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In the "Cult of Escapism": Kiki

Wednesday, October 10, 2012



There's a gigantic waterfall two hours walking from my site that I hadn't gone to in my full two years of service. I'd love to give you a good excuse but I've just been plain lazy. Sometimes, I feel like the attractions closest to you can be the last you see. Like, “Oh yeah, well that's close, I'll get there eventually; no need to prioritize it.” I told my main counterpart, Juan, that I wanted to go and he organized the boys for a trip. Thus, my rubber boots and cotton shirt on, water in my dry bag, we began the two hour hike to the town of Cerro Banco and the Kiki waterfall.

View from the hike
This hike is my least favorite in my area, not because the terrain is especially difficult, but because there is NO SHADE. For two hours. And while the hills aren't too bad, it's still basically uphill the whole way and you don't get any good views until the last half hour. However, it was enjoyable enough talking with the boys, the ones who made my service much more comfortable personally, and much more successful professionally (as friends, rafting guides who always took me for free and as members of the tourism group I helped create). Among our many enlightened discussions, we seriously debated whether it's better to get paid or get laid, and whether robots typically run on gas or on electricity. Conclusions: laid and electricity. I explained that I figured getting paid could also lead to getting laid, but almost never vica versa, but they explained that here, they have sex for love, not for money. Which made me wonder if now they think I exclusively have sex with prostitutes.

Once you get close, the trail to the falls barely exists in the beginning and towards the end it doesn't, which is no good for formal tourism, but a lot of fun for me. We could hear the crashing, cheering falls from a distance and we excitedly slid and crawled and climbed down, clinging to vines and branches to keep from falling down the sheer cliff-side on our right. Then suddenly, I looked up at the biggest waterfall I've ever seen.
The "trail"

It's been a while since I've been stunned by natural beauty. Living out in the mountains and visiting other volunteers in valleys, jungles and on islands, I'm consistently pleased with Panama's natural beauty, but almost never stunned. Like, can't move, can't form coherent phrases stunned. I stood for about a minute, staring, occasionally coughing out words or phrases: “Damn.” “Look at that.” “That's, that's...” “Shiiit.” “Burgh.” Juan laughed and Eusebio smiled and continued the descent. I pulled it together enough to follow.

This is where the trail ceased to exist and it took my full effort to keep from falling off the side and into the distant pool. But I did stop often to take photos:

I spotted a large rock below us, sticking out towards the waterfall, like a dock over a lake, or a man-made lookout point. I couldn't resist. The rock was especially slippery but I slowly slid my boots until the edge and then held my arms out to the spray. It felt like getting hit by a high-powered sprinkler and it immediately soaked the entire front of my body. I whooped as loud as I could and barely heard myself over the roar. Teetering, swaying, waving my arms to keep from falling over the side, while being blasted by the spray – it are moments like that when I feel most alive. And wet.

We went to the far end of the pool, which has been unfortunately converted into a trash pile (unintentional, I think – just an exit point for litter thrown in the river). I've never seen so many broken plastic shoes in one place. We also went behind the falls and Juan told me that a young man once walked behind the falls and entered another world. He was only in the other world for about ten minutes before returning, but when he got back, he was an old man. This sounded unappealing and difficult to explain to the Peace Corps office, but also unlikely so we took our chances. As far as I can tell, I'm still 24, which is good, but I was at least hoping for a little salt and pepper action on the hair. I've heard that's sexy.

Finally, we sat under a cave near Kiki and discussed the cliffs' potential for rock climbing. It looked good to my amateur eye, although fairly advanced. While we discussed the overall potential of the waterfall and surrounding area, reality returned with the owner (one of the owners?) calling for us to leave.

It's a long story, but basically there are few owners who all lay claim to the property and all want tourists paying them for the privilege of crossing their land to reach Kiki. The owner chided us for 'sneaking in,' but Juan and I calmed him down, promising to help him prepare to receive tourists on a real scale.

So while Kiki's hospitality needs some serious work, the waterfall itself is incredible and I'm pretty disappointed in myself for waiting till the third to last day of my service to go see it. But I saw it, and I'm excited to be back in 2013.

Also, are there any robots that run on gasoline?


At October 11, 2012 at 8:31 PM , Blogger Ila said...

1. How quickly would I be stuck in the mud on that hike? Immediately? Yes.

2. The robots in Futurama run on beer.


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