Monday, July 27, 2009
Day 18 - Rain, Rain, Go Away
After the nightmarish walk yesterday, everything seemed easy now. Never mind the fact that it rained all night and I woke up to find my pants on the clothesline soaked. Never mind the constant drizzle that fell upon us as we trekked through the dense, humid jungles of the Andes. I descended about 1000 meters in a fairly good mood. Nikhil and Sucharit kept stopping to take pictures of the lush rainforesty flora and fauna, but I didn´t have the luxury of a camera. I slid down the deliciously squishy mud along with the rest of the group. We saw beautiful, delicate, brightly colored orchids. Many hummingbirds were extracting sweet nectar from different exotic flowers. Edgar showed us how a particular bamboo shoot could be broken at various segments to produce different pitches of sound. Under small leafy patches buried in the ground cover, we discovered extremely tiny strawberries which we nibbled along the way. Most of our downhill trek was next to a raging river that ran parallel to our own path. Fed by the snow from the Andes, the water was crisp, fresh, and sweet. It swerved and crashed on the large boulders and fallen tree trunks that lay in its course. It changed colors, from a foaming white in its more violent moments to a torquoise green when it was more of a stream.
I wore my big blue jacket to protect myself from the rain, and felt warm and snug during the walk. When we sat down for lunch, however, I realized how wet I was. My jacket was completely drenched and the thin pajamas I had worn in place of the hiking pants were also cold and wet. I looked at the clothesline outside our roofed cafeteria; a baby´s clothes were hanging on the line, getting wetter through the unrelenting rain. The sun was nowhere to be found. It was a slightly miserable situation, but I found solace in thinking about how much better today was than yesterday.
We took a bus to a town named Santa Teresa. Here, we were camping with many other tour groups as the grounds were quite large. It was a touristy town, this Santa Teresa. In the evening, we took a bus to the Aguas Calientes, the hot water springs. This is not to be mistaken with Aguas Calientes the city, which is known for its hot springs, but the water there is dirtier as many more people go there. The springs in Santa Teresa were in a man-made structure, but I am not sure if they were from a natural source. There were two hot water pools - one at 28 degrees Celsius and another at 38 degrees. Steam was emanating from both pools, enticing me as I watched hordes of tourists soaking themselves in the water. We went in the 28 degree pool first, because it was larger. The water relaxed my joints and soaked me in sheer warmth. After three days of not changing my sweaty, mud-crusted clothes this was truly a treat to my body. The 38 degree pool was much hotter, like a shower that makes you sweat, but you don´t want to leave even though it´s uncomfortably warm. Edgar gave us two hours to enjoy the springs. We must have lost track of time, because he rushed to the poolside and exclaimed to the five of us "What are you doing? Hurry up, everyone is waiting in the bus!" The warm, dreamy state quickly ended and I hurriedly changed and got back on the bus. Even though I was wearing the same stinky clothes, I felt a bit cleaner.
At the campsite, I ate like a pig. Ever since we had descended from the Andes, the altitude sickness disappeared. As a result, I had regained my apetite, something I took full advantage of. The owner of the campsite owned a spider monkey named Peter, a wiry creature that creeped me out. As we were eating, he moved down the row, inspecting each person, jumping and grabbing onto things. He was moving in my direction. I wished he would find me unineteresting and move on. As soon as he came to me, he held on to the arm of my alpaca sweater and refused to move on. Others were tempting him with objects and tickling, but he remained latched to my arm. Instead of claws, he had mini hands; soft, cold, and clammy. The initial fear I had harbored was gone. The monkey was kind of cute. Peter regularly itched himself, lifting a hind leg or arm. At one point, I am fairly certain he urinated on my hand, and I let out a loud groan. He wasn´t so bad, but he left his mark on me; the fleas he gifted to my sweater led to a few welts emerging on my wrist. The itching didn´t last long. The raining had stopped, so I took out my wet jacket, swimsuit, and still wet pants to dry, praying it wouldn´t rain tonight.