After our morning’s little jungle tour and history lesson, Peder and I collected a hand-drawn map to the top of the “smoking waterfall” and set off on our own into the rainforest.
We first made our way up the paved road that we’d taxi’d up the night before, turning off into a small local village. One dirt road through a few dozen deteriorating homes and buildings, and up into the mountains through grazing cows and banana orchards. Everyone we passed looked over with an expression of pure shock: “What the hell are these two gringos doing HERE??”
At one point I noticed a herd of cows particularly near the road and decided to climb up a small embankment for a closer look.
Suddenly both feet were engulfed in flame. Small pinpoints of excruciating pain shooting up my leg like I was being stabbed with a thousand poisoned needles. I jumped down from the embankment, almost loosing my footing in the process, and began dancing and flailing my limbs in a most maniacal fashion. Peder thought it was hilarious. Apparently I’d unwittingly stepped in a colony of tiny little super jungle ants, who in a massive coordinated attack all chomped down on my feet in perfect unison. And those little bastards were hanging on for dear life. Even with my violent foot-stomps they held on; I had to pull and flick off every single ant one-at-a time.
OW! I thought I got them all…but another just bit the back of my calf.
I’ve never seen such vicious little ants in my life. As I write this, it’s now more than two weeks after-the-fact and I still have some scabs left.
After awhile we headed back down the trail, and as the spotty rain had picked up quite a bit, took a couple of seats in front of the local market to wait it out. By “local market” of course I mean a tiny one-room building with a desk and a bunch of haphazard piles of food and drink products with one very bored-looking woman and a calculator for a cash register.
We ended up sitting there for probably two hours, playing music from my phone (such a great investment!), sipping beers, folding origami, and chatting. The locals got quite a kick out of the two random gringos who’d inadvertently infiltrated their little village. We got quite a kick out of a stray dog who couldn’t be bothered knocking a potato chip off his nose; he just walked around with it there for probably twenty to thirty minutes before noticing.
When the rain subsided we continued our walk, heading finally towards the top of the giant waterfall. Man, what a view.
“Let’s find a place to swim now, before it gets dark. All three of us,” Peder suggested
“Come on,” he said with an expression of Give me a break, could you be more oblivious?
Then I turned around. A happy little puppy was trudging along behind us, wagging his tail as he navigated his way down the rough dirt road.
We walked back up the river, our loyal little follower always beside us, and jumped in for a dip. The puppy hopped from rock to rock over the rushing water until he could go no further. So we decided to build him a stone bridge.
It took a lot longer than I expected, and even when we finished our puppy friend never mustered up the courage to jump across to the next step. But he waited patiently as Peder and I spent the next few hours turning it into an all-out rock dam.
Sometimes it’s fun never to grow up. It kind of reminded me of when I used to dam the rainwater rushing down the mountain near my dad’s house when I was a kid 🙂
Finally when night started to set in we started back, using my trusty flashlight to navigate over the rocks – puppy hopping along behind – back up the hill, past two white horses who came down for a drink, and onto the main road. There we found the owner of the lodge and one of his sons in his little blue Volkswagon beetle talking with the local police on an oldstyle walkie-talkie.
I guess when we never returned from that morning’s trek he got worried that we might’ve tumbled into the falls, and his wife insisted that he go out and start looking. Oops. But when we told him the story of our day he was wasn’t angry but happy that we’d managed to really take advantage of what the area had to offer.
He also told us that the little puppy we’d befriended had been saved from a flash flood by some backpackers several months earlier, and had taken a liking to gringos ever since 🙂
We hopped in the car and drove straight home for dinner. I fell asleep almost immediately.
The next morning neither Peder nor the Swedish girl were anywhere to be found, and since it was raining again, I sat on veranda and passed the time by writing up most of this blog post. Then, an hour before we had to head into town to catch a bus back to Rio, I woke them up.
One last fabulous vegetarian breakfast, and our short stay in the rainforest was over.