El Mirador, Volume 2

Now that MC Designs’ first international mural is complete, I feel a little R&R has been earned to follow up on our last cliff-hanger post — well, maybe the ending was closer to step-stool height, but whatever…

It sucks not having my airbrush to work with, but whatcha gonna do? A happy client is the only thing that ever really counts…

So where were we?

Ah yes, the 4:30 wake-up call…

We boarded the mini-bus at 5 AM to make the 3-hour drive to our launch point. The first hour and a half was pleasant enough, but the road after passing the main gate into the El Mirador reserve took a drastic turn for the worse. I believe Luis, our translator and super amicable host of Ciao Cacao, the hostel we were staying at, said something to the effect of, “If you think the last roads were bumpy, our driver just said you should remember those good times fondly as we press on…”

If you could imagine a combination of violent air turbulence and bareback bull-riding for the remainder of the bus ride, that might come close to describing the experience that resulted in our shared queasiness after disembarking the vehicle. Riding in the back of the bus, I definitely caught air on more than one occasion. The trip was a strange euphoria, as the violent motion seemed conducive to lull one into a napping state, yet the neck injuries sustained from bouncing one’s head off the ceiling quickly brought about renewed conscious awareness. I’m happy to report though that an occasional head slam against a window isn’t concern for sustaining a mild concussion… or aberrant thinking. Wink, wink.

Truthfully, I enjoyed every minute of it, but my car-sick comrades were not as bubbly once the endurance trial concluded. After a quick pee break in some family’s backyard, the first of the thrice daily feedings began — our inaugural presentation was a delicious fare of scrambled eggs, fried beans, plantain, and an ever staple supply of tortillas, with a pitcher of flavoured sugar-water to wash everything down.

Sweet.

The first hike was a 20K stint. The mule was loaded, our private chef tied her hair back, and we topped up our water bottles before saying goodbye to the random dogs and wayward chickens roaming the streets.

As everyone sprayed themselves silly with insect repellant expecting the worst, I saved my reluctantly purchased, 57 Q can of DEET for a moment of absolute desperation. Although I will admit many hypocrisies when it comes to ingesting poisons, spraying a substance on my body’s largest organ, knowing that even the simplest of creatures on this planet have the good sense to avoid it, did not seem like a choice I wanted to make without testing the waters first.

This was ultimately a wise move. The hot, dry seasonal timing of our journey proved ideal. Mud was hardened, and insects were minimal, despite our ever deepening progress into the wild. My heart went out to anyone brave enough to attempt this adventure in the rains. I’m not sure I could have done it. We would later learn a few horror stories from our guide about large groups getting hopelessly stuck in the mud, eaten alive by every winged or biting insect that relished human flesh. I didn’t end up using the bug spray once over the course of our 6 days, despite the occasional skeeter bite or tick attachment. I vowed to myself never to share the story of which bodily appendage was most violated by blood-sucking pincers…

Day 1 led us to Tintal. As our group randomly swapped placement and dialogue within our mostly single-file parade, new friendships were forged, and new philosophies were explored. Along the way, I witnessed for the first time such things as wild monkeys, grounds littered with ripe chico sapote fruit, and varieties of berries that I found nowhere near as palatable as rat-turds…

But when it comes to sampling unknown fruit, sometimes ya gotta be bold, despite your Spanish-speaking guide’s frantic pantomime suggesting a six-foot dirt nap might be the result of having the mentality of a 2-year old eager to find out what shiny things in the backyard taste like.

The first time I saw a monkey traverse the treetops with confident, reckless abandon, I immediately took pause to identify with an all-too-familiar calling in my heart — freedom. Their natural grace and beauty as they danced masterfully about the canopy had already made this crazy adventure worthwhile.

Monkeys fucking rock.

But let me make a noteworthy observation here while it’s still fresh in my mind — they were pissy… they intentionally snapped branches or knocked fruit from the upper limbs to rain down upon us. I can’t speak for the species as a “domestic” wild animal, like a chipmunk, raccoon or bear who’s been spoiled on leftover poutine scraps found in an unlatched dumpster after humanity encroached on their territory, but the truly wild monkeys didn’t really seem all that happy to see us…

That’s just my take though, and I may be wrong — I’m no Jane Fucking Goodall.

Anyway, we made it to Tintal in good spirits, despite the mouth-cutting shards of pseudo Melba toast topped with a micro-thin scraping of peanut butter meant to appease our lunch-belly grumblings during our only substantial pause on the walk. Our guides were absolutely incredible, but I think we threw them for a loop when we announced our group had a predilection for vegetarianism. I can probably speak for my comrades when I say we all would have been happier downing a half-jar of peanut butter, rather than the weird, sweet, gum-lacerating cracker bread used as the carrier for it. No complaints though, the experience would ultimately provide golden material for one of many running jokes we would beat to death during our week of bonding.

We walked through a “Death-ball” court before reaching our day’s destination, and my mind’s eye brought the area back to a three thousand year old vision of grandeur…

As our guide explained, it wasn’t the losers of this intense game that got sentenced to death, it was the winners — a reward to move forward into another realm of favoured existence — but don’t quote me on that… my struggling brain, memory, and understanding of Spanish are always somewhat suspect…

The camp was kick-ass. Our tents were already set up for sleep and storage of our backpacks, and the battered cauliflower and rice meal meant to induce comatose rest was incredibly delicious and satisfying. We hiked the highest temple in the area to watch a stunning sunset before wandering back through the dark woods to catch glimpses of thousands of teeny spider eyes reflecting off our headlamps like glittering jewels in a magical forest.

The clarity of the stars reminded me of my winter-cabin back home in Canada. I roamed many times during the wee hours of the morning until my solar-charged flashlight crapped out.

During my short time of rest, I had dreams in fluent Spanish, wishing I wrote the dialogue down to prove whether I was being channeled information from the Universe, or if I was completely insane. The jury always seems to be out on my mental stability issues…

I watched 3 last shooting stars before committing myself to a few hours of shut-eye for the next day’s hike.

The jungle sounds were the perfect soundtrack to my brief meditation leading to a period of rest before the unknowns of sunrise.

That was the first day in a nutshell.

Nice drama, eh??

Shit, I just realized I surpassed my 1,000-word attention span mark. Let’s continue this journey in part 3.

The timing’s good, I need to wander to market to buy some ripe fruities — I missed the avocado guy this morning… drat. I could easily get used to people bringing my favourite food to the front door every morning. If he also sold hot sauce, I would probably never leave here…

Avocado talk isn’t much of a cliff-hanger ending, but I think I just saw a possible killer gecko run across my bench. It had an unsettled look in its eyes…

If I don’t follow up on this post, avenge my death. The lizard creatures are everywhere…

What's on your mind?