Eco-Service Excursion to Mexico a success

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Yoga in Action is the mission of the Himalayan Institute’s humanitarian projects and taking action is exactly what this group of 22 is all about!

On June 10, the Eco-Service Excursion to Mexico, lead by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, commenced as guests arrived in Puebla. The following morning, the group enjoyed exploring the historic city of Puebla, known for its colonial architecture, art and history.

Exploring Puebla, which is said to have been founded in 1531.

The group then spent 3 days in Jonotla, a small town of 1,500 situated in the Sierra Norte mountains and home of the Himalayan Institute’s sustainable farming projects. While there, the group kept busy working–as well as playing–hard! Many hours were spent doing volunteer projects to enhance the Energy Farming Demonstration Farm. The group split into three teams who accomplished a lot.

One team built a fenced-in station for making biofertilizer, a type of organic liquid fertilizer used on the farm and sold as a micro-enterprise. They also mixed up a batch and filled and labeled bottles for sale.

Spraying biofertilizer on coffee plants. To test the effectiveness of biofertilizer, we have been spraying only half of the coffee plants. The group was able to see for themselves that it makes a difference in color and size!

The second group constructed new raised beds for a medicinal plant plot, mixed compost and soil to fill the beds, and planted the beds with medicinals like aloe, chamomile, calendula, and other local herbs.

Team three worked in the greenhouse transplanting tomato seedlings and planted beans in an intercropping plot.

“The intentions behind our excursions are much more complex than to simply provide a guided vacation,” explains one of the trip guides, Jeff Abella. “The purpose is always to give participants a chance to explore places that are not easily discoverable by oneself and while visiting these remarkable places, to interact as more than just tourists. Rather, we strive to make a positive impact in these communities by volunteering. The Himalayan Institute’s humanitarian projects provide a great platform to do meaningful work.”

Connecting with new friends is one of the highlights of international travel! Everyone in Jonotla, child and adult alike, were incredibly welcoming the group.

When not volunteering, the group took in the local sites, including a cathedral built into the mountainside, which houses an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe etched into a rock face. The image appeared by miraculous means in the 1920s and is now an important pilgrimage site for believers, who travel from throughout Mexico each October to view the image.

The group visits the cathedral, built into the mountainside, that houses the miraculous image.

A lookout from the top of the mountain provides a majestic view of the whole town, nestled amidst miles of mountaintops.

Pandit Rajmani and his wife Meera enjoying the vista. Throughout the excursion, Panditji gave satsangs and met one-on-one with students.

The group got a taste for Jonotla, enjoying live music performed by a traditional singing group, Mexican feasts with homemade guacamole and tortillas, and a refreshing swim in a waterfall outside of town.

Making tortillas the traditional way.

The evening’s entertainment: serenades from traditional music group Los Romanticos.

Swimming in one of the many waterfalls along the river.

What better way to wind down after an exciting day than rooftop yoga?

The second day in Jonotla, the group planted cinnamon, lime and coffee trees on freshly dug terraces on the Demonstration Farm. Afterwards, they traveled to a nearby town, Cuetzalan, to experience the beauty and sights of this historical town.

Participants made signs bearing well wishes to accompany their trees.

After a few days in Jonotla, the group embarked for the Gulf Coast. However, due to roadblocks set up as part of a 3-day protest over fuel prices, the bus was forced to turn back. This unexpected extra day in Jonotla provided a spontaneous opportunity for more adventuring. With local guides at the helm, the group hiked over 1 mile to swim in another river and went spelunking in a cave system beneath Jonotla.

Fantastic rock forms in the cave.

After an early departure the following day, the group finally made it to the beach after group leaders and an intrepid bus driver figured out a route through rural back roads.

On the way to the beach, the group stopped at El Tajín, a pre-Columbian archaeological site.

While there, they witnessed a stunning performance by the Papantlan Flyers.

The long journey was worth the trip and two nights spent on the beautiful Costa Esmeralda consisted of lots of swimming, relaxing in the sand, and satsangs with Panditji.

Relaxing in style

Meditation at sunrise.

Spending downtime connecting with fellow travelers.

After soaking up the sun on the beach, the group headed straight to Mexico City and left for home the following day.

This first Himalayan Institute excursion to Mexico was a hit. The group was able to truly experience the beauty, rich culture and warm hospitality of Mexico, as well as contribute to HI’s mission of serving the community of the Sierra Norte.

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