Thursday, April 30, 2009

I need a vacation....

I get jet lag, sun poisoning, have absolutely no aptitude for foreign languages, cannot navigate my way from the bed to the bathroom in the dark and have a "delicate constitution" that flares up at the most inconvenient times.

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.


  • I'm skeered of food when someone describes it as an "adventure" - c'mon, we all know that's code for "diarrhea inducing."

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful and insightful email and comments. I promise, I'm writing you back soon!

    By Blogger Bucky Four-Eyes, At 10:54 AM  

  • You know that joke about the woman about to go on an ocean cruise, so she asks her pharmacist for some birth control pills and some dramamine and he asks, "Lady, if it makes you sick, why do you do it?"

    It makes me wonder why you travel to places that seem so risky. Actually, I guess it doesn't, since I have the wanderlust myself. :)

    Deet dissolves synthetics. Says so on the bug repellent bottles. Careful where you apply it and where it can transfer to. :)

    By Blogger dkgoodman, At 3:36 PM  

  • Thanks for having made a stop and written a comment on my blog. Glad you did, because I really got immersed in your prose in five seconds flat. You are quite the amazing writer! And what a life story, man. Mine is totally boring compared to yours, and I am still wondering if it's a good thing or a bad thing.

    By Blogger Elisabeth, At 5:16 AM  

  • except for my friend walkers blog this is the most interesting blog i have read. you live quite a life don't you ? i am not the out door type so i much prefer a hotel room that does not need an insect net and a rifle or pistal. the closest i want to get to a jungle is watching tarzan on the t.v. while lying in bed. very interesting post and well written. have a good day.

    By Blogger mrhaney, At 6:05 AM  

  • I'm an "indoor girl" so I can't relate. However, I admire your ability to turn such an episode into humor!!

    By Blogger tigger, At 3:52 PM  

  • Terri...First, thank you for stopping in to my blogs. I will be turning the same age as you in November. My kids are 34,30,and 28.
    I loved reading about your adventure. Guess you can't always believe the brochures. As I was reading it, I had to keep telling myself that you lived through it to write about it, it's ok! Oh and one more thing we have in name is Tari

    By Blogger ...jus me, At 6:20 PM  

  • Hahahahaha! Well written Terri! (Have you ever considered Disney World?) Were you quick enough with the fork to get the lizard that landed in your plate?

    Thanks for stopping by my site today and for leaving such nice comments. I appreciate it!

    By Blogger Andrew, At 5:18 PM  

  • HEY. time to update your blog.
    You, my friend, are tagged.
    details on my blog

    By Blogger JeSais, At 11:46 AM  

  • You are a very gifted storyteller. I dont like traveling much and you illustrate some of the reasons why. You have quite a way with words and discriptions.

    When I saw Beleise I thought this was going to turn into a lines of coke on mirrors story and I thought was being lured in when I read the whiskey part of the story. But then I said wait a minute.... all of the coke stories do coke and then do whiskey shots to take the edge off.

    Then it made me think of all of the stories I had heard before of South America but then thought... hmmm this is different... Because all the stories I had heard to this point had been from the male point of view of finding women that care about their appearance, dont mind household duties and are not golddiggers like women in the US.

    Your movie comparisons were excellent and this was an excellent post from a different view. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

    By Blogger Tom Bailey, At 6:53 AM  

  • Just wanted to let you know about a free giveaway at my site this week - come check it out! Thanks!

    By Blogger Patriot, At 6:45 PM  

  • Hi, Terri -

    I read your comment on another site and would like to email you, but I don't see an email address on your site. If you wouldn't mind emailing me at, I'd like to get in touch with you.


    By Blogger B.E.C.K., At 3:47 PM  

  • Hey Terri- yes, we do have a lot in common. Why aren't you currently blogging? Enjoying your old ones...

    By Blogger Ms. Moon, At 5:38 AM  

  • HB, T! :)

    By Blogger dkgoodman, At 10:05 AM  

  • Correct me if I'm wrong but does that say April 30 2009???! Even if it's just an updated template it's SOMETHING! Glad to see you moving the curtains in the windows to let us all know you're there!

    By Blogger SidDawgone, At 10:06 PM  

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