The Antennae


"Are you afraid of heights?" he asked.

Had I learned nothing? A month earlier, when asked that same question, I got strapped to a cable, ziplining above traffic. My stubborn streak finds trouble for me.

"No."

"Climb this! The view is better than from the volcano."

I erroneously thought, "I could scramble up that antennae. Cool!"

"Just let me go get my gun."

That sentence was not high on the list of things I wanted to hear from the mouth of a stranger. "Probably not a good idea to leave it lying over there."

Every warning for traveling through Honduras started streaming, non-stop, getting louder. They had check points for guns, metal detectors in nearly every bus station. I hadn't had anything but an amazing experience. So far. Was I tempting fate? Should I leave?

It was my own fault; I had wandered over to ask directions. Only I could lose an enormous inanimate object, the lone volcano, on Isla del Tigre (Tiger Island).

In some kind of work outfit, he was official-looking, standing next to the massive red and white antennae. My inner voice squealed, "Why didn't you tell anyone where you were going?"

"Whenever you're ready."
To mask that I was never going to be ready, I smiled, cursing my pigheaded self.

Up I went. The first few rod iron, slippery steps were easy, fun. Why hike a volcano when you can accidentally meet someone who lets you climb an antennae?

I couldn't envision this happening back home: consent forms, liability issues…

The closer I got, the further away it looked. Each rung made me more nervous. My normally optimistic demeanor became a petri dish of self-doubt and anxiety. I wish I could say I scampered up like an Olympic athlete! Instead, I huffed, puffed and prayed I would make it.

Ouch! I stubbed my toe, proving flip-flops were probably not the best footwear and reminding me that I don't have health insurance.

Blame the guide book! To get off the "beaten path", it suggested Isla del Tigre. Now I remembered why people stay on the other road.

Plodding, I tried to trick myself. How do people accomplish adventuresome feats? Do they have a deep-down desire to kill themselves?

My stubborn streak attempted encouragement, "No one does this!" My cynical side quickly answered, "for good reason!"

One rung. At a time. One arm. Then the other. The stranger, who does this every day, started climbing behind me. I wanted to go faster, but was too exhausted. Was he going to do something weird?

I counted each movement, promising to take a break at “50”. Panting, I paused at “10”. He mumbled something and turned around. Could I do the same?

The bragging rights! You're almost there. Sheer willpower pushed me on.

Oh. My. God.

Yup, the panoramic view of each country's natural beauty was worth all the effort: Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. From this vista, you would assume they all got along.

Mission accomplished! I squealed, "I did it!" waving to my new friend, a speck on the ground. I clung to the side; my life depended on it, snapping photos one-handed to document this.

Going down was much easier.

"Thanks!" jumping back onto solid land. I'd never have thought of doing this.

Offering cookies and water, my obstinate ego had to know, "Do people climb this often?"

He shook his head. "Other than those of us who work here, probably no one. We don't get that many visitors."

Unfortunately, that answer also invigorated my stubborn streak for next time.

JC Sullivan

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