. I thanked her and went on my way.

Outside the bar, a group of giggling teenage girls yelled out to me in broken English. I stopped, responded, then went on my way. They all ran out from the bar and one of them yelled, "We help you!"

They walked me to the priest's house, knocked on his door and then talked to the priest about my situation. The priest asked to see my documents, then, after approving them, invited me inside and led me to the guest house. I could tell that the priest wasn't excited to have such a late-night guest, but he was still kind nonetheless. His wife was an absolute sweetheart (Greek Catholics can be married apparently), and she cooked me up a huge meal of eggs and salami. After having my fill, we all went to bed.

I woke up the next morning and found a bag full of food waiting for me at the door step. I was lucky to stay with a wonderful family, and I do hope that they are all doing well. My next night of sleep wasn't so pleasant. There was another village, another bar, another person willing to let me stay the night at their house. This time the house happened to be off the grid, covered in dirt, and the "guest bed" hadn't been washed in years. The host snored and farted throughout the night, but hey, at least it was a place to sleep.

The next day I pushed myself to get closer to the Slovakian border. 50 kilometers later, I was in Kisvarda, a small city, but a city nonetheless. My only options for sleep were several overpriced hotels, so I went out to a bar to see if anyone knew of somewhere else that I could go. I met several friendly Hungarians who were happy to see a person taking on such an ambitious project. We drank beer, I ate my can of beans, and soon it was midnight. I looked across the street and saw that there was a small park. I asked one of the Hungarians, "would it be alright if I slept there?" They didn't see a problem with it, so to the park I went.

I found several bushes that seemed to provide enough cover. I unrolled my sleeping pad, changed my clothes, and slipped into my sleeping bag. That was not a pleasant night for sleep. The bar didn't close until two in the morning and a group of guys who had had a little too much to drink were yelling and screaming until four. Every so often someone was walking past me, but luckily no one noticed my "camp".

Upon waking, I was greeted by several foreign bodies. Once my eyes had adjusted, I realized that there were four of my fellow homeless staring at me and taking a peek into what was in my bag. After I made a surprised yelp, all of the men scattered like mice caught in the cupboard. None of my belongings had been touched, but I knew that I needed to get out of the area. I quickly packed up my things, and then I was off.

My final destination in Hungary was Sátoraljaújhely (I still don't know how to pronounce that name). Several kilometers before entering the city, I was passed by three cyclists. They said hello, then blew past me. I didn't realize it at the time, but we would be crossing paths soon enough.

The more I walk in border towns, the less I enjoy them. Perhaps it is just paranoia, but I always feel like the border towns are seedier compared to other parts of the country, and Sátoraljaújhely was no exception. Buildings were rundown, and I saw many "tough" guys that reminded me of the three goons I encountered when I was walking in Malko Turnovo. I kept to the busier streets, just in case.

When I walked through the town center I saw the three cyclists who had passed me earlier. I waved hello, and they offered me a seat at their table. The three cyclists were Romanians on vacation. Their plan was to cycle through Hungary and Slovakia to get to Poland, then cycle back home. Ah bicycles, you make traveling so much more efficient than feet...

 Two of the cyclists.

Two of the cyclists.

We ended up enjoying each other's company so much that the three gents decided to stay the night in town rather than bicycle to a campsite six kilometers away. We laughed, talked about politics, online poker, and, my personal favorite topic, bizarre films that change your life. I got a few interesting recommendations, now I just need some time and the Internet to find these flicks.

That next morning we met up for coffee and said our goodbyes. They cycled off while I walked across the border into Slovakia. Little did I know that I was going to have some serious difficulties for the first three days. Stay tuned for the next blog post to find out what happened when I walked through Slovakia.