Escape from the Jungle [Nerd on a Wire]

I don’t get scared until my Lucky hat flies off. It has the word “Lucky” inscribed on the bill and has been a fixture on my head for the past four weeks of trekking in Peru.  “Crap,” I mutter under my breath. I grip the back of the motorcycle more tightly and prepare myself for certain death. As if in reaction to my curse, the bike fishtails over a particularly muddy patch of rainforest. Juanito, the 17 year old who has volunteered to drive me out of the deep jungle to a slightly less deep part of the jungle, rights it and revs the engine.  Mud splatters up onto my already grimey pants. The bike leaps forward. Juanito has a rat tail. I think about telling him that those went out of style in the US about 25 years ago. Then I remember a valuable lesson recently learned from a Peruvian ayahuascero/Buddhist (like a Shaman, but more…Peruvian): “Let your words be worth more than the silence they have broken.” Given the precarious ground Juanito and I are skittering over–in addition to mud, there are large rocks and a cliff just to the right of the road–silence seems particularly valuable at the moment. This motorcycle ride was never part of the plan. At the beginning of my last week in Peru, I decided that instead of heading west to visit Arequipa (big city, mountains, dry), I’d head east into the Manu Rainforest Preserve (remote, jungle, hot ‘n humid). I booked the trip last minute with a small, family run company. I’d have to leave the expedition a day early and travel overnight to make my flight back to the U.S.A. No problem, they assured me. They’d take care of it. At that point in my travels, I...

Nerd in the Wild [Single White Nerd]

The small prop plane suddenly drops out of equilibrium, careening sharply into the volcano.  It swoops down, losing altitude as it tilts at a nearly 90 degree angle.  The three other passengers and I hold on for dear life certain that we’re about to crash into a crater.  A moment ago, we were placidly snapping photos of a cool geological feature.  Now we’re more or less certain that the volcano is the last thing we’ll ever see.  Steam jets from a crevasse that can’t be more than 20 feet away from us.  I can almost feel the heat. I’m one day into my 35th year and I’m about to die.  It’ll be like a bad joke:  Two Americans, an Australian, an Israeli, and an Austrian crash into a volcano. . .Of course. Every year, I like to do something interesting for my birthday.  I’ve confronted my religious prejudices, gone on the Dr. Phil show, skydiving.  All sorts of stuff.  This year, I decided to go camping in Alaska.  Up until this whole airplane incident, it had been going well.  I’d met new friends from England, Australia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Israel.  We’d all slogged through the rain to a vast glacier together, cooked together, gone kayaking with porpoises, seals and sea otters.  The group had surprised me with a birthday cake on my actual birthday and we’d eaten it on a beach, snowcapped mountains visible through a faint misting rain. Not bad.  Then I went and pushed my luck by signing up for this scenic bear viewing flight. It all started so promisingly.  We arrived at the airfield on time.  The pilot outfitted us with hip wading boots that would keep us dry as we tracked bears along a river.  We took off into...