Exactly a year ago today, I turned twenty seven. At that time, I was in St. Kitts, a small, little island country in the Caribbean. I traveled there with my friends Erwin and David (known them since kindergarten) to visit one of our other friends, Asad, from our school days.
On that day, a year ago, we decided it would be cool to go hiking up a mountain. So we four along with one of Asad’s friends took a taxi to the base of the mountain. As the cabby drove us there, he warned us that it was going to rain, that it would be muddy and slippery, but for me that wasn’t a warning, that just made it all the more enticing and exciting. And then he asked us if we were taking a guide, to which we said no. And he gave us that you-guys-are-crazy-but-suit-yourself look. He dropped us off around 11am in a pseudo parking lot, i.e. a field of dirt, and said he’d be back to pick us up at 6:00pm.
|Asad talking to the old withered man.|
We started off our journey by passing the entrance of the trail, and going in the wrong direction. We kind of just circled around a mound of grass and dirt until we came across an old withered man speaking broken English, wearing a yellow raincoat, rain boots, and carrying a stick, a bag and machete. Asad asked him if he knew where the trail was and he pointed with his stick to where we should go. That of course was the point at which, if there had been an audience watching our actions on screen, they would probably be screaming at us to go no further. But alas, we were the fools that continued.
Minutes later we got onto the trail, and started our hike. It was nice, a lot of greenery, but slippery at points because it had started to drizzle, and there weren’t really any railings so we had to be careful about balancing ourselves. We walked along a beaten path, following directional signs as we went. It started to rain harder and harder the further we traveled. And then at some point, after about two hours of hiking, there weren’t any signs, and there wasn’t really a path anymore, just an alleyway of rising boulders. It somehow transitioned from a hiking journey to a rock climbing adventure. We forged ahead anyway climbing over boulders and ascending up the mountain until we reached a dead end, a flat 100 foot wall with no way of climbing it.
We figured we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, so we thought we just needed to backtrack to the trail, and we’d be there in no time. We descended over the boulders. At certain points, we had to go down 6 foot, 8 foot, 10 foot drops, and that’s when it started to get somewhat dangerous. We talked among ourselves saying, “Wait it minute, it wasn’t this hard to get up here. This can’t be the way we came.” It was then that we realized we were officially lost in a Kittian jungle.
None of us were quite sure what to do. And the sunlight was beginning to wane.
Asad was the only one with a cell phone, but the reception wasn’t really working (of course!!!), so we debated how to approach the problem. I thought we should just keep going down because we’d eventually reach the bottom, but the descent was getting more difficult and more arduous the more we descended, and that uncertainty wasn’t something the rest of the group wanted to risk. Asad and his friend thought they should climb back up, hoping to find the path we had lost, and maybe find cell phone reception somewhere. Dave, Erwin, and I just stayed where we were.
After about forty five minutes Asad and his friend came back, saying they couldn’t find any sign of a path, but that the cell phone reception was better the higher they went. So then we climbed back up the mountain together. Finally, at around 4:00 pm, Asad was able to get a hold of our taxi driver, and he in turn got a hold of a guide. Asad tried to describe where we were, but there wasn’t much he could say, everything looked the same, we were surrounded by trees, dirt, grass, rocks, and streams of water. The guide told us to stay where we were, to start yelling his name in an hour, and he’d find us. We looked at each other with a bit of skepticism, thinking who was he, the terminator?
The hour passed, and in synchrony, we yelled “One, Two, Three, Chuck!!!” “One, Two, Three, Chuck!!!” “One, Two, Three, Chuck!!!” After about 45 minutes of that, and with the light growing dimmer and dimmer, we heard a response. And then like an angel with a machete, Chuck appeared, chopping his way through the wilderness. And with absolute kindness he guided us back to the bottom of the mountain.
|from left to right: Dave, Chuck aka Guide aka Angel, Asad, me, Asad's friend - Shak|
He didn’t demand any money for helping us, but out of gratitude, we paid him the cost of what we would have paid for a guide.
And then we celebrated our return from the wilderness, the only way we city boys knew how, by eating pizza, and watching a kung fu flick - Five Deadly Venoms.