The same group that did the hike-a-thon a few months ago organized a hike to Maracas Waterfall, the tallest waterfall in Trinidad (91 meters). The hike to the falls is quick—about 20 minutes. As soon as we reached the base, we saw sliced watermelon on the rocks in front of us. Nobody moved to get some, though, so we stayed put and just wondered why they were there.
At first I thought it was the sprinkle of the waterfall, but as we started up to the top of the falls, I realized it was rain. And for the next six hours, it poured, with the water pressure sometimes outdoing our shower. What we climbed for the rest of the day was neither hike nor trail. We scrambled up the mountain, pulling ourselves up on vines and branches, trying to avoid the prickly ones (sometimes the prickles are three inches long!) and the rotten ones (when we couldn’t, we’d find our legs knee-deep in the stink of brown jungle compost). We went through as many Romancing the Stone and Rambo jokes as we could think of—and then the lightning started. And then a lady dislocated her shoulder. And then it became clear that the path was murky as we wove through the jungle, sometimes left, sometimes right.
When we reached the top, we tried to keep the rain out of our eyes long enough to see the foggy green below us. And then we started to get cold because we had to stop and wait, in the wind and rain, for everyone else to get there (slower yes, but possibly smarter too, since I had almost broken my ankles ten times by now). Hypothermia in the tropics didn’t feel likely, but after a few hours of being soaked, who knew? As we started back down, Aaron suggested to the leader that we split into two groups. He replied, “Well, I didn’t put markers on the way down because two other guys were supposed to come. I’d wanted to test them and see if they could find the trail down. But they didn’t show up today.” Guess the joke was on us.
The “trail” down was a tributary; the only way to maneuver it was to not care about taking unknown and blind steps and just trust we’d find something solid to hold our feet. We slid down the rushing staircase, sometimes stumbling into larger, roaring rivers. (This is where all of our Goonies jokes started.)
At one point, as a young girl crossed a large river, she slipped. I jumped in the water to try to grab her but I didn’t get far because I, too, felt my legs lose out against the charge of the river. Her brother reached out and luckily made contact with her shirt collar. Otherwise, I’m not sure where she would have stopped. In their struggle to get her on her feet again, her pants started to slip and she wiggled, letting go of her brother, to keep them on her waist. I like pants as much as the next guy, but when it’s pants vs. life, I’ve gotta go with life and I yelled at her to hold onto her brother. Eventually, because of his iron grip, he was able to haul her, pants included, to the other side where she collapsed like a kitten. The rest of us set up a human chain a little further up to make it a little safer for others to cross. A short while later, we made it back to our cars. And just as we did, the sun came out.