Hey guys, Mary Lou here. You’ll never guess where I was this month.
I recently completed a two-week excursion through the thick of the Nicaraguan jungle, where I found myself camped out at an old friend’s yoga retreat. Just two words of advice to fellow trekkers planning a similar journey: antibiotic ointment.
I’ve travelled quite a bit in my years, but the tropical rainforest never was on my bucket list. Let’s just say that first and foremost, I’m a city dweller. To me the great outdoors is something that you simply pass through on your way to where you were going.
However, the minor aggravations of city life can quickly become overwhelming, even for the most die-hard urbanite. After completing an exceptionally demanding project for one of my most high-maintenance clients, one that had kept me hunched over my computer for three months straight, I felt the need to get away from it all.
“You need to eat more greens and get your chakras in line.” That message from my old friend Jonas – biofeedback therapist and owner of the aforementioned yoga retreat – is what set me on my journey
An oriental dipping pool, white sand beaches, open air dining rooms, eco-friendly bungalows – he assured me that I couldn’t find a better place to unwind.
Soon after hearing from him I found myself planning a trip to Nicaragua’s Emerald Coast.
Enter the Jungle
Common sense told me that the first rule of thumb when venturing into the wild is to be equipped with a modicum of essentials – swimwear, bug spray, a mosquito net, and whatever reading material I could fit into my carry-on. If I was forgetting anything crucial, my friend Jonas would have it covered, I thought.
And sure enough, his retreat had all the amenities you could hope for. But I wasn’t there for the pool and fruity cocktails. On the very first day we trekked for six hours straight, only stopping once to rest along a crystalline stream that cascades down the mountains, near a clearing the locals call Boca del Cielo.
My greatest fear before entering the jungle was the bugs. The rainforest is home to more species of insects than anywhere else in the world. Of course, you hear all the horror stories about killer bees, fire ants, and spiders with legs thicker than a bricklayer’s fingers. While these things do exist in the rainforest, what I wasn’t expecting was the danger of the unseen: parasites, infection, and the illnesses that can stem from untreated wounds.
I hadn’t been in the jungle for more than a few days before I took a fall and cut my big toe up – serve me right for wearing Croc sandals. Not a big deal under normal circumstances, but as I was soon to learn, an untreated wound can become infected within a day or two, and infection is pretty serious business way out in the tropical rain forest. In some cases, in can actually degenerate into a seroma – not something you want to deal with when the nearest doctor is several hours away.
To avoid that, all I really needed was to apply a bit of anti-bacterial cream to my wound, bandage it up, and I’d be almost good as new a few days later. Unfortunately, this wasn’t something I’d planned for. And Jonas was all out of anti-bacterial cream.
Thankfully, he had a yoga group from Seattle arriving at the end of the week, so he used his satellite internet connection to make sure somebody brought anti-bacterial cream along with them. I sat there and waited for three days, with my throbbing, mangled toe dipping in salt water to stave off the infection.
The yoga group eventually arrived with the ointment I needed. I removed my foot from the bucket, applied the cream, bandaged everything up, and within a day or so the throbbing subsided. Yahoo! I was free to enjoy life again!
Facundo’s Jungle Sense
My trekking group consisted of only five people and a local guide. The guide was absolutely fabulous. He knew the jungle like I knew the city. I’m quite streetwise, if I can say so myself, but this guy – Facundo was his name – was junglewise like you wouldn’t believe.
We had all packed some snacks, with a few tins of SPAM and bags of rice to cook at night, but Facundo showed us how to eat from the jungle. He used his knife to pull fresh water from a bamboo tree. We learned which fruits, berries, and leaves were edible. One afternoon we fished in a small stream, using foldable rods that you can fit into your back pocket. We even saw him roast termites for a snack, but I wasn’t adventurous enough to try them.
Facundo took us into the true heart of the jungle. We had to cut away branches to make a path. We walked on ground that human feet may not have touched in hundreds of years.
We were in the heart of the rainforest, experiencing the true outdoors, miles away from cell signals, the Internet, cars, noise, and pollution.
The Deep, Dark Rainforest
The rainforest comes alive at night. As you lay under your mosquito net you can hear monkeys, birds and other wildlife coming alive in the darkness. It’s a quasi-mystical experience. Your heart may beat a little faster because of all the unknown factors, but your body is too tired to move from a full day of trekking. So you lay there and experience the true wild nature of the Earth.
It is not unusual to sleep a full ten hours in the jungle. You go to bed when the sun sets, and arise very early when the sun rises. Your body is cleansed from the purity of the air, the food, and the exercise. But what is more important, you arise in the morning feeling fully refreshed. You are alive, at peace, and ready to seize the day.
When it was time to leave I found myself yearning to run back into the trees and stay there for as long as possible. My trekking adventure not only proved to me that I can accomplish many things outside of my comfort zone, it also showed me the true value in nature and the great outdoors.
Would I do it again? Yes, of course. The greatest thing I learned from my experience in the rainforest is that it’s a very big world out there, and there is much to be explored. Just don’t forget your antibacterial ointment.