The first time I visited Charco Azul, fear kept me from swimming in its jeweled waters. Fear kept me from seeking out the board trail clinging to the cliff face as well. Fortunately, my friend went out there first and so I did it as well. He didn't go swimming though, and I left with that whisper of self doubt and shame. Fear beat me. I told myself I was tired and didn't need to swim in the water. I was tired, but the fear got the better of me.
Today, I raced the sun to Charco Azul, and beat it to the bottom of the canyon. Facing the water, fear gripped my heart. The unknown depths with anything lurking beneath seemed to mock me. The water was impenetrable to my eyes. Where the water in the canal was clear to at least six feet deep, I couldn't see more than three feet down into the emerald water.
I was determined to swim today. I headed to the left around the shore, looking for a place where I wouldn't have to walk through a thicket of reeds to get to the water. I found a place where I could use rocks at the shore as steps to enter the water. The water right next to the shore was so deep that I cannot even guess how deep it was. The bottom rock I used as I slid into the water was about two and a half feet deep, and I could barely see it.
Standing with my legs submerged, I could tell the water was cold. As I launched myself fully into the water though, I was not prepared for the full body shock. My chest constricted, and my breathing instantly became gasps. If I were not so comfortable in the water, and well experienced with the body's reaction to shocking cold, I think it could have been a very dangerous situation. As it was, it took me a minute of carefully treading water and breath control before I was breathing comfortably again.
I swam around in the frigid water for a couple minutes, but far less than I had intended. Instead of exploring the full extent of the water, I opted for feeding the mosquitos as I dressed. Just a couple minutes exposure was enough to turn my skin bright red. I'm not at all exaggerating when I say that water was stunningly cold. Even now, hours later, I still feel like it is a little challenging to take a full breath.
I'm looking forward to coming back in summer, when a dunk in frigid waters will be a welcome retreat from the baking heat.
Fear is a battle you fight, but do not conquer. Facing it does not make it go away. Even as I was swimming, I was still battling the fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the cold. Fear of being unprotected. Still, today I faced a fear, and moved through it. I'm really glad I did.
I know the mosquitos did not get their fill, but my body was tingling with the effects of a dozen or more bites on my back. It felt like a tickle party where you cannot get anyone to stop. It isn't that surprising when you consider that I was the only CO2 producer within a kilometer, at their favorite time of day, right next to standing water in reeds, their prime breeding ground. It must have seemed a bonnie buffet to those little buggers.
On the way back, I hiked about a kilometer in my favorite shoes. When I met my friend at the airport in Valencia, he commented that he hoped I had better hiking shoes. I was wearing my huarachas, and they are definitely my prefered hiking shoes, but I lied and said they were all I had. The truth is that I had a secret. I was carrying the best pair of hiking shoes man has ever invented. They aren't well broken in yet though. I spent some time today breaking them in. My Mark I Bare Feet performed admirably, but I slipped back on my huarachas before I began the climb back up to Chulilla.