I would guess the rain started around 5 or 6am. A big storm blew in over the water. While the shack will normally serve its purpose of shielding us from the weather, I happened to be sleeping in the wrong place at the wrong time. The wind was blowing the rain sideways through the opening over the door and through the shower/bathroom. The rain started hitting my bare feet then my back. I pulled the sheet up over my head, but there was no escape. The sheets were no match for the rain. And, before I knew it, I was completely drenched and the storm was over. I tried to curl up toward the top of the futon away from the wet, but I couldn’t fall back asleep. The wetness and the humidity that followed as the sun came up forced me up and out of bed.
I think it was around 8 when I burned the first pot of coffee. I made another pot and then started on some egg and cheese burritos. Danny didn’t sleep too much longer as he was half soaked. So were are both up, and contemplating how much we drank the previous night and laughing. We talk for a few minutes before Danny pulls out The Hobbit on DVD as he’s searching through his bookshelf. He opens it up and a small plastic baggie falls out. I asked if he had found the LSD that his fried had left in the shack. He did. A few days earlier, Danny and two friends took a trip and hiked up one of the mountains near the shack. He said that it was pretty intense, but that the other two guys had taken a double dose and that communication had suffered somewhat because of that.
Danny said that today was the day that we trip. It was going to be great weather, and we would hike up past the coffee plantations and into the cloud forest. He had heard that there were some really good places to hike with great views in an area about a mile south near the Laramar (rock) shop.
After a few hours of prep time/hangover recovery time, it’s on. We sit on the bed and use the small Swiss Army scissors to cut the square cardboard blotter paper. Finally, with a small bag packed with water, bug repellant, a headlamp, a camera, and my iphone, we both dropped our hits onto our tongues. We sadly had to ditch the neighbor kid named Niko who wanted to come. But, it had to be done. We didn’t know what to expect on this trip. But, we weren’t about to have a 13 year old kid tagging along.
It would end up taking about 2 or 3 hours until we reached the best spot on the hike, but we wouldn’t find that out until we arrived. We set out on foot to a path about 1 mile south along the road. The road ran along the coast and we looked out through the palm trees. We passed the entrance for the Laramar mine and walked up the hill over the bridge that crossed the river and passed the cock fighting bar. The bar was playing salsa music at top volume but there weren’t many people there. We made a right down the hill passed the bar. By this time, things are kicking in. We walked down a wet road littered with bottles and trash to the river. We should have, but we did not expect that the river would to be so high. All that rain from the morning made it appear nearly impassable.
We walked up and down the bank discussing options and contemplating alternatives. I didn’t want to get my camera wet, but we also couldn’t just to throw our bags 40 feet to the rocky bank on the opposite side of the river. We’d stop and we’d stare at a tree covered in little spikes for a few minutes and then we’d change direction. Up the river and then down again. Finally, Danny yelled across to a man napping on the bank and asked him where we should cross. As he got up and walked towards us, we realized that he had the upper body resembling that of a shaved chimpanzee. He wades toward us in waist deep rapids encouraging us to stop being pussies. I show him my bag with my camera, which he must conclude is my purse and that I don’t want to get my tampons wet. He shrugs, walks away and goes back to napping in the sun on the white rocks along the bank.
We walk down stream to where the river flattens out wide. But, when we get there all we see is rapids. The river meanders a bit leaving some dry land in the middle. We jump to that and continue walking in circles until we are near more people who live along the river. We stand out so much. We’re hiking around in our outdoor performance gear with beards and white faces. The children see us and in seconds are running circles around us asking where we’re going. Danny says that we’re looking to cross and they immediately start to lead us around pointing where to go.
Behind the kids are a number of shacks with women and children hanging around. They just put down some pots of slop for their pigs. Upon further investigation, the alpha pig in their yard looks to be about 400lbs. I laugh and point as it bucks a smaller piglet into the air for getting their snout too close to his pot of slop. The giant pig is sort of scary.
We follow the little kids up the middle of the river until we run out of island and find ourselves with a shit-or-get-off-the-pot moment. This acid is kicking in and we are deaf from the sound of the river ripping down stream on all sides. I take off my shirt and wrap it around my camera and phone and shove it back into my bag (purse). Danny starts out across, and I follow (holding my bag in case I need to launch it). Mind you, these kids ranging from 4 years old in diapers to about 10 are all hopping around next to my feet, carelessly jumping and swimming. In any other situation, we would have managed this obstacle in 2 minutes. But now I’m slowly walking through water that is slightly over my knee after an hour of deliberation. It is now nearing 4pm (2 hours into the trip).
We both make it across easily. But, it was not without a bit of nervousness adding some fuel to our already agitated state. The kids keep following us. They are pointing out coffee fields which are covered with black netting (maybe to keep out bugs). We walk along the fields on a muddy road for a few hundred yards bumping into the occasional farmer or gecko moving quickly along the netting. We make a right onto a rocky path that leads up the mountain. The path is right across from the point where we first reached the river. As we walk upward, the kids drop off. Possibly they found new friends in the half dozen or more hippie looking local kids we pass only moments into our ascent. We wonder where they were coming from. There must be lots to explore in this cloud forest.
We reach the top of the hill and completely escape the shade for the first time since our walk up the middle of the stream. It is so bright. As we reach the top, we tell ourselves to remember to come back down before it gets dark. The rocky road is wet and muddy. But, how are we going to remember? We just say “future Steve and Danny, remember past Steve and Danny told you to make sure you walk down before it gets dark”. We crack up. Later we would thank past Steve and Danny.
We walk around the crest of the hill and are instantly struck with an incredible landscape stretching over 5 or 6 sharp mountain peaks covered in green. The taller mountains in the distance are in the clouds. And, clouds move through the distant valleys. We pause briefly and admire the view as an old woman and her young child pass by. I took a video on my phone, but we couldn’t narrate at all. We continue walking down over the top of this hill and into the valley where we again find ourselves in the shade again and at a fork in the road. Left goes down and deeper in to the valley, and right heads up hill. We choose right, but we don’t make it far. We are quickly distracted by mangos all around on the ground and covered with bugs. A giant moth flys past my face and lands on a leaf that mirrors its shape. I try and point it out but then the moth turns into a bat. I can’t tell what I’m looking at as my eyes play tricks on me. The shadows allow for more contrasts and the dark spots leave my mind guessing. It is not as pleasant as the sun.
We decide that this area is too dark, weird, and buggy and that we would return to our sunny hilltop view and try and explore that area more. Danny picks up a fallen mango out of the bunch and we make a u-turn. Even though it had only been a few minutes, the path back up the hill was totally foreign. We had crossed into another level of this trip. We get distracted on the way back up by every bug, bird, butterfly and flower. While staring up into the canopy of another mango tree, a few fall just off the road and cause us to jump. We quickly realize that it was just ripe fruit + gravity.
As we reach the top of the road we pick our spot. It’s about 100 yards out into a pasture on the side of a grassy hill in the sun. Danny finds a hole in the barbed wire separating the road from the pasture and we crawl through. We are careful not to place a palm in shit, or into cactus or the barbed wire. After some low crawling followed by some high stepping over and around prickly tropical plants we try to tell future Steve and Dan to remember that path. But, the lines of communication between present Steve and Dan are becoming difficult at the moment. Our full attention is placed on moving forward in the same direction and maintaining an up right position on two feet.
We finally reach a point on the side of the mountain to stop and chill. Dan sits down and looks out into the mountains and fog. He fixes his shoe and starts eating his mango. I can’t find a seat or a good flat spot to stand, but I’m not at all distressed. I keep turning out to the mountains and around to the plants around us. In the distance we see mango and palm trees. There are huge magnolias and oaks covered in Spanish moss. The trees in the valley are different from those on the hills. I turn around again to get a zoomed in view of the pasture floor. There are bright green cactus with gold spikes. There are thorny little trees with leaves the color of toothpaste. There are flowers with purple and white pistols hanging from thin vines that seem to tangle themselves around anything in their reach. The similarity of the scene when facing the mountains is mindblowing when I turn around to see the same bio-diversity there on the ground where we stand.
We are standing just a bit below the top of the hill. And, as we near ours, we decide to make our way upward and onward for a better view. It only takes a minute and we are faced with a nearly 360 degree view of mountains. We stare out quietly at times for minutes before someone says something funny or interesting and we go down that path. We talk about science and chemistry, nature, physics, history, and politics. The stories and subjects have ebs and flows that seem to shift with the changing weather. The bright sunshine seemed to lighten the mood. But, maybe it was just the change in conversation that made it seem brighter.
We told hilarious stories of other trips and how this one compared. We discussed the history of acid and psychedelic drugs and their effects on modern culture. We talked about our generation and about how to come up with great ideas that could change the world. I think we agreed that the value of practice and the ability to cultivate diverse skill sets give us a good chance of success. And, I felt like I discovered how to begin to look at ideas as if they are tangible objects. The symmetry of the flowers and trees reminded me of the similarity between rivers and tree limbs, and how they mimic the veins and nerves in our body. The symmetry in the leaf patterns on the weeds around my feet follow the Fibinacci sequence. Why would my thought patterns be any different? One idea can split off into two choices, just like two limbs from a tree. Then we look at the pros and cons of those choices. Those possible outcomes are multiple limbs that sprout from the split limbs. Each idea and each decision results in additional variables that can spiral like a Mandelbrot structure.
Trying to explain this while tripping balls on the side of a coffee mountain in a cloud forest in a remote region of the Dominican Republic can be quite difficult. At one time or another, both Danny and I met each other with confusing thoughts followed by confused looks. Ebs and flows.
After sitting, standing, cleaning out shoes, inspecting bug bites, and removing whatever animal’s shit that lives in the pasture from our clothes, we decide that we have crossed the half way point of our trip. We start to feel more comfortable describing our fears from the river, the darkness under the mango trees in the mud, and the elation once we came across this spot just in time. The trip was nothing if not amazing, breathtaking, hilarious, and physically and mentally exhausting.
I personally gained a new respect for the power of LSD as well as a new appreciating for my connection with nature. We questioned how to gain good perspectives from tripping. And, I am writing this to improve the way I process ideas. But, I think it comes with practice. But for me, with LSD, it is not feasible to practice regularly. Great ideas come out of every experience if you can learn how to spot them, and how to lead them down the right path.
We retraced our footsteps out of the pasture a few hours later. We thanked past Steve and Dan as we reached the river just before dark. We were not out of the woods yet, and it took another hour or so to make it to a different crossing farther downstream, up a very steep hill near a hotel, and along a very dark road with one head lamp. Once we finally reached the small restaurant where we had eaten the chicken and drank the rum on the first night, we were quick to buy some mango juice and be on our way.
Still feeling a bit weird upon reaching the shack, we opted to make some coffee, drink some water, and chew some tobacco while we sat outside and threw bones until the early morning. We both passed out pretty hard on our wet sheets.