Monday, January 16, 2006


The big hike

Among the various activities on the Arasha list that were included in our stay was a hike to a river through the rain forest. The name of the river escapes me. I can check it out when I get back to Portland and look through our literature. We understood that it was a four hour trip and it was pretty difficult - a number of steep up-and-down segments. Andy and I decided to give it a go and Terry stayed behind to relax and draw. We embarked after lunch with Benito, a short athletic fellow, as our guide. He started by equipping each of us with rubber boots. They are the thigh-high type I used as a youngster for irrigating. As you can imagine, getting the right fit is tricky and they are just not good for a rigorous hike. They slip on your feet and, before long, you have blisters on your heels and/or toes.

The trail was the width of a road at first and covered with wood and nut shell chips. The guide spoke very little english, but I understood him to explain that we would be walking through a secondary forest. The nearby primary forest contained very large trees. After about a half hour, we reached a man-made beach next to a river. This was for children and others who want a short hike to a river to swim and play, but are not interested in the longer trek. From there, the trail became much narrower and, in the steep parts, contained many short log segments planted on end as steps. This was a good idea, however there were two flaws - they tended to get slick with moss and they were designed for/by folks with much shorter legs and strides than Andy and me.

It didn't really matter, though, because Benito would regularly ask us if we wanted an adventure. Being men in a country where macho behavior is the norm, we of course said "sure". At that point, he would step off the trail onto a steep muddy slope and head straight down to short-cut the sissy trail. On these "adventures" Andy and I learned to take hold of trees and shrubs and keep our bottoms close to the ground. We wound up sliding and getting pretty muddy. I was wearing light trousers over a swim suit and Andy had a pair of shorts. I also had a backpack that soon becamed caked in mud.

When we finally arrived at the river, we were hot and muddy. After a large swig of water, we stripped down and prepared to wade into the cold water for a swim. Benito poked us and pointed to an animal swimming in the water near the far bank. I asked him what it was and he replied - a crocodile. I said "Really?!?" and he said, "just a small one". Then he grinned and admitted that it was just an iguana. We watched the iguana swim downstream and climb out on the rocks, then we eased our way into the swimming hole. After getting used to the water tempurature, it really felt good to soak off some of the sweat and mud.

The return hike was easier as we stayed on the trail. And, even though it was an exertion, going uphill was easier on the blisters and my old joints than the steep declines.

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