“Ricardo.” He extended his hand for a shake. “It’s very nice to meet you.” Ricardo was the owner of a tree house, to which we’d been invited for a one-night stay. It was located in Porecatu, about an hour away from where we’d been staying in Londrina, a city in the state of Paraná in Brazil. “I think you guys are going to have a really good time there,” he said in flawless English. “Just bring a cooler with whatever you want. I’ll be there when you arrive, show you around a bit, and then hand over the key. You can return it to me when you come back to Londrina. Sound good?”
As Ricardo detailed directions to Mike, I wondered how much “showing around” could be done in regards to a tree house. What could be involved beyond a ladder and an elevated shelter? How complex could it possibly be?
When we reached the tree house, I had to reconcile the monstrosity before me with the image I’d had in my head of what a tree house actually is. I’ve been on the roof of my own home before, and it usually makes me a bit queasy, as heights are not my strong suit. What loomed before me was a hexagonal wooden palace sixty feet in the sky.
The girls and I perused the living space of the tree house, which included two sets of bunk beds, a master bedroom with a queen-sized sleeping mattress, and a living room area and kitchenette.
At the base of the tree was a balance beam and slide. Two firemen’s poles came down from the tree house, one smaller and intended for children, the other much higher and only for adults.
I used the kiddie pole.
Large swinging nests, circular couches enclosed in wicker, hung from other nearby trees.
We made our way up to the eagle’s nest to enjoy the spectacular view. Mike reveled in the surrounding jungle and the fact that there was no one for miles around, while I contemplated if there really was no one for miles around, or if roving bandits waited in the forest to attack us at any moment. If there were no bandits, and there truly was no one around, I pictured snakes and big cats lying in wait. These thoughts were interrupted by a rustling noise.
“What was that? Did you guys hear that?” I asked.
“I think it came from over there.” Emilia pointed to an area of dense foliage on the ground below.
“Whatever it is, it’s big,” said Ivy as we watched leaves move.
“Is it a jungle cat or a giant anaconda?” I asked. “Both can climb trees.”
Mike elbowed me in reprimand for alarming the kids. The rustling continued for a moment until a cow lumbered out from the brush.
“Oh,” I said.
Inside the tree house, as night began to fall, Mike said, “I think I’ll go turn off all the outside lights.” But as soon as he did so, the inside lights of the tree house became the only lights in existence for miles around. Every bug within ten square miles descended upon us. They wiggled their way in through crevices and blanketed us in swarms when Mike opened the door to come inside. I sank, horrified, back into the darkness of the bunk beds with the children, who were entirely unfazed.
“Hmm, this is unfortunate,” Mike said.
“This is the stuff of nightmares.”
“Oh, it’s not that big of a deal,” he said, though I could barely see him through the fog of a thousand insects as he stood in the kitchen. “Let me get you another glass of wine.”
“Just bring me the bottle.”
The girls slept fine that night. Mike and I retreated to the master, a small private room with a queen bed. Bugs didn’t permeate the room to the extent they had the kitchen and main living area, but they were still present, and after a minute or two of stillness, I’d begin scratching or frantically throw back the sheets, sure that a horde of insects was attacking.
“Honey, there’s nothing there,” Mike said. “Try to get some sleep.”
“There is something there,” I said. “There’s always something there. Look, here’s another.” I held up a tiny speck as evidence, though in truth I’m not sure if it was a bug or an innocuous crumb of dirt.
“Just try and get some sleep,” he repeated.
He listened, and I knew from his expression that I wasn’t imagining it. “Oh, there’s a family of little bats living in the roof of this room. Ricardo told me about them. It’s nothing to worry about.”
After my panic at the bugs, one might expect me to fully freak out at the mention of a family of bats, but I actually find them endearing. However, their squeaking and chattering throughout the night was yet another impediment to sleep.
The rains began and the wind picked up. The tree began to sway. I felt queasy at the thought of how high in the air we were. What if lightning struck and we crashed to the ground? What if lightning struck and Mike and I crashed to the ground while the girls remained sixty feet in the air, cold and shivering in a half shell of a tree house, with no way to get down and no one to call for help?
I turned to look at Mike, but he was fast asleep.
In the morning, we surveyed the kitchen, where every inch of space was covered in bugs, most dead, some still squirming. I used a roll of paper towels to wipe them from every surface, to leave the space in the deceptively appealing condition in which we’d found it. I looked forward to leaving.
As we packed, Mike said, “This is the coolest place ever. This is my favorite part of this whole trip.”