Punta Gorda is a town. I’ve just sat here looking at those five words for a good ten minutes. It was going to be a longer sentence, but in the end, I just added a full stop. It is indeed a town. A fairly sleepy town. I had the express intention of doing nothing on my holiday. I wanted to do nothing but sleep, eat, drink, walk around a bit, do some drawing. And Punta Gorda was the perfect place to begin that. I purposely didn’t ask for the Wi-Fi password at the place where I was staying or elsewhere in Punta Gorda. I didn’t want to know. And that lack of access was delightful. Back here in Mexico City, because I have taken to using my iPod touch as the clock in my bedroom, the first thing I do pretty much every day, is press the button, check the time, and before I put my glasses on, before I do bathroom stuff, or have coffee, is check email, Twitter, Facebook, blah blah blah. It’s rubbish. Easily solved obviously: put my watch by the bed instead of the iPod, but when things are there, they’re more difficult to ignore. Being away from the Internet for five whole days was fantastic.
And waking up in the jungle was fantastic, too. Waking up in the jungle heat, the smell, and waking up to the wonderful coffee they serve at Hickatee Cottages; just spending the start of my day sitting on the verandah in a shirt, shorts, and flip flops, watching hummingbirds humming. Next up on my great lazy adventure: a walk along one of the jungle trails around the back of the cottages. Jungle is ace. Yes, there are tons of insects and you get sweaty and a bit uncomfortable, but I love that when I walk around, there is so much there, so much to look at, and to be aware of, that my brain stops whirring with other stuff. It’s not overly dramatic to say that there is a chance, when in the jungle, that you could die. Of course this is true about the street outside my house, your house, everywhere; but in the jungle, there are creatures that could injure or kill you. Knowing that however unlikely it is, there’s a chance that there could be a jaguar out there, is quite thrilling. I saw lizards, plenty of birds and insects, I could hear the sounds of howler monkeys. The trail, though, was kinda swampy after the rain in the night, so it wasn’t as long a walk as I’d hoped for. So it was back to the room for a shower, and then hopped on a bicycle to ride into town to find somewhere to watch the European Championships final.
I ended up at the northern end of town, at a bar called Waluco’s. This was the only time during my stay that I knew anything was going on outside of my immediate environment. I sat at the bar, had a few Belikin beers, chatted with the guys sat next to me. They were Dan and Antony. They were old school friends who still meet up for a drink now and then. One of them worked in construction, currently building a hotel further north in Placencia, the other was recovering from a stroke. He was only about my age. His right arm was pretty limp, but he was getting some movement back in his hand. He spoke about the work he did before his stroke as if he really missed it. He drove (piloted? captained?) cruise ships. We watched Spain beat Italy, I paid as little attention as my mental brain would allow to the scrolling baseball scores at the bottom of the screen. We bought each other drinks. In fact, a guy who dropped by to pick up some takeaway food was in a good mood and bought the three of us beers on his way out. An afternoon of drinking, a bit of a fuzzy head, a cycle back to the cottages, some drawing, dinner, and the realisation that when I was having breakfast in shorts and flip flops, I’d been bitten by a doctor fly.
The doctor fly, called a yellow fly elsewhere, is a vicious little fucker. Over the course of my two-week holiday, I was bitten eight times by doctor flies. Each time, the same reaction: the area around the bite starts to feel a bit tender a few hours later, then itchy, then starts puffing up like a balloon. I’d been bitten twice that first day in Punta Gorda. The bite on the top of my left foot was blowing up so big that the next morning, I couldn’t fit my shoe on. One of the other guests gave me a couple of Benadryl. I took one, and after having been asleep for nearly nine hours, felt sleepy again and spent another five hours in bed. I went out for a bike ride in the afternoon. No destination, just a ride around. Some guy asked me if we’d met early near the Catholic church. Nope. After ten minutes or so more riding, I saw him again. He introduced himself as Ivan, telling me he was sure we’d met. We hadn’t. I rode off, and later found out that Ivan is wont to do that with tourists. If I’d've stuck around chatting, he’d have tried to scam some money out of me. On the dirt road back to the cottages, there were loads of dead, crushed crabs. Apparently, they live inland and take the trip to the sea quite often. I saw a couple of them scuttling across the road on their back feet. Not walking like crabs normally walk. I’ve never seen crabs go two-legged.
Next day: nothing. Just did some drawing, some reading, a little walk, some insect bites, heat rash, a blister on my foot after not putting socks on before my walk. Same thing the next day, my last day in Punta Gorda. Spent a good chunk of the afternoon drawing on the iPad, listening to music, getting bitten by insects. It feels weird to be experiencing this after being a professional illustrator for over ten years, but those few days in Punta Gorda really made me love drawing more than I have ever done before. Specifically drawing from life, not from photos. It’s something I don’t do very often. And something I should do a lot more. The insects were getting pretty hardcore about halfway through the drawing I was doing, so I took some photographs and decided to finish up in my room, but it just wasn’t the same. The colours were, of course, different, and the jungle-y garden looked different. (The drawing I was doing, btw, is the third one from the top here.) So I covered up as much as possible, covered the rest of me in aciete de citronela, and went back out there. Half an hour later I was done. And so were the doctor flies. A couple of bites, one on the hand, another on the thin area of skin between my jeans and the hem of my t-shirt that must’ve been exposed for a few seconds.
I would be leaving the next day, so packed up my backpack (I like being organised and ready to go), and about to take a shower, stood looking through the window at a couple of awesome woodpeckers pecking wood on a tree behind my room. They had red heads. They were lovely. Kate, Ian, and I went out to have a few beers and some food at a place in town called Asha’s. It was a wooden place on stilts over the water. It was nice to spend some time with them away from the place they run, and work at seven days away. There’s a joy in having friends in places around the world. It’s great to know you can go and visit them, catch up, and that. But it’s always sad knowing you won’t see them as often as you’d like.
Next morning, I said goodbye to Kate, and Ian gave me a lift into town to get the bus to my next destination.