Canyon Tales
Mexico Rendezvous
by Randi Poer

—  May 2005  —

Coming from California, I arrived in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday, May 11th where I was supposed to hook up with a few other canyoneers who were on the same flight to Monterrey, including Koen Viaene who was traveling from Spain. Koen never showed up in Dallas, so we assumed he must have been delayed and would show up in Monterrey on the next flight. David Nilles, Tim Hoover and myself arrived in Monterrey together and we easily found our transportation guide Edgar who was holding an ACA sign. We’d be awaiting the arrival of the others (2 ½ hours) before we could leave for the hotel.

Canyoneers started to trickle in including my ‘regular’ canyoneering partners from California—Chris, John, Scott and Ira—a few folks from San Diego, and a group of guys from New York. We had dinner together at the airport and then some of us—having been divided into two groups—headed for the hotel.

There were two vans available. Most of us left in the first van, with the New Yorkers and Koen—if he ever arrived—slated for the second van. We made our way through Monterrey and headed for the mountains. The roads became narrower and the scenery more impoverished. Our driver spoke very little—if any—English and we wondered and joked aloud about where he was really taking us. Finally, we saw the lights of Hotel Hacienda Cola de Caballo in the distance. We arrived around midnight and who’s standing there beside Rich? Koen! He’d taken a taxi after arriving at the airport and finding no one he recognized, nor a guy holding an ACA sign (the ACA sign guy must have been at the far end of the airport rounding up the others from the bar!)

Anyhow, we said our ‘hellos,’ chatted for a short while, said our ‘goodnights,’ checked into our rooms and got to bed. We would need to be out there ready to go at 6:00 AM. I had intended on sharing a room with Barb Pollyea and Mike Putiak, but somehow I was assigned to a roomful of Dave’s. Luckily, they were both very friendly and interesting guys.

•  Day I — Chipitin  •

5AM rolled around too soon, and we were up and packing for the long ride to the town of Potrero Redondo. Some of us were heading for Chipitin, while others were heading for Hydrophobia or Matacanes. We had to wait around for awhile because one of the tires had to be replaced on the monster truck, which would be taking us to the canyons. The monster truck was a huge flatbed pickup with a few benches bolted to the deck, and it had a metal railing installed all around, with a gate to pen us all in. I likened the monster truck to more of a cattle car than anything else. A few folks had to stand, sit on the floor, or ride outside of the railing on top of all the gear, but most of us we were squished onto the benches.

We were bounced around on the treacherous dirt roads for many a mile. The views were stunning, but the ride was VERY bumpy and fairly uncomfortable. Limestone outcroppings saturated the rugged landscape, and Spanish moss hung from the trees like the raggedy hair of old women. Some of the trees looked eerie in the early morning mist and the spindly branches seemed to be reaching out to us. As I recall, some of the unfortunate folks situated near the outside of the truck were actually slapped by those long spindly branches! Long abandoned cabins, some with signs that once read Cerveza dotted the landscape here and there: leftover reminders of someone’s previous livelihood, or perhaps a failed attempt to eke out an existence here in this remote land.

We stopped at the cow–patty campground (this was an obvious hangout for the local cow population) to pick up a few more folks and continued to bump our way along toward the canyons. We stopped once to ogle at the last fall of Chipitan—the one we’d be rappelling from—far off in the distance. Once at the small village of Potraro Redondo, we unloaded ourselves from the cattle car and started to break up into our respective groups.

The hike to Chipitin was short and lovely, very scenic, and there was a real jungle feel to the place. In twenty minutes we were suiting up and posing for a group photo. Then we dropped into the stream one–by–one and made our way downcanyon. A few earthen slopes—with tons of poison ivy—a couple of very beautiful flowstone slopes, and a few short swims had to be negotiated before our first rappel, which was approximately 15’ into an aqua green pool.

Next came our first jump! The jump was 10’ into an alcove pool surrounded by muddy limestone walls. We had to swim a short distance and climb up out of the water via a slick 6’ wall with limited hand and foot holds. It was a bit difficult for me because of my injured knee. Charlie gave me a much–needed boost, which made it less difficult. It sucks not having the full use of both legs! I’ve had to baby the left leg due to a knee injury I incurred a week ago. I was to find out later that I had torn my ACL! I wasn’t even sure if I’d be fit enough to do the canyons in Mexico once here, but I thought I’d at least give it a try since I had already paid for my airfare and lodgings and so many of my friends were expecting me. A friend of mine had brought me a couple of knee braces to try out, and I was wearing the less rigid one. So far, so good. As long as I didn’t stress it, it looked as though I wouldn’t encounter too much trouble with it this weekend.

Our next rappel was 120’ into a beautiful green pool surrounded by lush jungle vegetation and sculptured rock. I was second to last, with Rich taking up the tail end. Once I was down in the water, I noticed a small oval opening about 3’ long by 2’ wide in the limestone wall I had just rappelled. I couldn’t pull myself up out of the water to peer inside, but it looked to be a small cave. It looked, too, as if there was an opening under the water that might lead into it. The light streaming into the hole was diffusing the water in front of the wall a few feet below the surface.

Zach, who was waiting around to help Rich pull the rope, was intrigued as well, and having the required upper body strength, he was able to pull himself up to peer inside. He plunged back down into the water and confirmed that “yes, it was indeed a cave.”

I asked Zach if he wanted to try swimming under the rock wall to see if he could pop up into it.

“Sure,” he said and before I knew it, Zach had popped up into the cave. I asked him if there was room for two, and upon his reply of “yes,” I swam under and popped up inside as well.

The cave was decorated with flowstone and stalagmites! It was beautiful! What an awesome discovery! I wondered how much more cave might be underwater here inside this mountain of limestone. We had Scott snap off a picture of us peeking out, and then we returned to the exterior of the canyon.

Zach spotted a huge spider near the cave and joked “Imagine if the cave had been crawling with them!”

Yikes! Thank god that wasn’t the case. That thing was as big as a tarantula!

Zach, Scott and Rich hung around to pull the rope, and I swam off to catch up with the others. Our group had caught up with the morning group that had, supposedly, left three hours before us. We found out that they had been delayed by a flat tire this morning and got off to a late start. There was a fun water slide here into a clear deep pool, followed by a short swim and the final rappel. Unfortunately, there was no way to climb back up to repeat the slide, and we had to wait around the drop zone for at least 45 minutes while the other group made their way down.

I would love to have rappelled straight down into the 300’ waterfall, but we didn’t bring a long enough rope. The other group had already rigged a guided rappel anyway, and this is what our group used as well. We became one big group at this point. The guided–rappel was fun, and the view was stunning! One had the white, churning foam of the waterfall thundering above, the limestone and lush vegetation of the deepest green below. Hundreds of feet below me was a gray–green pool ringed with concave limestone walls. The walls were thickly vegetated with vines and ferns and other lush greenery. In the distance lay a turquoise pool and jungle as far as the eye could see. The towering limestone mountains punctured the sky and wispy clouds wrestled atop their peaks. The scenery was amazing, and I felt as though I had stepped into the pages of a National Geographic magazine! The rope ended about 5 feet from the pools surface and I plunged off the end of it.

Friends were on shore changing, some were floating around blissfully on their backs, and others were exploring the nearby caves. I swam for the nearest cave opening and clambered up onto a slick flowstone slope covered in delicate ferns and entered the cave. The floor was covered in a thick coating of wood debris that must have washed in during heavy storms. There were a few very large logs and a multitude of waterlogged sticks and branches, which made for difficult walking. Rivulets of water leached in from various places in the ceiling, and it was difficult to find a dry area suitable for shooting pictures.

Looking out at the scenery from the inside was a stunning visual that just begged for pictures! After examining the cave inside and out and snapping off pictures to my hearts content, I had one last small mission to accomplish before heading to the shore where the others were gearing down. I felt compelled to swim through the falls where it struck the water’s surface. It was mostly mist at this point and not treacherous at all, but breathtaking nonetheless. Mission accomplished, I swam\floated toward shore, on my back at a leisurely pace, taking in a long last mental picture of this surreal wonderland of water and rock, plants, and sky. A less then pleasant removal of the wetsuit—I absolutely hate this part of canyoneering—and it’s a long trudge up the hill back to the truck and a longer drive back towards the hotel.

We hit a taco stand on the way back to the hotel, which was nice in as far as the tacos were delicious and it cost us a fraction of what it would have cost us to eat back at the hotel. Plus, we were able to pay the proprietors of the place a huge tip! It was fun to sit around a relive the day’s adventure. Once at the hotel, Dave and I took a nice hot shower to freshen up—not together mind you—and we headed over to the restaurant for after–canyons social time.

I noticed right away upon entering the restaurant that groups had formed at various tables. There was the mostly European table, the mostly Utah table, the California table, and the mostly ‘strangers–from–who–knows–where’ table. I wanted to sit with them all but had to play musical chairs to talk to everyone. I sat at the California table first (it was closest to the entrance and they are my home boys) and I chatted for a few minutes, then I ambled over to the Utah table—annoyed and blinded everyone with the flash from my camera—and sat down.

This is when I found out that Barb had hurt her foot today in Hydrophobia. I followed her and nurse Denise to a secluded spot of the restaurant. I hope Barb didn’t mind my taking pictures of her ‘battered’ foot as Denise provided a splint! Ram wandered around supplying swigs of fine Scotch to everyone! Talk turned to canyons, and Rich had an announcement that would effect all of us canyoneers, so he called an impromptu meeting to discuss transportation plans for the following day.

Apparently, the ‘Monster truck’ was being commandeered for some local guiding, which ate into our transportation options. With the available vehicles there would be transport for no more than 20 people to Potrero Redondo. Slots for Matacanes, Chipitin and Hydrophobia would be determined first by the number of participants who’d not yet visited these canyons. The folks who’d have to settle for something else tomorrow were assured spots the following day for the canyon they desired, as we’d have the monster truck back by then. My friends from California were on tomorrow’s roster for Matacanes, and they somehow got me onto the trip even though I’d already done Chipitin.

Before I found out that I’d been given a spot on the truck, I was able to secure a rental car from a very nice gentleman from Las Vegas named Dave—I’m starting think that all men named John, and all men named Dave are exceptionally nice! My what a trusting fellow he is too! I decided that I would like to go and do a short dry canyon in the morning then head into Monterrey to see a tourist cave called ‘Garcia Caves’ but in order to that I’d need a rental car. I was so happy to have found a trusting soul who agreed to loan me his car. I had already secured maps and directions to the cave!

We milled about for awhile after the meeting then began to filter out as those with early morning plans needed to get some semblance of a good–night’s sleep! I didn’t want to go to bed. I spent some time with Barb who would attempt to catch a flight out of here tomorrow because of her injured foot, and I followed Ram and his bottle of scotch over to a van where Koen was looking at (and preparing?) his slides. I got a one–on–one presentation of some absolutely stunning canyons on the isle of Crete, as well as some very nice slides of some of Koen’s family vacations! What a lovely family!

It had to be well after 1AM when I finally made my way to the room. Although, I very much wanted to descend Matacanes with my California friends, I also wanted to hang out with those that I generally had less opportunity to do canyons with. So I had also made tentative plans with Ram to descend Matacanes the day after tomorrow. I would still need to get up early and alert everyone to my change of plans.

•  Day II — El Laberinto  •

In the morning, I made my way out of bed and over to the meeting area, found Dave and got his car keys from him, talked to my friends to let them know that my plans had changed. I’m telling you; sometimes it’s no fun at all having male friends who, somehow over the course of the years, have come to see themselves as somewhat of protective big brother sorts rather than just peers.

First thing Rich did was start laughing when I told him my plan. He had an incredulous look on his face and asked in all earnestness, “Where did you get the car?” followed by, “Does this guy know YOU?”

Scott and John had joined the conversation and they joined in with the laughing and the looks, and basically told me that I couldn’t go.

“What do you mean I can’t go? I have a car! I am going!”

Next thing I know, Chris is involved and he tells me, “You’re not going,”.

Then they approach the guy who gave me the keys and they start admonishing him, or scaring him, or both! They told him all about my propensity for getting lost, and Chris threw in a story about some students he had a very difficult time extricating from a Mexican jail, and then they proceeded to go on about insurance and this and that. All the while, heads are shaking and Chris is looking at me disapprovingly and giving me a look that clearly says, “Shame on you Randi” for even trying.

So this poor guy Dave is looking very uneasy and his eyes are getting quite large. And I’m starting to feel just terrible. I reluctantly gave him his keys back knowing that if I were to keep them he’d be so worried that he’d have a hard time enjoying himself today. Sigh! I wasn’t even going to use the darn car unless I found a partner to drive with. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be seeing the cave today—or at all—while here, but I was also flattered—sort of—by the fact that my friends want to look out for me. I said my goodbyes to everyone and I went back to bed for a couple of hours.

At 9:00 am, I was back out at the meeting area ready for another canyon. I was in a good mood but feeling a bit tired and my knee was bothering me some from yesterday’s hike, so I was quite happy to be taking it easy today. We were slated to descend a couple of dry canyons and I wasn’t all that excited about either one of them, but the company was nice. I had met Denise Manweiler in Arizona and I liked her right off the bat, but I’d not yet done a canyon with her until today. She was here with her daughter, Sarah, and a few other people I had not yet had the chance to canyon with, as well as a couple of friends.

Laberinto was not far from the hotel and it had a nice entry rappel that was taking too darn long to rig up. There was something like 15 people milling about the drop–in and, for some reason, after 15 or 20 minutes of waiting around they still hadn’t gotten the rope rigged. I wasn’t close to the folks who were rigging, so I don’t know what the hang up was. A few of us decided to blow off the rappel and do the walk around instead.

Since there was an easy trail to the innards of this canyon as well as upper road access, it made El Labirinto an easy target for trash relocation. There was everything from tires and diapers and soda cans and even somebody’s old discarded refrigerator lining the bottom of what otherwise would have been some outstanding scenery.

Tom, myself, Ram and Judy, and couple of others hightailed it over to the trail and made our way around the cliff. There was an abundance of poison oak here and some fun rock scrambling. I snapped off a picture of a beautiful lizard that Tom pointed out to me; it looked like a wingless dragon all decorated with these beautifully shiny copper colored scales. While waiting around the next drop—the only big drop in this canyon—for an interminably long time, I had a chance to socialize with some new folks. Leroy Anderson and Jeff Levin were quite nice, and I’m certain that Jeff and I must have a couple of mutual friends as he’s a caver from up in Northern California. Leroy was charming and, considering my mood, I was happy to sit around and chat for a good 45 minutes or so. One person was lowered into a skanky pool, while the rest of us had the great fortune of remaining dry and odorless on a fixed zip–line traverse.

Lunch, and a short hike out then it was off to the head of the other short canyon. Sarah, Denise’s daughter, wasn’t keen on doing another canyon, and I wasn’t all that keen either. So Sarah and I decided to join Rich and Reuben at the local bar. We did hike in to see the first drop—which was lovely—then we headed over to the bar, joined at the last moment by Ram’s lovely wife Judy. We had a great time drinking, laughing and plain ol’ being lazy. Had some fine tacos too!

On the way back to rendezvous with the canyoneers we ran into a carload of young men from one of our groups, and they were swigging ‘apple’ wine. Awesome! We passed the bottle from window to street and had ourselves a little moonshine swigging party right there in the middle of the road. We—those of us carpooling with Rich—each picked ourselves up a bottle from a roadside store that was making the stuff in a little still there in the back, or were they making it in a bathtub? I can’t remember, and it didn’t matter.

Once back at the hotel, I went to my room and showered. It was nice to have the room all to myself. I then found Denise and easily coerced her into going to the bar. We wandered over, but the place was closed! Just as we were wondering where the other’s might be congregating, Judy, Ram, Mike and Barb appeared from around the corner behind the restaurant.

“What were you guys doing back there?” I asked.

Apparently, Ram had done the bungee!

“Really? Well what was it like?”

I can’t remember all of all the words Ram used, but “dizzy, spinning, awful” were some of them.

I decided to try it, so we all meandered back over to the platform where I paid my $30.00, got weighed and fitted with the jump apparatus. They fitted me with a harness, and Velcro ankle straps, which were secured together, and also secured to the harness via a heavy cord. I was clipped in with a safety tether to a line that ran the length of the platform. I was very nervous, and my stomach was doing little flip–flops as I walked the platform. I felt like a prisoner on a chain gang being led to my last meal, or a cigarette before the firing squad had their way with me.

Standing at the edge of the fall zone, the guide held my arm and explained to me: “I say, three, two, one, bungee — you jump.”

I nodded that I understood, as my mind questioned me as to why on earth I was doing this. My stomach was in my throat as I listened to his command. Right before I committed to the fall, a total sense of peace washed over me. No worries. I fell rather then jumped and I spread my arms like wings. What an awesome feeling of freedom! I rushed toward the treetops far below, and far too soon I started to recede away from them. I felt no jerk, no tug, as I had expected I would. Then I began to bounce, up and down like a human slinky. It was wonderful! But the blood began to rush to my head as well, and I had to pull the upper half of my body up towards my feet to stop the spinning. I grabbed the lowered weight and attached it to my harness for the haul up. I’d definitely try Bungee Jumping again. It was a lot of fun.

After a few pats on the back for actually going through with it, we headed out to meet with the others. A bus would be taking us over to ‘somewhere’ for dinner and a slide show. I hopped on one of the buses and, after a 30–minute ride, we were dumped off on a corner near a city square. I don’t know the name of the city, and I didn’t know what the schedule of events was going to be or when or where they would take place exactly. No one on that damn bus knew what was going on. We milled around for a bit, waiting for someone who knew the scoop to arrive, but they never came.

Finally, a bunch of us decided to have a look around the place and to have dinner. We happened to wander over into the same restaurant where a bunch of others were already chowing down. We found out where the slide show was to take place, and then we headed on over after dinner. The building was some sort of government auditorium. I’m not usually one to sit still for long periods of time, and I was absolutely falling asleep after the first ½ hour or so.

I excused myself to use the ladies room and, on my way out, I came upon a couple of guys leaving. I had seen them earlier and knew they were with our group so I caught a ride with them back to the hotel. It was so nice to have the room to myself—to just kick back and read for a while and then doze off. I’m not sure what time the Daves arrived, but it was much later in the evening or morning. We had an early day ahead of us, and I’m sure those guys must have been completely knackered by the time they stumbled in.

•  Day III — Matacanes  •

An early AM wake up and it was off to Matacanes canyon. This is the canyon that everyone has raved about, as the river takes you through two cave systems. My traveling companions today would be Rich, Koen, Mike ‘Skunkman’ Putiak, David Nilles (one of my roommates), Tom J, Ram & Judy, and Reuben. As I usually do, I had done my research before I came here, and this canyon came up again and again as the ‘premiere’ canyon in the area. I was really excited!

Our ride to Porto Redondo was much more comfortable—at first—as we were riding in a rented Suburban rather than the ‘monster’ truck. We picked up a local midway through our drive, and the poor guy was hunched over and squeezed onto the center console. This would never do on this road. I gave him my seat, and I lay on top of the gear in the back. I figured I could maybe get a little more sleep on the way as well as be kind to an old stranger. Instead, all I did was bounce around back there and hit my head constantly on the roof. I had the foresight to bring a pillow from the hotel—thank god! Anyhow, we made it to town, gathered our bearings and headed out.

The hike was wonderfully shaded and the trail was well–defined and not treacherous at all. I was lagging as usual—even more so with the bum knee—but I was doing OK. The knee was holding out, until I tried to hump myself up and over a downed log. My knee just gave out all of a sudden. There one minute, gone the next.

Rich more or less asked me to turn around and go back if I was having too much trouble. He reminded me—as he should have—that if I had problems it could affect the entire group. I refused to turn around just then. I said that I would try and walk it out at least until we came to the first drop. If I was still unsure about it, I would turn around before committing. I didn’t want to jeopardize the group, but I really didn’t want to miss this canyon either. After all, I did hump myself out of Quandary last week when I first injured it!

The boys forged ahead, while Judy remained behind with me (bless her heart) and, by the time we got to the drop–in, I was feeling OK. The knee had become less stressed and I was feeling fairly mobile at this point, so I made the decision to continue. Judy and I suited up a distance away from the boys (our group and another had converged) at the first drop. We set our ropes, passed the other group and continued on.

The first rappel was about 90 ft down a waterfall. Then a series of pools, deep and shallow had to be negotiated, as well as some amount of boulder scrambling and travel on well–worn hiking trails. Ram waited for Judy and me, and we soon caught up with Rich at a most spectacular site! We were coming into a small cave system that lent the canyon a surreal charm rarely found outside of the underworld!

Rich told us what our options were:

“Behind door number one there’s a short up–climb followed by a short down climb, and behind door number two lies the secret surprise corridor.”

“Which would you prefer?” he asked.

I’m always game for the ‘secret surprise,’ so I picked door number two, as did Ram and Judy. We hunkered down and entered the cave at a swim then had to roll over onto our backs to negotiate the corridor: a narrow channel full nearly to the ceiling with water. We had to keep our mouths pressed close to the ceiling, as there was barely 6 inches of airspace.

How cool is this?! VERY, VERY cool!

More wading and swimming ensued after that and we soon found ourselves standing on the threshold of a dream! The canyon dead ends at the gaping mouth of a HUGE cave system! Unbelievable! There are two ways down: canyon left is a rushing waterfall, and canyon right is a gaping hole in the rock, which also has a waterfall rushing down through it!

“Gaping hole, gaping hole!” I cried!

Rich being ever the gentleman let the lady have her way, and we set our rope to rap down through the gaping hole. A short swim and we were climbing onto a pebble beach at the dark foreboding entrance of the second cave. The interior was stunning! Water was pouring in through various cracks in the ceiling and the flowstone was sensuously curved, rippled, and deformed into a soft landscape of odd shapes, reminiscent of one of those alien landscapes depicted in a science fiction novel. A veil of rain divided the past from the present as I peered back through the entrance toward the place where I had rappelled down a few moments ago.

We donned our headlamps and continued on. We immediately came to a 10’ jump into a pool of unknown depth. “I’m not going first,” seemed to be the general consensus between us, until Ram (ever the daring one) took a leap of faith: it was more of a half slide/half drop into the pool of no more than 5 ft deep. Unscathed, Ram directed us to the proper landing area of the pool with a beam of light from his forehead, and one by one we slid into the darkness.

It was an almost eerie experience to be floating through the darkest section of cave. The travertine walls, which have been fluidly sculpted by the onslaught of carbonated water, had a melted waxy appearance. This odd visual coupled with the small amount of light afforded by our headlamps, gave this portion of the cave an almost frightening appearance. Shadows danced in and out of every crevice, and it seemed as if we were traveling through the inner space of a living entity. In actuality, we were, as caves are considered living environments. The darkness shortly gave way to a pebble beach and a large expanse of green jungle foliage and blue sky. Jumping, swimming, boulder scrambling, more jumping and more swimming and more scrambling ensued.

We stopped for lunch after a series of small jumps and, just as we were making our way through the last wade before landing on our little lunch island, Koen says to me, “Randi, what happened to your backpack?”

I didn’t know! I hadn’t even realized that I wasn’t wearing it. The bag was unusually light and wearing the bulky life jacket (which I wasn’t used to) just threw me off I guess. Koen offered to go back and try to find it. He was successful, and everyone had a good laugh at my incompetence as we ate lunch. The ‘backpack’ incident was only a prelude as to how my day was going to end up!

Also as a side note: a girl had lost her camera the day before (in one of the caves—in deep water) and she asked us too look for it! It was secure in a waterproof case, but she had no idea exactly when it had gone missing. Her group had searched to no avail, and she asked us to keep an eye out for it. “OK,” we said, but really; what are the chances of finding it? Well, Koen fled off ahead of the group to get there before the lot of us stirred up the silted bottom (he always carries goggles in case people lose things under–water) and he miraculously found the camera ... deep underwater! The guy’s amazing!

After lunch we headed off again. We came to a place in the canyon that had a small up climb to the right and a jump of 10’ or so. As I started to climb, Koen yelled for me to come over and take a look at something. I came back down in time to see Ram emerging from a hole between the boulders. I think Ram had jumped first and then climbed back up through the funnel with minimal difficulty. Koen slid on through and I followed. In the shoot I was holding on for dear life as I inched my way downward trying not to let the force of the water flush me out. Resisting the force up until the end, I teetered on the edge of the drop and tried to lower myself down. I flushed out all of a sudden and landed quite forcefully onto my right foot. I’m sure that I was trying to avoid a shock to the injured knee and must have overcompensated with the right.

“OW! that hurt!” I gasped.

A sharp pain shot through my ankle and for a few minutes I couldn’t walk on it without sharp shooting pains. The combination of cold water and figuring out a way to walk on it ‘just so,’ I was able to keep up at a reasonable pace.

We came to the second cave, which starts with a 15’ jump into a deep pool. The cave narrowed and darkened then widened again. There were areas of swift water that pushed you through onto the next amazing scene, and then there were areas of serene floating–through–space–and–time episodes of swimming. The cave exit was a small opening; you could see the light streaming in here and the need for head lamps diminished the closer we came, which was an episode in surrealism all itself. There were a couple of ‘shower heads’ on either side of the opening. Showerheads are huge hollow stalactites hanging down from the ceiling, with water rushing through. These formations ended a good 3 feet or so from the waters surface and you could swim directly under them for an additional thrill of showering whilst caving!

The exit from the cave is through a narrow opening no more than a foot or two tall by 4 feet wide. The shape of the exit is such that it seems as if we’re swimming toward the outside world through the eye of an enormous stone beast. The eye is framed in lashes of delicate green ferns. We emerged into a soft falling rain, which cast a silver transparent sheen over the jungle. Thunder roared and Koen told us a horrifying tale of the time he saw a herd of horses get electrocuted as lightning struck the river they were crossing! What a horrific experience that must have been!

More jumps, more swimming and soon we were walking on hiking trails more and more, crossing the stream intermittently. My foot was really starting to give me trouble, but I bravely walked/hobbled the best I could ... mumbling the whole way I’m sure. The other’s pushed on ahead except for Koen. He kept me company, and I couldn’t have hand picked a better person for good conversation. What a nice man he is. He told me another story about the time he carried a girl through the canyon, who it turned out was actually feigning an injury just to make her boyfriend jealous! It was quite entertaining, and it gave me the idea (almost) to ask him if he would consider carrying me for a while. After all, he knew I wasn’t faking. “Eh, I better not push my luck,” I thought to myself, and resigned myself to hobbling along.

Once back at the vehicle, it was hard to get out of the wetsuit, and wonderful to actually sit down and sling back a cold one. The ride back to the hotel was heavenly rest for my poor injured body, but once we stopped and I had to get out of the truck, I could barely stand. Every time I put any pressure on my foot a sharp shooting pain raced right through it. I sure could have used a pair of crutches at that point! I hobbled to my room and threw myself on the bed and just lay there wondering what I was going to do now. My flight out of here wasn’t until Monday and it was Sat. What would I do all day tomorrow?


I hobbled over to the California boys room for sympathy! What a sight those partiers were! Chris was laying on the bed with some gorgeous gal named Amy, and John was lying on the other bed with a bag of ice on his butt!

“What’s going on in here?” I inquired.

Here they were worried about me running off with Dave’s rental car and getting into trouble, and I take my eyes off of them for a day and they’re fit for a ‘boys gone wild’ video. I flopped down on Chris’ bed and told John that I needed the ice pack. His butt—whatever had happened to it—couldn’t be anywhere near as painful as my foot. Ira gave me a dose of vitamin ‘I,’ Chris and Amy gave me doses of moonshine, and Scott tended to my swollen foot with the ice pack. They were already drunk, and I proceeded to follow their fine example.

The ice, booze, and laughter helped and I was a little more chipper by the time I left their room. I showered and hobbled over to the Tecate games. Most of the California Table—the table I sat at—was drunk out of their minds on that Mexican moonshine and most of them volunteered to go on stage and perform some ritual, which would win them a prize. Most of them tied knots behind their backs, some stripped and swam in the pool. I don’t know why they were trying to force me up onto the stage as well, but I sure as sh*t wasn’t going to hobble up there, so the chants of “RANDI! RANDI! RANDI!” were met with a long face, lots of blushing every time they chanted my name, and a slew of “KNOCK IT OFFs” and “NO WAYs” from me.

Finally the games were over and it was time for the slide shows. Wonderful canyoneering presentations were put on by John Hart and Koen. Tomorrow would be an early day for some, but I’d be holed up here at the hotel all alone, so I milked the night for all it was worth and stayed up until the wee hours of the morning drinking and socializing with people who don’t require much sleep, or were too drunk to realize they actually needed sleep.

I hobbled off to bed at some point and crashed out. Both Daves were up and out early in the morning, with one Dave returning back to bed shortly after he left. Apparently, he couldn’t get onto the canyon trip he wanted to do so he decided to hang out at the hotel. It was nice to have company and he’s super sweet. So we just hung out together all day, sleeping, chatting, reading, getting to know each other better, then doing it all over again.

Early evening we realized that folks had returned from canyons, as the hotel became lively with the sound of muffled voices and doors opening and closing. Rich came over and did a fine job of splinting my foot with a Sam Splint. What a sweetheart! I was able to gimp around so much better with it than without it. Sunday night’s a blank, but I’m sure that I drank and made merry with folks—merry as one can be with a twisted ankle and a bum knee.

Monday rolled around, we parted ways with most of our friends (new and old) and we headed to the airport. Judy, both Davids from my room, myself and Rick Thompson drove with Rich. We had breakfast together at an airport café then headed for our respective flights. David Nilles stayed with me as long as he could. He even waited around while they got me a wheelchair! How embarrassing! But man did it ever feel good to get off the foot after hobbling around the airport.

The flight(s) were uneventful. I got some help an many a pitiful look from sympathetic strangers as I struggled to hobble around with my bags in tow. Once I landed at LAX and retrieved my luggage, it took me forever to remember where I had parked my car! I hobbled from one end of the parking lot to the other until my brain started working! I was able to drive—barely, as it was my right ankle that was sprained—and I somehow made it home in one piece.

If people were to ask me—and they did—whether this trip was worth it, considering the injury I started out with and the secondary injury I incurred, I’d have to say, “Yes.”

As long as more treasured memories are left behind rather than the memories that you’d rather forget, it’s always worth it.


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© 2005 Randi Poer