Chelo’s house, which is actually a wooden cabin; is located at the end of Santa Teresa on top of a very steep hill. We climbed the first stretch in his car, but there’s a second slope that has to be walked through on a narrow stone stairway. The prize for such an effort is, of course, the view. Or are heights enjoyable by themselves? Could it be that the views make us aware of the heights and that’s why we appreciate them so much? When you inhabit a high dwelling, up and down become two categories slicing perception just like Chelo slices the perfect avocado that he now offers me together with a delicious lentil and vegetable stew. If I want to, he says, after lunch we can go kayaking through a mangrove with a friend of his. Of course I want to.
Chelo is my host in Santa Teresa. As we eat, he tells me he is a biologist but the starched seriousness of the academic world tired him so he now works as a naturalist guide. It’s Sunday at midday. Chelo has just shared his lunch with me, 10 minutes after meeting each other and 5 minutes after climbing the stone steep path with all my belongings on my back. Although I don’t have that much luggage, when you are going up a wet hill, every gram is felt. No matter how little I carry, I am always wishing it would be less.
I’m gazing off into the view from Chelo’s house and it makes me never want to come down again. Why is it so fascinating? Every time we say there’s a view, we are talking about a broad panorama that allows our sight to span over several miles at once. The highly appreciated view seems to be related to the ability to look from a distance it grants us. As if one was offered a break from a chronic and unnoticed myopia. Of course there’s the horizon and its ability to evoke endless possibilities, to constitute the symbol of future, utopias, projects, desires. But I am now more surprised by this other aspect of it, the sudden awareness of scale, the anti-myopia effect that looking from a distance has on us: acknowledging how small and transient we are. How wonderful is it that sight, the sense of distance par excellence, can bring us back the strength hidden in our fragility. Staring at the views causes a reset that leaves my other senses, those of direct contact and proximity, more eager than ever before. The sudden awareness of my fragility and transience constitutes a forceful return to my body.
I’m washing the dishes while Chelo fills a backpack. He’s bringing flashlights, bug spray, a dry bag; accessories to help our bodies enjoy direct contact with nature, that otherness we are part of, although we’re not. With a full stomach and horizon-flooded eyes, we’re going down to the mud to go kayaking through a mangrove. We’ll get damp and muddy. We’ll be silent, trying to recognise birds by their singing and chirping. We’re going down: from the hill to the mangrove, from the sight to hearing and touch. Ari and Chelo will teach me a lot about the area and its birds and I will make photos for them to start selling their tours online. My brief stay in Santa Teresa is only beginning. In 2 days, Chelo will remove the stitches from my quad (yes! I’ve got my first surfing injury) as I gaze into the horizon. In 3 days I will play live for the first time in this trip. I will cook fresh mackerel that we will buy stunning Suizos Beach, in Malpais. Chelo and I will have long contemplative conversations under the full moon, sitting on the deck that gifts us this view. We will become friends in 4 days and I will continue my route. 4 days that will feel like more. Because height, sight and time are always relative to the experience that bastes them together.