Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Across the World Tour: Lenore Appelhans in Equador

What Is All This?

To celebrate the launch of Across the Universe on 1-11-11, we're going Across the World with guest posts of adventures from all over the world! This is all a part of the Across the World Tour. First, read the world adventure below. Then, click through to the adventurer's blog to find a letter.

Why a letter? Because the letters--when unscrambled--form a password. And the password opens up the secret page (LOOK for it above). And on the secret page is lots of goodies--secret information about the origins of the book, hidden Easter eggs, and...a entry form to win a prize of a signed ARC of Across the Universe, star swag, and MORE.

Today's Adventurer

Lenore is the author of the amazing book review website, Presenting Lenore. Not only does she read WAY more than I ever could, she also reads all the best stuff. There are three book bloggers online whose opinion that I trust implicitly--if they rec a book, I buy it without question. Lenore is one of those book bloggers. She's always given completely honest reviews, amazingly interesting author interviews, and and AND she has adorable cats that she posts pictures of!

Lenore is also the brains behind Zombie Chicken Ratings during her Dystopian month on her blog--if you still need a reason to check her out, go look at her list of dystopians and Zombie Chicken ratings for the past Dystopian Month!

Lenore in Equador
At 18, I went to Ecuador for a year with AFS. I had a ton of adventures there, but the most memorable was my Mindo waterfall adventure.

My host brother, Alex, had a close group of guy friends who went camping together in various locations around the country. They had never invited a girl to go with them. I started dating one of these friends, Santiago, the guy who would be become my first long term boyfriend. Santiago and another guy from the group, Pato, decided to go on a camping trip to Mindo – a subtropical rainforest area, not too far from Ecuador’s capital Quito, known for its great bird watching. I begged them to take them with me, and they finally agreed. With one caveat: I was not allowed to complain and I had to do everything they did. If I couldn’t hold to this agreement, they would never invite a girl along on their trips again.

Getting to Mindo

Early one December morning, the three of us took a bus going west and hopped off at a dirt road that led to central Mindo town. We were soon met by a guide who showed us a photo album full of Mindo's attractions, the highlight of which was a monster waterfall. He showed us pictures of various people happily jumping from the top of the 15 meter high waterfall, and told us that he would lead us there himself so we could jump too. My response: “Umm, no thank you!” My companions’ response: “That sounds awesome, of course we’ll ALL do it!” Uh oh…

Through the woods and over the slippery bridge...

The hike to the waterfall area took about 3 hours and was fairly easygoing. When we arrived, I discovered that I would have to cross over the river (that turned into the waterfall about 20 meters down) using a bridge made out of a felled tree! It looked slippery and although there was a handrail, it was broken. I was deathly afraid, but nevertheless, crawled across slowly (It would be even more dangerous the next day, I soon learned).

Check out the bridge, the guide (with the green backpack) and the guys…

The waterfall of doom

Once we deposited our backpacks at the hut, it was time to face the waterfall. It was slow going across the COLD river to a big rock at the head of the waterfall, due to the slippery rocks and the strong current. Once we made it, the guide instructed us to climb down a rope to a flat place in the rock from where it would be safe to jump.

Santiago went first. His hands gripped the rope, but his feet slipped from the rock, leaving him hanging. The guide told him just to let go, and so he did, dropping down the waterfall and plunging into the river below. It took what seemed like forever for him to surface, but finally he did. We breathed sighs of relief.

Pato was next. He made it to the ledge without slipping and jumped. He also took a long time to surface.

Then it was my turn. I couldn't go back, so there was only one way down. But I was afraid I would also slip, and did not want to use the rope. The guide said I could just sit and propel myself forward, as if I were on a waterslide. So I pushed off, sliding a bit before falling down the 15 meters and hitting the water. I struggled to surface. The weight of the water coming down was preventing me from coming up for air, and it was stronger than the current that could pull me to safety. I was drowning. I saw my life flash before my eyes. At the last possible second, I pushed my way out of the water and breathed in air, beautiful air.

The guide apologizes

After the guide jumped (and also almost drowned), the four of us exchanged our near-death experiences. The guide admitted that no one has ever jumped during the rainy season, and in fact, he supposed it really was too dangerous due to the massive volume of water and he wouldn't recommend it anymore.. Umm.. thanks!

The guide went back to town, and we stayed overnight in a lovely jungle hut, occasionally commenting on the abundant bird life, but mostly shell-shocked.

It rained the whole night. We awoke with the sunrise and packed up to go back to town. The fallen tree bridge now was now extremely slippery. One false move and we'd fall into the river, heavy backpacks and all, and be swept over the waterfall. This time we'd likely not make it.

Somehow though, we got over the bridge without incident, and proceeded through the forest on the trail. Unfortunately, the dirt trail had turned into deep, slimy mud. The mud sucked my shoes right off of my feet so many times, I just decided to go barefoot. By the time we made it back to town, I was covered in mud up past my knees. The guide was surprised to see us. He said he figured we probably died, and he was about to hike out there to see. Thanks again.

Getting back to Quito

We caught the 9 am milk truck that could take us back to the highway. The road was rather bumpy, so by the time we reached the highway, the milk from the large open containers had sloshed all over us.

The next task was to hitch a ride, rather difficult considering we were covered with mud and milk. But two military guys let us ride in the back of their pick-up, along with about 13 native Quechua people. I shivered the whole way.

The first thing I did when I got back to Quito? Take a shower.

All this without one complaint from me. I proved myself, and therefore was invited along on further "guy only" trips. But the stories from those adventures are for another day.

Go Across the Blogosphere!
The adventure's not over yet! Go to Lenore's site to find the first letter in the password to the secret page. Collect all the letters in the first two weeks of November for a chance to win a signed ARC, star-swag, and pin-buttons!

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