Jellyfish are nasty little gits. Sure, they may look pretty when you see them in aquariums or on television, with their billowing bodies and delicate tentacles, but jellyfish are rotten company when you’re in the water with them.
When I lived in Ecuador, my family and I vacationed at the beach or the jungle. Our favorite beaches lie on a stretch of coast not far from the city of Esmeraldas. (We spent a few years in Esmeraldas in the early nineties; we’ve moved around a lot.) One of the best beaches belongs to a resort called El Acantilado, which is Spanish for The Cliff. As its name suggests, El Acantilado is located on a cliff overlooking the beach.
My family and I loved El Acantilado, and visited its beach once or twice a year from my childhood to my graduation from high school. Of course, not every visit was perfectly pleasant. It was in the murky, gray-green ocean just off the beach that I had a run-in with jellyfish.
I had forgotten this dreadful encounter until a couple of days ago. As anyone who has known me for more than five minutes can confirm, I have a wretchedly poor memory. Every time I think I’ve finally run out of interesting stories to share on this blog, I recall some new misadventure. This one was brief, but painful.
I don’t recall in what year I ran afoul of jellyfish, but I’m pretty sure it was during my middle school years. My younger bro and I were messing about in the surf when I felt an excruciating pain along one leg. (I don’t remember whether it was the right or left.) “Get out of the water!” I shrieked, stumbling through waist-deep water toward the beach.
I reached the safety of land, collapsed upon dry sand, and inspected my leg. My entire calf had turned red, with pinpricks of crimson, and was beginning to swell. It hurt like the dickens. My parents and younger brother (who had made it safely to the beach) gathered round to examine the sting.
Within ten or fifteen minutes, my calf had swelled and hardened; I remember saying my leg felt like a heavy club. The swelling went down overnight, but it took nearly a week for my calf to heal. My skin burned and stung for days. Needless to say, I didn’t go swimming again for a while.
The ocean beyond El Acantilado is opaque, so I never saw the little blighter that drifted against my leg. For all I know, it may not even have been a jellyfish; I suppose it could have been some other stinging marine creature. Whatever it was, its sting hurt like all heck. Flipping awful little git.
Besides that miserable jellyfish, I haven’t been stung by anything but bees, though I once narrowly escaped a sting from a bullet ant. Good times, good times.
I hope to revisit Ecuador someday, and El Acantilado is near the top of my list of places I want to see again. (Other locations on the list include the Pailón del Diablo waterfall, the Papallacta hot springs, and a tiny bakery called Bom Pan that has the best bread rolls in the universe.) Someday, God willing, I may return to El Acantilado.
I’ll probably stay out of the water, though.