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Travel in South America

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The next morning Luis, my scuba diving instructor, and I were diving in very shallow water when we heard a deafening roar which got increasingly louder. I knew it could only be one thing; a speedboat heading straight for us. Fortunately, my first reaction was to keep breathing through my regulator and to try and get down close to the sea floor. However, my buoyancy prevented me from doing this effectively, so in an instant Luis lay on top of me and flattened me. Within seconds the boat passed over with its propellers missing us by less than a foot. Luis signalled to check I was ok and we swam under water back to the shore with him clutching my hand tightly. Once on the dock he turned to me and asked if I believed in God, before looking skywards and crossing his heart. He then promptly sat on the…

When Tom Owen’s Caye, a one-acre island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, came into sight it really did look like the set for a Castaway movie. It was an idyllic paradise of tall coconut palms, golden sands and little round cabanas. This was to be my home for two weeks. There were 17 other ‘castaways’ on the boat and a separate boat with a crew of 12. Accommodation was basic, as expected. In each cabana was a raised stone platform with a mattress on, and not much else. Showers were cold rain water and the generator for electricity was switched on at 5pm for a few hours. Most importantly there was absolutely no WIFI nor phone signal. I knew that this was going to be the longest I had ever been disconnected from the outside world. The rest of the group were mainly in their mid-twenties, of all…

Last weekend I made the tortuous trip from Costa Rica to Belize. This involved 4 flights, and the planes got noticeably smaller as the journey progressed. En route I had to transit through Cancun, Mexico which had the most cripplingly stringent entry process, although I was only going to be there for 3 hours. Four lengthy forms completed, I finally got to the front of the Border Control queue only to be hauled aside by a stern male in a khaki army uniform. Apparently he had noticed I was traveling alone and wanted to know why. Although I could prove I was only in transit, my hand luggage was taken apart, and my Lipton’s English Tea bags were eyed suspiciously. When Trump decided to build that wall, half the Mexicans must have been delighted, as it is quite evident they actually don’t want anyone to enter their country. My next…

Sloth in treeI am pleased to announce that I am still ‘ringworm free’ and have now moved to work in a wild animal rescue centre. This is the most amazing place. Sick and injured animals are brought here by members of the public or the Costa Rican government. Some have been trafficked or injured and others have been kept as pets. The aim is always to release them back into the wild. Sadly this is not always possible. There is a Sloth that fell out of a tree as a baby, and hence requires physio on his back legs every morning, and there is a Capuchin monkey who was tragically kept in a bar and fed on alcohol and cigarettes and is now too domesticated to fend for himself.

The  work here is enormously rewarding, we feed and clean out over 100 animals every day. Although the policy is that we must never touch them, being up close to monkeys, parakeets, sloths, raccoons, lizards, deer and wild pigs feels a real privilege. These residents live in complete luxury and eat the most delicious combinations of fresh fruits and vegetables, which we chop up every morning. I wish the same could be said for the humans…

Dog shelter San JoseIt was with a very heavy heart that I left the Galápagos Islands and the wonderful 2 and 4 legged inhabitants I had shared my stay with. 4 boats, 3 planes, 3 taxis, 3 buses and 2 hotels later I arrived in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica. My route involved a change of planes in war torn El Salvador and I was relieved to note, as we came into land, that the runway was basically  intact and the terminal was functioning.

I am staying on Isabela Island. At 60 miles long it is by far the largest island in the Galápagos and also one of the most volcanically active places on earth. Understandably, I didn’t share that bit of info with my family before I set off on my trip. My home is in the only town, Puerto Villamil, which has a population of 2000. I have to say that these are the friendliest, happiest 2000 people on the planet. I ride around the town on a bike and it is impossible to go more than 10m without someone shouting ‘Hola, Buenos Dias!’ Whilst in England road users have to stop at traffic lights, here you might have to stop to allow a family of iguanas to traverse the sandy streets. The people here live simple lives with one room houses made of concrete blocks and very few possessions, but they…

I have many things on my bucket list but camping on the side of an active volcano isn’t one. However when the opportunity for such a trip arose I knew that I couldn’t say no. One of the group volunteers in the Galápagos National Park office and he had managed to get clearance for the trip, which had never been done before. When I was told I had to submit my passport number so they would know who was missing if the volcano erupted, I thought it was a joke. Sadly it wasn’t. The Sierra Negra volcano erupts usually in October every 2-3 years, and it hadn’t erupted for 3 years. On Friday afternoon our random gang piled into pick-up trucks and headed off into the lush countryside. After a steady climb for an hour the trucks stopped and on the side of the road were 4 horses and 2…