For years I’ve wanted to be a nature person. I’ve imagined myself and my then non-existent signficant other going on white-water rafting trips in Colorado. I pictured climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with Rasha and conquering the Inca Trail with my brother and sister. Stores like R.E.M excited me, as did planning camping getaways and day-dreaming about hiking trips. But it is with great conviction that I can now inform you that I am not a nature person. Who was I kidding? I don’t even like gardening or going outside. As those close to me can confirm, I even avoid the sun due to fears of premature aging and act like I’m dying after going up one flight of stairs. This is not the attitude of a nature-lover.
You may ask why it took me so long to come to this very obvious conclusion about myself. The answer is that I was delusional. But today it all became terribly clear. I am staying at a lovely bird-watcher hotel outside of town (Valle de Anton) I decided it would be very romantic and scenic to walk to town from my hotel. However, aside from fearing the sun, I also have no sense of direction: I took a left out of the hotel rather than a right. So on I walked in my three-inch high-heeled sandals toward the town. I was starving, so I thought I’d go get myself a slice of pizza or something, and the receptionist said it was only a 20 minute walk. So I walked and walked and walked, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, then 40 minutes uphill. It did strike me as a bit odd that a town would be uphill, but thought maybe there was a dramatic downward slope toward the end of the walk. I passed a few locals and considered asking them if I was going the right way, but was too embarrassed to do so. Especially as I’m currently here writing a GUIDE to Panama.
Well, after another 10 minutes of getting deeper into the jungle, I started getting nervous. The bugs were getting bigger, the sounds louder, the passersby less frequent and the sun lower. Whenever I get into these kinds of situations, I see newspaper headlines in my mind. Some that came to mind were: “American woman goes missing in Panama rain forest,” “Unidentified woman found decapitated on mountainside” and “Travel guide writer cannot find town 1km away.” This may sound dramatic, but when you are walking alone on a street that slowly turns into an unpaved path somewhere in a cloud forest with very little lighting and strange sounds, these kinds of thoughts pass through your mind.
So all of the sudden, God hears my prayers and I see an old man walking toward me. “How far is the town?” I ask him. “The other way, about an hour and a half downhill,” he responds. I’d been walking in the wrong direction — up a mountain, of all things — for an hour. As you can imagine, I was devastated. An hour uphill in high heels is pretty horrible. An hour downhill in high heels (after way too many lunges in a sudden fit of fitness the day before) is excruciating. The man was very nice, but mostly I was glad that he was old and probably impotent, very reassuring thoughts when walking in through the forest at night with a man you just met, especially when you are wearing gold high heels and a cleavagy shirt. He tried to make small talk. I could only respond with “Hmm…yes…no.” Maybe he thought I was very rude, but talking was not really an option for me at that time. All I could think about was that people lived through much worse pain in life: Childbirth, being operated on without anesthetics, that kind of thing. But he did walk with me the whole time, and for that I am thankful. I think I must have looked like a penguin in heels going down that mountain, but I didn’t care, even when I passed a group of teenage boys playing soccer. (I am terrified of large groups of teenage guys for some reason). But anyway, by this time, all thoughts of making it to town were long gone. I just wanted to make it to my hotel. I hated myself for starting a diet or “new life plan” or whatever you want to call it that day. I was starving, drenched it sweat, in horrible pain and wondering why I always end up on never-ending walks in inappropriate attire. But alas I made it to my hotel.
So you see, these little “nature adventures” just aren’t for me. I need my nature a little tamer, a little more contained. Like learning about insect mating rituals from the Discovery Channel. That is really more than enough. Right now, I am sitting in the main lobby of my nature hotel. It’s a beautiful setting, surrounded by mountains and cloud forests and I’ve been given a large suite. Because my large suite has no Internet or T.V. I’m out here. There are huge beatles flying around and I can hear some leaves being crushed behind me. Dragonflies and moths the size of my face land in my hair from time to time and I just saw a giant toad.
Goodbye. I am going to my mosquito-netted bed now.