Thursday, July 05, 2007

Joei's Story




The first photo is the dawn over our vegie patch this morning- it was pretty spectacular! I was just a wee bit late- but it took me a bit of time to tie my shoe laces. The second photos is of progress being made on the forest quilt- it is finally starting to take shape!
Doll for a Story- first story

Ok and now for Joei Basset's story " Lost in the Jungle" - that she sent in exchange for one of my dolls. Joei doens't have a website or blog, does felting. I really enjoyed her story- and as I read lots of visual images jumped out at me.I have made bold those little phrases words that immediately said image to me. It also reminded me of my travels through Africa- which inspired my first solo exhibition due to the wonderful things we encountered . You will need to scroll to the bottom of the page

Ok here is Joei's story- enjoy!
In 1994 a friend called me from Alaska, where she lived, and said it had been raining for 3 weeks straight and she had cabin fever. It was April and she swore she would go crazy if she didn’t get some sun. She proposed to meet me on an airplane in San Jose, California headed for San Jose, Costa Rica. We could spend some time catching up on our latest adventures and see the flora and fauna of Central America. I had vacation time, March was still the rainy season in California, I said yes.

The trip started out pleasant enough. We knew each other from college, had lived together for a short time in Bethel, Alaska. We both spoke a small amount of Spanish and were accustomed to traveling ‘on the cheap’. She had an acquaintance in Costa Rica that was a photographer and we met him at a hotel in the capital. San Jose was a lovely city with beautiful tile work, lovely gardens, gracious people and delicious food.

We bought some maps in English/Spanish and bus tickets to Monteverde Cloud Forest via the scenic route near Arenal Volcano. The forest was lush and thick and birds were everywhere. Toucans, yellow-naped Amazons and hummingbirds of all colors and sizes were in the small village where we stayed. The Volcano was active and produced clouds of smoke during the day and a visual feast of fireworks at night.

Arriving at Monteverde I stepped off the bus and sprained my ankle, not bad but tender and swollen. I limped for about 2 days and was unable to do any hiking. My friend and her aquaintance decided to hike the cloud forest and I took a horse back tour of the higher, drier section. We met that evening and exchanged stories. They were somewhat disappointed as they had been seeking the Quetzal, a tropical bird with a splendid red breast and long twin iridescent tail feathers but did not see one. I on the other hand had seen a sloth hanging from a tree, leaf cutter ants marching like a river of green, several types of monkeys and learned a Costa Rican cowboy song from my guide.

My friend decided she would hike with me the next day in the cloud forest again to seek the elusive Quetzal, while her friend went horse back riding to photograph other high forest mammals. After breakfast we waited at the entrance to the preserve. They only allowed 150 people in the forest at one time and as we waited for someone to exit allowing us to enter, I rented a pair of waterproof boots that would support my ankle and keep my feet dry. My friend declined. I left my shoes in a small cubby to exchange on my way out of the park.

We were in luck, soon 4 people exited stating they had seen a Quetzal at the first branch off the trail near a waterfall. People were still there watching. We walked to the fork and found the waterfall. It began to rain. Not hard mind you, but more like real rain than just dampness in the clouds. We spotted the Quetzal and my friend began to complain about the weather. She had come all the way to Costa Rica to get out of the rain. I, on the other hand, wanted to see some of the birds and forest and insects. The trail around Monteverde’s peak was only a little over three miles. I had hiked and camped all over the Sierra Nevada by myself and felt I could manage on my own. She was somewhat concerned. No guide, no hiking partner and with a tender albeit less swollen ankle I was not at my finest. No problem, I said, it’s only three miles, I have a map and it’s only a circle. It’s a wide trail and there are 149 other people in the park. We made arrangements to meet for dinner at 6pm at a small restaurant outside the park. What will I do if you are not there, she queried. Call the National Guard was my flippant response and off I set with a banana, a pair of binoculars, a magnifying glass, my watch, an umbrella and two books (Costa Rican Birds and Flowers of Monteverde). I was set.

I traveled slowly, looking at the leaf structure, listening to the unfamiliar sounds, taking in the verdant smells and searching for the parrots and monkeys that screamed and called in the jungle. I never ventured off the path, the vegetation was so thick I could not see more than a foot or two into the green wall on either side of the trail. I met a few people and exchanged pleasantries in English and Spanish and discussed bird sightings and insect groups found at the trailside. I came to a fork in the road.

The map showed a fork that went to the right and upward to the high and dry section, a longer steeper hike. It also showed the fork to the left continuing the trail around the mountain. I saw some people coming from the left and greeted them asking first in Spanish then in English if this was the main road. They smiled, nodded and obviously spoke neither language. They headed from where I had come from and I headed toward the left.

I poked along, looking at leaves, insects, birds and tracks. Mostly bird tracks until I came upon a small wet area crossing the trail. The map had described a boggy area about half way around. I stopped to look at the new tacks in the mud. They were cat tracks, large cat tracks. It started to rain as I stood up and realized it had been way over an hour since the last time I saw anyone. I heard a low rumbling sound. Not like a growl not like thunder not like anything I could remember hearing. I started to run. Why? I suppose, no I confess, all I could think of were Jaguars. This was not a zoo and the trail was considerably narrower than at the beginning. Two could barely walk abreast now, the jungle was deep on either side and suddenly there were no bird or monkey sounds.

I ran until I was out of breath. My imagination got the best of me. I remembered reading in the news a woman had been torn apart by a mountain lion just before I’d left for vacation. There was no way this out-of-shape grandmother could outrun a Jaguar. I stopped running and listened. The jungle noises seemed ominous now and I walked briskly along the trail.

Suddenly I saw what looked like roof tops, or at least a single roof top. Not to appear too anxious I continued to walk (instead of run) until I came to the clearing. It was not the Park’s entrance as I had guessed, but simply a single room building with a verandah beside a lovely stream in a small clearing. The trail continued to my left. I looked at my watch. I had less than an hour before sunset.

I realized there was no sense in going forward as the map showed no building in it’s simple curve around the mountain and it would be dark quickly, very quickly as there is no real twilight near the equator or in the dense jungle. I did not think I could reach the park entrance if I returned the way I’d come before dark either. I walked to the building and found a heavy metal padlock at the front door. However the back door was barred by some type of loose sliding mechanism. I couldn’t quite reach through the crack with my hand to grasp it. But I could feel rebar. I started slamming my shoulder against the door until I was sweaty, out of breath and I could just wiggle my hand in to grab the bar. Inch by inch I moved it until the door squeaked open.

It was an obvious hikers’ refuge. There were about ten single bunk beds, a rough hewn table and chairs, a small foot locker and a sink with running water from the stream outside. I took off my soaking wet clothes and hung them on the porch. I opened the foot locker and found some oatmeal with weevils included, a map that was more detailed than the one I had and a stub of a candle with old matches. It was now dark. I ate my bruised banana for dinner. I piled up all the thin little mattresses and climbed between them on a top bunk wondering about snakes, rats and other things in the night in the jungle.

It was quiet until the candle went out. Then all the rustling began. I don’t think I slept much though I was certainly exhausted. But fall asleep I eventually did. I know I did sleep because I awakened with crashing and banging on the metal roof as a group of monkeys hurried from one side of the clearing to the other and disappeared into the jungle. I’d lived through the night! The sun was shinning, my clothes were dry and the new map said I was at the Refugio el Valle in Monteverde Preserve. This trail was not on my map. I had turned too soon and was headed away from the park entrance.

I decided to retrace my steps. That would be the easiest course and I had never left the trail. Nor had I seen any other branches that I could have taken. I got dressed and headed out. The birds were singing, monkeys were hooting and it was almost 7am. I could make it back for breakfast. I walked quickly but quietly listening to the sounds around me and feeling like I was a survivor. As I came around a blind corner I looked up and further down the trail and there he stood. A golden brown spotted Jaguar who turned his head to look at me then walked into the dense leaves and disappeared. My heart raced and my imagination again went wild. Do Jaguars circle their kill? Do they follow their kill? Was he as hungry as I? My feet said ‘run’ but my brain said ‘keep walking’. I was too far from the Refugio to make it back and too far from the populated entrance to run all the way. Bravado got the best of me. I would go forward!

When we had entered the Preserve they advised us to walk quietly to see more. I took out my umbrella, put my finger on the button that would snap it open and began to sing, loudly as I literally marched forward. I sang for what seemed like forever. My throat was dry and my voice was hoarse. My finger was still on the button and I swung the umbrella like it would save me from marauding killers of any type. I came around another blind corner and screamed as I saw movement. Two men stood on the path. “Su llama Joei?” they asked. “Yes, yes! Me llama Joei” I answered.

They told me my friend was looking for me and I had only to continue on the same path to return to the park entrance. They would continue on to the Refugio to lock it up. They had no radios or walkie talkies, no snacks or drinks but smiled and waved as they left me advising I had less than 30 minutes to walk. I was standing at the turn off from the main trail. I recognized the English/Spanish plaque that described the trees by the stream and the wood bench.

I was almost back. My friend would be waiting for me. Why hadn’t she sent out the National Guard at 6pm the evening before. As I had listened to the scurrying during the night and I had consoled myself many times by thinking Rangers or National Guardsmen would come to lead me out by flashlight. By 10pm I’d realized they weren’t coming, not in the dark, not in the rain.

As I reached the turn off for the waterfall where we had looked for the Quetzal I heard her scream my name. She came running up and wrapped her arms around me and said “You’re alive! I thought at first you didn’t come to dinner because I’d left you to hike alone and you were mad. Then I thought you must have met someone interesting and decided not to have dinner with us. But when I woke up and it was 2am and you weren’t there, I knew something had happened.”

“Two AM? Two AM? Who did you think I was going to meet hiking in the jungle? Tarzan?”


Post script

The Park officials gave me a batiked T-shirt with a Jaguar on the front. They told me a party of over 10 Germans got lost the prior month on the same path. They had not revised the map yet, they would soon. To see a copy of the map go to http://www.cct.or.cr/pdf/mapa.jpg . Monteverde is truly spectacular I would do it again.

3 comments:

MargaretR said...

Wowee that was some true story Dijanne. You had me on the edge of my seat here. I'm so glad you lived to tell the tale.

MargaretR said...

I have just realised that this was of course Joei's story. my goodness.

Anonymous said...

What a brave lady, excellent story, worthy of a dolly Dijanne. regards Gerda