Guatemala has been crazy super ROUGH. I think it has a grudge against me.

First, let me apologize, I have no new pictures.  My camera is in recover mode, tough in the humid environment here.

When I last updated the blog, I had had an OK, but slightly  frustrating start to my trip.  To recap briefly, I’d missed my flight, spent many days waiting for the raft guide to show up, thought I did see some neat stuff, then hurt my arm-shoulder falling through a rotted out step on some stairs.   But it was day 8, I’d paddled with Andrew the guide a few times, and we’d run 3 short commercial trips (2 days of work.)  I wrote –

Tomorrow we are not signing up any clients, and Andrew and I are going to kayak the Cahabon river, to familiarize ourselves with it so we can hopefully begin leading trips on it on Friday. Good stuff.

 Things had been slower than I’d hope, and my shoulder was still sore, but things were looking up.

Friday, Andrew and I decided to run the Lanquin and Rio Cahabon.  We put in on the Lanquin, and ran down to where we’d been taking out with the raft customers, a short but continuous Class III plus section.  I was still having a bit of difficulty in the too small boat, but I was OK.  We portaged around a big, ugly rapid (I’d be surprised if this is ever run successfully.) and after a 15 minute hike, put back in just above a long, long big Class IV plus rapid. I was leading, and finding the small boat pretty squirrelly in the pushy water.   And I’m trying to read and run rapids with few eddys (stopping points) to check things out from.  This is not a section that gets rafted commercially.  I’m perhaps a quarter mile into this really long rapid, and I come atop a wave a notice a big hole behind it, that I’d underestimated.    Crap.   I went into the hole, and got pummeled.  I flushed free, and rolled up.  Just in time to go into the bigger hole behind it.  This one was giving me a bit of pummeling, but I made it still in my boat.  And went into a third.  By this point my shoulder hurt a lot, and I was scared.   I failed at several attempts to roll in the hole, and ended up pulling my skirt and swimming.   Sometimes this is the good, prudent option.  Many times you just make the situation worse.  This turned out to be one of those.

The Swim was one of the worst I ever taken, if not the worst. It was long, I simply couldn’t find a safe eddy to swim too.  Andrew was far behind me and focused on my boat.  I was getting pummeled, repeatedly getting pushed into holes, held under for scary amounts of time,  and beaten into rocks.  It was bad.  And scary. And LONG.   It sucked.   really bad.  I don’t think it will for me, but I’ve heard of swims where the swimmer never returns to paddling, and this made me at least understand that.  (It was far from my mind at the time, but I think this is where my camera took on some water.)  I finally found a safe eddy and fought my way to it.   Unfortunately, it was on the wrong side of the river, and there was no sign of Andrew or my boat. I knew it was a long way upstream to a bridge or calm crossing point, so I headed downstream.  Through wet, muddy, slippery, Jungle.  Crap.  It was hard, slow going, and the heat was unbearable.  And it was steep, traversing a mountain side.  And slippery.  Did mention it was slippery? and covered with jungle plants.   Oh, and bugs.   If you get the idea I wasn´t having fun, you’ve got the point.  My shoulder, hip and knee were all focused pain points, but overall I felt as if I’d been through the wringer. It sucked.  Finally, after perhaps an hour or an hour and a half, I found a spot where I felt safe swimming across the river and heading down the road.   I soon met up with andrew again, and he had recovered my boat, minus my throwbag.  Oh well.

I rested.  And rested, and rested.  Eventually, I decided to press on.   We were, by this point, near the normal put in for the Cahabon day trips.   We paddled it, and portaged Rock’n’Roll, which was huge.

After getting a ride home, I went to the internet Cafe.  I felt beaten.  Both Physically and mentally.  In a week I had two painful, painful experiences.  I talked with Kim online, about leaving.   Saturday, I felt the same in the morning.  Just beaten.  We had no customers that day, and Andrew talked me into running the upper section of the Lanquin. It went smooth and well, we did it twice, and Sat night I was a bit tired and bored and sore, but OK.  Sunday we took a raft group down the Cahabon for the first time.  the water was HUGE.  Nearly the biggest the company had ever done it at.  Crazy big.  It was long, hard day.  Twice all the passengers were out of the raft.   Crazy, silly, big.  I was working hard and hating the boat and not really enjoying it.

Sunday night I was exhausted, I ate no dinner, and went to bed around 7.

Then it gets worse.   

On Monday morning I woke early, around 4 am.   My leg was burning in pain, my lymph node is my right groin area was on fire and swollen to the touch, I had a super high fever ( what temp does the brain cook? I might have lost a few.) And I had shaking chills and shivering in the hot jungle night. 

Damn.   I puked a few times, I wished my mom or my wife was there, puked a few more times.  That was pretty much all I did monday.     I did examine my leg, and there was new wound on my right calf, about the size of nickel, black as black can be, and oozing scary liquids.  I was pretty sure it was  spider bite, and likely poisonous.  I kept thinking pack to my wilderness first responder course, and I remembered the instructor Jon saying spider bites mostly kill the old, the infirm, and kids, but that brought little consolation.     I’ve felt worse pain, with the broken bones and all, but I’m not sure I’ve EVER felt sicker.  Absolutely unbelievably miserable.  for the next 20 hours I didn’t move.   I knew the patient needed to be evacuated (me), but there was no one around that day to help, and no way to call for help.   I was miserable, and truthfully, more than a little scared. 

At some point, I rummaged through my pack and found my first aid kit, I had some Cipro, and took that.  I didn´t have any idea if it’d work, but I figured it was worth a try. 

Tuesday morning, I felt marginally better.   I drug myself out of bed, shoved my things in my backpack, and made my way to the bus for the 8 hour ride to Antigua. I was over it.  In 15 days, I’d worked only 3, and been moderately injured twice, and now I’d been bitten by a poisonous spider.

A raft customer-passenger from Sundays trip recognized me and said hi, and asked what was up, I showed her my swollen, purple leg, and she gasped audibly.   Crap.   She was super nice though, and help me along the way, getting off the bus to buy me water and such when it stopped.  When we arrived in Antigua, it was late, and we couldn´t find any open Dr’s .  

Weds morning we went to the Dr, were she helped translate, I now know the words for infection, vomit, spider, poison and more in Spanish, so that’s cool.  I was happy she was there, as the Dr knew less English than I knew spanish, and I couldn’t focus on my phrasebook. She worked well as a translator, especially since, being from Holland, neither were her Native tongue.  I was feeling better, but still sick.  

I got some drugs from La farmaciria , and by lunchtime was feeling remarkably better.  Not sure what it was I got drug wise, wish I knew.   

I rested yesterday, and feel much better.  Leg is still swollen and discolored, but there is no pain anymore.  I’m not going back to Lanquin.  I was bored of it, hurt much of the time, and horribly sick.  Sometimes things just don´t work out, and this was one of those times. I’m in Antigua now, and having a better time.  Still trying to stay off my leg some, it’s still really swollen.  It’s VERY pretty here, and I like it.  I’ll make some better plans soon, but I think I’m going to take a spanish course, then hopefully Kim can join me in a week and we’ll do some travelling.   I’m in good spirits here, and yesterday ate some of the best tacos I’ve had in my life.   Went and watched a movie last night with new friends, and today I plan to relax and maybe do little shopping.  Tommorow, maybe tour a Coffee plantation.   (my roots as my second real job ever was a Starbucks barrista).  I wish Kim was here.  I wish my Camera worked.  But I’m alive, not in pain, and seemingly on the road to recovery, and for me, that counts for a lot.

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5 Comments

  1. take care of yourself, buddy!

  2. Glad you’re feeling better. Too bad you couldn’t take a picture of the spider bite.

    Do you have the name of the drug they gave you? I can look it up for you.

  3. I wonder what kind of spider it was? Hope you are feeling better now!

  4. Dan Glauser

    Wow Geoff, that’s one of the narliest stories I’ve heard. I’m very glad to hear you’re ok.
    Glad things are picking up for you!

    Take care,

    Dan, Cortney, and Mason

  5. Ric and Lee

    Glad you are doing better. That is a bummer. Take care

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