Running from the ants

The payoff to this simply awful trip had been these miserable people, and more days in the mud lay ahead. The last thing I remember saying before I stomped off ahead of Jean was, “Last surviving Mayans? These people can’t die out fast enough as far as I’m concerned,” which enraged him. I tried to take a shortcut, but as I stooped under some branches, my hair got badly tangled in thorns. As I was trying to free myself, I suddenly felt stinging and biting move up my body. A column of ants were climbing my left leg. “Ants in your pants” really do make you rip your pants off. When Jean arrived I stood naked from the waist down, a line of blood trickling from my left breast where the advanced team had gotten. I was crying, “Just rip my hair out,” as he tried to help me. Once freed, we still weren’t talking and it still wasn’t over. As soon as we continued, my walking stick caused a delicate bright orange and black snake to poke his head out of a hole in front of me. Jean was screaming behind me, “Stop, stop. I’m not carrying you out of this fucking jungle,” which, trust me, sounds a lot funnier with a thick French accent. The angrier Jean got, the more he sounded like a bad Maurice Chavalier imitator. I just waved my stick and shooed the snake away, storming past it. Adrenaline had kicked in and I had lost all reason. Besides, we had run out of water and all that kept me going was the thought of getting back to have a drink.

Back in Bonampak

The primitive Chicleros camp we’d left looked a lot swankier when we got back and I told Jean I didn’t care what he did, I wasn’t leaving. Not one more step in the jungle. I would wait for the doctor to come and persuade him to take us back to civilization. Once that was agreed upon, I could love Jean again. We spread our sleeping bags on the temple steps of Bonampak and lay around reading a good part of the day. We crawled under low interior doors and tried to decipher worn parts of the murals by candlelight. I sketched the glyphs on the outside stellae for future batiks. The only access to the Mayan ruins at Bonampak was by foot and no one was ever there but us. I think it was only five days when I stopped reading to listen, sure I heard the sound of an engine in the distance. There was never a doubt in my mind that the doctor would take us back with him. I can beg and grovel with the best of them. His plane was only a two-seater and there were no windows. Jean sat in the passenger seat, I crouched in the small space behind the doctor, holding on with my arms wrapped around the back of his seat. He flew low over the treetops so we could see where we’d been. It had taken us days to get to the Lacandon settlement. Now it seemed only minutes had passed before Jean was shouting over the wind, “There it is. There it is.”