Armed with nothing except the pithy beam of a dying headlamp, ill-fitting cheap plastic flip-flops and the will to NOT pay for a taxi cab, Matt and I tromp unwittingly into danger in the complete darkness on the road leading out of Santa Teresa in hopes of finding Shangri-La. We heard that the hot springs on the edge of town were amazing . . . and open late . . . and sparsely populated after the 8 o´clock hour.
Rudely awakened from my pre-hot springs nap by the cry of, ¨Ultimo combi para los aguas calientes!¨ or Last combi to the hot springs, I wipe the drool off my face, grab a sarong and get out the door, but the combi is long gone. A cab offers to drive us there, wait for a couple of hours and drive us back, but the charge is steep and I don´t want to be locked into a finite amount of time at the hot springs.
So, we decide to walk it. As soon as we leave the sparse light of the boomtown of Santa Teresa, the sharp rocks in the dark road begin to poke through our flip-flops. ¨Have I mentioned how much I fucking HATE flip-flops??!¨ Matt says over and over, laughing. Turns out that we were like babes in the woods. We had no clue how dangerous that boulder filled road was. Sure, I had an inkling . . . after all, we were walking down a steep grade.
I ponder for a moment how we are going to get back up the mountain after a few hours of relaxing in the hot springs, but then dismiss it. I find that these types of details usually just take care of themselves. I also have no bathing suit with me, but I don´t care about that either . . . We have no cares in the world . . . well, except the rocks that are tattering our lilly white toes . . . but we are laughing about that too.
We stumble down the dark road for nearly forty minutes. We know we are getting close because we see the lights to the hot springs looming in the distance. I see a car above us, twisting and turning slowly on the road, and can hear the crunch of rock beneath the tires. ¨Hey,¨ I say to Matt. ¨Watch out, there´s a car coming . . . it´s far away, though.¨ And on we walk.
Suddenly, the car comes around a tight curve and is very close. ¨Here it comes!¨ I said as I point my weak head lamp light toward the edge of the road so we can find a spot to wait as the car passes. Unfortunately, we are walking on the right-hand edge of the road, the side facing the wide open canyon. Obviously, we weren´t thinking . . . otherwise we would have been walking on the left-hand side of the road, the safe side of the road, the side built up against the mountain.
It all happened so fast. The car swings around the curve. We are in the head lights and a split second later as the headlights speed past . . . Matt disappears. I hear him grunt and in the last second of the car´s light, I see his head disappear right off the edge of the road. I have no idea how far he fell . . .
I scream as the car passes us in a flurry of dust and red tail lights. ¨Matt!¨ I yell. I am shaking. I am scared. The car grinds to a halt. The doors fly open and silhouettes of people run toward me. By the time the people get to me, Matt is up, on the road and has only one flip-flop on his foot.
¨Todo bien?¨ the people ask over and over again. Someone retrieves the lost flip-flop. Matt wasn´t even aware that he was standing in the road with only one shoe. Someone points to a cut on his toe, but he´s not aware of that either. Other than a bit groggy, thankfully, he seems OK.
But then he says, ¨Shine the light here,¨ and lifts up his shirt to reveal an already dark purple mass on his ribcage about 6¨ wide.
He escaped with no broken ribs, only a deep tissue bruise. Good thing we were on our way to the hot springs . . . he thinks that´s what saved him from what should have been really painful. It all turned out OK. The family who stopped to help us gave us a lift to the hot springs and took us home later too. I am conviced they are the nicest people in Santa Teresa – and the mom runs a kickin´ juice stand during the day.
¨What were you thinking?¨I ask Matt later. ¨Why did you run ahead, out of the beam of the flashlight?¨
¨Well,¨ he replied. ¨I was just trying to get out of the way, so I stepped into the darkest spot on the side of the road.¨
We went back to the springs the next day while it was still daylight. Let´s just say it´s a good thing that he didn´t fall when we were high up on the mountain road, because there was nothing but sheer cliff edge for most of the way to the springs. He fell off the lowest part of the road, the part nearly level with the valley floor. The hole he fell in was the only hole in the entire stretch of road – a 6´ square man-made hole of layered rock probably used for water drainage.
The next day as we slurped freshly blended juice, the kind juice lady asked, ¨What are you all doing today . . . he´s probably hurting bad.¨
¨Going on a hike, ¨I said. ¨I can´t believe it either, but he wants to go climb a mountain.¨
¨Ooooh,¨ the juice lady smiled, ¨A macho man.¨