By Carol Karasik
In the 1990s, a friend and I were walking on the road to the Palenque ruins. We noticed a narrow dirt road that led into the rainforest. Curious, we followed it and came to an enclave containing ramshackle treehouses—one with a sign that said “Yoga”—and a camping area. We looked at each other and said, “What is this place?” We had stumbled upon El Panchan in its beginnings. Since then it’s grown considerably to a mishmash of cabanas, camping, a couple of competing open-air restaurants with live music, culminating with late-night fire dancers and drumming.
Now all these years later, as part of our annual “Entering Maya Mysteries” pilgrimage, lodging at the Panchan has become a tradition for its close proximity to the ruins—but maybe even more so for its out-of-time, otherworldly value all its own. A year ago, my group sat in Don Mucho’s Restaurant eating tasty cuisine, watching odd characters wander by, listening to live Salsa music, when one of the travelers turned to me and said, “This is like being in a movie!” He had a look of wonder on his face. Just this past January, another traveler looked around and pronounced, “Surreal!” That said even though the day was still quite young.
Carol Karasik has written a historical adventure, an enthralling ride, about a dysfunctional family dynasty, seekers of the unknown and unknowable, and the ancient land and people who issued a calling card to the crossroads called El Panchan. The Drums Wars is an entertaining story that is stranger-than-life, but true. With wry humor, Karasik recounts the origins and intrigues of the residents and transients of this jungle community, grown up near the Maya ruin of Palenque. The gritty, often tedious work, of archeologists, and those of similar eke, are chronicled aptly, adding a bit of mysticism, romance and education along the way. I was particularly taken with the discovery of the Red Queen’s remains, later to be identified as Lady “Conjurer” who was Pakal the Great’s wife—and the important role played by women at Palenque, the place of transformation.
As I read this crazy backstory it occurred to me that by virtue of its proximity to Palenque that, of course, the Ancient Maya world had to inform it. The planets of the Panchan are in continual alignment, merely a mirror, to create a container. Those drawn there are acting out their fantastic journeys into the Underworld, catapult to the Upperworld, and manifest delivery into the bohemian Middleworld called El Panchan.
Whether you’ve been a traveler in my Maya Mysteries programs, or want to enter this curiosity of human condition—taken to the extreme on your own—reading The Drum Wars may point to some explanation of your own journey…or, at the very least, you’ll find it a fascinating read. Available through Amazon.