We resume the story as I am riding up into the hills above Puerto Vallarta.

After the turn the road indeed gets steeper and climbs away from the river. This fits with what I was told to expect (and wrote down!) so I am confident that I’m on the right track. Then I come to another fork. I had been told ‘stay right’ so right I stay. The road gets even steeper. Stupid steep. Stupid steep and so loose and powdery that the bald rear tire on my rental bike cannot keep traction. I get off and walk portions of it, amazed that the woman at the bike shop said she rides the whole way to the falls. Maybe her tires have treads.

The road keeps going up and up. I can see the peak and it doesn’t look too far off, so I keep going, alternately pedaling and pushing. I am glad for the slow pace because I see some amazing things.

Leaves dangling over the trail mean spiders nearby. This lady was big by Pacific Northwest standards but for Mexico, I think she was on the small side. If you are arachnophobic, you might want to look away now

Arachnophobes Look Away

I see a butterfly caught in a spider’s web (but no skeleton choking on a crust of bread, thank goodness). It’s very hard to go on by and not help the butterfly but spiders need to eat too. I watch for a bit as the butterfly struggles, fighting the urge to interfere, and wishing the spider would trundle out and just put the poor thing out of its misery. Finally I turn away, unable to watch any more.  As I turn to go, I cast one last glance over my shoulder. The butterfly has escaped! Yay butterfly! Yeah, I’m morally inconsistent on this point, but I’m sure the spider was able to find other food.

Speaking of food, I am getting hungry. In another few hundred yards I come to a gate. This must be the gate they told me about , near the waterfall and the drinks and snacks. They didn’t say what kind of gate, but no matter, it’s a gate. I unwind the rope latch, get myself and the bike on the other side and do the rope back up again, eager to get to the waterfall, and the drinks and snacks, already.

As I remount my bike I head a deafening screech from overhead. I look up in alarm (terror) in time to see 4 enormous blue parrots take wing. I watch as they circle, screeching back and forth to each other. I wonder if they’re plotting to dive-bomb me, so I decide I had better get moving. Watching them soar, I think that I will never be able to see captive parrots again without being very sad.

I go up another steep stretch and come to … um, not sure. There are dogs everywhere; some lying under porches, some draped over each other on the ground, some up and barking hysterically at me. There’s a rough paddock containing a donkey and some goats. There are chickens underfoot.

Is this the place where they sell drinks and snacks? That’s the thing about rural areas – you might find a restaurant that looks a lot like a ranch, but then again, maybe not, maybe it’s just a ranch. There was this:

I see the toilet installed in an outbuilding near a watercourse and wonder “exactly how is that plumbing set up?” Then I notice the shower curtain, and the absence of human activity and decide that in fact I have taken a wrong turn and stumbled into someone’s ranch.

Next week: pile of rocks or dry waterfall?

Posted by lesherjennifer

3 Comments

  1. Love it Jennifer! I can hardly wait for the next instalment!

    Shortly after I graduated from arch school I did a stint designing mega houses in Northern Virginia. I had sold my NYC urban assault moto bike and bought a beautiful (yet primitive by today’s standards) Cannondale mountain bike. My friend Jason and I used to ditch work early and ride the trails around Great Falls Park where the Potomac has class 5 rapids. We inadvertently had chosen a park that was frequented by some of Langley’s newest residents, fresh from mostly military careers, and now in the big leagues at ‘The Shop’.

    In short some of them were pricks, and even though I had a bell on my handlebars to warn them of our proximity (to which I got endless grief from hard core cyclists), they often refused to let us pass on the steep downhill single tracks. So Jason and I invented a game to make our rides more interesting and sporting.

    We each bought beat up briefcases at the Tyson’s Corner Goodwill. We would approach each other from opposite ends of the park and surreptitiously, in full view of one of these guys, exchange briefcases and ride off in separate directions.

    Since these boys were on the verge of distinguished spook careers, they felt it necessary to chase after one of us. We got a great deal of exercise and delight dragging them up and down the very technical terrain. A few times they even followed us home and parked down the street with their ‘innocuous’ government cars pretending to read a map or newspaper while we sipped beers and cleaned our bikes.

    What reminded me of this story was that one day I had a guy very determined to catching me. I had taken him to the top of a steep shale ridge and was roaring down the other side, intent on ditching him and linking up with Jason for some beers. As I barreled downwards, I spotted two trees on either side of the trail, so close that there was probably less than an inch to spare on either side of my handle bars. I did the math in my head and went for it. At the last millisecond I saw that there was a giant spider at face level in his web between the trees. As I was committed at this point, I went right through the middle and his web wrapped around my helmet.

    I came to a not so graceful halt, ripped off my helmet trying to figure out where the spider was. In the midst of this the guy caught up to me and was trying to figure out why I was dancing around like a mad man with fingers in my hair. I regained my dignity and went over to retrieve the bike and briefcase out of the bushes. I opened up the case and offered him a peanut butter and marmalade sandwich. He huffed off in disgust.

    About 20 years later I got a 911 call from a guy who was passing through Seattle and was headed up to Alaska the next morning on his motor yacht. He needed an electrical problem fixed. After talking with him while I diagnosed and fixed his problem it became evident that he was an instructor at Langley and remembered me and Jason. In fact they had assembled a file on us. He told me, “Yea, we figured out pretty fast who you guys were and what you were up to. We thought it was a great way to train some of our slower recruits…”

    I never did find the spider.

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  2. lesherjennifer March 2, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Kai, you should be writing this blog! That is a great story! I sense a guest post coming on …

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  3. Thanks Jennifer, I am honored. After posting my own story, I felt a bit guilty about inadvertently stealing some thunder away from your own wonderful writings. I post some of my writings on my ‘expedition blog’ at: holokai.org

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