Sunday, March 19, 2006
Deserted, Not Forsaken
Wednesday, March 15
We were up with the sun again, and I was glad to be out of my hammock. The two trees I was using as braces were much too close together, so I was sleeping in a "U" shape. This uncomfortable position--and the fact that I was wrapped up in an emergency blanket that felt like aluminum foil--made me feel like a stale hot dog.
Only 10 miles away from the other side of the island, we decided to give it another try. If we did 4-5 miles per day while staying away from the hills and near a water source, we´d reach the other side in time for Rolo to pick us up at the penal colony.
After breakfast, we sat down for a quick devotional and prayer. Chuck told us that he´d been thinking about going into combat, how soldiers tend to ask for protection from a higher power. But, he said, most people are basically asking God for permission to impose their will (for their safety) rather than asking God to do what he wants to. Our prayer was a petition to find out where God was working on this expedition, either in us, between us or through us.
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
The Emerson quote taunted me as we hacked through high grass, only have each path cut off by swamp. We were leaving a trail, but it ultimately wasn´t getting us anywhere. Our plan was to hike a few miles south toward the river, and then follow the valley across the island. An hour later, we sat down in the grass, tired and hungry. It became evident that we might not achieve our goal of making it across the island in 3 days. After one and a half hours of chopping our way through almost impassible terrain, we´d made it less than a half horizontal mile.
As tough as it was to admit defeat, there was only one choice. Rather than get stuck in the center of the island and not make our boatride on the other side, we´d have to return to the drop-off point and call on the satellite phone for Rolo to come get us.
Reluctantly, we turned back and hiked through back through the airfield toward the beach. On our way back through, we discovered more abandoned buildings from the 1980s. One of them was another prison that we hadn´t had time to explore on the way in. The other was a concrete building painted camoflauge. The rusted military helmets and bed frames inside hinted that it may have served as barracks for military trainees. Writing on the walls and newspaper clips on the ground revealed that people had been there as recently as last year.
Back to the beach, we set up a camp Kevin dubbed the Sand Dollar Hotel. It was a great spot among 3 palms, just inland of the high water mark and next to an almond tree whose shade served as our living room.
Next, we went to find a fresh water source. A river emptied into the ocean about a mile up the beach, so we packed our bottles and tried to beat the high tide to the fresh water. Next to the river, we saw the unmistakable tracks of an 8-10 foot saltwater croc. We wasted no time getting water. And we had someone armed with a machete guarding on both sides those who were filling the bottles.
Chuck called and left messages for Rolo with the sat phone and we had a good time relaxing on the beach. The sunset was more beautiful than usual. It was the kind that convinces you no matter what´s going on that you´re in the right place at the right time.
As soon as the first hint of darkness appeared, the flying teeth came out. To escape, I took a long walk on the beach and had a great time alone with the God. He´s blessed us in many ways on this trip, giving us the discernment to turn back even though our pride wanted to continue. We were stranded, yes. But stranded on the beach is much better than stranded in triple- canopy jungle with no boatride back to what the locals call "tierra firme" (the mainland).