Sunday, June 5, 2011
Good Reasons to Get Your Jeans Soaked
One: arrive at the gorgeous, lush, chilling cascaradas—waterfalls—of Juayua [why-OO-ah] in western El Salvador, and while your mind takes it in and deeply sighs a bright and tranquil peace, the policemen who guided you and your friends (upon request) mention that the large pool in front of us, into which the waterfall pours along its gravity-drawn journey, has a man-made aspect: narrow concrete tunnels built by the hydroelectric company which attaches this pool to two other waterfall-fed pools further on. The tunnels are about 5.5 feet high, and there’s anywhere from a foot to nothing of breathing room at the top. And you can go see for yourself.
“But I’m wearing jeans!” And it’s a long walk back home, and this is one of the coldest areas of El Salvador (or so it feels with the shivering water and refreshingly icy mist).
A friend goes first. And another comes with me as I am scared out of my mind and dive under and behind the waterfall, into freezing clear waters and the dark, tiny tunnel, so intensely claustrophobic—but I look back, and am suddenly very alive. Swirling wet chaos and darkness become the highest peace I’ve felt in a long time. I laugh, and scream, and do not at all regret it.
Dos: Elegant clambering on a volcanic rock wall—a loose rock—an unintentional plunge. Or: Guillero (and member of our adult Municipal-wide Environmental Committee), leads his niece, Laura (my neighbor PCV), and myself to “Las Currcintas,” an arch of caves rumored to have been used by the Mayans so many years past, which are now full of honey bees and strange waters.
Imagine: scrambling over protruding volcanic rocks, past mango trees, and through just-sprouting cornfields with the Chaparastique Volcano rising in the distance to a worn-through, high-walled crevice. Follow to the end, where above a dark pool of clear, ice-still water sits a long high boulder capped by a life-defying tree growing straight from rock. As Laura and I gasp, a huge snowy-white owl powerfully and silently emerges from behind the rock, watching us with searching eyes before it swoops and disappears away. Bats circle the boulder, tadpoles defy the stillness from beneath the water’s surface, and quietly Guillero tells us tales of the ancient dwellers of Yayantique, of fantastic animal sightings here, of mysterious nocturnal lights.
Eventually we leave---and, presented with the choice, I want to climb the rocks/rock wall and scale/climb our way out rather than follow our beautiful but already-beaten trail. Guillermo floats across a flat wall with elf-ease. I go slowly, but forgetting the warning that volcanic rocks are not sturdy, I heave my weight onto a small handgrip and feel the fall: specifically, the moment of “oops” and “inevitable now.” My mind flashes thousand-year-old Mayans, animal bones in old untouched waters, Spirit of the Ghostly Owl Protector 1,000,000 tadpoles unexpecting: I fall down into a cold, inertia-caused messy loud splash-down.
Unfortunate to disturb the peace, but I walk (slosh) away only scraped and soaked, and we all walk away (the flatter path this time) laughing.