"South America on $320" story # 9

Blue Range, Trinidad & Tobago           June 11, 2002

"Public transportation in Trinidad is a disaster!" is how my Venezuelan roommate David put it, one recent failed beach attempt. I was un-deterred.
     Being a genius, I devised to make my own way to the ocean by battling two miles through a road-less section of wild, thick, steep, devil-sweating-hot rainforest north of Port of Spain. Without a compass. Without water. Without a map. Without any knowledge of what animals lived in the rainforest and could kill me. I only knew that if I saw an ambiguously poisonous, beautiful snake, I was going to grab it. For some reason, David didn't want to join me for this trip to the beach.
     I took city transport to the comely suburb, Blue Range. The tranquil, new-looking houses abruptly ended at the foot of a large hill bursting with plants.
     There was no path up the hill. I walked past the end of Blue Range and was immediately swept away by the dry, lettuce green of the friend-less forest.
     There's no need to fear; I have experience as a rugged outdoorsman. Need I remind you that I'm the veteran of two Brazilian Amazon treks? Neither ending in death. Surprisingly.
     And I grew up in that unconquerable grave-filling land known as Michigan. Michigan! Where, only a young boy, I hassled with frogs and crayfish as big as three inches long in terrain as dangerous as my backyard three weeks after it had last been mowed! Buuh--dum ... buuh--dum ... (Imagine the theme from "Jaws.")
     So, now I was ... wait. "Jaws" music? In Michigan!? That doesn't even make sense ... let me continue. Where I was standing now, the hill went almost straight up. I had to pull myself forward by holding trees and roots or climbing rocks, pushing brush out of my way with every step.
     I had to test each branch I held for sturdiness, because I didn't really want to go bouncing downhill to Blue Range. Firstly, that would be a setback to my beach progress. Secondly, I would be a six-foot bloody pulp. On the plus side, however, Blue Range is a nice, tranquil place.
     As the slope of the hill eventually levelled off some, the forest became more dense. Much of the rainforest was trees made of hollow, bamboo shafts that flared out from the soil like shine from a star.
     Everywhere I moved, winding clumps of tangled sticks and green vines clung to my feet and pulled at my sandals. Sometimes, there would be nothing in front of me but thick, thick green. But, it was me - rugged Michigan outdoorsman genius - against nature. Nature hardly had a chance. Like the Carib Indians who'd taken their cameras and snorkel masks to the beach in these parts so many years before, I had to choose the best available path and utilize my god-given resources. No machetes. No bubble baths.
     One valuable resource was my head. I sometimes used this to push the last twigs out of my way in clearing a path. Now, that's what I call "USING your head." Aaaah, ha, ha, ha, ha! I kill me.
     The trek was easiest where fallen trees formed bridges over the vegetation. Which brings up an interesting philosophical question: If a tree were inclined to fall in the distant forest, and there was no one around to hear it but me, and it landed on my head and hammered me into the ground like Wile E. Coyote, and I died then, would the world be able to go on without ever hearing that last "USING your head" knee-slammer of mine? Socrates would say "no".
     No snakes on the day, but I did see bright orange butterflies, a gray mosaic butterfly, and a black one with red on its wings.
     I fluttered on. Suddenly, I noticed in front of me a diamond spider-web probably visible from space, and a black-and-red spider the size of a woman's thumb and fore-finger. I jumped with fright, and then - due to the shock - froze, so that I was frozen in mid-air with a look of terror on my face. We didn't have spiders like that in Michigan. At lesat, I don't think so. I pretty much never left the house when I was there. Boy, I missed home at this point. And a nice, big bubble bath.
     I swatted down the spider-web and moved on. I was concerned that by undoing the spider's trap I may have disrupted his life so much that it could've killed him. Better him than me. I kept my eye on him until a good distance away, so that he wouldn't make a flying leap to my neck and vengefully sink his teeth in.
     I was high up. At one "clearing," I got a breathtaking view to the green mountain on the opposite side of Blue Range and of the suburbs way below. Later, while standing on a high log, hearing a bird go, "Weeeeeeee-tu-tu-tu-tu!" I could see - to my left - to Port of Spain's twin tower buildings on the sea.
     But, in the northerly direction that I was travelling, I still hadn't seen the ocean. I still hadn't even made it to the top of the first hill!
     It was hot; my whole body was wet. I'd been pricked lots of places by the plants, and the pricks carried a sort of poison that continued to sting me. A great thirst sucked dry my throat. I often considered stopping - about every twenty seconds or so. But, I ruggedly "pressed on."
     And then, I came to a revelation ...
     I realized something. Something beautiful. About me. About nature. I realized: like the Carib Indians, I didn't need a compass to get me to the beach. Like the Indians, I didn't need a map.
     What I needed was a bull-dozer. I wonder if the Caribs had those?
     Giving up on reaching the ocean, I turned around. Another hard journey. I waded through a fern patch decorated with daisies, crawled through a dense woods of the bamboo trees, and made a long descent down a sunken, very green, old-river shaft.
     Once, while limbo-ing beneath some fallen bamboo, I mis-stepped and banged my inner ankle hard on the rock I was dropping to. It was practically a miracle that this slight numbing wound was all that happened during my rainforest climb. Another time, I'd pulled up a log in front of me, and a pointy, unseen piece came straight up into my chin. Ohhh, the joys of the jungle.
     I spotted a large, white house and made it out. Blue Range and freedom!
     The risk of injury on my journey had been great. The risk of enjoyment: small. I was filthefied, and I scurried to find drink. Beneath my dirty shirt and bathing suit, my back was green with plants. I was cut up and scraped.
     Which means, oddly enough, that it had felt good. I'd felt alive, like an indian. Just call me "Chief Machete-Head."
     I'd had to do something like this on the weekend, to make work seem enjoyable in comparison. And, as for returning to the witch-house and my landlady, "Haggatha" ... well, maybe if I fell off a cliff, that would seem enjoyable.
     Or, maybe if SHE fell off a cliff. Without her broom ...

Later, "Kemosabes" - Chief Modern O.

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