I consider my main achievement on this trip to be the fact that I haven’t yet been arrested. This is despite several excellent opportunites;
Firstly there is my inability to understand the one-way system in the big town that I have to go to for batteries, timber, tools and the Mega Super.
This place clearly doesn’t expect to be visited by out-of-towners so the direction for driving is not posted on many of the roads. Having caused a massive klaxonage at every turn on my initial foray I now simply follow any moving vehicle and hope it will eventually pass a shop that has things I need.
Yesterday there was quite a big argument about whether the police should be called to arrest me in the small town that I go to for fuel. The petrol station has a Manboss and several women who run the place. I filled up with fuel before realising that my bag was empty of wallet. Seeing no child to hold as hostage while I made my escape, all I could do was offer a promise to return with money very quickly.
The Manboss wanted to call the police and the women spent about an hour trying to convince him otherwise, everyone got very heated and it nearly turned into a fight. Only when I chipped in (in my best Spanish) with assurances of my honesty and an offer to leave my Yves St Laurent sunglasses as security, did the arguing group stop and regard me with puzzlement.
Coatis have double-jointed ankles - they point their feet backwards which makes getting down trees easier
I am suffering from Santa Rosa Fat Arm - apparently a high proportion of visitors to the Park get at least one Fat Arm for about a week.
The cause of Fat Arm can be mysterious and is often thought to be brought about by spider bite, I have Fat Arm because I leaned on a wasp who was pretending to be part of the table cloth.
Yesterday I went into a part of the forest where two of the Park rangers were working, one of the rangers was a small elderly lady, her large straw hat was secured to her head with a floral scarf, she was working with a young man. The rangers were repairing paths around a picnic area. I parked my car and the lady came up to me asking who I was - I showed her my papers, she asked me to go and see her to sign out before I left.
When I was ready to leave they were doing a spot of carpentry, I went up and said
Ok I’m off now
The lady looked at me, then stared at the young man who missed a couple of beats before quickly putting his left hand up as though it was a notebook, he asked my name, I told him and he tried to write it on his sweaty palm.
Then he asked me for my passport number. That is in my car
The young man looked over at my car, he didn’t want to move, so he thought of another question what is your driving license number?
That is also in my car
Neither of us were quite sure what he was supposed to do with this information so he put his hand away and wished me a good journey.
The photo is an illustration of we sustain ourselves here, the food in containers is prepared in the park canteen – here we have a rice-based dish, potato and beetroot salad and black bean puree, you may also note our reliance on Tabasco, coffee and beer.
Next Day – nothing worked, I spent a lot of money buying car batteries and got shouted at by the man running the battery shop because I didn’t want to buy his winch.
it is really hot here
Day After – some things worked a bit, but we didn’t have enough power - I had to go back and buy more batteries. The chairs refused to behave
More Camera People arrived hoping to use the cameras Day After That - I bought wood to make a table and found some better behaved chairs.
The things that worked yesterday no longer worked.
it is really really hot here
Next Day – our main filming system relies on a pair of cables stretched over the forest, the cameras are all worked remotely. We finally got the cameras working and tried to launch them but the electronic systems interfered with each other and turned our cameras into Crazy Robots from Hell
I am asked to order more stuff to be sent over from the UK
Day After That – some people fell out with each other
it is really really really hot here
Day After That – one of the cables collapsed Day After That – the other cable collapsed
A Flying Squad of chair medics arrived on the scene last night. After examining the wounded, a specialist chair doctor carried out major field surgery.
Those that survived were supplemented with specimens from the finest furniture store available. We sincerely hope that the influx of foreigners will integrate with the native chairs and co-exist peacefully for at least six weeks.
Anarchy broke out among the furniture last night. Evil Chair and his cronies attacked the few remaining Good Chairs. This one has clearly had the stuffing knocked out of him and is bleeding profusely - will he survive?
This is Evil Chair - Evil Chair sits around looking inviting, just waiting for someone to sit on him, then just as his victim has got settled with a beer, Evil buckles his legs and throws him backwards.
Evil Chair is allowed to hang around because Good Furniture is difficult to find and there are too few Good Chairs to stand up to this bully.
Here is Evil Chair with his brother - they find Evil's antics so funny that Evil Twin has laughed his head off.
This is the Soggy Bottom Gang, anyone sitting on one of them gets sucked through the sponge at the back of the chair. The Soggy Bottom Gang don't want to kill anyone, they just want to be left to get on with getting drunk and falling over.
This is where I finally put my head down last Monday night, it is where I will be staying for the next couple of weeks. Our journey to this place seemed interminable because time kept slipping as we chased the sun round the world.
1am Monday: Got out of my lovely warm UK bed met two Camera Boys, collected 28 cases full of filming equipment and drove to airport.
8pm Monday (at least 24 hours later): Costa Rican customs lady does not have the correct paperwork for our trolleyloads of cases and threatens to impound it all for a few days.
10pm Monday: Arrive at Thrifty Car And Van Hire, we booked a van, it says so on our booking reservation, we have been given a People Carrier, it is full of seats, there is no room for our cases, Thrifty Man insists that a bigger vehicle does not exist and Thrifty does not do vans, I ask for a second vehicle, the laborious task of filling in documents goes on while the Camera Boys pack as many cases as possible into this first vehicle. When 20 cases are firmly wedged in, the second vehicle is brought over – it is bigger and has less seats – we can put all our luggage in this one.
I go back into Thrifty office, make Thrifty Man tear up all the documents and start again, meanwhile the Camera Boys unload and reload the cases.
12 midnight: Santa Rosa National Park, the road got distinctly lumpy as we approached our destination, it is very very dark and for the last ten miles, dozens of Nightjars chose to squat on the road, flying up in front of the vehicle only as it is about to drive over them, I am driving and getting confused about whether this is all part of my plane dream which involved machete-wielding octopi.
When we get to where we have been told to go, all doors are locked, no notes and no-one is around except for other visitors who are sound asleep. We creep around for another hour or so until we find a hidden section of buildings with our names on the doors and keys in the locks.
The next day I get the email telling me about the change of plan.
Those are my bags at 9.45am last Thursday. They are waiting for someone to arrive and put them in a taxi. Fifteen minutes earlier, my bags and I had been delivered there by a man in a tiny boat, the man in the boat assured me that a taxi had been booked, it would be there shortly to take me to the airport to catch my 10.20 flight to Belize International.
Just after I took that picture that guy who is also in the picture said
You need a car?
and I said
I have taxi booked, I should give it a little more time
at 10.00 I asked him how long it would take him to find me a car
couple of minutes
He ran off to a nearby house and returned with his friend in a beat-up car and we set off for the airport.
They drove right into the airport and checked my bags in for me - the following picture is the view from the taxi.
That's Jet, he's four foot two, with a face like a chewed toffee. There he is behind his bar in Belize International airport, his bar is called 'Jets'. Jet works hard at being a 'character', toy planes hang off the ceiling and Jet's name appears many times around the place writ in neon and biro. The food option at 'Jets' is a cheese and ham sandwich for which you will pay dearly, there are no prices written up so you won't realise how expensive it is until he has given you a pack of chewing gum as change for the twenty dollar bill you just gave him.
Feeling pissed off and hungry you might then go round the corner and find something called 'Petit Café' where you will be served nice food by jolly women with great hair and clean t shirts who don't try and feel your tits.
It has never occurred to me that the toilet flush could be operated as a pedal. When I first read that notice I imagined that people must be putting their feet into the bowl to treadle their faeces down the pipe.
I suddenly had to go off on a long trip, I went all the way there and then turned around and came all the way back again. I have been in perpetual motion for a week (the insides of my body are still rolling with the movement of the ocean).
I passed through many ports and I shall probably say more about these places. Meanwhile here's my favourite notice seen during this trip - found in an airport lavatory