We climb down the steep part of the mountain in several small groups.
Moving slowly to ensure each other’s safety, the bond we form as a group we call the “Dream Team” continues to amaze me. I mean, with such a large group under some stressful circumstances, there are no whiners…unbelievable. We continue to laugh and chant phrases such as, “Pedro, mi amigo de Venezuela!” We greet ascending trekkers with the same enthusiasm. Today they come from previously mentioned countries, along with Haiti, Canada, Sweden and Chile. Oh my…here comes about 25 young, blonde haired, blue-eyed Danish women…dang, missed touring with them by only one day. Of course, I say something stupid:
“I love the Amsterdam coffee houses,” I say with a smile.
They look puzzled. “That’s nice, but Amsterdam is not in Denmark.”
Okay, so maybe they view me as their grandfather anyway.
About three hours of some treacherous hiking, brings us to camp “Pig Farm” without incident. While we wait for the lunch porter, who does not show up, we entertain ourselves with chin-up competitions. After an hour, our guide, Marisol, scrounges up some slices of bread and a jar of mayonnaise, which gives us fuel to hike seven more miles to the first camp, Rio Tok. We prepare to cross a couple of rivers. Alex, from the UK, strips to his boxer shorts in anticipation.
The river is now shallow, only shin-deep. We laugh the rest of the way to camp Rio Tok. Nothing feels as good as a refreshing swim and bath in this river, which flows steady. Did you know that five days of wet socks can smell like gangrene?
A promise of cold beer at this camp materializes in the form of Venezuelan Lambrusco…certified authentic Italian but tastes like grape juice. We appreciate the genuine gesture. The juice compliments spaghetti, peas and carrots. Mare and I sleep like babies this night, relieved to be spending the final evening in a tent that zippers shut.
Marisol treats us to scrambled eggs with fried Acaraje – Bahian fritters, our favorite food of the trip which tastes a lot like Indian Fry Bread. Mare and I dart off for the final 7 miles, crossing streams and kicking the pace into high gear as not to be passed. The weather is perfect, and the sun mostly shrouded in clouds. At the end of the trail, a man hands me a cold beer! Mare and I guzzle the heavenly nectar without shedding our backpacks. Stephen, a beach bartender from Germany (On the Rhine) shows up and we have another.
A group of Russian hikers prepare to disembark. “Do you think it might rain,” one of the women, dressed in white lace, asks me.
“Chances are better for rain than not,” I reply. This group paid extra for porters to carry their backpacks, and for single, private tents.
As the Russians hit the trail, another woman, also dressed in white lace, turns and asks, “Do any of you have a poncho I could borrow?”
We stand speechless…finally Stephen speaks up. “My raincoat is much too expensive to give away.” He speaks the same words for Mare and I also, as we paid $100 for ours from REI.
The rest of our group arrives, and we share beers, take photos, and squeeze into three 4-wheelers for the 2-hour ride to town, after a group lunch of barbecued chicken in a nearby village. Our group parties the night away, saying goodbyes at a Pizzeria in Santa Elena.
So…the mountain is a fantastic and challenging trek. I cannot speak for the mystical energies or harmonic vortexes reported by some. However, in the Lost World we found a bond, formed with our new international friends, which provides the most magical of experiences of Humans being…Ciao. Click – Ron Mitchell