On my last day at DreamSea Surf Camp, a group of seven of us rented a car to drive south. I took one look at the trunk of the car, one look at the pile of luggage, and sighed. Thus began our perfect trip during which everything went wrong.
We managed to tie seven over-weight backpacks to the top of the car, bought jugs of water and pounds of snack food, and began driving. We laughed, we sang, we ate, we slept, and 9 hours later we found ourselves lost in the middle of the jungle.
By the middle of the jungle, I really mean the middle of the jungle. The directions from our Airbnb host had been limited (and that’s being generous), but we were pretty sure it was somewhere down the dirt road we’d been weaving along for the past hour. It was 11pm and we were driving over massive ditches in the road, crossing bridge-less rivers, and praying that we weren’t entirely lost.
“I’m pretty sure it’s just like 10 minutes that way,” I ensured the car full of nervous travelers, watching the little blue dot move depressingly slow across my phone screen.
That’s when the car stopped moving.
We were in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country with a broken down rental car and no cell service. The tension in the car was tangible. I took one look at our driver’s exhausted face and knew I had to do something.
“Come on, Kris,” I exclaimed, “We’re going to walk to town and get help.”
We left our travel mates to panic about the car and began walking (rather, stumbling as I was in flip flops and the downhill was very steep) toward what I hoped was civilization.
“You sure this is the right way?” Kris asked, “Are we even close?”
I just nodded and kept my doubts to myself, determined to figure this out.
45 minutes later we were still walking and I decided maybe it would be a good time to tell Kris that our blue dot had only covered half the way we had to go, according to Google Maps. But before I could break the news, we saw headlights. Or rather, a headlight. A motorcycle was racing towards us!
I quickly flashed my flashlight at them and Kris waved his hands like a man stranded at sea.
For a moment, my heart stopped. The motorcycle had two men on it, one of which had a machete strapped to his leg, the other holding his rifle life a baby.
This is how I die, I thought.
But Kris was already explaining what had happened in broken Spanish and the rifle-holder was already climbing off the bike to make room for us. Machete man (as I shall thus-forth refer to him) offered to drive us to the nearest hostel where we could try to find help.
We hopped on the bike and I immediately burned myself on the exhaust pipe. Great, I thought, as if I’m not dealing with enough right now. But I ignored it and focused on the task at hand: getting help.
When we pulled into the hostel parking lot, machete man dismounted his bike and started yelling. Eventually he made enough noise that a man (a volunteer at the hostel, as we later learned) came out to see what was going on.
I explained what had happened to the man and he immediately offered to let us sleep in the hammocks on the porch. I smiled and laughed before responding, “There are seven of us. And all of our luggage is tied to the top of our car. And our car is in the middle of the road. And we have two friends waiting for us at our Airbnb.”
So he hopped into the hostel car and gave us a ride back to our car, where he and the two motorcycle men helped us move the luggage and push our car to the side of the road. Just before we were to leave, his car stalled and a moment of panic rippled through the group. Were we destined never to get out of the jungle?
But we pushed hi car until the engine roared and the 7 of us piled into his 4 vacant seats, waving a final thank you to our motorcycle heroes.
I finally let myself look at my burn. It looked bad, but it didn’t hurt. Awesome, I thought, it doesn’t even hurt and now I’ll have a scar to commemorate this crazy night! A few days later I learned that the lack of pain was not so harmless, but more on that in another blog…
As the hostel volunteer drove us to our Airbnb, one thing became abundantly clear: we would never have gotten there on our own. It was much farther than we imagined and the route included crossing a massive river that would have convinced us all that we were going the wrong way had our trusty volunteer not known better.
Finally, we did arrive.
We were all high from the adrenaline and sleep felt impossible, so we spent the night reliving every moment for our two friends who’d been wondering what was taking us so long. The wine and laughter flowed freely and it ended up being the first of many fantastic nights.
And even though everything went wrong that day (and continued to go wrong throughout our trip), I had more fun that week than I have had in a while. Surrounded by some of my new favorite people, enjoying the most beautiful region of this already stunning country, even a midnight car fiasco could not make this trip anything short of perfect.