After I got completely lost on the Marufo Vega Trail, I kept wondering around, hoping to find the correct path. I even attempted to climb one of the hills but then I gave up. On top of one of the cliffs I witnessed perhaps the most beautiful sunsets in my life and then I turned around. I thought it would be best to walk back the way I came as I did not want to get even more lost with no water in Big Bend National Park.
Walking in the Dark on the Marufo Vega Trail
It was getting dark so I had to walk as fast as I could possibly walk. I even had to jump up and down massive boulders and manoeuvre around the shrubs with the massive thorns. The problem with the Marufo Vega Trail in the dark is that you cannot see anything and some of the cacti have huge thorns! Luckily only one or two pricked me! However hard I tried to get to the river before dark, I couldn’t so for quite a distance I walked in the dark. Luckily I had a torch with me and that helped me avoid the cacti and shrubs and to check where to step next. Otherwise I would have had to spend the night sitting on one of the rocks because there was absolutely no flat ground to set my tent up on.
On the way up I managed to memorize some of the larger rocks and formations and also some of the shrubs and cacti. I also memorized some of the cliffs by the river. Even in the dark I could see the silhouettes of the larger cliffs in the distance so I followed them. I also hugely relied on my gut instinct in the dark – one bed step and I break my leg…
I was walking in a wash and so I figured that it can only lead me to the river. These washes are normally filled with water during the rainy season when there are flash floods. So I just carried on. I also listened to the insects and followed the direction where the most noise came from. The insects like to stay by the water so it was a no brainer.
My Near Death Experience
Between the wash in which I was walking and the river, there was a relatively big hill which I could not climb. There was absolutely no point in doing so anyway because the other side would have just been a vertical fall into the river, so I carried on walking. But even the wash was not without its dangers. From time to time there were dried out waterfalls. Had I walked into one of them it would have meant a fall and a broken limb and/or certain death as some of them were 5-10 meters deep!
If I had broken my leg there I would have died of dehydration the next day for sure because nobody was around. Anyhow, I was walking carefully in the dark and I stepped aside and looked for another way if I could not see the ground continuing. I did this because I knew it meant there was a fall in front of me.
I walked like this for over an hour and I was becoming desperate to find the river. Problem is, there was no positive sign that I was getting any closer! Only my gut instinct was telling me it was the right direction. From time to time I also recognized some of the shrubs and cacti and also noticed my own footsteps from when I was walking up. It reassured me that I was going the right way and to lift my spirit I had some of the beer.
Still No Trail
The worst was that I had absolutely nothing to drink other than the beer, half of which I already downed. The big rucksack on my back with the sleeping bag and tent did not help either. I was becoming quite tired of walking all day in the heat. By then it was well after 930 pm and I was about to give up when I found sand between the rocks. It meant that I could not be that far from the river.
This gave me a bit of encouragement and I carried on walking for another half an hour. Unfortunately there was still no river in sight and I was absolutely exhausted by then so I sat down a little again. I began to contemplate setting up camp there. In the end I forced myself to keep on walking until the river. I knew it would be much easier to find the track from there in the morning. I also preferred walking in the dark when the sun wasn’t burning everything up.
About 20 minutes later I began hearing the water and I almost started running towards it! The moment I saw flat ground I pitched my tent and went to the river to wet my towel and clothes. I also put my head in the water to cool down a little. It was around 1030 or maybe even 1100 by then and unfortunately the mosquitoes were everywhere. They were literally eating me up so I went inside the tent. I drank the juice from the chicken broth and put myself away for the night.
Dreaming of the Water Fountain
It was the most miserable night I ever experienced. I was completely dried out and my lips were sticking together. My tongue stuck to my mouth and all I could dream about were water fountains, vending machines and the water that I had left in the back of the car! A recurring theme was sipping cold, peach flavoured iced tea in the car or coconut juice in Angkor Wat!
I even had some sort of a premonition (or maybe just hallucination) that I would meet people the next day. In my “dream” there was also a tent with a lot of water outside which I could drink from. I was in quite a lot of pain as well from the sun burn. My feet were in agony too from walking all day in sand, rocks and jumping over the boulders.
Setting off from the River
In the morning I got up around 6 am and started walking straight away. Not having anything else, I finished the last sip of beer and went to the river to wash myself before I set off. Knowing how hot it gets in the canyon I made my t-shirt wet. I also soaked the towels in water but I put them in a plastic bag to keep them wet for later.
I started walking along the river looking for the trail I followed the previous day. Thanks to my foresight I took photographs of the entrance to the river and the canyon walls the day before! Thanks to this it was easy to locate the track back to the car.
Meeting the Strangers on the Marufo Vega Trail
The only problem was it was a steep ascent and I felt exhausted, hungry and thirsty. I nearly fainted at least half a dozen times before I got to flat ground again. Here I just had to walk until Checkpoint 6 before it started to ascend again. All the while I was looking out for walkers hoping someone would have some water to spare.
I walked at least two to three hours when I saw someone standing on a big rock looking towards the river just before Checkpoint 6! I was ecstatic, never been happier to see a man in my entire life!
Come back tomorrow to read the next and final “episode” of my desert adventure.
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