It’s always hard to break away from that familiar hold of the sea. Heading west down that road, I was slowly slipping out of her grasp, letting the feel of the rolling hills ease into me. Gentle and soft, fresh greens of spring, the pungent taste of raw earth. Hills giving way to mountains. Spruce and fir mingling with the clear smell of mountain streams. The land worked its way through me, whittling away worries. Wandering lost down that dirt road, caught under the spell of that ravine with its lazy stream. It felt so familiar, with its quiet strength. I drank in the feel of it. The way the meadow tucked into the twisted stream triggered thoughts of other places. The open feel of it took me to Wyoming. The funny flat spot on top of one of the hills looked like a volcano in Guatemala. The smell of sweat grass and the call of the mourning doves, smells and sounds of Kenya. This place was a window, like I could wrap my arms around the world for one moment and hold it close. I savored it, took it in deep and smiled big.
I was getting pounded sitting in the front of the launch, so I grabbed a bumper and sat on the nice suspension, but too much bounce. We were crossing Lake Isabel heading for the thermal waterfalls. The green hills that led up to the mountains were a powerful sight as I bounced along on my bumper. Our captain was loving the wave action and took great glee in trying to bounce me clear out of the boat. I knew he would get his way, given the increasing size of the waves, so I stood up and took the action in my knees.
I loved the contrast of the amber reed grass and the green fields that warmed the lake’s edge. We hit the beach in style and climbed out eager for our adventure that lay ahead. There were ten of us, a motley collection of British, French, Canadian and American. We had been together long enough to skip past the social shine and get right into the abusive humor, which suited me just fine. Nothing sacred at this point. Lots of laughs. We walked along a dirt road surrounded by cattle in the fields, very peaceful. The smaller cattle had collars with three-foot sticks wedged through them to keep the little buggers from slipping under the fences—good idea. The road gave way to a small jungle trail that would occasionally flirt with the banks of a good sized stream. Occasionally some of the local girls would be on the trail trying to sell banana bread. We assured them we would buy on the way back.
Coming up a small hill and around the bend, the smell of sulfur hit us first, then the sight of the thermal pools and waterfalls. Man, what a sight, something out of dreams. It did not take us long to get into the water and swim over to the waterfalls. Better than any hot shower I have ever had. I could go for the heavy volume and hot pounder or the light hot tease. I tried them all. They call me mellow yellow, that’s right. One hour of that and I was mister limbo.
Our fearless leader, another Dave, gathered us together to head further up the trail to the caves. The jungle smells that tickled my nose were something else. You could never quite name what it was before a new smell would waft up your nostrils. These were the same jungles where Tarzan was made. Once I was told that I was on the lookout for Jane—hey a fellow has to keep an open mind.
As we headed down the slick mud trail, both my feet went clear into the air and I took a good dumping. That smartened me up some. The trail got so steep that Dave had to tie a rope to one of those thorny jungle trees so we could rappel down. The adventure had begun.
At the bottom was a stream that ran out of a 30-foot high opening in the side of the mountain. With just swimsuits and head lamps we all swam into that dark opening—cool, unreal, a little eerie. This was a new one for me and I was loving it. We took breaks every hundred yards by clinging onto the sides of the rock before swimming further. I could hear hard water ahead and see rock and white water. We climbed the rocks next to the waterfall, and there were some very scary moments where the wrong slip could have plunged us into the waterfalls. At one point Katua stepped out from a rock and missed her footing but was caught by her friend. I swallowed my heart watching that little number. Once we were up to the top we killed our head lamps and sat in the darkness feeling the strength of this ancient cave. Woooooo. Love Dave.
The cobblestone street was edged on both sides by churches, stores and homes all tucked in close to one another. One of the churches had a blue steeple, giving it more of a human face than god-like. It was close to five so the streets were full of people and action. A mother with her two daughters caught my eye. They were all holding hands with the little one of about two in the middle. She swung from their loving arms only touching the ground occasionally, ponytails on both sides. She caught my eye and said ola, eyes smiling. She lifted my spirits. I got to the top of the hill where the road turned to dirt. A boy was running ahead of me pushing a tire rim along with a stick, keeping it alive in balance with his fancy stick work. A herd of women, all in their traditional dress of bright woven colors, all greeted me as they walked past. I cut down through a narrow dirt path tucked in by homes tight together. A gang of six-year-olds were hanging on the walls relaxing in the late afternoon and munching on chips, ola, ola.
I wove through the scattering of dogs that were hoping for some droppings and reached the casa of the Cruz family, which was a combination of cinderblocks and adobe with metal roofing. “Buenos tardes,” I called out several times. Maria came out saying, “Buenos tardes,” imitating my funny accent. I was there to get my third massage. Maria is Mayan, the daughter of the local shaman. The previous two massages, she had kicked my ass going very deep and not in the least bit put off by my screams of pain. The massage table was a straw mat on a concrete floor covered by a blanket. She started out soft, but once she had the egg shaped stone in her hands, she pushed it deep into my shoulders. I screamed out in pain, and two little ones not older than two came running in to see what it was about. The smaller one peered around the bigger one, all eyes, and I could not help but smile through my pain. Maria worked hard on getting some movement back to my neck. She was pleased with the progress she was making—my head has not had this kind of movement in years. I was very happy. When the massage was over, she sat across from me on the mat and looked at me with concerned eyes and said I had many problems. “Yes,” I said, “but I have a strong spirit to endure these problems,” she smiled. Walking back in the dark, I stopped and tilted my head back to see the stars. It has been a long time that I was able to do that little number. Yes, it is good to be alive. Love Dave.
It always felt good getting to that whambly dock. She stretched out onto Lake Atitlán holding some grace amid dark green and blue waters surrounded by volcanoes and steep pitched mountains. Walking out that old dock, I could see the waves reflecting day’s brilliant light on the sandy bottom. It gave the lake another dimension, more depth that added to the magic.
Shedding my garb, I jumped into that cooling water. It let me open my eyes without the sting and see its underworld of blues. Coming to the surface, I was greeted by the sight of water birds fishing for their day’s feed and those big Fing mountains. Quite the way to start the day.
The dock had a good rhythm to its sway on my way back to shore. The dusty path along the lake’s edge spilled me out onto a bigger road of dirt and dust that was shaped by a field trimmed short by the grazing horses. I slipped into Lenas for my morning feed and laughs.
The cafe was run by a madre and her three kids, and the occasional stray that would wonder by. They put out some great food, music and some laughs from the kids. Milini Anna, the three-year-old, can be quite the little bossy boots on some days, then on others be all wine without the cheese. She is a little cutie with those pig tails going wing on wing. Clara, the older sister of 12, seems weighted by the thoughts of school and looking after the little sis. On some days she runs the place all by herself, cooking and all, not as good a cook as her mom, though. The brother of nine takes orders or runs the chores. He has quite the serious presentation. I wolfed down those spicy beans, had a quick sing and dance with Milini Anna and headed up the road. I could hear a young woman’s voice over a loudspeaker. It was pleasant to hear, an innocence to it like she was working around the house and felt alone enough to reveal her vulnerable emotions. Beautiful.
Walking on, I could see the lone Victrola speaker sitting atop the roof of a tienda. Inside I could see men playing guitars and clapping and young women singing into that mike. It seemed that most people in the streets were taking the moment to enjoy the beauty of that honest voice. Such a friendly place, this town by the lake with waters of so many blues.