Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

12 February 2007

Chasing Waterfalls

Matt and I are freaks for waterfalls. We discovered this mutual appreciation for them by accident, while hiking in northern Georgia. That whole area of the southeastern U.S. (where Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina all come together) is just chock-full of all sorts of waterfalls, making it a paradise for those who like that sort of thing. And who doesn't like waterfalls? Check out this site!

Nature-boys that we are, we had originally just gone up to Georgia to hike and camp and maybe canoe. We'd heard about some neat trails into gorges and rivers that sounded interesting. We're not extreme-outdoorsmen or anything, but he and I are always up for new adventures. It's great having someone who has the same passions and enthusiasm for things as you - especially someone with whom you get along so well. In spite of our age difference, or maybe because of it, Matt and I do get along very well on the road. We gel. We click. He's the Seinfeld to my Costanza, the Sundance Kid to my Butch Cassidy (check out these lines from that movie), the Barney Fife to my Sheriff Taylor. He spurs me on to do things my natural conservatism (and advanced years) might otherwise inhibit, and I act as a moderating influence on his boyish, impulsive craziness. In all of our years of hanging out and traveling together, I cannot remember one fight or even minor disagreement on the road or off. We always have fun.

Here on Guanaja we have many waterfalls. They are the source of our unique and abundant fresh water. It comes over in aquifers under the sea from mainland Honduras, goes up through the hills of Guanaja and spout out of the top in many places, flowing fresh water down like God's own irrigation system and producing this lush vegetation. It is why there can be such an island with as much brackish wetlands and mangrove swamps as Guanaja out in the middle of nowhere. It is said that as long as there is rain in Honduras, Guanaja will always have water.

Two of these waterfalls are on the north side of the island, accessible to the public...more or less. Matt and I knew that we had to hike them. As luck would have it, everyone else wanted to, too.

The "small" falls is actually the better of the two. A relatively easy climb up from Bo's bar, it drops into a small-but-swimmable pool. The hills go way on up, and we tried climbing above it, but given the roughness of the terrain, our inappropriate footwear and our limited time we had to abort.

Obligatory waterfall picture

(Hey, when did I get that old and gray...and fat!)

Okay, so it's not Niagara Falls. The waterfalls on Guanaja are more like very steep streams, flowing down from their outflow at the top of the mountain. Did we care? No! They were trails to be hiked because, in the words of Sir Edmund Hillary, they were there. And so were we, coincidentally.

We had chosen the first, smaller of the two because the entire group of, like, 16 people we were with decided to climb up to the "big" falls. Mind you, this was a group of middle-aged (and beyond) women lead by the boss's wife Martha and including Daniel our cook and our foreman Devant and his two kids. Not exactly your basic Everest expedition.

Having hung out at the small falls as long as we could, taking the obligatory pictures (see above), we finally start up to the big falls. Immediately we know something's up. This was no piece-of-cake hike up a trail. It was steep! And arduous. There were slippery, tricky areas where we had to do a lot of actual hand-over-hand rock-climbing. We kept thinking that we must have passed the group somewhere...that they must not have come this far (nearly all of them were all older than me!)...that they must have turned around and we somehow missed them. Could we have? We kept climbing and climbing, wondering what we had gotten ourselves into?

And then we met Martha's group on the way down, coming down from the top! She was smiling...laughing, even! Matt and I were, like, "What the...?" Martha had brought along a workout trainer, a younger-than-them, impossibly slim, grouchy taskmistress who cajoled them the whole time about eating right and exercising. She was the first one down the hill.

"How is it?" we asked her.

"Well, it's okay if you like waterfalls," she replied rather churlishly. Skinny people can be so bitchy.

Matt and I looked at each other and smiled. That, we did. And we had just met the first person who evidently does not like waterfalls.

Anyway, we let the group pass and then, slightly embarassed and chastened for thinking the trek was sooo hard, resumed our climb to the top. To be honest, it was - dare I say it - unimpressive. For one thing, it wasn't all that tall. Large rocks had fallen into what was once a nice, big pool (or so we are told). We tried to get some pictures, but just couldn't get anything that did it justice. Waterfalls are strange that way. If you shoot them without perspective, like from too close, you can't really tell anything about them other than...well yeah, that's some water there.

From the air (my lucky vantage point), we knew that there were even more falls on that stream - at least two more - further up the hill But again, time constraints and a lack of proper equipment stymied us that day. Matt's just going to have to come back when we don't have any guests here and we'll take the time to hike this place right!


island girl said...

Keep the pictures coming - I really enjoy them.

Gene said...

"Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls".

Anonymous said...

It is kinda funny about waterfalls. I've taken few decent pictures of them myself. I can also relate to that "how did I get that old" sentiment. Every time I see a new pic of myself, I'm surprised. Some protective delusion must occur when I look in the mirror. At fifty, I can really relate to that old saying, "Inside every 50 year-old man is a fifteen year-old boy looking in the mirror and saying, 'What the hell happened.'"
Hal Johnson

Bob Barbanes said...

So right you are, Hal! I don't feel fundamentally different than when I was a kid, but pictures don't lie. I try to hang around younger people in a (misguided?) effort to "stay young." I know I'm already on my way to grumpy-old-manhood, but I'd like to delay the total onset for as long as possible. Our industry seems to foster it, which is just one of the reasons I had to quit flying full-time. I didn't want to become PHI pilot ________________(fill in the blank - I'm sure you can).