Bad luck. Good road trip.


Interested in a nice little game of Wikipedia worm-hole? Google the “Ohuican Chaneque”.  According to Mexican folklore dating back to the Aztecs, these are little gremlin-like beings that guard nature and try to scare the souls out of intruders. Or they’ll eat them. (Like all good folklore, the myth varies.) I don’t believe in ghosts and gremlins and I don’t even believe in luck, but I thought this would make a nice little intro for my account of a road trip from Monterrey to Mexico City which was uncharacteristically riddled with bad personal “luck”.

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On our second day of driving, we visited 4 waterfalls in one day. These were breath-taking beauties with bright blue water and almost no other tourists. The water was just the right amount of cool in the shade of the jungle trees around us. The fourth and final waterfall of that day was the best of all. Puente de Dios. At first it looked just like the others- a waterfall emptying into a bright blue pool, beautiful in and of itself. Once in the water however, you could see that a small crevice at the back corner of the pool flowed into a cave that opened up in impressive stalactite formations above the water’s surface. While I can’t explain it, the white sand underneath projected the blue of the water with an almost neon brightness so it seemed as if the cave was glowing. Inside the cave I found myself checking the walls for lights- it just didn’t seem natural.

It was paradise.

Except for one thing.


Bad leg

In an absolute fluke, (which I still can’t explain), my quad seized up the moment it hit the water. The jump into the water couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 feet or so, but the strange, numbing pain that hit my leg in that instant had me wondering…”Did I just break something?”…but the impact was so minimal.

“Excellent. How am I supposed to swim without moving my leg?” I thought, suddenly grateful that each visitor was required to wear a life vest. I pulled myself along through the water with the ropes, pulled myself up the cliffs and out of the water and examined my invisible injury, testing what I could and couldn’t do with my leg.

could put weight on it. I couldn’t bend it. While seated on the ground, I could move it left to right. I couldn’t lift it up off the ground. I put pressure on the muscle and found it absolutely, rock-hard tense.





We still had a few waterfalls to visit and I’m not one to sit out on an adventure. I caught a few awkward looks from our boat guides as they waited for me to try to keep up with them on our little hike to their boat. I don’t know very much Spanish, so I let my ridiculous stiff-legged walk do the communicating.

Boat to tamul waterfall


Apparently the message of my injured leg came, as they let me stay in the boat when we got to the rapids, gesturing for Drew and my dad to get out of the boat and walk along the shore while they pulled the boat through the rapids, and gesturing for me to stay put.

I felt embarrassed sitting in the boat while they worked to pull it through the water. But as it turned out, this was only the beginning of my body’s attempt to humble me.

On the boat ride back from the waterfall, our guides pulled off at a cenote and gestured for us to check it out. “Media hora!”, they said. I made my way out to the cenote despite my injury. The earth was damp and spongey with rotted trees. I felt a sting and swatted at a few red ants I’d disturbed but thought little of it.

Until my lips went numb.

I knew exactly what was happening. Over the last two years I’ve had a few allergic reactions but I’d not yet confidently pin-pointed the instigator. I thought maybe mold? Or maybe shallots? Or maybe ant bites.

My dad was about to follow Drew into the cenote but I caught his attention. “Dad, you need to help me remove this lip ring.” It felt like a cruel joke. “That’s it, i’m never getting a piercing again,” I thought to myself as he worked to loosen the fastener. The only other time in my life I’d ever tried to pierce anything was a nose ring I’d gotten in college shortly before going on a camping trip with my dad. My skin didn’t agree with it and one night during our trip I tearfully resigned and asked my dad to help me remove the thing from my nose. Now, a decade later, we were doing it all over again. By the time he’d removed the ring, my lips were too swollen for me to speak properly and my eyes and ears were beginning to swell too.

Suddenly I noticed the boat guides looking horrified at me. I guess our half hour had run out and they’d come out to the cenote to find us. There’s nothing like a horrified on-looker to serve as a status-check for how panicked you should be about your own condition. I’m sure to them it looked like my zombie transition had progressed and I’d soon be fully undead.

I’d only ever had a few major allergic reactions before and I’d always had benedryl quickly in reach, so I’d never seen what my allergic reactions would look like if given more then 10 minutes to run wild. Now I had a 30 minute boat ride and 15 minute drive between me and the benedryl in my purse. At least my horrific appearance had sufficiently scared some urgency into the boat guides and we made it to shore quickly.


I sat awkwardly beside the boat guide while he drove us back to town, trying to avoid catching any glimpse of myself in the side mirror while Drew and my dad rode in the bed of the truck.

Benedryl did the trick and within about two and a half hours, I had my face back. No more lip piercing, but I didn’t care. I was just glad it was over. And now I had an answer to my allergy questions. Ants. I’m allergic to ants.

If you promise not to show this to children…here’s my face before the ant allergy and after.



Even with all the crazy bad luck, I loved our road trip through Mexico. I may think twice before I jump off a cliff into water and I’ll always keep benedryl on hand from now on. Otherwise, no regrets.

4 Comments on “Bad luck. Good road trip.

  1. Oh, my what a story. Glad it had a happy ending. Reminded me of a time when my son – then a trip leader in Costa Rica – accompanied a person with an allergic reaction on a boat ride and car trip which was between them and a medical facility. Luckily she was OK in the end too but in her case it was super scary because it was life threatening. He actually had a epipen in his hand the whole time, as he watched her for signs it was time to use it. Luckily they got help in time because in the end it took 2 doses and he only had one. Very, very scary!

    Also brought back a foggy memory of another Costa Rica trip years before when ants attacked me and while nothing as bad as yours, I ended up with a bad rash on my feet.

    Stay safe!!

    • Wow that is really scary! I feel very lucky that my allergic reactions have never caused swelling in my throat or tongue. (Though I never write it off as an impossibility.)

    • Well, I had participated in an ultimate frisbee tournament the weekend before, so I don’t know if that made it more likely for my leg to freeze up? Really not sure.

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