Saturday, December 25, 2010

In the Mighty Rain-soaked Christmas Jungle

Not bringing a raincoat on my semi-annual Yuletide jungle hike was pretty stupid.

It might just put the ill in ill-advised. Easy to get super-soaked when you're caught in the rain down here.

You catch a chill -- and then your death. I've heard about it.

The temperature is plummeting. Clouds are wreathing hilltops. Wood smoke shows up sniffable in the breeze. It's as close to an white island Christmas as we're going to get.

The first year I spent on Roatan, naturally, I was in the sea much of the time.

Now I find myself, more and more, pulled into "the backyard"  -- a expanse of thick, undeveloped jungle that abuts this house. Back in the gulley today, it was dark and almost silent.

When the rain first started, it made the tippy-top of the tree canopy vibrate and hum ever so slightly. You could hear the rain coming over the ridge from Flowers Bay.

Then the forest darkened even more. The rain started penetrating the canopy and the ground was getting wet and slippery.

I was halfway between the gulley floor and the ridgetop. I wanted to go up but it was time to come down.

Timing is the key in these matters. I was far from home in a torrential rainy-season downpour.

It's hard to describe if you haven't lived through a tropical winter. The rain comes down not in showers but from these massive, industrial sized pressure-nozzles, each one bigger than the mouth of a 55-gallon drum.

And they all see fit to pump eleventy-quadzillion oceanfuls of water every hundredth of a nano-second.

That's how you get soaked to the skin.
Or is it to the bone?
In contrast to some other Roatan jungle enthusiasts, I must report that while there are no dangerous animals up in the bush (the boas aren't looking for you), there are a ton of dangerous trees.

They're not poisonous, but they can hurt you so badly they might as well be.

There are four or five kinds of these nasty, evil trees, but here is one I encountered today. Hikers are well-advised to steer completely clear of these bad mofos.

These trees are the reason no sandals or open-toed footwear of any kind should be worn up in the jungle. See those spikes? They'll go straight through a tennis shoe, and the results are far from pleasant.

I have heard this called a black palm or a supa. Those spikes are 3-4 inches long and incredibly sharp.

Along with the "bark," which can (and often does) shear off the side of the tree, this is a  truly unforgettable thing to step on.

No doubt the spikes have been used as poison-tipped darts.

I suppose there's a tropical tree scientist who could shed more light on these angry trees, with murder in their hearts of palm.

I have heard this this called "The Owie Tree." Here's a close-up: