I tried to keep my foot out of the water as much as I could, but the blood was now streaming down my leg and dripping into the water. The heavy rains which soaked the jungle each day around 3 had left the ocean murky green, rich with sediment washed down from the low mountains, propagating along the coast and a kilometre off shore. Yesterday morning the water was relatively clear revealing a tiger shark about six feet long, plying the reef looking for his lunch.
The best time to surf this particular spot on a rising medium tide. To maximize our session each day, we needed to make our way over 300 metres of black jagged lava. With any number of caves, cracks, and holes, navigation was treacherous at best and more often than not, one of us would inevitably slip, feeling a flap of skin pulled back and forth in the current after jumping into the water. Today was my turn. As a set of waves approached, I waited to time my jump off the shelf of reef to correspond with a breaking wave to avoid being smashed against the face of the elevated ledge. I jumped as far as I could, but slipped, filleting a two inch gash along the sole of my foot. Now bobbing up and down in the line-up, the only way in being a 700 metre paddle against a strong current along the outside of the reef, dodging waves and whatever unseen creatures lay in wait below.
After almost an hour of paddling, I made it to shore, flopping exhaustedly on a small pocket beach of white sand. I was glad to be on shore, but now faced a lengthy walk home over more sharp lava and debris. Garbage is inescapable along the Central American coastline, littered with plastic bottles, fishing debris, and sandals among other things. Sandals! A recycling epiphany hit me as I rooted around in the refuse washed in and out with the waves along the shore. Red sole with pink straps for the left foot and a faded blue size 12 for my bleeding right foot. With tetanus and giardia almost surely attacking my immune system, I made my way back to my cabana.
I stayed out of the water the next day, but miraculously, with no sign of infection and a minor surgery of betadine, butterfly stitches, super glue, and duct tape, I was good to go the day after. My idea had caught on and everyone from our group foraged for a mismatched pair of flip flops in an attempt to cross the reef unscathed. We left our stylish new footwear at the waters edge to be carried back to the beach with the rising tide for our return journey. At the end of our stay, we gathered bags of trash (and of course flip flops) from the area around the reef, optimistically doubtful, hoping it will stay out of the ocean.
- October 2007