When one of my rugby friends asked if I wanted to go for a caminata ecológica (basically a hike), I said “YEP.” When he said, “We’re going to walk far – like six hours,” I said, “Great!” Just a couple months ago I went on a six hour hike with a bunch of gringos to see some monkeys in the jungle. I did all right during that hike, but I had some key knowledge for this hike: wear pants and bring at least one more bottle of water than you think you need. Armed with this, I didn’t bother to ask questions like, “Where are we going?”
We met up early to beat the sun and heat – 6 am. After making sure we all had gotten some breakfast and that we had enough water, we finally hit the road. While the temperature was low, the humidity was high. I was immediately sweating.
We started walking parallel to the coast, eventually turning to head south to inland. After we had crossed the highway, the land started gradually getting a grade. A little ways in, we came to this muddy brown swimming hole. I didn’t know there would be any swimming, and I didn’t want to get my pants wet (that just seemed like an invitation to the already over-friendly mosquitoes), so I just watched. I felt really great about that choice when a large iguana high in a tree above the swimming hole poured down urine and feces where, just seconds before, a couple of my companions had been.
After that pause, we kept walking and walking. We passed through really adorable pueblos atop hills with gorgeous views. We passed by a large family washing clothes and children in a river/swimming hole. We ran up a super steep but fortunately steep hill (I didn’t ask the man in front of us how much it would cost to get a ride on his donkey, as much as I wanted to). We ate a snack of crackers, soda, and suckers with the tienda owner’s ducks, hens, loros, and dogs. We stole some green mangoes from a tree. We walked through gorgeously lush green lands thanks to the recent rains. We passed a lot of donkeys, but surprisingly no cows. We saw termite hills and lots of centipedes and beautiful swarms of butterflies fluttering over muddy poopy water.
Finally, after five hours of walking, we arrived at a park. The guys I was with kept talking about “when we get to el corral.” I assumed there was like an animal corral that would mark something. But what we actually came to was a geological wonder. The rocks were carved with horizontal lines creating streams and swimming holes for the water that was coming from who-knows-where. The swimming holes here were brown, but the water flowing into them was clear. After walking so long, I finally ripped off my shirt and jumped in, mosquitoes be damned. And it felt so good. We checked out all of the swimming holes. The last one was my favorite because it was deep, and I love anywhere that I can just tread water, and it didn’t have any hand-sized spiders lurking over it.. At the last one there were also a couple little boys catching little fish that they had in a little pool in the rock. Quickly enough, the members of my group turned into little kids again and were catching more little fish and cleaning their pool water and obsessing over their little farm.
Soon enough we were all starving. The area, a land of the indigenous Mokoná, is supposedly known for their sancocho (a soup), but we didn’t see/smell/get any. We just bought some cheap breads and grapefruit juice. My Colombian friends got some weird sausage meat that I would never eat. Well-fed, cooled-down, and re-slathered with sunscreen, we were ready to make the hour trek out of the area back to the highway to catch the 15 minute bus ride back to our own town.
It was a long day that I am so glad I was a part of. I can’t wait to make another adventure like that out of my own front door!