Chasing Waterfalls

14 Nov

The alarm clock went off on Sunday morning at what seemed like mere minutes after my head had hit the pillow.  After a late night dancing at the discoteca my beauty rest was being sacrificed because Yun, Vero, our Liman buddies Fernando and Jean, Vero’s visiting friend Camille, and I had made plans to visit the nearby Catarata de Huacamaillo — a scenic local waterfall that we had been told would be a pleasant 45 minutes with a hired guide.

We met up at the colectivo station near my house, squeezing the 6 of us into one taxi by having Fernando and I sit in the trunk.  The ride to the town of San Antonio de Cumbaza actually wasn’t uncomfortable, though along the way we encountered yet another one of the vigilante groups in this area manning a makeshift roadblock.  It’s pretty customary here to see these groups, often featuring a few armed men and some assorted hangers-on, stopping all cars and asking (demanding) for small donations (bribes) before they let you pass.  The vigilantes claim they are providing security on the road — the idea being, I suppose, that legitimized highway robbers are better than the alternative.

Fording the River > Caulking the Wagons and Floating

The hike itself was a lot of fun, reminiscent in many ways of Great Falls back home in the D.C. area with big rock scrambles and a trail following a river.  That said, it was very different from what we were anticipating, thanks to us not hiring a guide and the route being entirely unmarked and often difficult to make out.  Also, the previous two days of torrential rains had turned the tiny stream intersecting the trail in several places into something else entirely — we had to wade through waist or even chest-high water during multiple crossings of the Cumbaza River, clambered over huge and slippery boulders, squelched through mud, and frequently lost the proper trail.  Luckily, the nearest we came to an Oregon Trail-style disaster was Yun losing a sandal and Fernando falling headlong into the water during separate crossings.  But after roughly 3 hours, we finally reached our destination.

Catarata de Huacamaillo, just around the corner

The catarata was great — one thin but powerful stream of water cascading from a cliff maybe some 75 feet high, forming a natural swimming pool in a little alcove at its base.  The icy cold water shocked, but was refreshing, and we spent over an hour relaxing here, including taking turns diving from some of the lower rock ledges beside and behind the waterfall.  Height-wise, it may not have been too much– 15 feet? –but the roar of the waterfall, and knowing you had to clear the rocks at the base of the wall, added a good bit of fear.

I also had an unfortunate incident when trying to climb up the wet face of a rock wall from a particularly difficult angle.  At one point, reaching to swing up onto a ledge, I slipped — and acutely heard some girls on the opposite side of the alcove scream in horror.  I slid a few feet down the face of the rock, scraping my chest and legs, but was luckily able to then steady myself.  Unfortunately in the process it felt like I had sandpapered off my left nipple, with the left side of my chest very red and sore.  Thankfully, it wasn’t a more serious injury, even if I was left quite sensible (sensitive) in that area–much to the amusement of the others.

YouTube Saves Lives (aka How Not to Blow Yourself Up)


Surprisingly, nearly falling off a rock wall probably wasn’t my most dangerous experience of the weekend.  Because on Saturday, I decided to make banana nut bread at home.  I turned the dial on my oven (first time using it) to preheat, and started to mix the ingredients in a bowl.  Just then, I realized I didn’t have any eggs, so I decided to dash out to the bodega down the block to get some.  They were out, but I got them at another store on the next street and headed back, and so was gone for only ~15 minutes.

I thought I detected the smell of gas as I opened the door to my house, but didn’t think it too unusual, attributing it to what I assumed the customary smell of the oven.  I set the groceries down on my table, and then thought to myself I might as well get dinner started too — which would require lighting a match to start the pilot light of the stovetop. Luckily I didn’t, because as I stood over the stove, I realized I didn’t sense any heat coming from the oven door.  Sure enough, I opened it, and it was still ice cold inside.  And that there were no heated coils on the oven walls.  Suddenly I realized the gas smell was overwhelming.  I could feel my eyes burning and it seemed like my skin was tingling.  Something wasn’t right.

I quickly turned the oven off, and ran to open all the windows and doors.  The air in the house was thick with gas.  I sat outside my front door, waiting for it to dissipate… which took a good 20 minutes or so.  In the meanwhile, I discovered my error by doing a Google search for “how to start a gas oven” and landing upon the above YouTube video.

That’s how I learned that what I’d been doing was not preheating my oven, but in fact just releasing a ridiculous amount of my gas tank into the house.  Properly, I should have released the gas for a second or two while using a match to light the tiny hole–unnoticeable if one weren’t looking expressly for it–in the bottom of the oven, which in turn lights the huge fire underneath the oven.

OK, perhaps that’s obvious and elementary to many of you.  But I was a little relieved to find out since that I’m not the only one who’s had a close call with this!  And for the record, after taking some time to slowly exhale and make sure I wasn’t gas-woozy, I went ahead and made the banana nut bread.  It turned out pretty good.

How to Smell Like Zorro

Given my close calls with danger and death, you might reasonably think that a rugged gentleman such as myself would exude from every pore an intoxicating, irresistible scent that women love and men envy.  And while that may be the case, the pair of insufferable 100-degree days we had at the end of last week got me thinking that perhaps cologne wasn’t a terrible idea.

I don’t think it’s something that’s very common around here, but I knew of one reliable place that would have it: good ol’ Nakamura, a grocery/department store that’s probably Tarapoto’s fanciest retail joint.  It’s where I’d gone to buy a baking pan on Saturday (scroll back up for how that turned out), and where I found a shelf offering a selection of scents primarily consisting of 3 brands: Adidas, Playboy, and… Antonio Banderas.

Stroke of luck!  But wait — what’s with all the choices?  “Diavolo”, “Seduction in Black”, “Seduction in Blue” — or another smell purportedly endorsed by the famous Spaniard?  I just want to smell like the dashing caped crusader who got with Catherine Zeta-Jones, damnit!  Perhaps this cologne line was another crass celebrity money grab, along the lines of, say, making Puss In Boots

So, no A.B. for me.  And no way I wanted to smell like anything Hugh Hefner thinks is a good idea.  The label might as well have read “This cologne evokes the scent of cigars, an aged cognac, and girls with chest implants and daddy-issues.”  Adidas for me, then!  So that’s what I bought.

The only potential downside to my new scent was the reaction of the salesgirl, who had patiently been assisting me with trying several of the scents.  I had to admit, I don’t exactly like the Adidas one myself… and when I asked her to smell my arm and give her opinion, she gamely took a sniff.  This was followed by a crinkled face, mouth pucked as if having just eaten a lemon, eyes stinging… and she bravely managed to choke out “poco fuerte” (“little strong”).

Well, can’t win ’em all.

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5 Responses to “Chasing Waterfalls”

  1. nj November 15, 2011 at 12:35 am #

    First stanza – A (I liked the part about you slipping off the rock ledge…reminded me of Mission Impossible 2.)
    Second stanza – A (Remember when our 607 apartment smelled like gas thanks to our leaky fireplace?)
    Third stanza – C (Cologne shopping? You could have done the same at Rugged Wearhouse in College Park. Unimpressed.)

  2. mshofnos November 15, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    After reading the part about “sandpapering” your nipple, I was hoping that the gas would have ignited your nipple, too.

  3. Andrew T November 15, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

    I’m petrified of nipple chafing. Once it starts it’s a vicious circle.

    Yay Great Falls!

    I knew how to relight a stove pilot, but not an oven; thanks for that info. Also, the guy in that video has a strangely inspiring voice.

    Finally: They actually say Puss in Boots was pretty good.

  4. neha November 18, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    i heard of a guy who tried to go down niagara falls in a barrel once…didn’t end too well for him. but i guess cliff-diving into a smaller one is a little different- sounds super ridic!

  5. jen December 4, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    haha oh man, a CP rugged warehouse reference. wow.

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