I used the first aid kit three times this weekend.
(Note: thanks to my sis-in-law, Jess, for providing more triple antibiotic ointment, antiseptic towelettes and bandaids than I ever thought I’d use— also, the electrolyte tablets)
I begged Mr. Leonardo to take me to the sinkhole on Saturday.
“It’s far,” he told me.
“I know,” I said.
“It’s hot,” he told me.
“I know,” I said.
So we went. I knew it was miles away, and I knew we’d be in the hot sun, and I knew we’d have to climb through miles of jungle uphill, but I thought I was pretty hard core, and, besides, I’d been doing laps around the coconut trees.
It took 4 hours. No amount of laps around any coconut trees could have prepared me.
We took one horse and 4 people—Me, Mr. Leonardo, Steph and Ronnel. They offered me the horse for the first mile, and I accepted.
I rode for about 20 minutes but spent the next half-hour offering up excuses to get off the horse, like—I think it’s time for Stephanie to ride, or You look hot, do you want a turn? Mr. Leonardo accepted none of these and so, finally, I just said, I don’t want to ride the horse anymore. He let me off and took over.
The thing is, my abs were killing me, and I couldn’t keep myself upright any longer. I didn’t want to silently fall off the back of the horse and get left behind.
We walked about a mile-and-a-half in the direct, 90+ sun, up a dirt path toward the hills until we came to the bush. We saw bush people building a house, and Mr. Leonardo cut a path with his machete to the opening of the jungle.
When we reached the opening, I was already struggling from the heat, but was so mesmerized by the dark, luring, cool, scary jungle, I forgot about everything else and followed. Every ten minutes, Ronnel called from way up ahead “Come! Come! Sacar un foto!” He saw toucans, monkeys, falcons, etc. but by the time I sprinted from the back of the line to where he was, the animals were gone. I think the constant sprinting was catalyst number 1.
We trotted through the jungle for about 20 minutes on a flat, muddy path, and then Mr. Leonardo tied up the horse and pointed to a slippery, uphill creek bed. I was thinking simultaneously—What am I doing here, I’m not cut out for this, and How lucky am I to experience this jungle adventure? Mr. Leonardo said travel agencies and tour companies send tourists to him year round, and each tourist pays a hundred dollars to receive this exact jungle tour to the sinkhole. So I sucked it up, chugged my water, and started climbing.
After about an hour climbing up the slippery creek bed (everyone fell at least once, even Mr. Leonardo) and resting twice, we reached the top. It was a spectacular sight—not a sinkhole. A ginormus canyon in between two ridges! Absolutely worth it.
From the edge, it took about 10 seconds after we threw a boulder to hear it crash through the trees below (count that in your head right now— one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand…) and on the floor of the canyon was a second rainforest. One theory is that it might have been a mountain top hundreds of years ago with a deep opening inside that caved in during an earthquake or something. Whatever the case, it was spectacular.
We rested there for about 40 minutes throwing boulders and drinking water.
Then we began the looooong, but mostly downhill, journey home. Mr. Leonardo showed me different kinds of chicle (gum) trees—and told me stories of when he used to be a chicle farmer deep in the jungle—and sampled the local papaya.
It was easy enough through the jungle, but when we came out into the open, it was nothing but noonday sun for the next hour. I had run out of water during our rest at the canyon, and Mr. Leonardo insisted on stopping at the farm to show me his bean plants, corn, bees, cattle, pigs, cotton, coconuts, pineapple and plantain fields. OMG.
First, there was no shade. Second, he made us RUN through the bee boxes so we wouldn’t get stung.
When he said, “Okay, I am going to go first to show you the way. When I tell you to GO, you have to run fast so the bees won’t get you. You understand?”
I thought it was a joke.
But then he galloped through the bee boxes to the path on the other side and yelled, “Go!”
Stephanie took off running and grabbed me by the hand.
I screamed and ran through the bees.
On the other side, he looked at Stephanie and I and said, “No bees?”
We checked ourselves out and said, “No bees!”
He said, “Two bees got me!” He showed us his neck with two bee stings.
He told me to “take a snap” of all his fields and email him the pictures. I won’t bore you.
On the way back from the farm (which was another mile down the dirt path) no one spoke. We were all dehydrated, starving and sweating to death.
They all recovered quickly and ate lunch. I tried to eat, but couldn’t see straight, had killer heat cramps, and some kind of heat rash up both arms and legs. Recognizing the feeling of dehydration and electrolyte loss (thank you, Charleston), I sent Stephanie to the shop for a gallon of water, took some electrolyte tablets, and stood in the cold shower for about 20 minutes. I slept for about 2 hours, and finally, at 5:00, when it started to cool off, I ate lunch.
Then I addressed all the cuts on my leg from the bush with my first aid kit.
At the end of the day clouds rolled in over the ridge, and the breeze was amazing. Army ants began marching into the bathroom, and everyone told me that meant rain. We had a huge burst of wind (which knocked over everything in my room), and finally, beautifully, a downpour. It poured all night, and I slept soundly for 10 hours.
Today the high was 70, and I appreciated my need for sweatpants, not electrolyte tablets, after church!