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My sister and I are much alike. Except that she has a real career, lives in a relatively normal place, and only gets to practice the art of doing nothing when she comes visit me. Which she did over Thanksgiving week. On an island there are countless "touristy" things to do, certainly more than can be squeezed into a week, but one place I didn't want her to miss was the tide pools. So Tuesday we planned our great adventure. We packed a lunch, plenty of water, my camera, and Donna's phone. If you drive out west, the road ends at Carambola Resort. Park in the employee parking lot up the hill from the gate, and there is a trailhead for a nice, easy, hike: 2.7 miles one way out to the tide pools.
We went swinging from the vines on the way out there. It's a cool spot on the side of the road where the vines grow down from the tree tops in such numbers and sizes that you can actually swing from them like Tarzan. That was fun. Then we saw some ruins from the 1700s, before we were off to Carambola for our hike. Now, I have only done this hike twice. Both times I was with someone with a penis (which, according to Dave and all of our boys, is the reason MEN never get lost. It's a standing joke. "Of course you don't know where you are, Mom, you don't have a penis." Ah, the life of a woman with three sons...anyway....). So Donna and I parked the car in the employee parking lot and since I KNEW my memory was possibly lacking, we went to the guard shack at the gate to the resort and talked to the nice young Rasta guard and verified where the trailhead was. Sort of. We walked up the road he had indicated and I do mean UP. I have NEVER walked up a road that steep. I think I'm in fairly good shape and my sister runs all the time, and we were both DYING! A mile up the road (up the entire time!) we saw a couple coming down. (I know how far up we were because the female half had a pedometer.)
He said, "Are you guys going to the tide pools?"
"I thought it was supposed to be a path, not a road."
"You know, that's what I remember, too. But it is a few miles out there, maybe it turns into a path later on. It's been 7 years since I've done this hike."
"Well, we're going back to see if we can find the trailhead. Or just go to the beach."
DING DING DING. Hint number one. My sister may be just be a stubborn as I, because we both decided that since this was the way WE were going then this MUST be the right way. Even though I have fairly clear memories of a freaking TRAIL, not a road. But, we went on. And on. And on. The tide pools sort of stick out of the north side of the island, but they're out toward the NW tip. The western part of the island has some spots where you can see both the north (correct) shore and the south shore. Another hour UP the road (which became gravel and then mud and then just some puddles to be navigated, did I mention it rained all day the day before?) we were pretty sure we were lost. BUT, we were not going back the way we came. That would have been too logical. We were fairly sure we were going in the right direction, so we figured we'd just get there "the back way." The whole problem is that there IS a road of sorts that goes out to the tide pools. It's only passable with a 4WD and only in the dry season, but I kept thinking that any minute we'd pop out of the bush and BAM, there would be the ocean, right where I thought it was. (It's that lack of a penis thing again.) We were in a sort of clearing when my sister's phone rang. It was Dave, asking where something was. I told him and he asked where WE were. I certainly was NOT going to say, "Lost." So I told him we seemed to be on a road rather than the trail, but I was sure we were going the right direction.
"Can you see the ocean?"
Now, technically, I KNOW he was asking if we could see the north shore on our right, because on the trail you can see it almost the whole way. While we COULD see the ocean, we were seeing the SOUTH shore on our left. Just to give you an idea of how lost we were. My answer was, "Sometimes."
He said, "Well, don't follow your instincts too long before you turn around, because you don't have any."
HINT NUMBER TWO. Silly man, what does he know, right? So what do two ever-confident, often-wrong headstrong women do? We keep walking. And walking. And walking. Many miles later we came to a T. I was so completely turned around by then (the sun had gone behind a cloud, she had no signal for the rest of the hike, and neither of us had a compass. It was supposed to be a simple little walk along a trail! Who thought we'd need a freaking compass????) that I had NO idea which way to go. I was just finishing the sentence, "I think we should go left" when a line of 4-wheelers came by. A tour group in the bush called Gecko. Isn't that a great name? (I include a "Thankful for..." every day in my journal. This day, Gecko was my thankful for!) A young Rasta kid in the front and another one in the back. About 6 4-wheelers worth of white tourists in between. I stopped the front guy and asked him which way to the tide pools.
I said, "The tide pools are this way?"
He grinned a very strange grin and said, "Actually, they're that way."
Right... That look should have been HINT NUMBER THREE. It said, "Two young white girls lost out in da bush, don't even know where da tide pools are!" (I'm inserting the "young" because I'm convinced he thought we were. Doesn't everyone?) What I neglected to ask was: how far are they and is the trail obvious from here. That would have been very helpful.
Many miles later (I'm really not kidding) we came to a place where we had THREE options. Two were part of a Y and the third was a switchback that sort of went back the way we'd just came, just down the hill. We decided against that. My exact words were, "We just came from there!" Left looked REALLY swampy. (I had already broken a flip flop by then. Yes, I hike in flip flops. Always have. But these are super old and I've been waiting for them to break for a year, so I never go anywhere without a backup pair. Thankfully.) So we decided on right, which was sort of up, but sometimes you have to go up to go down, or so we told ourselves.
Now then, a little background about the area we were lost in. Out west is the rain forest. (We were on the edge.) Locals grow pot. The best place to grow pot is where there's rain, thus, there are dozens (actually, maybe more, how would I know?) of pot farms hidden in the rain forest. But that's just it. They're HIDDEN. Unless you go off the beaten path, you'll never run into them. These guys mean business. Generally, they find someone in their fields, or even getting too near them, they shoot first and ask questions later. I’m still not kidding. We always told our boys when they were out hiking that if they ever saw a bathtub (they use them to store water so they don't have to carry it so far when it hasn't rained in a while. Usually they're on the edge of their fields.) to turn around and get the heck away from wherever they were. Pronto. SO, we're hiking along up this "road" that there's no way a car has been down since the dry season months ago, and I'm in the lead. I came up over a rise and stopped dead in my tracks.
I whispered, "I don't really feel comfortable with this."
Donna: "What? What is it?""
"A car in the bush."
"Oh shit. If a bathtub is bad a car cannot be any better. Let's get out of here."
We spun around and high tailed it back to the Y, never saying another word. I was SO scared! It was then that I realized that we were not just goofing around, took the wrong path, haha, look at us, isn't this funny. That's when I realized we could really be in deep shit. I had no knife, no mace, nothing. I NEVER leave the house without one or both of those. But again, it was a quick, well-traveled, few mile hike. We weren't supposed to be lost WAY out in the bush. I mean WAY out! Now we're scared. We took the switchback road because it went down and ocean is down, so we were going down as quickly as we could. At 1:30 we had been hiking for almost four hours. It was 4 hours until dark. Neither of us had a flashlight, but she had her phone we could use as a light. So we figured that would last about 15 minutes. Jeesh! We were SO unprepared to be lost. But who goes out thinking they're going to get lost? We passed a river bed, and I stopped. She kept going but I was standing there staring at it.
"What? What are you looking at?"
"River bed. Rivers flow downhill. It HAS to lead to the ocean eventually, right?"
We looked around and our choices were: up the hill we'd just come down and then 4 hours back to the car the way we'd just come, or up the NEXT hill (Donna said, "I am NOT going up again! It can't be UP!"), or down the river bed. While we were standing there looking at our options I heard the advice in my head that I've heard a million times on the boat. Before you make a big decision, drink a glass of water, eat something, rest, and let your mind wander. It'll keep you from making a big mistake on impulse. So we sat down on a rock and dug into our lunch. Thankfully I'd thought to bring lots of water and some food. We're sitting there debating while we ate when I thought I heard voices. Oh boy. That could be REALLY bad. Or really good. You just never know. But I did know that I wanted to know who they were before they knew we were there. I surveyed my surroundings, found a couple of rocks I figured I could use in self-defense if necessary, and we started whispering.
Here's what I came up with: Yes, river bed goes down, but there's no guarantee that it won't dump over a cliff. Or that it's at a part of the coast that you can walk along. If we got to the end and we were stuck, we'd have to come back UP the river bed and we didn't have that kind of time before dark. If we continued on the road we were on it could go on forever! Who KNOWS where that road goes? But if we turned around now, we had almost exactly as long as we had been hiking before it got dark. And since it's always faster going back (especially if you know you're racing the sun) I figured we could probably do those 4 hours in 3. So my proposal was to keep going for another 1/2 hour. If at that time we were not OBVIOUSLY nearing civilization, we were going to turn around and hustle back to the car the way we had just come. Which was NOT pretty and we were REALLY not looking forward to. But we knew in a few hours we'd have cell phone service again. As I was starting to tell Donna my plan I got to, "Here's what we're going to do. Let's...(and I heard the voices again, obviously hikers, because they weren't too concerned about how loud they were being, so I switched mid-sentence to) let me go see if I can see who these people are. I'll be right back." And I headed back the way we'd just come. Around a couple of bends I saw pale faces and tourist shoes. When they came around and saw me they were in for a shock!
Me: Please tell me you guys aren't lost.
"Great, because we are!"
Turns out we were about 1/2 hour from the tide pools! That's where they were going. If we'd kept going another 1/2 hour like I was getting ready to propose, we would have made it. The guy was funny.
More than once he asked: "Where did you come from?"
"But where did you park?"
"No, you can't get here from Carambola that way. You came the other way."
"Oh no, we came from that way."
"And you parked at Carambola?"
"Wow, you've been hiking a while!"
"Oh my god! Would you like some water? How about a granola bar? Are you guys ok?"
We busted up. We were fine. We were just LOST! So we hiked the rest of the way with them. They kept asking, "Is the pace OK? Should we slow down?" I said, "Are you kidding? We have to get back to the car before dark!" On the last mile to the tide pools my foot slipped and I ripped off the end of my toe. But we made it to the tide pools, swam for 15 minutes or so, and then headed back along the OBVIOUS trail to the car. 2.7 EASY miles along a path that I remember well. It took us an hour to get back. We got to the car at 4:00. Sunset is at 5:30. PLENTY of time to spare, but wow, were we a little freaked a couple of times. When we got home we looked on google earth, and we were SO far out in the bush Lord knows what we walked right past! We did the math. 12 miles to get there. 3 miles to get home.
When we got back to the end of the trail we realized that we had walked RIGHT PAST the trailhead. Yes, it's up the road, like the guard had said, but it's not far up the road before you take a hard right and go off onto the trail. That's the part we missed.
The thing about hikes (or anything else in life) going as planned is that it's not nearly as good of a story as the time when everything goes wrong. We limped into the house that evening laughing, shared the story with Dave and then again with the group we had over for Thanksgiving dinner. And every time we tell it, we and everyone around us laughs until we're crying. Nothing makes a good story like a missed landmark, getting lost in the bush, fearing for your life, breaking a flip flop, and walking 15 miles. Except for my bloody toe, I'm sort of glad we missed that trailhead.
MONDAY we'll share our thoughts on boats as pets.PREVIOUS
Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?
It's here! My latest book, Years of Ideas from a Simple Sailor is now available on Amazon.
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