|Yes, that's my flip flop.|
It all began with a good breakfast. Vlad, Matt and I went into Old Bank, the little town on the island of Bastimentos, in search of food and then a nice relaxing swim at the beach located on the other side of the island. We found our breakfast at a little rasta restaurant on the main street, and we loaded up on eggs, bacon, homefries and this thick homemade toast that was absolutely delicious. Our cook was quite liberal with the butter, so by the end of the meal we all felt less like a walk to the beach and more like curling up on the boat for early nap times. But Matt is only here once, so to the beach we went on what I assumed would be a nice, refreshing hike through the jungle. Sometimes you should really just listen to your stomach.
The path to the beach went from a sidewalk, to dirt, to a bit of mud, to mud so thick that no one wanted to put a flip-flopped foot anywhere near it. Matt was wearing sandals that at least strapped to his feet, but Vlad and I were only wearing flip flops. By this time, my feet were completely covered in the slippery red mud, and mud had already splattered up the backs of my calves. Somehow Vlad's feet were pristine, but he had a look on his face that said his tootsies wouldn't stay like that for long if we keep going down this path.
So, I had the brilliant plan to walk up to this jungle coffee shop at the top of the highest hill on Bastimentos, and then we'd see if there was a way to the beach from there. Surely, it would be a less muddy route? Did I mention that I often take Vlad on ill-fated hikes, the kind that end up with us hacking through dense underbrush or covered in seed ticks? Call it a gift, but sometimes I'm surprised that he doesn't turn around and run away whenever I ask him to take a walk with me.
But true to my plan, the path to the coffee shop was much less muddy. Where the mud was really thick, someone had been kind enough to put down these coconut paving stones that Matt said really ought to be sold at Home Depot, and we got to see one of the island's red frogs that are found nowhere else on the planet. It was tiny, about the size of my thumbnail, and is evidently extremely poisonous as well as really cute.
|Coconut paving stones!|
When we got up to the coffee shop, there was indeed a path to the beach. We could hear the surf from there, and the path looked completely dry. Great, we thought, it's just a quick downhill jaunt to some sand and waves and sun. Not a problem. We had managed to escape the mud.
As you have probably guessed, we were very, very wrong. We spent the next hour sliding down the side of a muddy mountain, grasping at tree roots and, at least for me, trying not to step on any Panamanian vipers (I blame Vlad. He got me all nervous about the massive amount of poisonous snakes in Central America).
Have you ever hiked through mud in flip flops? As the mud coats your feet, each step becomes slipperier and slipperier until finally you end up trying to wrap your toes around the sides of your flops much like a baby bird clings to the edge of its nest. This whole flip-flopping through the mud was really slowing us down, and Vlad and I were increasingly afraid for the well being of our flops. We did not want our shoes to join the flip-flop graveyard that littered the side of the path, sandals tossed aside in the prime of their walking life.
|At this point, my feet are relatively clean!|
So after the second time I lost a flop in mud deep enough to swallow my entire foot, Vlad decided that we should go shoeless. So now we are barefoot in the jungle, completely covered in mud, getting attacked by biting flies and barely keeping upright on the slick rocks and tree roots that accessorized the muddy trail. Oh, and I've neglected to mention that every time I stepped in deep, squelching mud that squished between my toes I would scream like a half-strangled sea gull with a soprano singing voice. And then I would promptly apologize to Vlad and Matt for said screaming. Matt kept making these awesome guttural, grossed-out sounds, and Vlad would occasionally say that we should all just try to focus on having a good time.
Eventually, I started running. At least I'd get to the beach faster that way. And when we did make it to the beach, it was pretty darn cool - decent surf, a few hardy souls recovering from the mud hike and amazing water that washed away all traces of dirt, even the smudges on my face.
Of course, the walk back was on everyone's mind, so Vlad and I did some investigating while Matt got tossed about in the surf. We discovered that there was another trail to another beach, one that we had been to the night before. The trail sounded no less muddy but WAY shorter, and we could take a water taxi from Red Frog Beach to pick up our dinghy in Old Bank. Plus, there would be a nice ocean to greet us on the other side of the path where we could wash the mud off.
|They're laughing at me in this pic. And they refuse to pose!|
After a nice swim, we all faced the reality that it was time to walk. We trekked down the beach, followed by two large, local dogs who I wound up thinking of as our spirit guides and once again started down a muddy trail, barefoot as always. This time, though, there was the occasional step up to our knees instead of our ankles in thick gray mud, the kind you might find at a fancy day spa. Vlad walked first with only the squelch sound of his steps to betray the depth of the mud. I walked next with my high-pitched screams punctuating each time my foot was swallowed, and Matt brought up the rear, only occasionally muttering things like, "Ahhhh" or "Ugh." The dogs seemed to be wondering what was taking us so long.
Finally, we made it to Red Frog beach, washed off the mud for a second time and had a beer at this little beachside hostel. I don't know if we would ever make that trip again, but we all agreed we wouldn't take back the experience, though I think I might wear different shoes. Something along the line of fishing waders.