I Fell off a Waterfall in Mexico
Order a blueberry frappucino in Mexico, and you’ll get given cherry. Book a flight to Tijuana, and you’ll land in Mexicali. Ask for fish tacos, and you’ll get prawn. Point this mistake out to the waiter, and you’ll be met with a shrug and a, “Why do you care? They cost the same.”
That’s the thing about the glorious land of donkeys, peyote and tacos: it challenges your expectations. Even something seemingly insignificant like ordering a coffee has an air of excitement, like when you think you’ve accidentally fallen pregnant but you’re not quite sure whose it is.
So I don’t know why the fuck I expected Agua Azul – Spanish for blue water – to look anything like the Avatar-esque crystalline waterfalls on the brochure.
A few months ago, fellow hobo Laura and I smiled our way on to a Spanish-speaking tour from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Agua Azul without paying, towels and cameras at the ready. An enthusiastic guide waved us on to the bus, blabbering animatedly about the day’s itinerary in his native tongue. Having spent more than a thousand dollars on Spanish classes in my home town of the Gold Coast, naturally, I understood nothing.
Fortunately, a bilingual Argentinian sitting in front of us was astute enough to notice our blonde/ginger hair and blank expressions. “Journey time is 120 minutes,” he winked. “Direct route”.
Four hours, one buffet breakfast, one souvenir stop and one passenger chunder later, we arrived.
Ahead of us lay a raging, mud-brown waterfall backed by a river snaking high up into the dense jungle. Broken tree branches floated menacingly in the shallows, and a swollen member of an unidentifiable animal species drifted about in the waterfall’s foam, its cause of death presumably dysentery. Nearby bobbed a similarly swollen Mexican child in floaties, but she was very much alive.
“It rains every day in Chiapas,” explained our Argentinian friend. “Rain makes the water brown.”
Not one to be deterred by a piddly bit of rain, I mentally congratulated whoever had made the tour brochure on their mad Photoshop skills and began to hike upstream to find a place to swim. Along the banks of the river, countless enterprising Mexicans manned stalls selling all number of things tourists may have want for in the depths of the jungle, from gold-dipped Jesus statues to Lucha Libre masks.
About 15 minutes in to our walk, Laura and I found a chunk of river with an easily-accessible bank. We both stripped down – her to a bikini and me to a pair of daggy floral undies my mum had bought me as part of her never-ending campaign to make me a spinster. A small crowd of locals gathered to watch us, including a few roving policemen. In my mind, they were coming to perve at the two goddesses re-enacting the opening scenes of a Jungle-Book themed porno. In reality, they were probably coming to gawp at the two beige teletubbies stupid enough to enter the furious-flowing stormwater.
Bored of skirting around the bank, I soon decided to paddle over to a nearby waterfall and walk along its rocky edge. The current tugged at me threateningly, but I’d done Nippers when I was nine – I knew what was up. With the coordination of someone with a serious inner-ear infection, I took three wobbly steps before I slipped and went cascading off the edge.
I shoomed about 40 metres down the river, grazing my stomach, thighs, hands and chest on hidden rocks and bits of tree. I tried desperately to anchor myself to the ground, but the water was just too powerful. Another small waterfall was coming up ahead, and I knew going over that would probably knock me unconscious. Just before it, I managed to get a root (my first and only of the trip) sticking out of the muddy bank in my fist and clung to it in desperation. The crowd had increased in size, and two small policemen stood flailing their arms uselessly. But alas – the current was just too strong.
My life flashed before my eyes: my early childhood Hanson addiction, my mid-childhood porn addiction, my late-childhood Neopets addiction and my early-adult two-minute noodle addiction. I sighed and let go of the root, letting myself be pulled over the second waterfall and another 50 metres down the river. My left nipple had practically disappeared (don’t worry boys – it’s grown back), as had any hopes that I would be leaving Agua Azul in anything other than a hearse.
But the god of hobos had other plans, and I slammed into another low bank. Laura, looking remarkably like the central character in Brave, reached out her hand with the strength of a seven-year-old-child in a heroic attempt to drag me onto the grass. I pulled myself up instead, and stood unsteadily on the shore, too shaken to be embarrassed. A concerned stallholder thrust a wad of toilet paper at me, and I began to mop my wounds. In retrospect, this was probably not the best method of aftercare, because little hunks of white fluff stuck to the cuts, making me look like a dad who’d tried to shave his whole body with a blunt razer.
After that, the two policemen escorted me back to the bench I had left my clothes on and sat watching me concernedly as I got dressed, berating me softly in Spanish. I winced as my jeans bit in to the grazes, tied my flannelette shirt into a midriff and instagrammed the shit out of my bloody bod.