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into the wilderness

I set off through the jungle and the road is manageable, if not relaxing. No one state lasts for so long that it is completely overwhelming.

Muddy, muddy, muddy. The road is negotiable but not at all relaxing.

So the day passes, negotiating patches of mud and fending off clouds of mosquitoes while toucans flap from tree to tree overhead, turkeys, guans and carassows stalk across the track and monkeys chatter and rant above me, clearly indignant at my presence. My fondness for spider monkeys becomes somewhat tempered by their propensity to hurl missiles out of the canopy at unwanted passersby.

The spider monkeys are less impressed by my presence than I am by theirs. They shriek abuse at me while shaking their fists and hurling missiles from above.

Not all the wildlife is so confrontational. A frog sits calmly in a log.

Antonio has given me what seemed like clear instructions on the route but they appear hazier in the forest than they did at his table. I am counting off turns to the left but I am unsure exactly what counts as turn as opposed to an unremarkable path. Additionally the road splits and branches around boggy sections and then reunites on the other side of the obstacle but sometimes the diversion wanders from the main stream for long enough for me to start wondering if I am heading into uncharted jungle.

Getting lost out here would be problematic and I’m not sure if any of the people who know of my plans are sufficiently invested in my welfare to ever know if I make it to the other side or not. I’m sure news will filter through eventually but I’m not certain how fast. However, I have enough water for two days and enough food for four and I imagine that even if I can’t find my way to Dos Lagunas, my first pit-stop, then I should still be able to find my way back to Uaxactun.

However, a sign duly appears – it says Dos Lagunas and has a neatly hand carved wooden arrow painted yellow hanging below pointing to the left. I am torn, though. I thought there was one more left hand turn to pass but this sign is so authoritative.  Leaves cover the track and the trees lean in overhead. Antonio told me not to take the second path because although it does go to Dos Lagunas the road is steep and round about… but why would anyone place such a beautiful sign directing people the wrong way.

Who knows? Another one of life’s unanswerable questions.

It's a beautiful sign. It's a shame that it points the wrong way.

So, obediently, foolishly, I follow the sign and the track gets steeper and steeper and, as it gets more and more overgrown, darker and darker. Moments of doubt assail me and I contemplate again what might happen if I get hopelessly lost alone in the jungle, anxiously calculating available food and water and days needed to retrace my footsteps but ultimately I am reassured by the fact that it is hard to get hopelessly lost if you are following paths or roads. You might not be able to get to where you want to go but usually it is possible to return to where you came from.

The jungle teems with boundless life, much of it in the form of biting insects. The environment is not so much hostile as magnificently indifferent to human needs. As I struggle to haul myself, my bike and my belongings along the punishing track I feel that I am indeed alone in the wilderness. There is nowhere to stop and rest, the only place where it is possible to sit is in the middle of the road itself, where it is not a foot deep in mud and to stop is to be besieged by insects. Mosquitoes whine all around me, ants swarming over the ground sting and bite.

The canopy closes overhead; there is no vista, no way to see the lie of the land or the scope of the forest, but just when it starts to feel relentless another sign comes into view and I go on. The track begins to descend again and eventually I arrive at Dos Lagunas as the shadows lengthen and sun finally loses its sting.

I was beginning to seriously consider retracing my footsteps to the last junction when I came upon this second clue indicating the potential proximity of Dos Lagunas.

Finally, I arrive. This is one of the two lagoons referred to in the name Dos Lagunas. Those inviting waters, home to lurking crocodiles, are sadly out of bounds.

Verdant green waters...

...with cute baby crocs lurking...

...and toucans above in the trees. (This is a Keen-billed Toucan.)

Dos Lagunas is one of the work camps where I hope to find some form of hospitality. I sit by the lagoon until a couple of workers appear. They are somewhat surprised to see me but welcoming enough. I cook my dinner over their kitchen fire and then collapse in my tent and sleep.

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