How I Survived a Wedding in a Jungle That Tried to Eat Me Alive
Nothing says “I do” like a small blood sacrifice
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I lie half naked and miserable in a puddle of my own sweat. I open the tent flap to breathe but there’s no relief, even at midnight. Who comes to the Guatemalan jungle in July?
Yesterday’s hike was rough, but the 15 miles today were raw pain. The mosquitoes were so vicious that by mile two even our local guides had asked to borrow our 100 percent deet. Bugs here suck down lesser repellent like an aperitif. Nothing provides complete protection.
Our destination is La Danta, one of the largest pyramids on earth. It’s located in the ruins of El Mirador, a centerpiece of Maya civilization from 800 B.C.E. to 100 C.E. that was abandoned nearly 2,000 years ago. There are no restrooms, no gift shops. In fact, the site is still being excavated.
This is where Angela and Suley want to get married. So, accompanied by a pair of guides, a half-dozen pack donkeys, and their ten toughest (or least informed) friends, the brides are determined to march us 60 miles over five days through Parque Nacional El Mirador in northern Guatemala to La Danta to say “I do.” It’s our second night on the trail.
I close my eyes and wait for Tara, a.k.a. Tent Dawg, to start snoring. I met her 48 hours ago. Broad shouldered and sharp jawed, she looks like she could win a car-tossing competition or spit and hit Mars. A major in the U.S. Army, she’s been training soldiers on how to survive in the field since before Survivor was a tiki torch in Mark Burnett’s eye. Back in the small town of Flores, the night before we all set off, she’d said something about a kidney condition with a shrug. Nothing fazes Tent Dawg.
I slip out of our nylon cocoon to pee, swimming through the liquid night. Humidity 83 percent. Cicadas buzz from thick-vined shadows—the jungle’s 24-hour booty call.
The misshapen moon shimmers like a mirage. I drop my underwear and flash a rounder moon at the donkeys. A languid tail whips a fly. Because my body temperature nearly matches the outer world, it’s hard to feel the boundary line. So I watch to be sure the piss is pissing. At least it runs clear; I’ve been pounding water to replenish the gallon I sweat off every hour.
No sound emerges from our five tents, just green-black humming in all directions, 1.6 million acres of primeval rainforest teeming with the richest biodiversity in Central America. I shake my hips, pull up my skivvies, and float back to my tent.
I flop down and remind myself, This is the opportunity of a lifetime, when a mosquito the size of a Winnebago chomps my left butt cheek. The pain is electric but passes quickly. After frantic swatting and cursing, I drift off, anesthetized by this single dart.
It was not a mosquito.