The Island is really beautiful, just like all the other Caribbean islands, sand and palm trees. Though Mum and Dad are probably having better weather in Corfu than I am at the moment. I have not really done much today, just lazed around and enjoyed myself. The sea is really beautiful here, with a variety of colours, colourful fish and lovely coral.
I know how much my accommodation is and how much I spend on food each day. I know how much money I have, and roughly when my money will arrive from England. Some quick sums reveal that unless I spend less I am going to run out of cash before more arrives. Food is essential, so I am going to have to give up on the accommodation. I will leave the residencia and head off to the less frequented parts of the island. Hopefully my luck will hold as it did on other Islands and I will find a local family to stay with. Otherwise I will be sleeping rough.
After a night in the open I was walking along a quiet road looking for somewhere to buy some food. As I drew level with a house the front door opened and a teenage girl came out, dressed in her uniform and obviously heading for school. She walked in the same direction as me, a few paces behind. Her mother stood at the door to wave her off. The mother noticed me and called out quite loudly, ‘Julie, is that a white man in front of you?’. Julie didn’t answer. Obviously assuming that I was either deaf or did not speak English the mother called out even louder, ‘Julie, is that a white man in front of you?’. I glanced back over my shoulder just as Julie replied, ‘Yes mama, it is a white man’. She gave me a lovely smile, but her expression was the one used by children everywhere when they have just been embarrassed by a parent.
I met a young couple who live a short way out of town and they invited me to stay with them for a few days. Today I went for a walk with Delia, the woman of the couple, and some of her children. We walked for about ten minutes down the road and then turned off up a dirt track. As we were walking I could hear shouts and whoops coming from the distance. We turned a corner and I saw a group of people sitting around on the ground looking at two horses harnessed to four poles, galloping around in circles. What, you may wonder, is the point of that. Well the four poles were joined together at the end and a fifth pole joined to them turned a roller. Sugar cane was fed into the rollers where it was crushed and the juice flowed out of a pipe. The juice was lovely. The men took it in turns to run with the horses, yelling and slapping and and encouraging them to run faster. I didn’t have my camera with me so I thought I might be able to come back tomorrow to take some pictures, but apparently this was the last day of the two month grinding session. So no pictures.
The house I am staying in is quite large, as these houses go that is. It has three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. The kitchen and lounge are the largest rooms, but the rest are considerably smaller. It is lacking in a few of the luxuries of life, but I am quite used to that now. There is no electricity and no hot water, in fact no water on tap at all. All the water is stored in big oil drums, either rain water or water that is bought off the water cart that comes round every day. There is no toilet, but there are quite a few well fertilised bushes near by. There is of course no gas, all the cooking being done on a paraffin stove. The majority of the meals, only one a day at midday, is rice, as it appears to be everywhere here Breakfast and dinner are both small meals, mostly bread and hot milk or porridge or fried bananas. The worst thing here is the insects. My ankles itch most of the time, so I shall have to get some ointment when I go into town tomorrow. For about four months now all I have worn on my feet are flip-flops, except on special occasions of going out in the evenings somewhere.
When I leave I have decided I will head for Honduras. That means missing out Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I would like to have seen the Panama Canal, but that would be quite a significant back track. For Costa Rica you need ridiculously large sums of money to get in, which I have not got. Nicaragua you need a visa, and there is no Embassy here. So that leaves Honduras. From Honduras I will go to Guatemala, possible making a detour into El Salvador, and from there into Mexico, maybe via Belize. As soon as I have got all my money together in Honduras I shall apply for a visa for the United States and if I get it, a point in some doubt as they require a ridiculously large some of money and a ticket out, I shall go there from Mexico. If I don’t get a visa I shall have to try and get a cargo boat back to England or Europe. I do not expect there will be any sailing boats heading that way. If I can get into the states then, as I have to buy a ticket out first, I shall get a ticket from New York to London, probably on Icelandic airways as they are the cheapest I believe they still fly by propellor so they are the slowest as well.
We all went swimming today. I swam better than everyone. I did manage to embed a piece of coral in one of my fingertips. Too deep to dig out. Will have to see what happens to it over the next few days. The family is really nice. The mother and father are friendly and the children are all great fun.
I am having one of those lazy times again, sitting in the sun, reading and walking. It makes a nice change at the moment, but I suspect it will all begin to get a bit boring soon. I had quite an entertaining afternoon yesterday, the washing is still done in a big tin bath with a scrubbing board, and the children decided to help. There was water everywhere, but the clothes did get washed eventually.
I was sitting outside reading a book this morning when I heard the loud scream of a frightened child coming from the woods. I dropped my book and ran towards the sound. The scream came again followed by loud sobs enabling me to find one of the daughters standing on one foot leaning against a tree, tears streaming down her face. I asked what was the matter and she showed me her foot. It looked to me like a large flap of bloody skin was hanging from the bottom of the foot. I picked her up in my arms and started to carry her back to the house. As we got closer we met Delia coming to investigate. I showed her the foot. She could see better than I could and realised that what I had thought was a flap of skin covered in blood was actually a large piece of glass stuck in her foot and covered in blood. I carried her back to the house and held her while Delia removed the glass, cleaned and bound the wound, then passed her over to her Mum for a hug. We all walk barefoot, around the house especially. I will have to look where I am walking in future.
My new home is a shed. Well, maybe a bit more than that, but not much. It was lovely staying with the family, but I thought it would be good to move to a different part of the island, so I packed my bag and set off. After a couple of hours I stopped at a shop to get a drink and something to eat. Shops here are often no more than a window into someone’s house, and that is what this one was like. The shopkeeper asked where I was staying, I said I had nothing organised at the moment, and he offered me the use of a hut next door to the shop. He shut the shop for a few minutes to show me. It was on a piece of land adjacent to the shop and was really not much more than a large shed, on stilts, with a few steps to get into it. There was obviously no water or toilet, not even a lock on the door, but it was shelter, so I gratefully accepted.
I settled into my new home last night. There is cardboard to serve as a carpet, and a large stick to wedge the door shut when i am inside. I sat on the steps in the dark feeling the quietness for a few moments before locking myself in and climbing into my sleeping bag. I lay down to sleep, and that is when I first heard the noise. A scratching sound. I put my torch on and looked around, checking underneath the cardboard, finding nothing. This happened a couple more times, but then the noise stopped and I slept well. This morning I went next door to the shop to buy breakfast and the shopkeeper greeted me like an old friend. We chatted like the neighbours we now are.
When I went to bed last night the noise started again. Once more I hunted with my torch and found nothing. When it happened again though I found the source. I was sharing my hut with a scorpion. Quite a large one. I’m afraid I killed it.
I have moved out of the shed. Last night I went to sleep in my quiet, scorpion free, hut. I was woken a couple of hours later by two men trying to get in. Fortunately I had wedged the door shut so they couldn’t just walk in, which is what I think they expected. I asked what they wanted. I can’t remember exactly what they said, but they kept banging on the door demanding to be let in. One said the hut belonged to his mother, which I knew to be a lie. It was pretty clear to me that at best their intention was to rob me. We kept shouting at each other through the closed door, them demanding to be let in, me telling them to go away. After a what seemed like a long time they left, yelling that they would be back. Needless to say I didn’t get much more sleep. This morning I packed, went and thanked the shopkeeper and explained what happened. He was obviously upset by the behaviour of the two men, but understood why I didn’t what to stay. So I have left that area. I will just have to see wht I can find for tonight.
Tessa - Sounds terrifying, but if you will stay in a strangers hut!
I know it will be at least another four days before I get any post from home, but it doesn’t stop me checking. Things might go faster. With Mum and Dad on holiday I do not really expect to see any sign of my money until next week, by when I think I shall just about be running out. The post offices here are quite weird. All the post has to go by air and is carried by one airline, Avianca. If you want to find the post office find the Avianca office. The post office will either be in the same building or next door.
Once again I have been fortunate. I am staying with another family, a bit closer to the centre of town. Yesterday evening we went to visit some neighbours of theirs. We walked to the top of the hill on which they lived, and we sat on stools underneath a lime tree. The views were lovely. I learned a new way to drink rum. A large glass of coke and a large shot of rum are poured. You pick a line from the tree and cut it into segments. Suck the juice from the lime, knock back the rum, and then drink some of the coke. Repeat, picking more fresh limes from the tree as needed. I am not a spirit drinker, but if I were this would be the way to do it.
San Andrès is a lovely island, but it doesn’t have the sunshine that the other islands do. I noticed something very serious today, I am losing my suntan. Compared to when I left England I am probably still quite brown, but compared to when I left Maya I can assure you that I am not. Today the sun is shining, so I am heading for the beach.
Today has been a strange mixture of things going completely wrong, and things going completely right. I set off for town fairly early, it is about a three quarters of an hour walk, though I quite often manage to get a lift. After I had been walking for about 15 minutes my flip-flop, the right one, broke. So I threw the pair away and carried on walking into town. When I arrived I walked barefoot into a shoe shop and bought a new pair of shoes. Given my current finances I bought the cheapest they had. Unfortunately they are not very comfortable and they have made my toes hurt. I continued along to the post office / Avianca agents and there found I had a letter from my brother Paul. Enclosed was a banker’s draft for £50. He had obviously realised there was some urgency and decided not to wait for Mum and Dad to return from their holiday. Thank you Paul. So I walked along all happy and smiling to the bank and there presented my Banker’s draft. Cashier: (Bewildered look at the draft) No Cambio, Señor, soldemente cambio cheques de voyager (translation: We cannot change this, we only change travellers cheques) Me: (in the early stages of shock) Donde Cambio (supposed to mean, If you cannot change this would you be very gracious and inform me of the nearest establishment that will exchange it for me. My Spanish was not quite up to that so It was just - Where can I change) Cashier: Cartagena or Santa Marta or Bogota or ……… Me: No Cambio Aqui, en San Andres? (Can I not change it here in San Andrės) Cashier: No Señor (That does not need translating). So I walked from the bank a rather deflated person. I half-heartedly tried the other three banks in town but they all referred me to the first bank, the only one that is supposed to handle foreign exchange. Not knowing what else to do I walked back to the family I staying with and had lunch. That afternoon I walked back into town, barefoot having given up temporarily on my new sandals, and tried hawking my draft around all the hotels and big shops with no success. I had just come out of the last hotel in town when I bumped into the eldest son of the family I was staying with. I explained the problem to him and he told me to come with him. We went to this dirty little back street garage that I would not have given a second thought to. I showed the owner my banker’s draft, and he changed it, even giving me the amount in dollars I asked for. A great relief. Now I can continue my travels.
I have got things organised. I am flying to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, the day after tomorrow. That is assuming I manage to persuade my body to get up. I have to be at the airport at 6:15am. I will move back to the residencia where I started my stay here. It is much closer to the airport. I went back into the bank that is supposed to deal with foreign exchange today. I wanted to buy some Lampira, the currency of Honduras. Surprise surprise, they don’t have any. That is the most stupid bank it has ever been my misfortune to come across. They can’t change a banker’s draft, which apparently a back street garage can, and they don’t have the currency of one of the few countries you can fly to from here. I just hope there is a bank at the airport in Honduras. I shall spend tomorrow replenishing my suntan some more.
I had a quiet day on the beach, then moved back to the residencia. This time I got a shower, toilet and wash basin en-suite. It only costs 5 pesos, about 8p, more than a room without. I couldn’t get a single room though. There are very few of them and so I am sharing with an English guy. He and 5 others have hired a car for 24 hrs. They went off around the island, taking with them much alcohol in the form of rum and beer. I spent quite an interesting evening swopping experiences with a guy from New Zealand. Mine were true but some of his sounded a trifle exaggerated. Got to be up early from my flight tomorrow, so I hope my room mate doesn’t disturb me when he returns.