Still here in Nicaragua. Last Friday morning, we went on a a hike instead of having our Spanish lessons. We were to see the land that La Mariposa is in the process of buying with plans for reforestation. Many of the teachers and students and staff went. Some of us climbed in the back of the camionata, which is an old pickup truck with a wooden bench along each side. There were probably ten of us in the back and everyone else went in the microbus, which is the van. We drove for half an hour, mostly on dirt roads, up into the mountains. The views were spectacular and the ride was bumpy. I held on tightly to the seat. There are fields planted in rows across some of the hills. I think these are mostly pineapples and dragon fruit. We passed other trucks and motorcycles and pedestrians and bicyclists as we went down the road that didn’t look wide enough for us to pass. Finally we arrived at a shack and we all piled off. We had arrived.
The land is west of the volcano, Masaya, and the wind almost always blows the smoke from the volcano in this direction.
The volcano is live, but it has been about 300 years since it last erupted. It is difficult to grow things here because of all the sulfur from the smoke. Few plants can thrive. We set off on our walk. I was wearing my hat, which was good because it was really sunny, and a long sleeved shirt, long (warm) socks and long pants to try to not get all bitten up by mosquitos. They bite me even when I wear DEET, but being totally covered helps. Did I mention it was hot and humid? We started to walk. The path was steep in both up and down. There were also places where we were told not to stop because they were swarming with ants who, given the opportunity, would swarm us, too. Their were leaf cutter ants, too, walking in a row by the side of the “path.”
They are amazing, carrying bits of leaves that are much larger than they are.
We saw one dragonfruit that had 2 amazing, shiny beetles inside.
They like the fruit, but can’t get inside unless a bird opens it for them. Sometimes there are many beetles inside.
We kept walking. I was hot and sweaty. Then I started to get out of breath. I’m not sure how long we walked for. It seemed like a really long time. The men who were with us gave me a hand many times on the steeper parts of the climb, especially where it was steep and narrow, with a long drop to one side. I fell a couple of times, but not too hard, and on my bottom onto the soft ground, so it didn’t hurt. But I knew when I was holding Richard’s hand and stepped over something and when I got to the other side and my knees gave out for no particular reason that things were not going well.
I kept walking, sipping water from time to time. We came to a well. There were no ants there. They walked a little further and then decided to go back. But I knew I needed to sit for a while. So I told them. About six of the men sat down with me. They were very kind and patient. I apologized (this was all happening in Spanish!) but they said they had all day, or at least until dinner. They were joking with each other and chatting and taking photos while I rested. They were amazingly patient and kind. Finally, even though I really felt done, I thought I could walk a little ways. We walked a short way and then I had to stop again to rest. One of the women, a fellow student, came back to check on me. I told her how bad I felt about slowing everyone down and needing special help. I felt kind of embarrassed. But it wasn’t like it was what I wanted to do. And I’m pretty sure that if I kept walking, I would have just passed out.
We went up another hill and I was gasping for air. It finally occurred to me that it was asthma. I don’t remember ever getting asthma from just walking. I wondered if it was from the volcano smoke. Anyhow, I pulled out my inhaler and took a couple of puffs and in a few minutes I felt a little better, but still exhausted and breathless.
One of my teachers told me, in English, that they had sent for a horse. I thought he was joking, but he was serious. After a couple more short walks, the horse arrived. I am not an equestrian. I don’t often ride, but I have never in my life been so glad to see a horse. The man who brought the horse adjusted the stirrups and I got up. I felt better already. One man led the horse and another went in front of him with a machete to cut down some of the lower hanging branches. The path was ok for walking under, but there was no way to go under them on horseback. I felt like a princess! I still had to avoid a few branches above and next to me, but I had been rescued. We were back to the trucks in no time. One of my fellow students took my photo on the horse. It’s definitely not a glamour shot!
The rest of the group who had waited with me were back in 15 or 20 minutes. It would have taken hours for me to walk back.
I rode back in the front seat of the truck. I was exhausted and very glad to be going back to La Mariposa. I went to my room, took off my dirty, sweaty clothes and stepped into the shower. Unfortunately, no water came out, so I got some from the sink and rinsed off a little and then laid down on my bed in front of the fan. I cried a little. I always cry after these asthma attacks. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s scary not being able to breath or it has something to do with the medication. I didn’t really feel scared while it was happening—upset, embarrassed, grateful, amazed. I thought about Scarlet O’hara, “I have often relied on the kindness of strangers.” And tried to figure out how to say, “It is what it is” in Spanish. I’m thinking “Es que es.”
Paulette, the owner of La Mariposa, came to see how I was feeling and told me that she’d been rescued on horseback before. That made me feel a little better. All in all, it was a good adventure and I learned a lot about myself and the lovely people here in Nicaragua. I also learned to stay down wind from active volcanoes, something I never would have learned in Chicago.
And I spent most of the weekend relaxing. It takes me usually a couple days before I really feel better after something like that. Now, Tuesday, I feel like myself again. But it was definitely more adventure than I expected.
Anyhow, thanks for stopping by!