(This title is a glorious pun, as you will come to realise.)
As we’ve already confessed here and there, we are not the type of travellers who will show up in a new town without plans for a roof over our heads. In fact, every detail down to the day we fly home has been pre-planned and in many cases pre-paid for. We’re control freaks, simple as that, and it has served us well.
Unfortunately, sometimes life throws a curveball at you and you have to adjust and try again. In Central America, this particular curveball has taken two not entirely disconnected forms: rain and mosquitoes.
The former quite literally has dampened some of our experiences, namely in Caye Caulker, which, though an incredible isle on a sunny day, in the rain is a bit…well…shit. It felt incredible frustrating to visit such a wonderful place, and – bar the odd perfect day – and fail to experience it in all its glory. Although we were aware that a lot of places throughout our trip were at the tail end of the rainy season, we both assumed that this would mean the odd tropical shower, followed by sunshine. We did not expect more rain than your typical Glastonbury.
Unfortunately more rain also means more bugs and he latter was, truthfully, more of a problem for me (Sadie). I’ve always been a magnet for mosquitoes, and unfortunately I am also allergic to insect bites. Nothing severe, just the usual swelling, itching, welt type scar scenario. All delightful. These truths I had made my peace with long ago, and after spending 5 months in East Africa I quickly learned that as long as I was thorough applying the DEET at nighttime, I could function pretty normally.
In Central America, this just hasn’t been the case. It may be that the mosquitoes here have become more immune to insect repellent – a lot of clever scientist types have already warned us this is occurring – because, quite frankly, they don’t seem to give a shit. I could be dressed like a nun and doused in DEET and they would still find me. Incidentally, I never thought I’d have to wear socks in the tropics. As annoying, uncomfortable and disgusting as this situation is, there was a much larger concern at hand:
If I’m getting bitten up to thirty times a day, despite the best precautions, how long before I get sick? Dengue, Malaria, Chikungunya, West Nile Virus and Zika are all possibilities. Call me a baby, but I don’t want to spend every night camped under my damn mozzy net afraid of little flying insects.
1) Private or air-conned dorms. In jungley areas, where mosquitoes are ever-present, I need somewhere I can hide.
2) Wear all the clothes whenever possible, even in 30 degree heat. Sadly, I cannot frolic into the wee hours wearing an array of travel-chic playsuits, no siree.
3) Make peace with the fact that even the best laid plans go wrong and not everyone can travel in the same way.
4) Instead of going to the – currently rather rainy and buggy – Caribbean side of Costa Rica and Panama as planned…we’re going to Cuba.
Cuba in December is enjoying its dry season. Cuba’s government sprays its beautiful, historic, fascinating, white-sanded, turquoise-watered, palm-tree lined island with mosquito killer every month. Cuba has just let American tourists in for the first time since the Monster Mash was number one. Cuba is soon to be a very different place, and now could not be a better time to go.
We’re hoping to visit Panama and Southern Costa Rica next Spring anyway, so it isn’t a huge loss. I’ve also spent enough time in other foreign lands to know (well, hope) that this will not be an issue everywhere. The main source of sadness is that we spent a lot of time and effort planning something which has now been reorganised. On a personal basis, it is also that I still feel – despite Mark’s endless support – that I have let him, and myself down somehow.
But then I think, fuck it. We’re going to Cuba.