Monday, June 11, 2012

Day 4 - JAFSP June 10th

That brown line on the branch? That's an ant tunnel....
Today was quite the day...and truly the most physically challenging day I have had in many, many years. I am not inactive, but I am not an athlete by any means. I do walk, and hike trails. However, in Indiana, I hike relatively level trails through the woods. I was not prepared for the hike we did today, but I truly tried my absolute best. The hike for all the students ended up being close to 8 miles. I ended up hiking somewhere around 5 miles. We started at an old Spanish fort which has been converted into a hotel of sorts.

Eric Wills at old Spanish Fort
local dancing for the students

door at the Spanish fort
 When we first started the hike, the heat and humidity immediately sapped my strength and by about a mile in I did not feel well. One of the staff gave me part of a granola bar which helped a lot! The terrain was so different than any I have ever walked. There were steep inclines that were very rocky (hard to find the rocks hidden under grasses at times!), grassy trails through what was almost prairie-like fields, along the coast on a beach (where tiny rocks which make up the beach would get stuck in your shoes), through more jungle canopy where you needed to hike over tree roots and push away foliage, etc. Between the more strenuous parts of the hike and the heat/humidity, I struggled. By the time we reached Black Beach a little over 2 miles in, I knew there was no physical way I could continue to the end (to see the waterfall, which was difficult to give up) and then turn around and hike all the way back. So, I stayed on the beach while the rest of the group went on. Tracy decided to stay with me and one of the guides. There we sat, two working moms and a Rastafarian guide, sitting on the beach. We chatted for some time and the guide talked about working as a roofer in Kingston at times and then we talked about fishing around the island. Finally, the guide took his machete (they all have machetes), cut off a giant palm frond, laid it down and proceeded to take a nap while we waited. It was truly a wonderful, surreal moment.
Lion looks a bit intimidating with his machete, but he was an amazing guide

Black Beach

After the group spent time at the waterfall, they returned to pick us up and we all headed back. It was a good decision for me not to do the entire hike, based on how I felt going back, but it was a bit better because it had cooled down a little by the time we hiked back. This was truly a personal accomplishment for me, and I teased Eric Wills, the Director, telling him "Thanks to Eric Wills, I now know how out of shape I truly am!". The students all did an amazing job on the hike and were very excited on the way back to where we are staying. I am sure we will all sleep well tonight.

Students headed back after the hike
We spent time later in the evening planning and preparing for our work at the infirmary, homeless shelter and  School of Hope.

Looking up through trees in jungle on hike
Goat Farmer at top of cliff

View from one of the trails

stunning views (when I could manage to look up)

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