Sunday, April 12, 2009

Barefoot in the Forest - Sunday 4-5-2009

From Casa Brian, I walk with six other people to a supposedly gorgeous, secluded beach known only to locals several kilometers south of Playa Samara. A tall cliff separates Playa Samara from this beach. We walk south to the end of Playa Samara, and then walk carefully on rocky outcroppings sheltering tide pools. These rocks curve around the point and open into a cove and small beach. Five hundred meters directly across the water from this secluded beach is an island with a tall cliff and its own tiny beach. Our guide points to a steep trail leading up a cliff at the end of the beach we are standing on. We start walking the nearly vertical trail. I lose my breath quickly and struggle to keep up with the others. The trail isn’t even marked, it’s just the only discernable path up the cliff. We step across roots and branches and fallen logs, holding tightly onto tree trunks when we can, and always careful of our footing on the pathway. The pathway is barely the width of a person’s foot. Two-thirds of the way up the cliff, the path bends along the cliff face so that I can turn my head left and look down the cliff. The path is terribly narrow here and there is nothing for me to grab onto if I lose my footing. I take a deep breath and keep walking.
The trail is so steep and the day is so hot. I stop to catch my breath several times. The trail leads us inexorably up, doubling back on itself, cutting through the trees and bushes. The trail finally ends at a fallen tree. We carefully climb across its length, reaching a dirt road near the top of the cliff. I’m breathless and drenched in sweat. We follow the dirt road to the right. The road ends at the edge of the cliff and we can look straight down on the rocks below and directly across the water to the island, 500 meters away. We stop for pictures and water, some of others also take a cigarette break. The strap on my left sandal separates from the sole, wrecked from the climb. My left sandal sole is connected to the rest of my sandal only by a bit of glue on the heel. As the group follows another dirt road down the other side of the cliff, I have a moment of clarity. My left sandal is so wrecked that it’s more comfortable for me to walk barefoot. If I walk down to Playa Carillio, I’ll have to do it barefoot. That means I’ll have to climb back up to the top of the cliff barefoot and then back down the narrow, barely-marked trail to Playa Samara barefoot. I cut my losses and tell the group that I’m headed back to Casa Brian.
I take my sandals off. It takes me several minutes to find the fallen log we climbed to reach the dirt road at the top of the cliff. I gingerly grab a hold of the trunk and slowly slide down. I think I find the trail back down, but it dead ends after a minute of walking. I go back to the log, but can’t find the trail. Part of me seriously wants to sit and wait several hours for the others to return. Instead, I make my own trail through the leaves, branches and fallen logs. After a minute, I think I find the trail and I start following that down the cliff. The path seems even steeper and narrower going down. I lose my footing a couple times, but catch myself before I slide down the cliff. It’s a weird rush for this suburban kid to be walking barefoot down this cliff, hemmed in by thick vegetation and worried more about spending $10 to replace my sandals than about getting bitten by some hidden snake. About fifteen minutes after starting my slow descent, I reach the hidden cove and the gravelly beach. It’s blazing hot today and my shirt is soaked with sweat. I put my gear down and wade into the temperate waters. The terrain changes quickly from gravel to rocks which are too sharp to stand on so I retrieve my gear and keep walking toward Playa Samara. I cross the sharp rocks and tide pools slowly because I have to pick my steps carefully while barefoot. Forty-five minutes later, I’m back at Casa Brian, sore but pleased that I didn’t freak out or give up partway down the cliff.

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