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December 3, 2005 06:49 PM

Welcome to the Jungle...

PalenqueAfter descending back out of the Madres for the umpteenth time, we were hunkered down less than 2 km from the Las Ruinas De Palenque (pictured). I'd never slept out in an open hammock in a real bonafide jungle before. The guide book insisted that the rainy season was over, but the cascading water falling out of the sky took no time finding it's way through the palm leaf shelter and into my face.

Guns and Roses was running through my head on some sort of infinite loop as we settled into a night of what felt, to me, like a scene from Platoon or Apocalypse Now without the killing.

Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day...

Anybody who's ever slept in a forest at night without fire can attest to the fact that can be a little unnerving in the best of conditions. Make that forest a jungle and throw in a giant spider sighting (Tarantula?) just before dusk, a few howler monkeys in the distance doing their best impression of a dying human, the real possibility of man-eating snakes, a completely open air shelter, impossible darkness, and poor Willie retching, under the strain of Montezuma's revenge, nearby during what must have been one of the more miserable nights of his life and the simple act of trying to sleep becomes an adventure for even the bravest among our group.

Now add Mefloquine to the mix. The malarial drug coursing through my veins, most famous for it's side affects: paranoia, nightmares and 'psychotic behaviour'... suddenly this night, the eve of Brian's 24th birthday, becomes the scariest since The Boogy Man moved out of my closet -- sometime around Grade 3.

Independently we all suffered through this night to varying degrees. Brian emerged in the morning caked in mud as a result of one particularly wet and muddy slope between our hammocks and his tent; he fell three times in the night. I fell once on the same slope, mid-pee, and was convinced that something poisonous bit my big toe in the process. In the morning I discovered there was no swelling and concluded, disappointingly, that it must have been a sharp stick. Willie suffered the worst of it as fire-ants instigated a sneak attack on his arms and shoulders while he concentrated on expelling the contents of his stomach for most of the night. Caroline, Sally and Tom, the rest of our rag-tag group, slept through the night and woke refreshed.

We've slowed of pace of travel to allow Willie some time to recover and will stay in Palenque until he's well enough to travel. At the moment it looks like he's on the mend and there's a good possibility that this post will be our last from Mexico. By the time you read this we may be negotiating the remote border crossing across the Rio Usumacinta and into Guatemala. The northern jungles of Guatemala may not be the most convenient for Interneting, they've had a real rough go with Hurricane Stan and weren't in the best of positions to deal with it in the first place; The country ranks 120th out of 173 on the UN human development index. I'll do my best to keep a regular posting schedule. If anybody out there is willing to splash for a satellite phone and Internet connection, I promise it would be well received. I'd post every day, I swear.



Jon said:

that's a lot of words

December 3, 2005 11:15 PM
Kirsty Benjamin said:

Sounds like a jungle experience! Glad to see my sis had a good night in spite of all that activity. Hope Willie made a quick recovery Give Caroline a big hug on the 6th from all her family. Love reading your news. all the best, Kirsty

December 4, 2005 12:24 PM
Fraser said:

Jesus! What squalor.

December 5, 2005 08:58 AM
Jesus said:

You called?

December 5, 2005 09:30 AM
satan said:

jesus christ, you read this site?

December 5, 2005 12:09 PM
Lindsay said:

Sounds like you guys are having a great time!! Willie I hope you recover quickly! but you have to have some horror stories or else it wouldnt be any fun right!?! ;)

December 7, 2005 06:11 PM