Continuing our exploration of la isla, last Sunday saw us trek to the jungle not far from the town of Moka to embark upon (yet another) hike. Despite the rainy season now finally having set in the day was, if not bright and sunny, at least falling-rain-less – and with the chill air of the mountains they were, in my view, pretty good conditions for hiking through the jungle.
The hike began with a short meander through the village early Sunday morning, watching the dogs which were accompanying us yelp at passing cars and terrorise the chickens and roosters apparently residing in the nearby houses. Shortly after, I realised that the man walking alongside us in muddy gumboots was in fact to be our guide, responsible for leading our lucky pack of 13 up the hill to the lake beyond. Carrying a machete, the guide made his way to the front of our pack and set off towards the thick greenery up the hill. Here the path pretty much disappeared, and the machete set the tone for the rest of the hike – striking branches and huge leaves, the guide himself disappeared into the brush. Bemused we followed single-file, ducking beneath the low-lying branches, boots and sneakers sliding on the slick, narrow path leading us within the jungle’s canopy.
It was so quiet. The sound of the jungle sounds like the way wilderness is depicted in movies. The only sounds to be heard were the sound of the machete swiping at branches now and then, and our own breath as we negotiated the slight incline of the hill. That is, until we picked up two teenage locals to act as secondary guides – one of which conveniently had his portable radio blaring some kind of rap music!
Beneath the canopy the guide stopped and began hacking at a long skinny branch of a nearby tree. Freed from the tree, the guide considered the length and lopped off the end – then handed it to the first hiker of our pack. A homemade trekking pole. And this is how the hike continued; the guide stopping now and again to fashion trekking sticks for the next hiker in line – sticks which became very helpful for the slippery incline on the return route!
As we ascended, the mountain mist fogged my glasses and moistened my hair – it could have been raining but one couldn’t say for sure. And so we emerged above the canopy into a clearing of low shrubs – just a little further and we would be at the top.
Smelling like sweat and Bushman’s, the obvious parts of my body sticky with both, I lent on my hiking stick and continued to the top of the hill. And like the waterfalls witnessed only a couple of months prior, I opened my eyes to another hidden jewel – a mirador so lovely, so hidden such that one may never have known it was there. A smooth green lake stretched out below us surrounded by green bush and silvery mist, majestic yet somehow unassuming.
It is one of the strange things about this place – its hidden qualities – unlike other countries which loudly promote their best assets and tourist attractions even those that might be hard to get to. It occurred to me again how secret this place is with its jungles, volcano, black sand beaches, natural waterfalls and now, the lake.
After sufficient lake-gazing it was up-sticks and with the assistance of our new trekking sticks, we slid and slipped our way down the narrow path and back to the village before returning to compound for a much-needed shower and deodorant application.
I can only hope for more of these island-insider experiences as the future rolls on.