Monday, July 31, 2006

Lost in the Jungle

Day 21, Monday, July 31
Guanales was quite nice. Got up this morning and packed up my things quickly. Ate two empanadas and filled up my camelback with water. Everyone left the camp in small groups. I decided to go in the “old girls group” which consisted of myself, Ursula, a silver haired Canadian psychologist probably in her late 40s, early 50s, and Joe, a 32 year old medic from England who oversees the administration of a cardiac unit back home. I didn’t think I needed to go as slowly as Ursula was planning to go, and considered going ahead. Then decided a slow pace would be easier than a fast one and assured Ursula that there was no pressure, she should hike at a comfortable pace and if it was too slow I would pass. We were quickly left behind by the main group and even the couple smaller groups that left well after us. After making it up the steep area and heading past a familiar transect the terrain began to look unfamiliar. Ursula was setting the pace in the lead, followed by the medic and myself. I began to feel in my gut that we were not going the right way but didn’t know for sure. We were starting to head down a steep slope toward a creek, and I was sure that wasn't supposed to be part of our scenery. I didn’t recall crossing a creek on the way in and I knew the whole way out of Guanales should be uphill. That was part of the Guanales reputation, all downhill to Guanales, all uphill back out. It didn’t make sense that we were heading so steeply down, but I hadn’t noticed another trail and if we turned back would I find it? I voiced my concern and we started to discuss whether the direction was right. Ursula thought that we’d already come so far it would be a waste to turn back. That wasn't good logic, I pointed out that if we continued in the wrong direction we would be spending even more time retracing our steps. At any rate, about the same time we were having the discussion, I realized my glasses had fallen off from where they were clipped to the front of my pack strap. So I turned back to find them. Ursula and the medic started back as well, but were moving slowly with uncertainty. I found my glasses, and the time alone allowed me to consider what we should do. The more I thought about it, the more I knew we had been headed in the wrong way so when I got back to Ursula and the medic I was convinced. I told them there was no way I would forget a steep climb like what we were on, there was no way we should be headed down toward a stream, and the vegetation also was wrong: on the way in the trail was covered with leaves and this trail was muddy and bare. But this trail has been traveled, Ursula pointed out. Well, it would be, because it is a regularly used transect (a trail and study area used by the scientists), I countered. So we turned around and headed back the other way, Ursula and the medic grumbling that they were pissed that no one had made sure we had a guide. In my mind, that was all beside the point, I just wanted to make some progress on the right path. I told Ursula and Joe to wait with my pack while I went up the trail to see if I could find the right trail. Not far from where we stood, another trail veered off to the right. We had taken Transect 2, a howler monkey transect and the correct trail was a left off the main trail. The transect trail actually looked more like a continuation of the main trail, so it was easy to see how we had made the mistake. I felt relieved, because the trail headed up an incline into familiar terrain. I went back to Ursula the medic and our bags to let them know. We were on our way after about an hour and half going in the wrong way, though fortunately we were traveling so slowly and uncertainly that we had not gotten far on the wrong trail. I saw a red fern that I remembered on the way in, and felt confirmation that we were on track. We continued heading up slope, and after about another 45 minutes to an hour of walking we heard two guides, Samuel and another, who had come back to look for us. Evidently the last group had passed while we were off on the wrong trail and these two had been sent back to look, they had probably almost made it back to Base Camp. The way out was steep, but not a problem. We finally made it back to camp, maybe 1:30. I was happy to see Sergio as I walked back into camp to the champa where most folks were still eating. At the science room, when Matt called, “shop’s open!!” I jumped in line and purchased 2 snickers bars, a bag of peanut m&m’s, and a tshirt. IT felt nice to buy a couple things after being away from everything for days. Later on, it was a movie night, Ocean’s 11 was showing on the wall in the science room. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep too well, my legs ached.

No comments: