Our campus is built on the knees of a mountain called Magote. The top peak rises almost 5000 feet above sea level, 3000 feet above our campus, and is often shrouded in clouds. People pay money to have guided tours up it. Ironically, even though the mountain is on our doorstep, we very rarely climb it. We have few hiking aficionados on campus, so when a hike on Magote is scheduled there is groaning and lamentations. Last Tuesday the girls were supposed to climb the peak, but the trip was very nearly canceled.
In fairness to staff and students, it is a hard hike. The two and a half mile trail has a vertical climb of 3000 feet and takes an experienced hiker about two hours to climb and an hour and a half to come down. The last time the girls climbed it, it took one group eight hours to make the complete trip (four hours of climbing, four hours of complaining).
Sarah and I volunteered to help make the hike a reality. Two other staff very kindly covered the classroom and watched our kids. Eleven girls, three staff, and a driver piled into the Nissan van and we began our adventure. After a bumpy ride, we arrived at the trailhead and divided into three groups. Due to needing to get back for supper, we only had three hours to hike.
I led the first group and we pushed for the summit. The first fifteen minutes of the trail were a gentle climb up over a ridge. The next fifteen minutes were a more gruelling climb as we tackled the mountain. In that first half hour, we covered two of the two and a half miles. After that, a series of switchbacks led us ever higher, culminating in the “crawl.” I’m not sure what it’s official name is, but I have labeled it after the position needed to scale it. It is a two hundred foot section of trail with a 60 degree grade. It can only be accomplished on hands and knees.
Above the “crawl,” the trail continues steeply upwards, sometimes in excess of 45 degrees. The five girls in my charge were troopers and we were on track to make it to the summit, but two of them began having cramps. We settled for making it to the ridge, a slope connecting the upper and lower peaks of Magote. As we stood there, fog rolled in and the girls were awed.
The trip down was an adventure, slipping and sliding down the muddy trail. I taught the girls a trick to get down the steepest portions: the Tarzan slide. Crouching down with one foot forward and one back, I rested most of my weight above my rear foot and spread my arms out behind me. In this position, I slid down the steep sections, using my front foot to ward myself off from rocks and my hands to brake my descent. The girls all tried their own variations of it and soon were sliding down the slopes at remarkable rates. One girl kept us in hysterics with her running commentary on injuries sustained and imminent death. By the time we made it down we were all coated in mud, had lost several layers of skin, and had a great adventure to tell about.
And that sums up our life here. Sarah and I live life with the students here. We climb mountains with them, teach them in school, host them in our home, share life. Last Sunday we took two girls to lunch and on a grocery trip. On Tuesday we scaled a mountain with them. On Tuesday night we had one of the girls over for bagels, conversation, and a Nancy Drew game. On Wednesday, we helped another staff family move. On Thursday, I had my mentee over for breakfast and a talk about life. On Friday, Sarah supervised as the girls taught English at a local school. That night we had two girls over for a vegan/vegetarian meal and a talk about communication. Yesterday, a casual remark led to us taking a staff family shopping and helping them transport home a crib and dresser. We are blessed to be serving in the DR.