Saturday, November 8, 2008

On the canopy

Today after testing and homestay orientations, we had time to explore and prepare for the next phase of the program. Half of us will be hiking 14 km (about 8.5 miles) to Penas Blancas, while the other half (myself included) start homestays and research. I will be on a coffee farm, as anticipated, but (to my surprise) I will be the only student in San Luis, which is quite far from Monteverde. And suddenly travel anxiety sits upon my chest. I needed to breathe...

So I went with one friend to The Strangler Fig. This strangler fig juts out above a waterfall, high above a rocky stream. We scramble up from the pool at the base of the waterfall. Soft, fertile mud slips from beneath us as we grasp weeds and roots. We reach the first roots of the fig and are barely half way up this vertical climb. As we scale this muddy, wet mountain, we are silent in our struggle. Our grunts and gasps as we slip and push are drowned in the roar of the waterfall, rumbling of distant (or not-so-distant) thunder, and the warning barks of onlooking howler monkeys.

The base of the strangler fig, where the tree that used to support this monstrous plant used to set its roots is already far above the waterfall. Into the tunnel we climb. The hollow tube left by tree killed by the fig is about a meter wide, sometimes solid, sometimes laced with holes large enough for us to slip through. We climbed out, extending over the river, over the waterfall. At the top we emerged, as if being born into an alternate world. It is surprisingly similar to the forested paths that we enjoy...except that the "ground" we see below us is actually canopy. The river looks like a trickle below us. Now I can breathe. Whatever struggles ahead, whatever new worlds I am about to enter, they will be breath-taking, and I can rise above.

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