THE STORY BEHIND WRITING 'IN THE TREES'

EXTRACTS FROM MY TRAVEL JOURNAL

Wednesday
Aug102011

21st FEBRUARY - MY NIGHT IN A GOLD MINE

In the distance I can hear what sounds like guns going off.  The birds have fallen if not silent, at least quiet.  The cicadas have started up.  The government officials who came in on the mining machine have all been tractored off to a bunkhouse up the hill and quietness has returned to the camp.  I’m lying looking at a ceiba tree beside the river - the one Idris and I photographed each other against earlier on.  The ceibas are disappearing, apparently.  They’re amongst the trees that the Belizeans are desperate to protect, and I can quite see why.  This ceiba is enormous – the biggest tree I’ve ever seen, its roots like mini-skyscrapers.  Yet one of the miners tells me that in the village where he grew up there were much bigger ceiba trees. 

 Gold Mine has a reputation for its ceibas - or at least it did once before....

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug022011

HEADING FOR THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE

Heaven was over, and now for the hell.  Starting with a quick porridge breakfast [and anybody who knows me knows what I think of porridge], followed fast afterwards by mud, followed not far after that by stinking heat.  By the time I'd got my haversack on my back and my feet set in the direction of our next night’s destination, Gold Mine, I was beginning to realise that yesterday’s half hour trek from the Land Rover to Natural Arch had been a walk in the park.    

We went down to the river to fill up our water bottles, then headed off along the track, planning to get as much journey behind us as possible before the day heated up.  For about three quarters of an hour at a time we’d walk, then for the other quarter of an hour we’d stop to drink, stuff down custard creams and peanuts and ease off our haversacks.  I’m not sure whether this routine was for my benefit alone.  Certainly Idris looked like he could keep going, and Greg – well, Greg was Terminator. However heavy I thought my haversack was, his was four times as heavy, and yet he scarcely seemed to break sweat. 

A cool character, Greg....

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Jul302011

BLISS  

An ordinary night for the jungle maybe, but an amazing night for me.  I thought I’d find it hard getting settled, this being my first experience of sleeping in a hammock, but at times I found myself struggling to do the exact opposite - stay awake.  Cicidas whirred, tree frogs whistled and croaked.  Nightjars called to each other. How could I sleep through anything as incredible as this?

The moon was full, shining down into our jungle clearing.  Pinpricks of light as bright as diamonds watched me from up in the canopy of trees.   I lay watching them back.  Those bright, moonstruck eyes could have belonged to anything from tree frogs to tarantulas.  I’d no idea what I was staring at....

Click to read more ...