August 21, 2010

What goes down, must come back up

We have done some crazy stuff before. Usually, it involves AMP saying, "Let's do....." and blindly charging ahead. Being the chicken in the family, I scramble along behind, thinking "This might not be a good idea??" and trying not to be scared. I generally prove myself to be tougher than AMP thinks I ever could be, and of course I love all the opportunities to prove his low expectations of my "toughness" wrong - just love 'em. Yesterday might go down as the prime example of this scenario. We wake up with one more day in Old City Cartagena, and it is AMP's birthday. So, I say, "Whatever you want to do, totally fine!" Famous last words.

He decides that we should all visit Castille de San Felipe, the fort on a hill that was built to protect Cartagena after everybody kept ransacking it and taking all the gold. As he gathered the strollers and the children and the sunscreen, I tentatively asked, "Do you think there are stairs? Like a lot of stairs?" I trailed off as I saw the "Toughen up" look go across his face, and we all piled into a cab. As we arrived, my inner monologue sounded something like this (a little edited for my more sensitive readers):

"Dear god! That is huge"

Quick glance at AMP, who is happily buying tickets and fending off hat vendors - He doesn't look scared. I start frantically applying sunscreen to all three children. Please remember that it feels like 100 degrees in the shade, and there is no shade available....yet.

We charge up the hill,which turns out to be a series of ramps up. I trudge along behind extremely proud of myself for not huffing and puffing. We get about half way up to the top, and are stopped by a man who is starting a small tour in English. We join the group, and he mutters something, about pirates and soldiers, and 2500 meters of tunnels running under and through the fort. That sounds cool....until he charges down one of these tunnels, and everybody follows fearlessly, including AMP with Pollo in one stroller, and of course, Chicken Little is at the front of the group, already disappearing around a turn. So, I collect myself, pop a wheelie to get down the stairs, and calmly push Chicken Nugget into the dark.

Imagine if you will, a small dark tunnel, no higher than your husband's bald head, covered with mold, and more humid than outside, because somewhere, about 525 feet below you, is the sea. There is a nice brick floor, but it is kind of slick, with all the humidity, and after 350 years of use.
So we walk along these dank little tunnels and see where the soldiers slept, and then we go to see how they escaped if the pirates ever got in the fort. I turn the corner with Chicken Nugget's stroller and see the most narrow, vertical tunnel you can imagine going down that doesn't require a rope or a ladder. It is so narrow I can't stretch out my arms without my elbows scraping the sides of the wall (this actually works to my advantage later).


But, AMP has already charged down with Pollo and Chicken Little is already at the bottom, so I took a deep breath and start the slide down.

"At least this is the worst of it"

It wasn't, because at the end of this tunnel, was another tunnel, equally steep, and quite long. And then another, .....and of course, then another. By this point, there is some very sketchy water swirling around our feet - Did I mention I was in wooden soled flip flops - great for traction! Thank god the Steve Madden label on the sole came off half way down, the stickiness was the only thing holding my right shoe on the whole way up.

We stopped only when the guide said "From here on you have to swim." I realized then - it was the escape by sea route that we were exploring with our strollers, and I now found myself 1 meter below sea level. Not sure when that happened, but probably sometime during our Indiana Jones style descent in the belly of the fort. Just as a note, the thin blue tube at our feet was pumping out the sea water so the tunnel we were in wouldn't flood to our necks. Then, to top it all off, 2 shirtless workers with flashlights arrive from further below in the tunnel where they are repairing a leak.

"About face! Where is the elevator up?

But alas, it was back up the 45 degree angle tunnels. I almost decided to take a new job, join the workmen and stay down there, but there was Chicken Nugget, staring up at me so sweetly, so... I started to climb. A very nice, retired gentlemen offered to go behind me to make sure and break my fall - he got a stupendous view as I pushed that stroller up those 4 tunnels. The wheels kept jamming on the sides of the tunnel, and at one point it was so slick, that if I hadn't quickly thrown my elbows out to the side, we would have both taken out that nice, retired gentleman. AMP kept calling back, "How are you doing?" I very politely said nothing, as I couldn't breathe, much less talk. My inner monologue at this point can not be repeated.

I got serious kudos from the entire group when Chicken Nugget, the nice, retired gentleman and I emerged from the dark. But this is my advice. Never take your 3 children and 2 strollers to explore 300+ year old tunnels to the sea in a developing country. Not unless you want to have 50 people ask to take your picture on the way out- "Look at the stupid gringo who took her baby into those creepy tunnels!"


JAH said...

OMG - I can't wait to hear this story with the inner monologue included! Good for you and I'm sure you got some GREAT pictures! That experience is one for the memory books!

Enghee said...

sounds like a nightmare~