Terror on the Sugarloaf

“I want to get away from the tourist-y part!” I whisper, grabbing James’s arm. We are standing on the Sugarloaf mountain.

“I agree. These shops are all the same.”

“Let’s go back to that rope bridge with the fruit growing in barley fiber pockets on the trees. I want to see nature. I mean, gosh, we are in the tropics!”

We walk back to the bridge from the platform where everyone is looking at the immense view, smoke from a burning building smudging the sky. The bridge stretches into the woods, bordered by great tropical trees with dark waxy leaves. Men hover, spraying water onto the rare flowers growing in barley planters along the tree trunks.

“Now this is fun!” I say, looking over the edge of the bridge.

We emerge from the forest and find ourselves in a deserted corner of the mountain. A few men stand around, repairing parts of the sidewalk. There are stairs with a rope cutting them off from access.

“That’s the way down to the forest,” James says.

I move forward, lift the rope, and start down.

“That is off limits,” a worker says.

“Oh really? Why?”

“No going down there,” he reiterates in broken English.

“Oh, ok." I wait till his back is turned and then walk down the stairs, pulling James after me.

A path thru a beautiful forest and an opening onto a balcony overlooking the city. I lean over the balcony rail.

James hugs me from behind, kisses my head. “Look at that,” he says.

We soak the beauty in, the little terracotta roofs, the quirky favelas nestled in emerald green hills, the great sea beyond. The Christ statue stands on a mountain opposite, looking over Rio de Janeiro. 

I make a video blog, trying to document the view. We take a picture or two.

Then we see the birds.

“Look at those buzzards! There must be something dead.”

The black birds dance against the blue sky.

“Those are crows, honey. Buzzards circle, they don't swarm.”

“Oh my gosh, they’re coming this way!”

We watch as the black cloud of birds flies towards us. One bird breaks away, flying at breakneck speed in our direction. I watch in disbelief, waiting for it to veer away, but it doesn’t. I scream as it swoops low over our heads. I can feel the wind of the wings. The rest of the birds are close at hand.

“Run!” I scream to James.

I dash back to the woodland path, my iPhone shaky-cam-ing with me. A grey wing flaps above my head. “HURRY!” I yell.

“Honey, those are bats!” James says.

“BATS!!!”

I open the umbrella, running like a penguin, aware of how dumb I look even in the midst of my fear. Another one swoops and the vision of one getting caught under the umbrella and then locking it's teeth in my eyes makes me try to shut the umbrella again.

Then I am out of the forest. Back at the shops. Out of breath. James behind me, cool as a cucumber.

“I need WATER!” I gasp.

“Let me get you some, honey,” James says. Awwww…

I write a Facebook status to celebrate the adventure. You know, because that’s what you do in the 21st century.

Then my sister comments, “Do you know bats have rabies?”

And James just chuckles as the blood drains from my face and I guzzle his water bottle.