Dear readers, you’re in for such a treat with this one…
It’s been a two weeks now since I arrived at Camp Osita, and I’m still getting to know the various trails we use for our surveys. Having never before been up ‘Shady’, I was keen to give it a go with the other girls for a Primates trail, especially as they’d already had a slightly dramatic ascent the other day, and everyone knows I love a good challenge. It is a very steep climb up to the ridge that overlooks Carate Beach, but we were confident we could scale it without incident this time.
Within a few minutes of starting the survey we saw a group of Capuchins and Howler monkeys foraging together. We scaled the climb with relative ease and made it to the top of the ridge were we came across a group of Spider monkeys. It was from here that things started to go downhill…literally.
The other leaders had advised that the best way to descend would be at the end of the route, coming out at the football pitch just beyond one of the lodges. It seemed relatively simple when they had described it, yet the Leader with us was unsure exactly where the trail ended (they shall remain nameless as for reasons that will become clear…!). The path we were on seemed to simply disappear into the jungle, so we agreed that this was probably the end of the trail. Having just passed the stairs that led to lodge, we figured this was were we were supposed to descend, and so we began the most perilous (and hilarious) incident of my time here so far.
To start with, it wasn’t too bad. There were enough sturdy trees and branches to hold in as we edged our way down the steep ridge – I’m talking more than a 15% gradient, honestly. The Spider monkeys above us were having a great time laughing at our ineptness at jungle travel – who was the more evolved species now?! And then the real fun started…Just as we were being told how last time our leader was on this trail she had ended up sliding down the entire slope, ripping her shorts in the process, she slipped herself, travelling a few yards down the slope at an alarming rate. Charlotte’s water bottle then jumped out of her hands, bouncing several meters into the chasm below, and we knew there was no going back now.
Inch by inch, we made our way down as the trees became looser and the leaves became slippery and lethal. What looked like a fairly secure place to step would suddenly give way, and in a tumble of leaves, branches and loose stones, I suddenly found myself flying down the slope like I was on a waterslide. Having coming to a shaky stop a good way below everyone else, Gemma decided to join in, perhaps out of sympathy for my dying dignity. She slipped, she slid, and she didn’t stop until she collided with a large upturned tree, becoming wedged between ground and tree, with the help of Loren managing to grab her bag as she slid and also Gemma unfortunately jarring her shoulder and arm in the tree. There was a moment of complete silence, anxiously waiting for Gemma to move…Slowly, she came to life, and no-one knew to laugh or cry. Really, you had to laugh, otherwise I think we all would have given up at that point and just have staked it out until rescue came.
Cautiously, we continued our descent. As we went further down the slope, the jungle became denser and darker – the perfect habitat for snakes. There were piles of damp leaves, clusters of mushrooms, and many mouldy tree stumps and branches which cast shadows across the jungle floor, so that we couldn’t know what lurked beneath. Just as this thought crossed my mind, something slithered into the leaves right in front of my path, glistening and fat – a Purple Caecilian. I stopped, not sure where to step next. This was turning out to be just the most delightful morning.
Having manoeuvred around the snake zone, the ground eventually began to flatten out. We thought we might (literally) be out of the woods, but not before Brogan managed to become stuck in a tree root for a good 5 minutes. Stumbling on, the sun suddenly broke through the canopy, and we once again heard the reassuring crash of the waves – civilisation was near! Eyes bleary from the sudden return to daylight, we stumbled out onto the road, ensure whether or not what had just happened was real. Covered in mud from head to toe, we staggered back to camp, dazed, relieved, and ready for a shower and a LOT of coffee.
I’m pleased to say that Gemma’s arm remains attached to her body, and the rest of us are none the worse off after having thoroughly washed all the mud that worked its way into our wellies and shorts during our unexpected mudslide adventures. It was certainly a character-building experience, but not one I think I’ll choose to repeat. The only way I will be venturing up Shady again is if someone comes with us who either has a zip-wire in their bag, a tobogan, or a clear idea of how to get down without breaking a neck, leg, or arm!