THE STORY BEHIND WRITING 'IN THE TREES'

EXTRACTS FROM MY TRAVEL JOURNAL

Thursday
Jul212011

MASTERING MY HAMMOCK

Idris has this idea that God’s looking after him and he won’t die until his time, which isn’t yet.  He’s not immortal, in other words, but he’s not far off.  This means in practice so far on our trip that it’s been okay to stroke local dogs, even if they give you rabies or fleas, to fail to put skin cream on your nose and end up burning it, and to go into the jungle without a sleeping bag, even though you’ve been told how freezing cold your nights will get.

I’m in my sleeping bag now, wondering how Idris is feeling because, however hot and steamy the jungle may be by day, it’s beginning to get cold.  It’s been a long day, finishing up with a supper of noodles & beans cooked by Greg, spiced up with Marie Sharpe’s sauce, which is a Belizean speciality.  We ate in our mess tins and drank tins of hot black tea followed by a tot of whisky.  After sitting round the fire talking, we headed off to bed at the great late hour of 8.00pm, by which time the night was as dark as anything I’ve ever seen....

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Wednesday
Jul202011

NATURAL ARCH - MEETING SOLDIERS WITH SUB-MACHINE GUNS

If you look very hard, you'll see the Belizean soldiers with sub-machine guns whom I’ve just been sitting with in my jungle camp, all wanting to know how old I am, where I come from and why. Camouflage gear works, doesn't it? The soldiers were as astonished to see me as I was to see them.  The camp we’re staying in tonight is a disused xatero camp and when these soldiers – who are camped nearby - saw smoke rising from it, they came to investigate, all ready to attack.   It's obvious they're not going to leave again until Greg and Idris return from the Chiquibul River where they've gone to bathe, leaving me to write up my diary.  They appear to have decided I need guarding....

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Wednesday
Jul132011

XATEROS

Greg has been ‘in the trees’.  That’s the expression Jen uses to describe being out in the jungle.  It clocks in my head.  I like it.  I know there’s something in it for my book.   We sit up late drinking coffee. Greg talks about my book.  I ask about his trip.  We go downstairs to the Operations Room and look at maps. Greg’s been visiting the Northern Group, whom he says has been making a slow start but has bonded well, both together and with their leader, Katie, whose slight stature belies her toughness [Jen describes her as ‘as hard as nails’].

We’ll be visiting this group ourselves, out in the remote Chiquibul Forest Reserve, which is part of the Meso-American corridor, the largest tract of tropical rainforest in Central America.   We’ll also be visiting the Southern Group, which is led by a gung-ho ex-army type called Sully, whose project, apparently, has attracted a number of the more gung-ho, extravert types in this year’s batch of volunteers.

The jungle trek down to them is going to be hard....

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