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Updated: Feb 18, 2019

Kristin and I with San Pedro Volcano behind us on Lake Atitilan, Guatemala

Kristin and I met a wonderful young man, named Felix, while in Mexico, who became like a brother to us. When he asked if he could tag along on our adventure to Guatemala we were thrilled to have him join us for the trip. We drove together in our trusty 2003 Volkwagen Jetta, loaded to the roof with our belongings, things were pretty tight just with Kristin and I! With Felix riding along with us, boxes and all manner of things would go sliding across the car when I went around the countless hairpin corners too fast and he would laugh hysterically while he held everything together in the back seat. Having him with us really helped us keep the mood light (Kristin had a quick and vicious bout of food poisoning the night before our early morning departure) and to enjoy the experience of driving through some of the most beautiful and remote parts of Mexico.

Felix laughing hysterically after doing yoga with us on the balcony in Progresso, Yucatan, Mexico.

For two long days we drove together from Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, to Lago de Atitlan in Guatemala. To be honest, I drove the whole way as the roads were pretty sketchy, narrow and in a general state of disrepair. We also discovered on our travels that in many parts of Mexico people drive like a flock of birds which can be both beautiful and dangerous. The first night as we arrived in Ocosingo, Chiapas, we spent at least an hour creeping along a dirt road in very heavy fog with pedestrians, dogs and cattle walking along the side of the road. I distinctly remember Felix saying “I’m glad you’re driving!”

Steering with my knee while eating elote (fire roasted corn) in Chiapas, Mexico

Then on the second day we arrived at the Guatemalan border and it just so happened that they were having a huge fiesta in that village, which delayed our crossing, but allowed us to watch the local horsemen put on quite a show! Felix had assured us from his previous experience that the Guatemalan border could be pretty sketchy, so this was a welcome sight as everyone seemed happy and relaxed. Later that day when we drove past a city in south-western part of Guatemala called Quetzaltenango, there was a break in the clouds that we had to pull over to capture.

A couple of the beautiful steeds and their fearless riders from the fiesta!

Rays of sunshine bursting through the cloud cover as we headed toward the lake.

It was quite the climb to get into the mountainous region, called the Central Highlands, where Lake Atitlan rests nestled between the volcanoes. Then a wild and windy roller coaster ride back down to the Lake where we encountered a chicken bus that had taken one of the corners down to the lake a bit too sharp and was high-centered. We waited patiently in the dark and they finally retrieved a truck to pull the bus out of the way so that what little traffic had accumulated could continue descending the winding road down to the lake.

The morning misty vista in the mountains.

We finally arrived at the little casita that my mom was renting and parked our little car by the village square for the night. We got ourselves settled in for the next few days, getting to know the small lakeside community and its many walking paths, curiosity shops and cafes. My mom had begun to host some women's #cacao circles in the little house she had rented and I remember Kristin had attended the first one and had a lot of fun. Singing and sharing songs is a fun part of my mom’s #cacao ceremonies, as she knows a lot of medicine songs and has written quite a few of her own too. I remember quite a few new songs being born from those first few circles she hosted and those who attended were happy to share some of the songs they had learned at other conscious gatherings.

Kristin and I on one of the many narrow footpaths that run through San Marcos la Laguna.

After the first few days we were in San Marcos I can remember Kristin and I saying to each other, “We can’t leave here after only a week... that would be crazy!” We had made plans to take our 200-Hour yoga teacher training together in Mazunte the following week. We were both excited about the training, however we agreed that a yoga teacher training can be done anytime, however, driving to Guatemala was likely a once in a lifetime occurrence! Felix decided that he would love to attend the training in our place, and he quickly found another young lad who was also interested, so later that week they departed to take our spots for the training. Wow, what a world! The synchronicity is magic.

The view across Lake Atitlan from San Marcos with two of the three volcanoes in view.

During our first week in San Marcos I remember a few things very distinctly: going to our first #cacaoceremony on Keith’s porch, running out of water for several days and having to walk down to the lake with a 5 gallon bucket to flush the toilet and do dishes and realizing how incredible the whole vibe was in San Marcos. It reminded us both of being back on #VancouverIsland, where we had been living before we had decided to travel. Lots of conscious events to choose from, so many different yoga classes, healing modalities, drum circles, workshops, etc. It was really amazing to be so so far away from “home” and yet most of the people in the community there were travelers from all over the world and somehow it felt like a home away from home.

Cacao ceremony with Keith, the Chocolate Shaman, on "The Porch".

We had heard a lot about Keith from mom and our friend, Joanna, so we were pretty intrigued to sit on the porch and see what his ceremonies were like. I remember being amazed at how many people showed up for his #cacaoceremonies, people would be squished in like sardines, and amazingly enougn, I don’t remember anyone spilling their cup of cacao! Barbara, Keith's partner, brought out tray after tray with 10 cups or so on each, as well as spices and cane sugar so everyone had the chance to make it as spicy and sweet as needed. I distinctly remember counting one day when there was an exceptional amount of participants and there were 55 of us curious cacao lovers packed in there!

A particularly delicious cacao elixir created and captured by my sweetie, Kristin Allan.

Keith held regular #cacaoceremonies every week on Sunday and Wednesday from 12:30-5, sometimes even 6:00. On Mondays there were crystal ceremonies for people who were “experienced” #cacao drinkers, where Keith would spread out his incredible collection of crystals and gemstones for the group to enjoy. Keith was a geologist in one of his former lives so he has an incredible knowledge of the stones and also their subtler energetic qualities. It was so amazing to be able to hold some of the larger crystal balls, smoky quartz pieces and stones that I’d never even seen or heard of. These were usually more intimate ceremonies where we got to know some of the more “serious students” of Keith’s very non-traditional “school for light workers, healers etc” that were diving deep into their own emotional processing and healing work.

A picture of my drum on a bench at the "Porch", Keith and Barbara's house.

We rented a simple casa (house) right around the corner from Keith and Barbara’s place for 7 weeks of our stay in San Marcos, which was about as convenient as it got to attend their ceremonies. We also had the great pleasure of getting invited to package some cacao while we were there, as they would seek out volunteers to help package about 300 pounds of cacao in the evening after ceremonies. As a volunteer, at that point in time, you could have your choice of a free ceremony, free pound of cacao paste or pound of cacao beans. Since there were two of us, we exchanged a lot of our bagging for #cacao paste that allowed us to do our own inner journeying on the days between Keith’s ceremonies. We both had some deeply profound experiences of using Keith’s Cacao on our own and we did a lot of work to get more clarity about our direction in life.

A group picture from bagging cacao one evening. Do we look happy or what!

While in San Marcos we participated in a one week liiqud #fast where a local school organization raised enough funding in one week to feed close to 60 underprivileged kids, pregnant mothers and elders for a whole year! We had experimented a bit with #fasting before that, however it was quite profound to use #keithscacao every day while we were fasting and go on shamanic drumming journeys while our bodies were purified and nourished deeply from the inside out. We also read several amazing books in the time we spent in San Marcos including one about Plant Spirit Shamanism that helped guide us to deepen our connection with the #cacaospirit. We also entered into a dieta (longer intimate diet with the medicine plant of choice) with at least a ceremonial dose of cacao each day for weeks on end. Let's just say we got to know the Spirit of Cacao REALLY well. I also read books about cosmic consciousness as well as an online book about a Polish man’s experience of not eating any solid food for over two years! I did another fast of 11 days on just liquids and it was one of the times when I experienced the highest levels of clarity in my whole life to that point.

Kristin and our Canadian "sister" Michelle, bagging Cacao one evening.

One weekend we were lucky enough to experience the Festival of Consciousness which was a 3 day buffet of events, hosted by locals and different #yoga, #meditation, #dance, #counselling, #alternativemedicine and #soundhealers. I remember one of the events very distinctly, a #crystal #singingbowl #soundjourney where the man hosting was surrounded by at least a dozen crystal singing bowls. We got there early and I remember Kristin asking me, “Where are you going?”, “As close to those singing bowls as I can get!”, I replied, as we both laid down on yoga mats directly beside his blanket. There were dozens of people under a huge open-air palapa and for an hour he took everyone on quite a wild ride using the different vibrations to stimulate different feelings and sensations as well as memories and visions. We knew we wanted to find some of those magical crystal bowls back home in Canada!

Kristin and I were inspired to buy our own crystal singing bowls by the experience had at the Festival of Consciousness.

Through the experiences that we had using #keithscacao as well as those we witnessed while sitting in Keith’s ceremonies, we recognized that this subtle yet powerful medicine was too good not to share with the world. We considered what this would look like for the two of us as we had just started our new business, One World Wellness (www.oneworldwellness.info) mere months before we left on our adventure. We had also coined a name for our #cacaoceremony “business” as Cacao Connection (www.cacaoconnection.info). So as our visit to Guatemala came to a close, we considered how much of #keithscacao we would take with us back to Canada. In the end we decided on 150 pounds- I know, it sounds a bit crazy, but after all the experiences we had while at the lake, this seemed like a logical decision to help spread this amazing medicine as much as possible along our travels, as well as when we arrived back home on Vancouver Island.

It was pretty special to be able to package some of the cacao that we took with us back to Canada.

Little did we know that we would only be back in #Canada for six weeks and then we headed back out on the road to help one of Kristin’s oldest friends who was preparing to birth her first child in Houston, Texas that August. I remember loading up the car on May 1, 2015, pulling down to Keith’s “warehouse” where his happy-go-lucky Mayan friend and business partner, Izaias, helped me load the three boxes full of cacao into our car. We said goodbye to my Mom as she was heading across the lake to an event focused on cacao ceremony, sound healing and kirtan. It was hard for us to drive away from Lago de Atitlan that day...it is such a magical place. Keith used to say in his ceremonies that that part of the planet was 1-2 years ahead of the rest of the world as far as the level of consciousness and we could certainly attest to that. We had both undergone a major shift in consciousness by using cacao, fasting, and sticking with our daily yoga practice. Little did we know that our journey with #cacao had only just begun!

We grabbed some fruit on our way out of town and headed back to the border of Mexico.

Cacao Connection 2020