We hit the road in an old Toyota Land Cruiser with Miguel, our guide, and a driver and a navigator. Around the corner from the tour office we picked up a young blonde Danish girl named Mette, who turned out to be Miguel’s new girlfriend. They had met when she did the trek just over a week ago and now she was returning to spend time with Miguel and as it came to be, our co-guide.
The trip to the town of Machete was long, steep and muddy. The car wasn’t in particularly great shape and often needed water to cool the radiator. We passed a couple other groups going up, one of 12 people looking like they were headed for a day at the beach! I was starting to worry that this trek wasn’t going to feel very unique or special afterall. After a bologna sandwich lunch in Machete we headed out on a muddy trail along a river in the rain. We were soaked through very quickly, but warm from the exercise and happy to be finally on trail. After 30 minutes along the swollen, brown river we began a 90 minute ascent up a switch-back path carved deep into the mountain by many passing animals and hikers. I imaged coming down it would feel like a luge track. The walls of the path ranged from 2 -12 feet high, a swatch of coloured layers with a center track filled with redish slippery mud mixed often with grey slimy clay. This was a workout for me, I was sweating and huffing even without a backpack, as much as it definitely was for a few other day-trekkers, i.e. rosy-faced women in jean shorts, boys in loafers and a crew of people who clearly hadn’t done the same groundwork that we had.
Up and up and up, we eventually were higher than some of the clouds and the vistas opened up before our amazed and energized eyes. I was feeling good and thankful for a bit of flat and downhill walking. We were above the rain and the low nestled clouds still clung to the crevices between the deep jungle mountain ridges which layered on top of each other, getting darker and darker towards the horizon. Small patches of vibrant light blue poked through occasionally, to perfectly offset the dark greens and bright whites.
By 4pm we were at a gorgeous river camp, playing happily in the ‘picina’ waterfall. At camp 1 we met Diego, Miguel’s brother and secondary co-guide, but more importantly porter and chef. After dinner and a bit of Switters (Ulrich and I had begun reading the Tom Robbins book, Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates together and were referring to it simply now as Switters, who is the main character) we tucked into our separate hammocks for a decent night sleep.