When we finally got the (possibly) brown recluse spiders good and killed the two sets of mother and son started down the river, Max and I in the kayak and Jim and Sheila in the canoe. Water is way outside of Sheila’s comfort zone so this river trip was quite the quest for her. Our plan was to ride the gentle current a couple of hours back to San Ignacio.
Floating through Tarzan vines listening to all manner of birds, insects, monkeys and other rainforest creatures was magical and we reveled in the isolation. We passed a chunk of a termite nest that had fallen off a tree and was crawling with hundreds, if not thousands of termites not at all pleased with their new waterfront property. A couple of spiders dropped out of a tree into Jim and Sheila’s canoe. Max spotted a Basilisk Lizard (commonly called a Jesus Lizard) running across the water and when we stopped for a swim he stumbled across a largish turtle with a pointy mouth that kept opening when he (carefully) picked it up to show us. Turns out it is a nocturnal and very rare South American river turtle that is listed as “critically endangered”, the only species of its family that is not a fossil. SO COOL! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_American_river_turtle
The first (of many) rapids weren’t class 5, but it was fast moving, albeit shallow, water nonetheless. The best way down was close to the shore through low hanging vines and branches. Max and I went first. After being thrashed by the brush I turned to watch Jim and his Mom go down. I could see Sheila holding tightly to both sides of the canoe. Before she knew what had happened, the branches had knocked her backwards flat onto her back, feet in the air. Jim was trying to make sure she was OK and navigate the canoe at the same time. Sheila came up thumbs up, laughing hard. That got us laughing and throughout the day whenever I would think of her feet in the air, I would burst out laughing.
It soon became apparent that we needed to paddle… and paddle…and paddle. Under one low hanging canopy I had a near miss with a hornet’s nest covered with hornets. And still we paddled. Under a large overhanging rock we were treated to the sight of dozens and dozens of fruit bats flying all around us. (Very cool!) And still we paddled. We found the stairs to the medicine trail, slipped in the mud getting to shore, climbed up the hill (with my now broken thong), were tired and getting slightly concerned about time so we went back to the canoe… and still we paddled. When we started passing small pockets of children cooling off and playing in the water and women washing clothes in the river, we knew civilization was near.
David of David’s Adventures was casual. There was no making sure that we had food and water (which we did) or questions about whether we knew how to paddle (some people might find it too challenging to paddle for six hours) or waivers or forms of any kind. His instructions consisted of “If you want to walk the medicine trail go past Shaw Creek a short piece and look for a fallen tree trunk in the water, then start looking for stairs up the hill on your left”. Then he gave us a gold toothed smile and “have a good day”, walked across the river, dreadlocks hanging to his waist, and disappeared. All part of the experience! We don’t need or want to be handheld; but a little bit of handholding usually comes with a guide. It reminded me about how different life is here. Simplicity and adventure abounds. I love it. And Sheila did amazing.