Dida said we were going to spend Sunday morning “walking around town.”
“That sounds nice and low-key,” I thought. It’s a great little town and I wouldn’t mind the break.
“What should we bring?” Sean and I asked.
“Oh you don’t really need to bring anything,” said Dida.
“What about a swimsuit?” I asked, wanting to be prepared for whatever.
“Well of course you’ll need a swimsuit. You always need a swimsuit with you.”
That should have been my first clue not to trust Dida.
What was described to us as “walking around town” turned into an epic hike in the high places above Lençóis. As we passed the hours pulling ourselves up steep, rocky paths, it occurred to me I should not have brought the extra bag containing a towel and change of clothes, dangling and bouncing against my neck, along with the heavy camera backpack. I felt like a pack mule in flimsy sandals.
“So, Dida,” I said as we scaled a boulder. “In what feasible way can this be described as ‘walking around town?’”
“What?” Dida said. “We are walking around town. This is walking around town.”
The thing is, the hike was incredible. Every part of it was filled with striking scenery. Dida brought along two other tourists, both from Spain: a doctor and a short guy whose occupation I forgot. Together we went first to the area just above town, where water flowed across rock shelves, pocked with small pools. Sunbathers and splashing children were spread thick across the scene.
As we climbed higher, we hit green-water pools and cold waterfalls, stopping to swim or admire the views of Lençóis and the jungle valleys below. We hiked and hiked, passing through shade and hot sun, the colors surrounding us a palette or tan, rust orange, and ever-vibrant green. By the time we made it back to town for lunch, my sandals had come apart. I had first bought them on the island of Hainan (China). It was fitting they’d die in another foreign land.
We swam and slid away the afternoon. A mile or so walk from the opposite side of the town, there are more rocky pools, these ones filled with ominous black water that felt like it could suck you down at any moment. The pools are fed by a thin flow of water across an incline of rock; essentially a giant Slip n’ Slide. And I loved it, despite the bruises I acquired on my tailbone as I found higher and higher spots to launch myself down.
It rained throughout dinner. It rained all night and all the next morning. I watched it as I gently rocked in the balcony hammock, overlooking rooftops and trees. I read, I watched, I napped. I thought about what I’d be doing if I was 6,000 miles away, back in California. Nothing like this.