Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Avila And The Smell Of Rain

Marathon Plan - Regressive Countdown - Week Fourteen
01/25/10 - 01/31/10 - Week Total: 23.5 miles
Month total: 114.7 miles

If you've seen Avatar, you can picture my country of origin: Venezuela. Yes, pretty much.

Caracas, a big cosmopolitan city, is a valley at the skirt of a majestic mountain: Avila... A Pandora place, full of trees, and little falls, and butterflies, and lush. With hundred of paths to go and discover the most wonderful gift of nature. And as you climb up, the vegetation changes, the big leaves and big trees start to disappear to give room to sub p
áramo vegetation, shorter and smaller plants take over, and you are in the most perfect natural garden where the landscaper has to be God.

To "Caraqueños" Avila represents an immense power. The mountain is so imposing that every day you have to stop and admire it. It is a sort of deity.

Avila with Caracas at her feet.

I lived all my life at the edge of this skirt. I couldn't be closer to Avila, and I am happy that I never took my Avila for granted. Every day I saw my Avila more beautiful than the day before. I hiked every time I could in this place, full of luxuriant foliage, where you lose track of where the sun is, and where you get more than connected with mother nature. Some days of the week my workouts started with a short hike of 20 minutes in a very steep slope, "La Subida del Diablo" (Devil's Hill). At least 2 weekends a month as a family and as members of an excursionist center, we hiked for 6 to 8 hours, or more, and we camped there. Spent the night over. Felt the magic. Lived the magic. Sensed the magic. It was an unbelievable and unforgettable feeling, so close to the concrete jungle and so far from it.

Every single moment spent in my Avila was majestic and breathless. My favorite peak always will be the Oriental (Eastern), which looks like a gorgeous beautiful breast if you are located at the east of Caracas, but climbing the highest Avila's peak, Naiguata, 8,875 ft. became an experience from beyond. Standing at the ridge of the mountain range you could see the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the big city of Caracas to the south. Those are moments my eyes will never forget. But, was not only the sights what kept me going. The sense of smell of the tropical foliage combined with the rain is something recorded in my brain like one of the most pleasant experiences I have had in my life. The rain forest, the wet dirt, the smell of our Earth.

Oriental Peak. My favorite peak. 8,670 ft.

And when I moved to Washington State I brought my Avila with me. This mountain has given me so much, that will be in my heart to the end of my days. And a day like today, when I go for a long run, a 13.5-miler, in a wet day, everything is a reminiscence. It rained and the breeze was cool and delicious. When I started to run, the only thing that I could think was in my Avila, my peaks, my Oriental, my Naiguata, my camping times, my countless hikes. The sense that comes time after time and that I enjoy so often in rainy Seattle. The sense that takes me back to Pandora, to My Avila And The Smell Of Rain.

Avila's Ridge (La Fila). To walk this ridge is priceless. What you are seeing here is 8,000 ft high. I believe I will never go back to Venezuela, but this is one of the most wonderful experiences I've had in my life. And I am glad I did it many times.

My son Diego, Father Perico Galdos s.j., and me at Naiguata peak (8,875 ft) in 1995.

At this cross, Father Galdos has officiated mass every February for more than 50 years. The flags in the cross, are: Venezuelan to the left and the Loyola Excursionist Center (CEL) to the right.


MarathonChris said...

What a beautiful place!!! We just saw Avatar last night (I know, late comer to the party) and there is nothing like being out in nature, hearing, smelling and just "being" in the midst of it all. It is why camping is one of my favorite activities!

Thanks for taking us there!

Petraruns said...

Amazing piece there - I feel like I can smell the mountain myself. 13. 5 miles - sounds like you're on target my dear friend! I'm on week 1 of 100 pushups now - incidentally.