Christopher Vito: Hiking in the Rainforest

chris7So it occurred to me that I haven’t blogged about the rainforest yet, even though we went there a little over 2 weeks ago. It was actually the day before we went to the beaches. I really have no idea why or how it didn’t occur to me to make a post about it, because it’s definitely a worthwhile topic.

Anyway, on September 28th, we went on a 2 hour hike through the rainforest, our first experience seeing the nature around here. We started outside a mountain village called Basilé. Further up the mountain is the highest peak on the island, Pico Basilé, which we’ll be going to THIS Saturday. My first experience in the rainforest was definitely one of the most incredible moments of my life. My whole life I’ve read about and seen pictures of rainforests, from children’s books to textbooks to scientific journals, but this time I was actually THERE. I was in the clouds, seeing mist and trees and fantastic plants and animals that look like nothing I’ve ever seen (okay, some of them look similar to stuff back at home, but that’s not the point). We didn’t get to see any monkeys, but we did see strange ants, trees with 10-foot tall roots, giant ground snails, a python, strange termite mounds, 10-inch earthworms, giant hairy-looking pine trees with leaves larger than people, other trees with leaves larger than people, vines galore, and all sorts of gorgeous flowers. The hike was long and there were many muddy, steep inclines and declines, and every second of it was awesome. Just about the only bad part: while crossing a stream I chose a route which involved me grabbing a small shrubby plant, which was apparently home to quite a few ants. And those ants really did not want me touching their home. Once I was halfway across the stream, I started noticing bites. And then I started noticing a ton of bites. This was not pleasant. Within 30 seconds I’d ripped off my shirt and was aggressively brushing off my arms and shoulders. I then proceeded to angrily dunk my shirt in the stream and shake it around with fury. Once I was sure they were all drowned, I stepped out of the stream and tried to dry myself (and my shirt) off as best as I could. I spent the last hour of the trip in my sleeveless undershirt, which wasn’t too bad since it was very hot and sticky and there weren’t really any flies biting.
We walked through some areas of the forest where crops were being grown in lines, including tomatoes, a tuber called malanga, habaneros, and some other strange berry like things. The fruit of some palm trees is harvested for palm oil as well. Towards the end of our hike, we came across an old abandoned cacao plantation. We got to walk through some pretty cool old ruins–concrete structures with moss essentially forming a carpet over every possible surface. I guess most of the buildings had been destroyed and stripped of any valuable materials; remnants of an industry destroyed by political strife and the discovery of oil being retaken by the forest.
Overall, it was an incredible hike, which ended with a sweeping view of half the island atop some dilapidated concrete staircases.

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