Allow me to paint a picture. It was a beautiful overcast day, as far as we knew. You see, we couldn’t actually see the sky. The trees around us created a ceiling over the water and rocks below – the sky could have been falling and we wouldn’t have known.
The locals call it Finca El Paraíso, but I’m just a boy from the America that didn’t bother learning a lick of Spanish before planting my feet in Guatemala with my girlfriend for a week. So I went with gringo lingo and called it Hot Springs Falls.
And the cascading hot water definitely put a spring in ya boy’s step.
Sorry, for that. Sometimes I try to fit in with my generation, but I always sound weird when trying. So, I’ll try to refrain for you.
At the top, there is a natural hot spring. Let me tell you, this pool and creek combination was HOT! But it doesn’t stop people from sitting around in it. Those more well-endowed than me can talk with the locals. So, Alex got to converse, while I added to the conversation where I could.
Like when Alex said a string of words, one of which was “Kentucky”, and they all looked at me and one of the locals said something while pointing at me and I got to say “yes, Kentucky” while pointing at myself.
Everyone laughed. I’m pretty sure everyone was laughing at me, not with me, so I just smiled and sat there with my feet in the hot water.
And if you feel the need, you can follow the stream all the way to the source where the heated water comes to the surface, teaching you what hot water truly is while you rub warm mud all over your face and body.
But getting to this beautiful spring isn’t the easiest task. You have to climb about 30 feet up rocks and tree roots over the caves by the falls. Which all sounds nice and fun until you remember what lives in caves. Bats. Lots and lots of bats.
So, beyond the fear of a swarm of bats flying out at Alex or my head, knocking us off and causing us to crash into the rocks below, I’m fairly certain I reached for a root that retreated from the rocks to reveal a black snack coiled up in a hole. Only fairly certain because you can bet I said, “screw that”, let go of the root, grabbed something else and quickly got higher. You can also bet I did not mention this to Alex.
Now for the worst part… The fear of getting histoplasmosis the whole climb. I don’t know what this infection is, but I enjoy being healthy, so I’d rather not get it. I’ll knock on wood as soon as I get to the top where every inch of everything isn’t covered in bat droppings. The smell. The way your hands and feet feel. Yeah, I’ll most likely not make it back to the chicken bus.
So, you’ve made the trip to the top. Enjoyed a nice stew in a true human melting pot. Covered yourself in mud, that you’re still wearing. And now its time to get down.
This is where it hits you.
Thankfully, not the histoplasmosis – because I’ll be honest, when I reached the top I totally forgot to knock on wood. I was too busy rushing to the spring to wash my hands and feet. They didn’t have soap, but at least they had running hot water. More than I can say for most of the country.
But it hits you, there are only two ways down… Trying to climb down histoplasmosis road, avoiding snakes, swarms of bats attacking your head, and the 30 foot drop to the rocks below. No thank you.
Or you can jump off a freaking water fall into the rock and branch filled water below.
“Babe, let’s jump!” And with those words, it hits you… Your girlfriend has either gotten histoplasmosis or she has lost her God given mind.
I peer over the falls from 3 and a half feet from the edge. “I’ll take option 3 for $300, Alex.”
“There is no option 3?”
“Oh yes there is, I stay right up here.”
Well, it was nice knowing y’all, she’s about to make me commit suicide.
Imagine with me, your beautiful girlfriend standing in front of you wearing her bathing suit and a pair of tennis shoes. Totally covered with mud from her head to her ankles. And all you can see is her soft pink lips crack the mud on her cheeks as she cracks a smile while her blue eyes that pop out amongst all the brown decide it’s the perfect time to exercise as they run a lap.
“Come on Jack, it’ll be fun!”
“Okay, ladies first.” As I gesture towards the edge.
She laughs, but hey, I tried. “But if I go first and die, my dad will kill you.”
“But you see, if you go first and die there will be no one to take the money, so I’ll get option 3 for free, Alex.”
She laughs more, I must have a booger in my nose, because I’m serous. I’ll sit up here with $300. At some point I’d learn Spanish as I become a native of the springs.
She takes my hand in both of hers and lays her head on my chest, “how about we hold hands and go at the same time?”
I sigh, can’t tell her no. Though, literally, both of her hands are wrapped around my one hand. figuratively, I’m wrapped around her little finger.
“Okay, fine.” She kisses my cheek. Note to self, if we live this jump, don’t kiss her for a week to make sure her lips didn’t just contract histoplasmosis from the mud.
Hands locked, we walk over to the edge. All I can hear is my brain wheeling “Jack, no! Evacuate! Retreat! Fall back!”
“Promise you won’t let go?” I ask.
“I will never let go, Jack.” She answers with a smile. Why does that sound so familiar? “Count of three?”
“Better make it ten.”
“Good Lord, Jack.”
“Sorry, just making sure I actually jump.” She stares at me. “Ten’s my number babe.”
She shakes her head smiling as she faces our death.
She begins, “Uno, dos-“
“Woah, woah! What is this?”
“I’m counting to ten?”
“English! Alex! English!”
“You still can’t count to ten in Spanish?”
“Alex, I didn’t even know you were counting in Spanish.”
“Such a country boy babe. This is why you’re moving to San Diego after college.”
“We can talk about this later, for now, let’s die.”
She counts, “One, two, three…” Her words ring in my head “I will never let you go, Jack”.
“…Four, fix, six…” Where have I heard that before?
“…Seven, eight, nine..” The hot water our feet are submerged in sends a chill up my spine, and just then.
“Ten!” She jumps as I let go of her hand, like Rose did. Opps, she jumped after all.
I quickly jump in. The water is cold, for the river has a lot more water flowing than the falls is dropping.
I surface to a beautiful, shocked face with a little mud still caught in her hairline. “What was that?!”
“Sorry babe, last time a girl said ‘I will never let go, Jack’ left my boy shark bait.”
There’s another lap and smile. I’m safe as she swims back to the rocks. I’ve lived another day for either her or the land to snuff my torch.
I go over by the falls and find a long rock with people standing on it, there back in the falls. I join them and my body is so confused.
First off, the river has a water fall by this one. It’s only about three feet, but the whole river is going over it. The current here is strong and my belly button down is nice and cold.
But it’s topped off with the Hot Springs Falls going down my back so hot that I want to adjust the temperature, but this shared shower only has one temperature as all the rushing waters around me drown out the world.
I close my eyes as I allow my body to absorb this once in a lifetime experience as I think back to what lead me to this moment.
Until I feel a tap on my shoulder and open my eyes to a small kid pointing to the rocks. I glace over to see Alex dressed and waving me over.
I swim over and get out of the water as she tosses our, now damp, towel after she used it to me. I wipe the water off my body as I walk over to her and our bag. “We’ve got to hurry if we want to catch the next bus.”
“Okay babe.” I hand her the towel as I get my shirt out and slip it on. I then sit on the bench by an elder couple in their late 50s. I wipe my feet then begin to slip a pair of shoes on.
“Heaven must be a Kentucky kind of place, huh?” The woman asks. “What part did you visit?”
“I’m from Danville, it’s in the center of the state.”
“So am I.” The man says. “We live in Lexington now.”
“No way. Did you go to Danville or Boyle?”
“I guess I can forgive you since we’re so far from home. Who are your parents?”
Just then, Alex bursts out laughing as the three of us face her. She covers her mouth, still laughing, “I’m sorry, that’s just such a southern question.”
I smile, she’s so right but I never noticed until my city girlfriend pointed it out. “Sorry, she’s a Cali girl.” I wink at her, and she points her tongue at me. “Billy and Lisa Henry, but you wouldn’t know them. They went to Danville.”
“I knew quiet a few kids from Danville.”
“Well…” I pause to think of the right words. “ I think they may be a little younger. MY parents had me at a very young age.”
“I believe he’s saying we are old, Herb.” She smiles. Of course he’s name is Herb.
“How old are they?” he asks.
“They are 44 and 46.”.
She giggles “So yeah, a little younger.”
I smile and echo her, “Just a little”.
I finish tying my shoes, say it’s nice to meet them but we have a bus to catch. And we left Finca El Paraíso having nearly died and inadvertently calling a nice Kentucky couple old. But we took with us an experience we’d never forget.