At 7pm we were all settled in and so tired that I thought sleep would come easily. Danny and I laid down on our boats next to each other, as did Jessie and Chris. It was so quite and dark, and it would be so for the next 12 hours. That was when the first person slapped. Then we were all slapping. The bugs were awake. It was amazing. There were no bugs accept for ants biting our ankles and hands when climbing through their territory, and now suddenly there were a wide variety of insects biting us. There were big noisy bugs that even I could hear, small ones that you didn’t feel when you slapped them, and crawling ones. The next 12 hours was a long losing battle against being eaten by bugs. Danny was our entertainment as he offered his selection of bad jokes and singing. Everybody was talking and slapping all night. I couldn’t hear the conversations so I stayed quiet. My body was covered in red welts of many different shapes and sizes. We were all blood donors that night. Suddenly, it began to get lighter. I was eager to see again and get on our way. I felt terrible from dehydration and wanted to get back to our hotel room. I waited and waited but it was taking forever to get light. Then I saw it, it was the moon shining through a hole in the jungle ceiling. It wasn’t morning, not yet. I took my Swiss Army Watch off for some unknown reason, as if that made it hard to sleep. I reached for it on the ground and picked up some glow in the dark moss. Weird. That stuff was all over; I couldn’t find my watch because everywhere was glow in the dark stuff that made it useless. What seemed like an eternity later the light appeared again, this time with more color and it kept getting lighter. Everybody was wide-awake and waiting for enough light to pack up our makeshift camp and get underway. We didn’t want to spend another night out there. Without saying much we all got our boats on our shoulders and started up the mountain again. Within 60 seconds our legs were burning, our hearts were pounding, and we were sweating up a storm, again. We weren’t moving as fast; Jessie needed more help than before with her boat, but wasn’t complaining, of course. Dehydration was now scaring us. I was definitely dizzy and feeling terrible, as were the others, I’m sure. All we saw was hot jungle, with a minimal trail that lead straight up, never offering a physical break, a single flat area, or any indication that we were near the top. Then the trail ended in a vertical pitch, congested with vegetation. It was a small landslide. I propped my boat up against the mountain with the stern on a tree to keep it from sledding down the mountain. Just another obstacle to challenge us, nothing more. I scrambled up the side of the cliff using roots and plants whenever available, making toe holds in the mud. The others waited below. The pitch was only about 25 feet high but there were lots of dead sticks mixed in with the roots to fake you out and get your adrenaline pumping when they broke away. I made it to the top and saw something we hadn’t seen since yesterday, the sky. About 100 feet in front of me, and 50 feet above me, was a clearing, only people made clearings, and we needed to find people. I rushed ahead to scout it out so I could bring some good news back to the others. When I got to the crest of the mountain I was standing in front of about 5 acres of recently clear-cut land. It was a mess of mangled jungle. All of the huge trees, and brush laying horizontal on the ground. My first assumption is that we would just have to follow the logging road out of there to a bigger road, and that we were saved. I couldn’t see a logging road, nor were any people working there, but people got there somehow. I decided that it would be worth the effort to have more substantial information for the others upon returning to them. It took me five minutes to climb over and under and through the brush and trees to the middle of the clearing where I stood on top of the highest point on a fallen tree to look for a way out. There was no obvious road, and no obvious trail either. The way we had been walking turned up again on the far side of the clearing with a steep pitch. On my left only 100 feet past the clearing was the big ravine we spotted late yesterday. This looked promising from the clearing, especially since there was no other apparent way out. I worked my way back to the jungle. It took me a few minutes to find where I came out of it. I tried yelling and waiting for answers. I heard somebody, but it didn’t really help me get my bearings. Go down was tough and scary. From the top it looks impossible to get down the cliffs, but once you get over the lip it all seems to work out. Chris was busy while I was gone. He found a better way up. We passed our boats up to him and bypassed most of the brush in the cliff that I climbed through. We all arrived at the clearing at about 10am, three and a half hours after setting out that morning. It took another 30 minutes to get our boats into the middle of the clearing. Jessie and Danny were sitting on their boats; Chris and I were looking around. Chris suggested that we break for the ravine and make our push to get back to the river now. Jessie was dead set against that, announcing for the first time that she was nearing her limit. Certainly, she would not be able to get her boat back up the ravine if we got cliffed out again. It was at least 90 degrees out and super humid. We were now in the glaring sun. A sense of panic was hitting all of us from the dehydration. It was no longer a concern but a danger and it was affecting our judgment. For the next ten minutes we were at a stalemate. Everyone wanted to rest; nobody was ready to commit to any plan since none seemed promising. We had that truly lost feeling. The clearing didn’t reveal a way to civilization and the only way that seemed to have promise would put us back down the mountain. Finally, Danny decided to scout the ravine, so I decided to scout the other side of the clearing and to search for water, leaving Chris to scout the area in between that lead straight up the mountain again. Within twenty minutes I found a wet cliff side that had water dripping off of roots hanging from it. I tried to fill the two-liter bottle. I gave it 60 seconds on my watch to gauge how long it would take. I got about a teaspoon. This would take hours to get two liters. I looked along the cliff until I found a bigger trickle of water and then I saw it, a pool of clear water! This pool was big enough to fit the entire two-liter bottle in and fill it several times. I was yelling at the top of my lungs to get the others attention, WATER, WATER, I FOUND WATER! I filled the bottle and began to run back, then stopped and drank almost the entire thing myself in one long series of gulps. I filled it a second time and ran back to find Jessie on her boat, and Chris in the woods, Danny was still gone. They both arrived back within a couple of minutes. As excited as everyone was, nobody wanted to drink the water fearing that it was bad. That lasted about 30 seconds until Chris took his first real drink in 30 hours. Danny and Jessie both followed suit drinking enough to actually make a difference. We all lost that feeling of doom from dehydration immediately. The difference between our condition before and after the water was incredible. I was a new man. Tired and still lost, but not dizzy and weak from lack of water.
Danny announced that the ravine quickly turned into a series of cliffs with waterfalls the first one was 25 feet high, then they got progressively higher and impassible. This was the last time we would even discuss trying to get back down to the river as a plan, we were going to hike out of the jungle somehow. Chris found the trail we were originally on and it went straight up again. Jessie and Danny rested while Chris and I scouted the trail. The trail was steep for about 15 minutes then it got much flatter and came to another clearing, this one with Banana trees, papaya trees, and just over the next ridge, a cabaña. We were saved! We rushed back down to the others and told them the good news. Our kayaks were still in the middle of the clear cut field so it took a while to carry them to the edge, with lots of angry ants running around and covering many of the branches and trees we needed to use. We got pretty good at getting on and off those branches quickly and then brushing them off before getting too many bites. My ankles were hit the hardest but it really didn’t seem to matter that much any more. Danny and I got to the top quickly, as if it was a sprint to the finish of a major race. My heart rate was near its maximum and my legs were shaking violently from the lactic acid and exhaustion. We walked around calling for anybody that might be there. Nobody was there, but it was apparent that people lived there. Clothes were hanging on the line, chickens were running around, and everything looked in order. There were bananas, papaya, plantains, and a big bucket of rainwater that was collected from the rain off of the roof through bamboo gutters. Danny and I set off down an obvious trail to our right and it crossed a little creek and into banana trees. It ended almost immediately. Danny went back and I pushed on through brush looking for another trail that may lead to a road or somewhere. I was running to make good time and the brushes turned out to be nettles. The burning set in rather quickly since my legs were raw from scratches and bug bites. There was nothing but nettles everywhere I looked so I sprinted back through them to the trail. The pain just kept accelerating. I rinsed my legs off but it didn’t seem to help. When I got back Danny had gone off on another trail and announced that he would scout it a little ways up. I was sitting on the steps of the cabana just trying to tolerate the pain and act normal. Jessie and Chris were sitting on their boats slapping bugs wondering when Danny would be back. We fully wanted to wait there until these people came home. It made the most sense. After 30 minutes we began wondering where Danny was. He hadn’t any of the water from the house to drink, and only a few cups of my stagnant water from earlier. Chris decided to scout the trail Danny went up to see if there was a road nearby and possibly intercept Danny on the way back. Jessie and I totally dehydrated. I drank about 4 liters. Chris came back in 30 minutes as promised. No sign of Danny. We now were pretty sure something was wrong. Why else would he leave on his own with no food or water and not tell us that he would be gone for an hour. We began having imaginings of him getting heat stroke and wandering aimlessly until he collapsed. We waited for another 30 minutes, nothing. We decided to abandon our plan of waiting at the house for the owners to return. We knew the trail he started on, so we would set off after him and see if we could track him. We have carried our boats so far that we decided not to give up on them now. Danny’s kayak was left behind. We pretty much figured that would be the last time we saw it. The trail was quite obvious and was very muddy. There was nothing but footprints in the mud, and Danny’s was not easy to spot. Jessie was becoming quite slow and was talking about hitting the “Wall”. She had held out like a true champ and would work most men into the ground. However, she was fading fast and moving at half of the pace of Chris and I making the trips back to get her boat quite frequent. Within 20 minutes of walking we hit our first obstacle. A three way fork. We all decided to take a prong with an agreement to return back within 30 minutes. I followed my trail for 15 and then came back. When I returned I intercepted a native boy carrying a muzzleloader. Startled but not alarmed I made friends with him as quickly and honestly as I could. I wasted no time in letting him know that he was my savior and that I would pay him to get us to a road safely. He agreed to help. The others returned in a couple of minutes and we were all feeling the next level of excitement about getting out in one piece. I inquired about Danny and he said he saw him walking and trying to speak English to him. This wasn’t like Danny since Danny had enough Spanish to get around as well as the sense to use it. We were now truly afraid that he was delirious. The boy told us he was 12 years old and his family had a cabana close by that was on the way to the road. He said that was the way Danny had walked as well. Perfect, we could work towards getting ourselves out of trouble while looking for Danny at the same time. I asked the boy to carry Jessie’s boat for $5, he agreed. Chris had a better idea, for Danny at least. He suggested that we get Danny’s boat and let the boy carry that. I ran back with the boy and got Danny’s boat and carried it myself the 20 minutes back to the forks. Jessie was bummed that she would have to carry her boat again. We began our hike with our boats to the boy’s house. This kid was like lightening. I was straining my aerobic capacity to keep up! He wasn’t impressed that he had to wait while I got Jessie’s boat and tried to catch up, but he didn’t particularly complain. The Quitawan boy actually told us that it was 200 meters ahead at one point and after another half and hour we began wondering just how far it was. It took us 3 and a half hours to get to his house. The last 30 minutes the boy’s bigger brother carried Jessie’s boat. When we got to the house the family invited us in. There was grandma, grandpa, mom and dad, two brothers, three sisters, and three kids, and two babies in the house. One baby was in a makeshift hammock tied up between two vertical supports in the cabana. A fire was crackling in the corner of the cabana in a rock fire pit with no chimney, just the openings in the thatched roof. Grandma offered us a drink. It was in an old beat up tin bowl, white and a little chunky looking. Chris took the first sip and I though he was going to throw up. I was a little embarrassed because they seemed proud of the drink and Chris couldn’t manage to keep a straight face. I took several big gulps and it didn’t taste to bad to me. It had a little bit of an alcoholic taste to it.