1. Landing in Guatemala City during a lightning storm. Helluva way to start off the trip. Also, standing outside the airport at 1am, too late to collect the car we’d rented and forced to trust some random guy with a van to get us where we were going. This goes against all of my training.
2. Being driven from Guatemala City to Antigua. And pretty much every time I was near a car, ever, in Central America. There appear to be no actual regulations aside from “there can be only one.” Our driver actually took the mirror off another car and didn’t even offer an “oops, my bad” wave. I can’t believe any of the cars even have side mirrors anymore. Everyone drives like me at 17…on acid.
3. That time I drank the coffee without thinking about what kind of water they use to make coffee. Seriously questionable tap water, being the answer to that. Also, Guatemala and Panama produce some of the best coffee in the world – for export. They drink heartbreakingly weak instant coffee. I live near Seattle; two weeks of bad coffee almost killed me.
4. Mysterious bug bite at Pacific Fins. It was one bite. I blew up like a balloon. My legs exploded in hives. I said my prayers and took a Benedryl. The malaria will kick in any day now. I feel feverish.
4. The boat ride to Kuna Yala. Small boat, open water, and another thunderstorm. The ride started out all “Wooo! Islands! Beer!” The two hours of stinging rain later, huddled in a sopping, frozen mass on a wooden plank of a seat, I was pretty sure we weren’t gonna make it to the mythical Isla de Tigre.
5. When I cut myself on coral. Because coral is teeming with mysterious foreign bacteria and I was bleeding onto a reef. Also, did you hear the one about the guy who cut his leg on coral and gave leg-birth to a turtle a few weeks later? There was no clean water for washing out the wound and nothing heals in the tropics. The leg is probably a goner. I’ll miss my toes the most.
6. Panama City.
7. Taking the “fast ferry” from Trinidad to Tobago. They were beginning to ready the life boats. I’m pretty sure we hit a whale.
8. Yet another tiny boat in huge swells to go spear fishing. The ocean was doing its damnedest to discourage travel. There were two loaded spear guns balanced across seats. There was one life jacket. For six people. You’re damned straight I kept my eyes on that puppy and one hand on my knife. I was prepared to kill for a life jacket and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I would have felt pretty bad about abandoning my brother in law, though. It’s possible no one would ever know the truth behind the sole survivor of that particular boating accident. In related news, boat people are surprisingly unsympathetic about the producer blowing chunks off the front of the skiff.
9. Prop plane between Trinidad and Tobago. Island travel, man. No joke.
10. Mysterious bug bite on my thigh that went from a single itchy spot into a constellation of spreading bruises. It’s probably ebola. Why is the fauna trying to kill me? What could I possibly have done to piss off all the goddam fauna!?
And, as a bonus, doing my own laundry at The Ambassador Hotel. It was basically a less nice version of the hotel from The Shining, once grand but fallen to murderous haunted building status.
The guy behind the front desk looked like the Crypt Keeper. When he led me down a flickeringly lit hallway into the bowels of the place to do my own laundry because “is free if do yourself,” I was pretty sure my parts would be found in the dryer by the maid service. If there was maid service. When I went back at midnight to claim my delicates, you can bet I was packing a knife. I didn’t bother taking the elevator because I knew a river of blood would pour out if the doors ever opened and, after all, I’d just risked my life to get my clothes clean. I didn’t need blood stains.
This may not be a comprehensive list. If I think of more, I’ll let you know. Other than that, great trip!