Heavy drops pelted us as we ran from the van to the front door. One lady in flip flops slid on the first step and started screaming as she tumbled over a potentially jacked-up ankle. She should have just gotten a little wetter. I took my time. My white v-neck was already soaked and it wasn’t like I planned on being dry anytime in the near future. Once inside, I looked around and listened for anyone who was speaking English. I heard a whole lot of Italian and some Spanish. I smiled blankly at people who might understand my language, but didn’t try them.
A skinny, gray-headed man was making his was through the crowd, collecting papers and payments. I dug my reservation out of my backpack, and handed it to him. A big drop of water landed on it as I held it out for him to grab. The thatch roof wasn’t exactly waterproof.
He and several other men started handing trash bags with head and armholes cut out of them to the small crowd. We pulled them over our clothes. Next, they passed out hair nets, helmets, and goggles. It was still pouring rain and lightning had started flashing close by. Oh well, we were going anyway. I was alright with riding in the rain, it’d keep the dust down and driving a four-wheeler through giant puddles was always fun.
Several minutes of instructions in languages that meant nothing to me left me starting the vehicle only because everyone else did. Then we were off! My goggles were splattered with rain water, but soon that didn’t matter as the first puddle we drove through sent a wave of brown liquid that actually hit me in the face. I didn’t have a second to recoil or even wipe off, a straight shot of path meant that everyone was going to punch it as hard as possible.
We sped around the jungle, through puddles and little streams. I dodged hanging green things, branches, and the occasional really deep hole in the path. A couple of times, we stopped because one of the Italian men had gone off the path and couldn’t get back on it. They’d have to kill the engine, shift into neutral, then push it backward to get back to the ruts created by so many of the same machines tearing through the wilderness.
Back to speeding, I felt like I got air off a couple of small hills that I flew over, but that could have just been my butt flying off the seat. The rain continued to pour, but I didn’t even notice it at this point. I’d sealed my iphone and everything else I thought I’d need up in a plastic bag inside of my backpack. It was all fine.
While we were driving, I kept thinking about what I’d write about this experience. Would I add the cheesy life-lesson, or would I just leave it alone? I kept thinking about leadership principles, and how so many of them could easily be illustrated by this adventure. I was being a weirdo. But it made me think about who I am and what kind of man I desire to become.