Part 29

In video games or in movies they tend make an unexpected slide down a hillside out to be a kind of amusement park ride. Slide a bit, somersault, dodge left, right, take a jump or two, have your fall at the end be a nice, flat clearing.

This was not that. It wasn’t much worse, mind you, but in the re-telling I’m sure I or anyone else would embellish how awful it is. You don’t have much time to lose your breath or cry out, because even as you feel the soft soil and vegetation start to slip sideways and deteriorate, a narrow path like that takes a fraction of a second to drop out. That’s enough to realize what’s going on and scramble and jump ineffectively like a scene from a stereotypical western where folk are made to ‘dance’.

And without worrying how ridiculous you look, you kind of scramble for purchase, but in a place like a rainforest, everything is loose and heady and oh my, there’s roots and creepers and all sorts of things smashing you in the face as you wheel your limbs around and try to tuck up into yourself except there’s also a travel pack on you and various other equipments and pretty soon you’re just hoping you won’t impale yourself on any sharp branches or catch a strewn out vine across the throat.

The ride ended fairly shortly, and though the slope was a little rocky, there wasn’t anything to smash my head on at the end. An immense, felled tree broke my fall and knocked the air out of me in a competent, almost satisfying way (you can appreciate a lot in that slow-motion syrup-filled time when you’re winded).

A second later I heard more confused scrambling and realized: Três!

She had somehow managed to turn and slide feetfirst, bellydown alongside but over a ways. It looked rough, I told myself as I noted how twisted my right shoulder had gotten, feeling out my right foot and hoping it wasn’t broken. Tenderly standing on it, it only felt sprained. I hobbled over to my friend.

She turned as I called her name, grinned a mouthful of dirt at me and said: Madre Dios, eu loco. Crazy. I moved to help pull her up, only to have an immense, shooting pain from what I thought was my good arm as she took hold. My surprised (probably more shrill than usual) scream was swallowed up by the woods around us, though I cursed myself for the noise all the same.

I’ve been fairly lucky in life not to suffer any bad breaks, compared to the accident prone friends and brother, but this felt awful just the same. Três nearly hopped back up, gear and all, and cradled my arm as straight as it could go to inspect it.

Even with much wincing and watering eyes, I looked up the thankfully short slope and scanned along where the trail was, listened hard for anything not of the jungle. Três made a concerned noise as she prodded and then an annoyed sound, followed by an ‘ah’ or ‘ow’.

Still confused, I looked her over, herself staring back at me, brown-eyes under ragged hair opening wide. She must have seen the same scene unfolding. Along her dirt-scuffed arms and legs, patches of red, yellow, gold, black, scurrying and scrambling, biting and pinching.

Oh, come on, I moaned. The nest of ants we had disturbed on that section of timber had arrived.