By Aribella Lafleur
The heady scent of frangipane clung in the air, dismissing all our mundane cares with the strength of its perfume. Submerged in the rugged wilderness, my merry band attacked the undergrowth with cutlasses, long knives, scimitars and… a spoon. At this juncture I felt an explanation of the correct usage of cutlery was required, and proceeded to lecture them on matters of table etiquette, after first confiscating the spoon.
The rainforest of Tzopelic Chantli yielded reluctantly to our fevered slashing, although after an hour we had made enough progress to see glimpses of red peeking through the foliage. Within a short space of time we broke through to a picturesque clearing overshadowed by a sweeping mountain range. We stepped out of the trees, heading towards a whimsical toadstool house, adjacent a droll little leaf swing, which was swaying gently in the faint breeze. Perched upon seats of bright fungi in the shade of the quaint dwelling, we supped on tea and crumpets….
With weapons in hand, we forged upward to the zenith. Reaching the summit, my drowsy company of marauders would go no further. Feeling no desire to weary myself with flogging them, I wandered around the peak, searching for a cool spot to stretch out my legs and rest. Without warning the ground beneath my feet caved way and I collapsed into a vast, cool cavern, splashing into an underground lake. Leaf litter, soil and debris fell atop me, muddying the crystal-clear, frigid water. The once-sweet liquid increased in turbidity as my eager crew plunged in around me. Scouting around the hollow we found signs of previous habitation behind the waterfall which supplied the mountain lake.
Green glowing rocks in the cavern walls and floor gave off an eerie glow, making my companions look fiendish as they dove off the rocks to break through the surface, showering me with a fine mist. Fishing my sodden luggage out of the pool, we followed the light out through the gaping mouth of the grotto to the balmy jungle beyond.
Traversing rivers by tenuous bridges and entangling ourselves in root systems of majestic arboreal giants, we slowly hiked through the untamed wilds until we encountered a staircase reaching up to the heavens….
With much trepidation I ascended the treacherous steps. Loud complaints from my fellows, as they ported my baggage up the slope, began to set my head throbbing. I would have ordered one of my crew to carry me to the top, were it not for the likelihood their clumsiness would cause my rapid descent to the bottom….
The magnificent sunset vista that overpowered us as we crested the pinnacle was genuinely worth the toil. My luggage was unceremoniously dumped on the floor inside a truly opulent tree house, as we gazed out through the clouds. Exhausted, we fell asleep on the soft, inviting cushions surrounding a crackling fire….
We were awakened the following morning by brightly plumed avian visitors, who gladly ate the crumbs from our morning repast, chirping delightedly at us. We continued our march upward into the towering mountains, where the thick, acrid smoke alerted us to volcanic activity above.
As we melted in the heat (and the increasing lag) we uncovered another cave behind a curtain of rushing water. The hidden chamber beyond was a perfect haven for meditation as I contemplated the ancient artwork coating the walls, listening to the rushing, turbulent water above.
Reluctantly, I relinquished the tranquillity of the hidden sanctuary, as my restless team disturbed my peace for the last time…. In search of food, we came across an imposing temple sprouting from the jungle. On closer inspection the huge stone structure looked like an excellent position to stop for the night.
Grumbling because I would not allow them to eat the altar offerings, I set my tenuously faithful team to foraging in the surrounding trees whilst I strung out my mouldering garments to dry overnight.
Copy and images (c) 2007, Aribella Lafleur. All Rights Reserved.
Produced with the editorial assistance of Must Packbiers.
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