Crossing Through the Children's Eternal Rainforest Part 2
Water surged around my waist. With every step, I tentatively pressed my foot flat across the rocks before taking another step until I reached the other side. Eladio had already taken off his rubber boots to pour out the water. Following his lead, I squeezed the water from my shoes, took off my socks, drew out the water and reached in my pack for a fresh pair.
We pressed on. Moving up into the mountains, the slow burn of the ascent warmed my legs. The trail diminished into a small path curving around the side of a mountain. On my right, moss covered the mountain slope, on my left thick foliage disguised the fall.
The trail led us onto a ridge where it joined with a horse trail. Hoof prints sank a foot deep into the mud. Calculating my steps in advance, I plodded between the tracks; the extra weight of the pack causing my shoes soles to sink in the mire.
We descended back into the valley and reached the second river crossing. Here the river spread wide, but shallow. I stepped over piles of smooth river rocks, careful not to lose my balance while Eladio waited on the other side. This time, we didn't stop to change our socks. We crossed into a rainforest meadow. The rails cut between overgrown ferns and Heliconia. Grass obscured mud puddles and once, while lost in my thoughts, my leg sank so deep into the muck I thought I'd lost my shoe.
The mud made hollow sucking noise as I pulled my leg free. A hundred yards more and both my legs were covered in mud. Pebbles pressed in the space between my heels and the soles of my shoes and I wished for the next river crossing. I didn't have to wait long. This time, Eladio handed me a smooth, worn walking stick to help me cross. Placing the stick in front of me, I tested the depth and let it sink into the river bottom. It was a huge relief. A wave of irony passed over me considering the safety of my electronics depended on a large stick.
After crossing, we kept close to the river bank and soon came to a switchback, traversed the river a fourth time and walked into a pasture. The sudden expanse inflated before us encapsulated by a dense wall of rainforest. In the distance, long, birds' nests hung like beards from a lone tree standing in the middle of the pasture. The warbled calls of Montezuma's oropendulas echoed through the valleys. The trail petered out into a line of dirt surrounded by grass and small yellow wild flowers.
The empty stares of cows mindlessly chewing cud followed us as we cut across the river for the final time. Without the cover of the forest, the sun beat down on us and I became aware of my exhaustion. I began to wonder how much farther we had to go. Then I slipped. I plunged my walking stick blindly into the river bottom feeling it churn into the sand. My right foot left the ground just as the pole sank in, but I had caught myself.
I reached the far side of the river and collapsed on a rock. I took off my shoes and socks to dry them out. From inside my pack, I grabbed a plastic bag of watermelon and pineapple. Lifting the bag by the corner, I drank the juice that had collected on the bottom. Then I ate the fruit, savoring each piece. Afterwards, I put on a fresh pair of socks and lifted my pack back onto my shoulders, unsure how much farther we had to go. We walked down a dirt road bordered by wire fence.
A truck emerged in the distance. A man with a machete tossed a couple pieces of fruit into truck's bed and came up to greet us. Eladio pointed to my bag then to the back of the truck. I threw it in the bed and relief swept through my shoulders. Unburdened, I'd survived the six-mile trek; and so had my gear.