NEAR BANOS, Ecuador
On the morning of our repelling trip, Pessa wasn’t really speaking to me.
She was nervous about the four planned repels down a series of high waterfalls in nearby Rio Blanco. She didn’t want to hear me tell her everything was going to be OK. She said she needed to process it on her own.
After we changed into our damp wet suits in a bamboo and particle-board shack near the river, she commented that one of our guides looked like he was 12.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so positive. … “I’m sure baby-face knows what he’s doing.¨ … I should have been more understanding in order to ease her fears.
In the end, the 12-year-old guide was relegated to photographer duty when another guide arrived minutes later.
The real guide asked Pessa if it was her first time.
“Yes,” she blurted out.
“Yeah, me too,” he joked.
After Pessa crept down the eight-foot-high practice repel, she wouldn’t face me when I looked to see if she was OK. She was welling up — and later, when we were on speaking terms — she said that looking at me would force tears to roll.
I didn’t think this experience would be so fearful. Sure, she had reservations before we booked it, but she owns rock-climbing shoes and scared me two years ago when she fearlessly climbed up a steep rock near Mic Mac Lake in Silver Bay, Minn.
But after that ½ repel, I thought it was over, and we were going to walk down the mountain.
However, her light-purple, size-37 tennis shoes crept over the edge and down three waterfalls of about 60 feet. She pushed through three more rounds of tears.
On the largest repel of more than 115 feet, Pessa flashed me a smile as she disappeared over the precipice.
A rock on the ensuing waterslide slightly bruised her foot, but we rode back to Banos in the back of a pick-up satisfied. She said she enjoyed herself and would try it again.
For me, it was nerve-wracking, sure. I had not rock-climbed or repelled since a few sporadic times before college. But the desire to try new things made this decision easy. The adrenaline cascaded over the nerves.