We waited for the rain to stop. We had camped for two nights on an uninhabited island four miles off of the
But soon our boat was last, a kilometer behind everyone else - the boat the guides moan about afterwards in the pub when they are sucking their XXXX beer and reminiscing about
A month before I had a career hiccup and decided to go on a break after a good dinner and a Johnny Cash album failed to cheer me up. Normally I listen to alternative rock but I had had too much of thirty-one flavors and then some. I needed a change.
After using the Internet as a way of spinning the globe and sticking a pin in it (search = English speaking, warm, end of November)
It is a fierce place - a home of sharks, 30 proof sun block, pythons, strangler fig, and drivers on the other side of the road. And then there were the stickers and blood suckers: the lawyer cane vine, the elephant ear plant, the stinging jelly fish, and, of course, the leeches. The trip was broken up into five parts - canoeing, biking, backpacking, scuba, and the sea kayak. When the pamphlet came for what to bring for the 8-mile backpack into the rainforest (the politically correct for jungle - no one is for jungle) it mentioned insect repellent somewhere between a water bottle, a good pair of socks, and a good hat. It didn’t say that the spray was for leeches.
These leeches are smaller than the
It did take a day to get over the leach search breaks - you get strange dreams at night after spending a day with these worms. Eventually I came to the conclusion that leeches are like mosquitoes that apologize with
anaesthetic before the bite. All things considered I would much rather have blood-letting leeches than skin crunching mosquitoes (but this is the type of decision I am not really looking for in my little career search).
Now there was also beauty on the trip: sleeping in a hammock next to a waterfall, watching the sun set over a coral beach, hovering above a sea turtle or a giant clam in the Great Barrier Reef, discovering what looked like a branch of a tree was really a bird, stopping at a strangler fig that floated down from the rainforest canopy like a curtain, and eating fresh pineapple that had been carved into a boat or the fresh fruits (tucker) that our guide picked for us in the rain forest.
There was the shame of the feral things that had been brought to the island - the gigantic raging cane toad, the root digging pigs, and the TV show,
There were the storms. On the second day of the trip (the first day of biking, the day after the canoe) after we biked around what felt like a mostly uphill Atherton tablelands, we stopped at
It was a machine gun downpour. The rain hit like an over caffeinated masseuse. In
We rode on. The rain slapped into the forest causing the leaves and dust to fall onto the road. Pretty soon there were small branches coming down and we were forced to zig zag around the mounting debris. The rain kept pounding. Up ahead the cars had stopped and were starting to back up the street. A tree had fallen across the road. We flung our bikes over the tree and continued into the storm.
More branches. Bigger branches. And then the realization that a tree is a fairly large object. This was not an automated
The third tree that fell was the smallest. Our guide motioned us out of the forest - he would take care of the last tree and we were close to the exit and the main road. Only a few minutes latter we were out of the forest. The rain still pounded the rest of the way home, and it was impossible to see much of the traffic on the road. But we knew that the
tough part was done and a pub was within reach.
Most of the time, we deal with small problems - the hobgoblins of daily commutes, status reports, and under-budgeted projects. I believe the great vacations are the ones that the at-home issues get flung away - that you really do only take the four tee shirts, water bottle, a good pair of socks, a wide brim hat and, of course, insect repellent; and leave the did-I-turn-that-report-in worries behind. If you have to clean out a backpack because you have spilt meat sauce all over it and are worried about the marsupial equivalent of big city rat will perforate most of your remaining underwear as a snack when it is dark out and the leeches are still moving, you will forget about how you babble too much at interviews and the general career angst that awaits you back home. Cherish these moments as you scrub. In the rain pedal forward squinting and listen for the crackling on the sides of the roads.
My partner in the sea kayak righted herself and cleaned her mouth out with the last of the water in her water bottle. My right shoulder started to feel better and I was able to do the deeper paddles and catch up to the group. Shortly we turned to our right so that the rest of the trip was with the surf and wind. We pulled the boats back up on shore,
and I smiled at the troubled sea.