We awoke with the sun, early in the morning, despite losing sleep over a late night visit from a massive tree rat who hung out for quite a while right outside where we were sleeping. (We had to store all the food in a locked box to discourage these nightly visitors). Pia soon zipped in with a kettle full of hot water for coffee or tea and with our breakfast. Along with breakfast, he brought news that another treehouse that belongs to the Gibbon Experience burned down in the middle of the night. The people in that treehouse apparently had been drinking a lot and had left a mosquito coil unattended on the wood table when they fell asleep. Everyone was able to zip out okay, but it was a reminder how stupid people can be when they’re drinking. Anyways, after eating, we hung our mosquito nets back up and packed our bags in preparation to zip out. This would be the beginning of our trek to the waterfall and to the second treehouse we’d be staying in.
Along our hike, we trekked through the river at several different points. We took off our socks and shoes and gingerly stepped across the rocky undersoil (OUCH) meanwhile trying to maintain our balance as the rapids rushed past our shins and up to our knees. Once we were across, we walked up the muddy banks to put our socks and shoes right back on and then kept walking. This did not make our feet very clean… or smell very good by the end of the day (several crossings later). It also left me with a small leech on my ankle that I didn’t notice until I felt him biting me later on. Thankfully, I was able to pull him off and get rid of him, but the experience grossed me out and kept me on the lookout for others like him.
Pia kept the hike interesting, making us hats out of banana leaves, and pointing out and giving us different forest plants to try to eat. We tried heart of palm, some sour green stick-like plant, and these little seed-looking things with some sort of berry inside. We also saw the most incredible thing… a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. At first, it was just something I happened to catch out of the corner of my eye, but what a magnificent thing to have seen. It was already most of the way out when we saw it, but it was fascinating nonetheless. We saw all sorts of plants, some bearing millions of long thorns, some enormous, others tiny. The variety of plant life was intriguing as most of it was far different from Minnesota’s or Texas’ flora and fauna.
By lunchtime, we had arrived at the waterfall, but it was still pretty cold outside. Nevertheless, most of us braved the cold and donned our swimsuits anyways. After all, this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. However, when we touched the water, I’m pretty sure ALL of us reconsidered going in. One by one, we began the again painful descent into the frigid, uneven, rocky river and back towards the waterfall. Let me take a moment and interrupt here to say that I grew up in Minnesota, and in that crazy cold place, we have a silly tradition called the “Polar Bear Swim.” This swim usually takes place in the winter or early spring (still freezing cold) and usually early in the morning when the water is the coldest. Why we do these things, I don’t know. But I do know that when you plunge into the water at that temperature, your body immediately feels like it is going into shock. It knocks the breath right out of you and your limbs can barely move. As soon as they do react, they take you back out of that water as fast as they possibly can. Back to the story, we waded in up to our knees and a few brave souls dove in, all exhibiting the same symptoms that I described above. This was not encouraging to me to say the least, but then we found the zip line that went right into the deep water. Ashley went first… same reaction, then Trent… same thing, then me… OH, MY GOODNESS, I couldn’t get out of that water fast enough. They say that the river’s water is always cold, but it didn’t help that we were there in the dead of their winter and the temperatures had been down to the 40’s (Fahrenheit) at night. One time was all I needed. I can say, though, that that made the temperature out of the water much more tolerable. We didn’t stay too much longer before we all changed back to dry, warm clothes and headed back to continue our hike to the treehouse.
We hiked and zipped another few hours, encountering several zip lines, one of which is the longest one that they have- over 500 meters long. Along one of the zip lines, we saw another old treehouse that is no longer in use. From yet another, we could see the river from high above.
At around 3:30 in the afternoon we arrived at our second treehouse. It was situated high above the river and was surrounded by other trees about its same height. This one, although still being high up, was far less terrifying for me than the first one. I’m not sure if it was because we had grown accustomed to the height or if it was simply because this one was closer to the ground and the trees around it. Anyways, Pia brought us a snack of green mango, which is tarter than ripe mango, but in this circumstance it was delicious and everyone scarfed it down. We still had an hour or so of sunlight left, so Pia told us how we could do a small square of zip lines that would lead us back to our treehouse or a slightly bigger circuit which would allow us to zip along the longest line again, which would also connect back to where we were staying. So Kitska, Derek, Trent and I went out and zipped about, owning the treetops like we were part of the forest until dusk came upon us. Back in the treehouse, we ate dinner and got the cards back out, this time Pia played “Crazy Eights” with us. Again, by 8:30, we were all exhausted and everyone turned in for the night. Trent and I bundled up, listening to the sound of the bullfrogs in the river below as we looked out at the gazillions of stars shining like diamonds in the sky, not quite ready to say goodbye in the morning.