Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wilma 19

Over the next few days, as more and more of our friends surfaced and stopped by, we heard some incredible stories. I, for one, was glad we made the decision to vacate. Even though our house fared extremely well, I would really not have liked to have been here. I can not even imagine what it must have been like to live through that howling demon for three whole days! And I would have been frantic about where the ocean was in relationship to my house. But, one of the more interesting stories was one told to us by Luis, our carpenter friend.

Luis’ boss, Mateo, decided that he needed a generator. He runs a small carpentry shop and there was a desperate need for his services. Mateo had heard that somebody in the small village near Francisco May had one for sale. After the storm he decided to load Luis into his truck and head over there to check it out.

The village they were headed for is located outside of Cancun. To get to it, you have to watch for the one little sign that points down a jungle path. I guess it is a road of sorts, tracks cut through the jungle big enough for a car. It is one of those roads ones sees cutting into the jungle everywhere but one has no idea of where it may lead….if anywhere! I, myself, would never drive on one of these roads for fear of where it may end up. Not even when I had the Jeep down here would I have dared. But Mateo and Luis had no such qualms and when they saw the sign, they turned onto the road.

They had not gone very far when the road disappeared into a lake of water caused by the massive rainfall during Wilma. It was too far for them to attempt to drive across and they had no idea of how deep it was. Judging from how high it was on the surrounding and covered brush, they figured it would be well over their heads. So nothing to do but get out and start walking, which is what they did. At first it wasn’t too bad. Luis said it was impossible to tell how deep it was or if they were even walking on the road. The surface of the water was covered with at least two inches of shredded green foliage. They had to keep pushing this aside as they walked, being careful of any tree branches and other debris that was in their way.

Eventually they slowly made their way deeper until it was over their heads. At that point they had to swim. Luis said it was awful. They had to try to keep their heads above water and push their way tediously along through this smelly, thick foliage. It smelled like the stuff you clean out of the bottom of your lawn mower deck. Not quite rotten, but getting there. Finally, Mateo, being taller than Luis by about two inches, was able to put his feet down and felt solid ground under them. Luis said he gave a few more strong dog paddles and his feet, too, felt solid ground. They still had about twenty yards to go to get out of the water and reach the point where the road picked up again.

After picking their way through the fallen and ripped from their joints tree limbs for a few more miles, they finally saw the village ahead. Or what was left of it. Most of the houses are made of wooden poles with either cardboard or straw roofs. Many of these were knocked down and none had a roof remaining. And there were pools of water everywhere and some of the village was actually still under water. They found the man who had the generator and it was still for sale. Mateo paid him with wet money and was the proud owner of a portable generator. Things were looking up. At least he could now get back to work.

Luis said he that thought the village was just creepy. It is one of those villages that hides the womenfolk when strangers enter. He said they did not see a single woman or child in the hours they were there…only men. He said the village was in big trouble too. They were very worried because the water supply was fast running out, as were food supplies. Because of the tremendous amount of flooding in this region, and the overwhelming need for help everywhere, no relief trucks and been to the village yet. Mateo asked them why they just didn’t send some men out to the main road and camp there until a passing truck or somebody who could get them supplies came by. His response sent shivers down both of their spines.

The men of the village, being very familiar with their jungle, were simply afraid to enter the water that surrounded the village and covered the road. This same water that Mateo and Luis had just crossed and had yet to cross again. But this time, with a generator in tow. The reason they were afraid was because this area was home to some giant boa constrictors! The villagers said that there were some big enough to eat a man if they got a hold of you! They were afraid that these snakes were now everywhere around them, using the flooded jungle as a giant highway to easily seek out prey, of which there was probably very little left.

Luis said that on the way back, they held the generators over their heads as best they could and, at the same time, were slapping the water surface with big sticks. (Can you say, “Listen big snakes! Here I am! Hear me splashing my way through the water. Come get me!”)But they made it home safely and, several days later, after the generator had a chance to dry out, Mateo was back in business!

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