|Gone Walkabout||Journeys around the world by Sean Connolly|
Masters of the Dance
VIII. Days of Solitude[ Back to Chapter 7 | Table of Contents | On to Chapter 9 ]
Anyway, the jeep drove us out to the park entrance, we shouldered our packs, and off we went. It was a relentless uphill slog through muddy trails. In four hours, we climbed 1000m. Waterfalls, pristine lagoons, rivers, it was a beautiful climb. Guillarmo raced ahead, while Giovanni stayed with me. We only saw Guillarmo at rest points.
At 2:30, we reached our destination for the night. Our site was next to a nice large lagoon. Cormanent? I was completely exhausted from the heavy pack and the killer pace. Nepal was harder, but never killed me like this!
We set up the tent, fixed a lunch/supper of chicken and rice, and vegged all afternoon. Why the fast pace? Humph. A group of 4 others, all Venezuelan, camped next to us. I tried to join in as much as I could with my limited Spanish, but none of the others spoke much English, so needless to say, I spent a solitary evening.
It was a cramped night. There were 3 of us in the tent, sleeping shoulder to shoulder. I slept alright, despite the other 2 snoring all night.
At a landslide.
*gulp* Um... Up, slide, up, rumble, dodge the rock rolling down, up, slip. There was a great view from a ridge halfway up. Then more up, up, up. And mud. And rivers. It was a difficult climb.
At one point, there was no way across. I saw the others with mud up to their knees and splashed around their waists. Yuck. I made it across with only a wet foot, but still muddy. Then up, and down, and up. There were many false peaks, and I was dying from the altitude. The others blazed ahead. In the morning, Giovanni said it should be 4 hours. After that time had passed, I asked him cirque aqui? No. Guillarmo told me it would be 1.5 hours more. No! This absolutely defeated me. Only to find after 45 minutes of hell, we reached the base camp. Guillarmo's idea of a joke.
I couldn't see a thing in the mist, but was damn glad to be here. A Swiss couple hiked in from the other side, just as we walked in. They couldn't find the mountain they had planned to climb. No, I'm serious, they didn't just miss the trail. They just couldn't see the mountain they wanted to climb in the clouds. *chuckle*
I was too tired to do anything but sit, I was so wiped out. But it was only 2:00. We still had a long afternoon ahead of us. Tuna and potatoes for supper, then I dozed for hours, rising to see the setting sun light the finally clear cliffs and peaks surrounding us. Very nice. I wrote this, then spent more time staring into space and thinking of Amy back in San Francisco. Tomorrow should be fun. No packs!
Then, down we went. This is the hard part for me. Going up, you can always see your next hand or foot hold. Going down... Again, the other two (experienced) scoff at my needing ropes, but for my beginner skills, it was no simple climb. But I made it with no incident and the others came down. More scrambling, more slipping, and back to the first climb. This time, it was a fun, fast rappel down. Gloves on, I practically dove down the cliff. At one point literally. I caught my heel in a crack just as I let loose a few metres of rope. I was left hanging head first over the ledge. *shiver* I sprained my ankle slightly, but it didn't stop me from streaking down the remaining cliff. Fun! It took Giovanni a long time to get down this section (bringing down the ropes), but he told Guillarmo and I to go ahead.
It was only 12:00. But I was tired. My head was aching, my knees were aching, my stomach was queasy, I was ready for a rest. But Guillarmo managed to talk me into climbing up to Pico Espejo for the night, only two hours away. Eh, why not? I don't want to spend another night in this desolate, cloudy, windy location. Not to mention the entire afternoon as well.
I took an hour nap in the tent, then the race was on again. My legs felt strong, and I literally chased the others up the slope out of camp. My pack was light without all the supplies. A light rain was coming down, and the clouds obscured everything.
Then, we reached a ridge. On the far side of a rather steep valley, I could see a cross. That's where we were going. Um, can we just fly straight over? Sigh. OK. Down, down, down. Then, ulp, that? It was a straight up chimney climb again. With backpack. Can you handle it? Uh, yeah, I think so... Hand grabs, knee inches up, boot lodges in a crack, body moves upward slowly. At the top, my verdict to Giovanni: "No es facile, pero no es problema!"
So, after a rest, we proceeded. Into one of my private versions of hell. Maybe 10 minutes into the steep descent, my aching knees proceeded beyond that. My bum left knee was on fire. My damaged right knee was in agony. And the trail was a very steep scramble over and down rocks, just what my knees didn't want. I fell far behind the others, losing them in the very thick mist that surrounded us, leaving me scrambling over still tougher drops. When I finally spotted them in the mist (Giovanni whistled at me), they took off immediately before I limped close enough to tell them what was wrong. It was a good hour before they finally deigned to notice my agonized limping, just as my left knee gave out on a particularly long drop, and dumped me knee first into some very sharp scree, puncturing my already damaged knee and driving long slivers of stone into my leg. Dolar? (Pain?) Giovanni asked me finally. Well, just a little... Yes, dammit, dolar! You idiot! OK, poco poco, he muttered, turning away as the blood started seeping down my leg. And immediately, he took off yet again. I muttered, fuck off, under my breath and limped slowly after.
Eventually, the trail dumped us on a version of a road, obviously for mules. This was almost worse for me, but at least it was a promising sign. Finally, we reached Loma Redonda, just as the rains reached torrential levels. This was it, I couldn't go further. 7 hours of heavy walking were enough for this battered body. It was Tuesday, though, and the teleferico didn't run on Tuesday. So again, Giovanni went to talk with the workers. This time, we got a fair price, so we dropped our bags, collapsed in the chairs, and drooled over the snack bar. Which, of course, was closed on Tuesday. Then proceeded to wait in the brutal, damp, cloudy chill for an hour until the workers were done for the day.
Then, all of us loaded up onto the car, and with a lurch, it pulled away. Somehow, I lack confidence in something that only minutes earlier had sparks flying from the top... But in a closed area for the first time, 4 days without a bath became apparent, as the (equally smelly) workers quickly opened the windows. Then, we had a fast descent (sometimes almost freefall) down to Merida, changing cars at the station.
We got into Merida around 7:30, where Tom at Bum Bum greeted us with a cold cervaza. How was it? Umph. I let him know my displeasure at sending a non-English speaking guide, but didn't have the energy for more of a fuss. I wanted a hot shower! Back to Posada las Heroinas, back to the same room. That hot shower felt so good! After I had thoroughly scoured my body and put on some clean clothes, I went out to La Mamma for some great pasta. At a table! With a chair! Very good. I then proceeded to sleep two hours all night for some reason in a less-than-comfortable bed...
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