The Stuff of Nightmares

Next Thursday, Demyan, James, and I converge on Ft Lauderdale, FL where we will provision, and head south to the Glades, (or near enough that it doesn’t matter). We will use all of the equipment that we have accumulated for this trip thus far on a weekend sailing trip that will acquaint us and Steadfast to the Caribbean Sea.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been to the Glades.

Rewind to the end of August… a portion of my life that will haunt my dreams for the rest of my days. Despite the fact that now, merely 1 month later, I can’t even remember the date.

Imagine the hum of electronics whirring around you in a server room. It’s a low hum, but friendly, ready to make your life easier or frustrate you to no end depending on your computer literacy. Imagine that sound, but menacing, like the sound of electricity running through wires when you flip on a lights switch. There is a hint of danger to it. Furthermore it hates you like a Cylon would hate any human. Moreover, it wants your blood, it’s hungry, and nothing would sate its hunger like tearing into your soft flesh. It wants you to suffer. Now imagine there are millions of them… no, more… billions.They have you surrounded and under siege while you curse their existence and wonder how thick a hammock has to be for a mosquito to not be able to snack on you. Your mind plays tricks on you and you slap at yourself as you swear they are in the hammock with you. Every inch of bare skin is covered with poison ivy… no, not poison ivy… that’s just what it feels like. A rash… it has to be… there is no way you got bit by that many mosquitoes… right? Wherever your tainted skin touches the parachute cloth of the hammock, it gets irritated. Part of the ominous hum differentiates itself from the rest, and you swear the bastard is about to fly into your ear. You thrash in your hammock and find your skin touching the bug net and instantly recoil as if you had burnt your skin. You re-position yourself in your cocoon. Your hands twitch as you long for your nails to furrow your skin as a parched man on a beach might long for a drink, you and he both know that fulfilling that desire does no good. You resign yourself to sleep and close your eyes. Suddenly, you are back in the server room, the lights are on, and a billion Cylons want to tear you apart and eat you. Your stupid brain won’t turn off, and the cycle begins again.

Go ahead and say it… “You are going to a swamp, wear bug spray”. That is like saying, “You are going to absolute zero, grab a sweater”. No amount of bug spray will save you from the psychological terror. If they ever move Git-mo, this will be one of the fore-running candidates along with the South Pole, Canada, and Mordor.

James, who can vouch for this hellish experience, and I used a 6 oz bottle of 100% deet bug spray in less than 18 hours.

To be fair, we made mistakes… We could have avoided the Cylons by camping in a better place. We camped at a site called “Lard Can” which should have told us all we needed to know. It was a ground campsite that had been carved out of the center of a mangrove. When we returned our rental canoe (Steadfast was in Missouri or something) the Eastern European refugee hippie woman piteously shook her head when we told her and said “Lard Can is bad in the winter”.

We should have picked a chickee campsite (a raised and covered platform in the middle of the water). We wouldn’t have had the same exposure to mosquitoes out on the water, but horse flys would still take their pound of flesh (I have never meant that more literally).

We should have worn long sleeves that are thin, and light colors. That may have warded off some of the mosquitoes as well.

We should have stayed in James’s apartment, where air-conditioning creates an oasis in the hell that is south Florida.

Instead we rented a canoe, from what looked like a hippie conclave, and plopped it down at a canoe trail in the everglades called “Hell’s Bay” (we just weren’t taking the hints), and proceeded to get eaten alive.

I will grudgingly admit that the canoe trail is awesome. If you want to learn to paddle a canoe, this trail is equivalent to jumping off the deep end. Its full of switch backs, and at times, you are pushing off of mangroves  more often then dipping your paddle in the water. It’s serene, but unfortunately, we saw little wildlife to speak of. Birds fly above, but they tend to stay in the larger mangroves. We often times saw splashes or ripples from something that was large: potentially an otter, probably a fish. Gators and crocs generally stay out of the mangroves, so we didn’t see any of those either. We noticed a few game trails that may have belonged to boar through some of the mangroves. We got off at the first one to stretch our legs and answer nature’s call. No sooner did I begin to relieve my self, a swarm of Cylons fell upon us. The terror of having to decide between emptying a full bladder or saving your skin (again, in the most literal way possible). Lard Can was 3.1 miles in, and a mere .4 miles deeper was a chickee site that, put simply, wouldn’t have sucked so bad (I can’t stress enough how literal I am being).

Nevertheless, I am apprehensive.

Despite all the learning that came from that sojourn, learning that will make this trip at least a bit more bearable, I still hated it. The prayer is that these trips combined will hopefully serve to learn us enough to make NicaraguaC2C survivable.

-Alex

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