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Back Dive off a Gorge

Oct 13, 2007

The border guards were chasing her through the jungle.  She could hear their angry curses but couldn't see more than few shadows in front of herself in the dark, let alone see where they were behind her.

Jena stumbled over a sharp edged rock and went down hard into a muddy area below just as a flash light beam passed through the air she had just vacated. 

She let out a quick but deep breath and she was up and moving again.  A little more quickly as she had fallen out of the tree line just a bit into a marshier and slightly open area.  It wasn't very wide across, and she knew that she had to cross it before the soldiers caught up with the beam emanating from the flashlights mounted below their rifles.

Well, despite her fall and long night, she was a world class sprinter.  She took off with her knees reaching high almost like she were back in a specialized training camp for the Olympics.  In a strange mix of high stepping and sprinting for her life, she managed to get across the 100 meter marsh in about 25 seconds.  It seemed like an eternity as she ran, her internal sprinting clock honed over the years ticking off every second, but in short order she was in the far tree line.

She proceeded to work her way up what should be a ridge, that would take her to an awaiting jeep. 

Farley better be there, she thought to herself, with a touch of anger as she thought of the vagabond that had never been anywhere he was supposed to be on time, but always managed to make things right with a little impossible luck.

She hit the top of the ridge and almost faltered when she didn't see the road.  Then she noticed that she was on a small ridge just below the main ridge, a fold in the hill top.  She ran across and up to the real ridge and found the road.

She was now exposed on the road and the ridge top to the moon, which was out from the clouds and shining very bright.  She could see the bottom of the hill and the marsh she had traversed earlier had 2 dots of lights crossing it.

Probably following my muddy high stepping foot steps, Jena thought.

She could see down the ridge road and there was no jeep and no Farley.  She couldn't see as far up the ridge road as there was a slight corner about a mile up.

She took a quick breath and set out up the road.  The mile turned out to be about 2 miles.  Her eyes and the moon and landscape had been playing tricks on her eyes.  Just as she was preparing to round the corner, she heard something loud ping off the rock next to her and at the same time the sound of rifle fire caught up to her. 

She turned in time to see a flash of muzzle fire, and quickly hit the ground as a tree branch about five feet over her head took a round of lead.

She scuttled closer to the tree line on the road and started sprinting down the road away from danger.  Another half mile further and she had cleared the corner and could make out the the girders of an old wooden bridge ahead.  She couldn't see nor hear the soldiers yet, but didn't want to wait around much longer for them.

She ran up on the bridge preparing to run across, but slid up short as she realized two things.  One the bridge had collapsed ages ago and two, the bridge stood at the top of a gorge almost 100 feet above what could only be the Río Ulúa, the main river in Honduras that led to the Caribbean Sea.

She stood looking down the gorge for half a second trying to figure out how she might scale the wall and get away from the soldiers.  This section of the ridge was all rock and no trees.  There were no good places to hide and no paths of escape.

She thought she saw a place that might provide a path down.  She had to climb just below the bridge, going through a rotted section of timbers.  She reached the ledge and was trying to scale the wall sideways to the path.

She stopped short as she heard the soldiers boots running up and slide to a stop in the gravel.  She tried to still her heartbeat and suck in air as quietly as possible, but could swear that the thunder coming from her chest could possibly threaten the remaining foundation of the decrepit bridge.

Apparently, she had made a noise or the soldiers had spotted her fluorescent striped sweat shirt, some of the mud had dried and flaked off.

They called out a warning in Spanish and started to swing their rifles towards her. 

She didn't know what to do. 

They told her to raise her hands and she obliged.  She was trying to think fast and momentarily looked down.  She could tell that the ledge she stood on jutted out over the river.  The river was wide and deep, she knew this from her child hood knowledge of Honduras.  It was moving rather swiftly though.

In a moment, she had made her decision and leapt out backwards from the cliff.  She held herself calm and true as she executed a slow long flip.  She knew that from this height she could not dive hands first no matter how many medals she had won in diving.  The water was too fast and she was too high.

She hit the water feet first with her hands held at her side. 

The shock of the fall was stunning, but all her training kicked in as she pushed and kicked for the surface.  Her adrenaline was flowing very hard and her movements were paying off and then she was breathing.

She stroked down the river to get away from the soldiers and to stay afloat.  She was safe.

.....

An hour later, she was floating down stream holding onto a log, when a search light lit up on her.  She was through, that was it.  She had no more miracles left in her.

"I surrender," she said.

"Always knew you were a quitter," a familiar voice said. It was Farley.  "Never did understand how you managed to win all those medals."

"Farley, you ass!  Where were you?"

"Road blocks along the base of the mountain, so I went to plan B."

"We had no plan B!"

"I figured, odds were good that you would try and get to the river and make your way down stream to the Caribbean so that you could catch your ride."

She hadn't even really thought that far ahead, not even in the last hour while she was floating down stream. 

"Right.  You know me pretty well cousin."

---

The next morning she was in a cigar boat headed back to Belize.  She had been gone 48 hours from the resort. 

She had offered the unbelievable excuse that she wanted to hike and camp alone in the rain forest.  The host and hostess had both tried to talk her out of that as they thought for sure it would be too dangerous and they did not want a dead Olympic hero on their hands.

Eventually, they had partly relented and she had partly snuck away.  Later that afternoon, she got off the boat and caught a ride back to Belmopan, the capital of Belize formerly known as British Honduras.  From there she rented a land rover and drove back to Chaa Creek.

Her hosts came out to greet her and were very surprised to see her step out of the vehicle.

"We thought you were a goner," the owner said.

"I was fine, but you were right it was a lot more dangerous than I thought.  I got lost and ended up hitching a ride from a farmer that took me back into town where I got this vehicle. Next time, I'll listen to you."

"We are just so happy that you are ok." the hostess said with a very genuine smile.

"Well you promised an adventure vacation in your video and I have definitely had an some adventure travel over the last couple of days.  Next time, I'll stick to the adventures in the brochure!"

That night as she rested, soaking in a tub, the tears started to come.  Sergi, her son was alive!  It brought joy and grief at the same time.  She had thought him dead long ago, when the nuns had taken him from her.  Knowing that he was alive and now captive in Honduras was almost more than she could handle, but she would get him free and bring him home, to her new home in the United States.

It was time to start planning . . .

Chaa Creek Adventure Resort

 

WooHoo ed by Brett Bumeter at 7:45 PM  


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