I need a vacation....
My traveling companions relish in a vast collection of photos demonstrating the many creative ways I've come up with for carrying my own emergency toilet paper. (The one I'm most proud of is threading the entire roll onto my belt leaving my hands free to swat away flies and gnats while I squat in the jungle.) On the rare occasion I find a restroom (not counting over the side of a sailboat or on the jungle floor) I have managed to cause a minor disaster.
In Copan, Honduras I accidentally locked myself in a toilet in the rear of what looked to be an abandoned building. I had to be rescued by strangers through a trap window over the door. This rescue may sound straight forward to you, but trust me, when you're locked in a toilet in a foreign country, and you don't speak the language and your friends are two blocks away downing beers with the local resistance movement, it can be timorous.
While looking through a travel guidebook on Belize I discovered an out of the way destination referred to as "quaint and romantic." The "Bacchanal Lodge", owned by Francis Ford Coppola . Located deep in the jungle it sounded like the perfect place to relax on our way to explore the ancient Mayan ruins.
We determined that the lodge was approximately 160 miles from Belize City west on the main road towards Belmopan. We planned to arrive at the Lodge in time for an early dinner having read in the brochure "every meal is an adventure and should not be missed!"
Starting out at 8am we flipped a coin to decide who would ride where in the unairconditioned Land Rover. I captured the very back which was the most comfortable, but had no windows. We drove for hours. It was after 3pm and for an hour I'd been silently fantasizing about the fish taco I refused at a roadside stand where we stopped for gas about 2 hours ago. But 2 hours ago, only mildly hungry and still slightly satisfied from the conch fritters I'd eaten for breakfast, a fish taco didn't seem necessary. I certainly didn't want to spoil my appetite and ruin my long anticipated "not to be missed" meal.
I had already managed to deplete my emergency food supply by prying up an old cherry lifesaver that had fossilized and affixed itself to the bottom of my purse. But now, I've crossed the threshold, my blood sugar has dropped below whatever is below low and I was rapidly slipping into a deadly hunger rage.
I breathed a sigh of relief as the Land Rover slowed to make the left turn my ex-husband Dennis had told us was 20 minutes away, 90 minutes ago. It was getting dark. My stomach let out a loud groan.
The road, and I use the word road generously, was mostly mud with potholes large enough to swallow a Volkswagen. The jungle was dense. Heavy vines with thick leaves seemed to wrap tightly around anything that stopped moving for more than a minute. Even if the sun were still shining it would be as dark as midnight under the foliage canapé. There was no doubt in my mind that the jungle leopards and boa constrictors indigenous to Belize were alive and thriving right here along this 20-mile stretch of jungle. If you've never been in the jungle you might be surprised at the deafening noise. Animals you will never see shriek, grunt, warble, chirp and bark all through the night.
It was getting late and we were told before we left to stay off the roads after dark or risk being attacked and robbed by rebel road pirates. Returning to Belize City tonight would be impossible and looking around us it didn't seem likely that we'd pass a Holiday Inn anytime soon.
Finally, after surviving the last 20 miles (taking almost 3 hours!), we arrive at the lodge. Montague (Monty) Bedwell, our host, was kind enough to start up the generator, the only source of power, long enough for us to find our rooms. Unfortunately the kitchen was closed but Monty offered us a warm bottle of Jack Daniels. (Hey they did say that every meal was an adventure!) I'm not much of a drinker but I thought that alcohol, if used as a food substitute, might soothe the hunger pangs in my stomach.
Blind as bats we stumble through the jungle and climb a ladder to our room, and I use the term "room" good-naturedly. What was described in the brochure as a "Gauguin type cottage with thatched roof and woven grass walls"; was in reality an open air sleeping pad with mosquito netting built on stilts over the river, supposedly to keep bugs to a minimum. (Ha!) I think Monty thought that if he called our attention to the beauty of river below us we wouldn't notice our luggage was being carried to our room by six inch cockroaches that appear at first glance to be wearing name tags. I hesitate to ask if we tip or not.
I climb into bed and stare up at the thatched roof wondering if the lizards (some carrying small rodents in their mouths) scurrying across the fronds above my head ever lose their grip and land on unsuspecting victims below. (I later found out they do after one landed bulls-eye in the center of my breakfast plate!) My sore swollen body, covered with coral cuts and jellyfish stings inflicted the previous week while "swimming" (or truth be told, fighting for my life - but that's another story) was now stinging and burning from my own sweat.
When I read the travel brochure months ago, I had envisioned myself as Meryl Streep in "Out of Africa" staring into the eyes of wild jaguars and stepping over man-sized boa constrictors while dressed in a cute safari outfit. Instead, a thick coating of insect repellent and a sweaty baggy tee shirt had replaced my fantasized cute outfit. Believe me, I was feeling more like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now than Meryl Streep in Out of Africa. (Oh the romance of it all.) After a restless night I woke the next morning to find my entire body covered with insect parts.
Wings, legs and antennae. Did you know that insect repellent will dissolve finger nail polish, thus allowing the pest parts to permanently cement themselves to your fingertips? (Just a little travel tip you may want to remember)
After a unique breakfast of "river chicken", (aka,river frog!) we were off in search of a missionary (a whole other story) to treat my numerous infections and a newly acquired bladder infection most likely caused by bouncing in the Land Rover for hours the previous day.
Monty provided us with sandwiches, fresh water and sound advice for our return drive. "Watch out for old Guatemalan mines," he cautioned. "Where?!?" I replied trying to control the panic in my voice."Who knows?" He shrugged and waved us a jolly good-bye.