Have you ever been lost? I mean really lost – like in a jungle in a foreign country lost. You hear it on the news, you read about it, you rejoice when the lost ones are found alive. You never think it could happen to … you.
As the three of us, Lea, Cheryl, and I were carefully picking our way along the muddy trail, it never occurred to us that we were going the wrong way. I was following Lea, one of the group leaders. Behind me was Cheryl, a capable, strong woman if ever there was one.
Lea stopped and turn to us, “I think we are on the wrong path. I don’t see any footprints ahead of us and I don’t hear anyone coming up behind us.”
I snapped out of my quiet reverie, looked around and a flood of memories stampeded into my mind. Wrong path? We’re lost? How can that be? We are on an organized group outing. We have guides! I flashed back to the time I was lost in the African Bush in Nigeria on a prize Arabian horse in 1976. It was the scariest time I had ever had in my life. I lived through that one. Surely, I could survive this.
It was known among the group that I had been running in the mornings before breakfast. The three of us huddled together and Lea said, “Somebody should go back and see if there is anybody behind us.” Lea and Cheryl both snapped their heads toward me at the same time.
“I will, I will,” I said, as I handed my backpack to Cheryl. “Be right back,” I chirped as I took off running.
Just as I was thinking I had been going a long way and wondered if I had taken a wrong fork, there was a group of riderless horses standing around a clearing. The very same horses we had carefully skirted with a wide berth lest we get kicked walking behind them. As I looked around for our people, I noticed a sign with an arrow on a wooden fence. Cascada (waterfall) it said. Ahhh, so this is where we went wrong. I turned around to go fetch the girls and we met on the trail as they were making their way back as they were anticipating that we had veered off at that exact point.
The gate was padlocked and as we stood there rattling the chain, a head popped out of the bushes. The Mexican horse guide smiled and pointed to a hole in the fence while making a hand motion that we should go through it. With raised eyebrows we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and burst into laughter. It was not a large opening.
I went first and maneuvered through while still wearing my backpack. Cheryl followed suit and came to an abrupt halt when her backpack struck the wooden rung above the opening. She removed the pack, handed it to me and then wiggled her way through the square opening. Grinning, she said, “Good thing I just lost sixty-five pounds or I never would have made it through that little space!” Whoo hoo! Sticking to the program paid off.
As Lea removed her backpack, I had a flashback of removing my scuba tank while lobster hunting in a cave in the California Channel Islands. Somebody on our dive boat told me there was a cave loaded with lobsters, but the cave was accessible only by going through a narrow opening connecting a series of caves – so narrow you had to put your tank through first and put it back on the other side. At the time, I was willing to take the risk. The problem came after I reached the dead-end cave which was devoid of lobsters, and I turned around to retrace my route out of the dark. Our group had kicked up the silt from the ocean floor and visibility was about two inches. I just knew we were going to die trying to find our way out.
Compared to that, we hikers were in good shape – we had water, plenty of daylight with clear visibility and lunch! Once we were clear of the fence and on the right path, we picked up the pace with lunch in mind.
Once again, the happy trio marched along blindly – and once again, our leader, Lea, noted something was amiss as we trudged uphill. She stopped, turned around, and said, “Wait a minute. This path is headed uphill and away from the river. Plus, I don’t see any footprints in the mud. We must have taken the wrong fork. Let’s go back.”
Hours had now passed since we had gotten separated from the group. I was certain they would send out a search party. As we picked our way back down the hill, we heard voices. Up the path came a disgruntled couple that was also looking for the waterfall. They casually mentioned there were some people down by the river who were also looking for the waterfall.
As we approached the river, we saw two figures standing together in deep discussion. Shucks, we thought it might be our group. But wait -it was Rev Deb and Maria! Maybe that was the search party that was sent to find us! We brightened and quickened our step.
“Hi! We’re so glad to see you! Are you looking for us?” asked Lea.
“No! We’re lost.” and we all cracked up. Maria had lived in Yelapa for several years and confessed that she had gotten lost three out of the four times she had visited the waterfall. So, now we were a band of five. Surely, the search party was on the way!
Lea: “I’m hot. I’m tired. I’m staying right here! I’m going for a swim in the river. I’m going to sit in the sun and enjoy my lunch. I can find my way back to the village.”
Cheryl: “Me, too. Besides, I have a massage scheduled for 3:00. I’m not missing that! See ya later.”
And with that, we were three again. Maria led the way, Rev Deb followed, and I took up the rear. We didn’t get far. At the top of the hill, where the path forked we paused to discuss strategy. We wanted to mark the spot so we could be sure to pick up Cheryl and Lea on the way out.
I grabbed a stick and shoved into the dirt at the crux of the fork in the trail. Rev Deb rummaged around in her pack and came out with a pink plastic bag. We were rigging up the marker when Maria exclaimed, “Wait a minute. I have a pen and paper!”
And so, after much ado, we admired our work and continued on the trail that meandered uphill and away from the river. It still felt wrong, but there was nowhere else to go. I kept quiet and kept an ear out for the sound of falling water.
Conclusion to follow…