“There’s a meadow and it is full of flowers of all different colours,” my friend told me, encouraging me to take a trip with her and some other friends into the mountains outside of Oaxaca in the Sierra Norte. If I am honest, I was sold on the trip before the mention of flowers, which was lucky because heading out to Llano de las Flores in the dry season means there aren’t many flowers to be seen. Nonetheless, the place retains an incredible beauty and an almost intangible magic.
Arriving after the winding one and a half hour drive, I thought at first that the landscape looked a little baron. It was certainly noticeably dry. However, once we were settled in our cabin, I took a second look, and the true mysticism of the place caught me. Looking out across the meadow the landscape was scattered with islands full of pine trees and the wind softly whistled through the needles, sounding almost like the ocean. Wild horses of every colour grazed lazily and the occasional cow accompanied them. The bright blue sky was spotted with clouds, creating light and shadow and occasionally the air would mist over almost inexplicably creating a dusky hue.
Despite the cabins being relatively near the highway, you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, especially once you head off into the trees. Once within the forest, you can walk for hours, seeing no one, simply enjoying the cool clean air and the magical plants, from trees covered in mosses and bromeliads growing from tree trunks to tiny purple flowers that are making their way, defying the lack of rain. Despite looking dry, the area was damp in part underfoot with little rivers running through the meadow, full of algae that looked like fairy hair. Being a land of wild horses, bright white bones and skulls were found on all of our walks, a reminder of the cycle of life and a somewhat creepy edition to this otherwise fairytale landscape.
My friend described the pine tree islands as being like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, “like an adult’s playground.” We lightheartedly imagined that the islands might be old Mesoamerican temples and then more practically wondered if, in fact, the meadow had been a lake hundreds of years back. Whatever the case, it was fun to let our imaginations take us outside of our everyday reality. If you shout in Llano de las Flores, it echoes all around maybe 10 or more times. They say that your echo stays there forever. I decided to shout a wish into the air, hoping the fairies and elves that must live in this enchanted forest would help to make it come true. Well, as Roald Dahl said, “those who don’t believe in magic, will never find it.”
When night fell after the sunset turned the sky pink and the trees ochre, the temperate dropped almost without warning and we set to work making dinner on the outdoor grill.
Having sated our voracious hunger, we sat around the campfire under the deep black sky, with mezcal to keep us warm. We talked and constellation spotted among the hundreds and thousands of stars that popped out around us. The occasional shooting star would fly playfully across the sky and the fire jumped and crackled impishly, all perfectly in keeping with the adult wonderland that was Llano de las Flores.
“Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places” Roald Dahl
Susannah Rigg is a freelance writer and Mexico specialist. Her work has been featured in BBC Travel, CNN Travel, Conde Nast Traveler, AFAR and The Independent among others. Check out her portfolio here. Contact Susannah by email, info [at] mexicoretold [dot] com and join her on Instagram and Twitter.