Walking around at Tapanti National Park was my scheduled activity for the day.
Luis showed up at the appointed time, punctual as always. It was a lovely drive up to the park. Luis stopped along the way quite a few times, at my request, because I wanted to take photos, like this:
At the park's gate, I told Luis he could pick me up at 1:30, paid the entry fee, and was on my own.
A few yards into the walk, I was the only human.
The sounds from insects and birds and the gentle breeze on a muggy morning was my company. At some places, the cicadas seemed infinitely louder than jet engines. I was the only human around to hear them.
"If I slip and fall in this forest and yell like crazy, but nobody hears me, then will my yell really make a sound?" I thought to myself as I turned into a two-kilometer hiking trail off the main one.
Did you get the point by now that it began to concern me that I was all by myself in a forest in a foreign land?
Yet, I decided to take a side trail!
The narrower side trail was not going to be easy with all the watery, mossy, rocky, surface. A few minutes in, I wondered whether I should be cautious and turn back.
Which is exactly what I did.
Which is also when I slipped and slid down a few feet, yelling "shit, shit, shit."
Nobody around to hear me, of course!
I picked myself up. Checked my arms and legs. All ok. I returned to the main trail.
Insects started bugging me.
I reached into the backpack. Momentary panic--turned out that I had left behind at the lodge the pouch that had the insect repellant, anti-allergy pills, the anti-itch cream, band-aid, and everything else that is my standard supply even when I go hiking in Oregon. I had nothing here. In a rainforest with all kinds of strange insects.
"Shit, shit, shit" is all I could say at this point. The insects couldn't care.
I kept flapping my arms around to ward off those annoying insects. I must have looked like I was propelling myself.
Thankfully, nobody was around to see this sorry, and hilarious, sight.
I am simultaneously a wimp and a strong-willed one. The strong-willed me almost always overrides the panicky me. I hope that it will be the case until the very end. I want to die with confidence and in peace, and not ridden by panic and anxiety.
Meanwhile, the logical me wondered whether there were bugs on my back. I checked it out with my camera! Into my old age, I will finally stop walking around under the hot sun, and will slowly lose the much darker tan and return to the lighter shade of brown that you can see peeping from under my tshirt. I am hoping that it will be a whole lot of enjoyment before I, and others, begin to see my face and neck lightening up.
I reached the end of the trail at the top. A young couple was at the mirador. A few minutes of courtesy wait later, I approached them with "English?" They didn't know English.
The woman was sharp; aren't they all! "Photo?" she asked. I nodded my head and gave her the camera.
The waterfall at a distance made me forget all about the insects and the fall. My camera is way too much a toy to capture such beauties far away. Yet, click I did.
A little later, I started the walk back. I hated the very thought of those insects all over again. Yet, despite the fall and the bugs, I knew I was one lucky guy to be there and to enjoy it all. I walked down slowly to enjoy the scenery, to take photos.
I continued to walk past the park's gate instead of waiting inside for Luis, as we had agreed.
Of a herd of cows lazily grazing at a pasture, one kept mooing at me and continued to walk up to the fence. She stood at the fence and stared right at me. We stood looking at each other for two, or even three, minutes. Perhaps this was my guardian angel, I told myself. The कामधेनु (Kamadhenu) of the Hindu mythology.
I thanked the cow. She mooed a response.