FLASH-BOOM-CRASH! Everyone springs out of the water and onto the closest rock, hearts racing as we experienced the closest strike of lighting in our lives!
Just three hours prior the interns and two program directors were relaxing in hammocks, reading and feasting on steak tacos at the Kalu Yala house in San Miguel. The realities of Mother Nature seemed insignificant inside our beautiful shelter. When Ashley had suggested a spontaneous voyage to the much anticipated “Valley” we, the interns, jumped at the opportunity to get muddy, wet and see some wicked awesome landscapes. A short car ride later we were crossing the first river, trekking up hills of clay and appreciating the tranquility and lush green land that is the untouched Valley. The picturesque landscapes are literally indescribable… but I’ll try. If you can imagine the combination of looking over a tropical jungle, filled with every shade of green, lush from recent rain, and rolling hills: it is as if the narrative from The Lord of the Rings had come alive in front of our eyes.
Before reaching the Valley we crossed a river, the current strong from the rainy season, yet it remained only knee deep. We continued through the already grown out paths to “base camp” where Johnny gave us the tour of tent city, the volleyball court and the kitchen. On our way to the “beach house” that the summer interns built, it started to rain, Panama style. Rain drops so thick that they penetrated your clothes in an instant. Within five minutes we were soaked to the bone (or at least through to our underwear) and when we reached the would-be beach house we realized it had been completely washed away by the rising river.
Without shelter and getting wetter by the moment, we decided it was simply time to get our butts out of there. Fast. Carefully watching our step over the slippery rocks, we started back alongside the river in an effort to accelerate our return. Just as we were starting to strategize how to cross the threatening river, now thigh high in depth, a simultaneous FLASH and CRASH made the hair on everyone’s arms stand tall. Feelings of trepidation, excitement and adrenaline culminated into our near death encounter with Mother Nature. Debates about whether or not to cross the river ensued as we pondered where the lighting would strike next. Finally, we fled. Jumping across the river faster than I’ve ever moved through water and scrabbling up the now quick-sand like clay, we all felt the wrath of Madre Natural saying, “don’t mess,” and we decided not to.
Just as beautiful as our hike was into the valley, nature turned its unpredictable face and showed us its vicious side in an instant. The first Valley lesson was clear- be careful and never assume ‘it’s all good.’ Respect Madre Natural because in the valley, she rules.