• Joanna

Do You Believe in Marmalade?

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

Fnally… FINALLY… I made it off my sailing ship torment.


They were all probably just as happy to see me go, as I was to leave. Quarters were cramped and on the final night, Deicey slept outside due to a severe lack of space. I was, quite obviously, a last minute inconvenience.


My knees, my height, my weight and my clumsiness were not built for such confined quarters… nor did my temperament and facial expressions bode well in such a situation that tested my patience and tolerance with such force… and detriment.


My cool vibe was clearly, not so cool.


I wanted off.


We reached Isla Perro Chico at around ten and I was euphoric... fully packed and ready to stretch my legs on firm ground again.


I was FREE!


But… let me assure you… It’s not as easy to unbung yourself once you have forced your body to constipate. It was as if my brain had programmed my bowels to shut right down.

Here I was… Isla Perro Chico… with my private bungalow, a mere 5 metres from the crystal clear water. The island was so small that you could casually stroll around the entire thing, drunk, backwards and probably twice, in less than 10 minutes. Electricity went on and off every two or three hours… depending on when they would power up the generator. This was a bit difficult to adjust to, but I figured I could easily compromise light & a charged phone... for temporarily immersing myself into the rhythm of centuries past. After all, I had paid dearly for this primitive get-a-way… though I hardly knew it at the time.


Thanks again, Paola…


Once I had laid out some of my belongings and made myself, somewhat, at home, I decided to head over to the main beach and soak up the remainder of the sunshine before another storm rolled in. As I was approaching, I recognized Jorge and the two boys playing in the water. I looked around to see if I could locate Karen, and found her almost immediately. There she was, sitting in the sand, taking sexy pictures of herself.

Typical.

I hightailed it back to my cabana, as I wasn’t really in the mood for such an immediate rendezvous. We had only just parted ways, and here they were again… invading my newly claimed territory.

They got the boat. I got the land.


It was much too early for a glass of wine, but I decided to dismiss any normality or customary expectations. I threw caution to the wind and celebrated my disimprisonment.


I sat there alone, confined to my small slice of the worlds tiniest island, waiting for them to leave… and eventually they did. Dark clouds were rolling in again and outside was becoming a not-so-desirable place to be. There is not much to do on an almost uninhibited island, without books or games or cards or cell service or wifi or electricity. There was no bar, no live music, no guest engagement… none of the typical touristy traits one might expect.

I had a brief conversation with a German couple that were on vacation and covered head to toe with tattoos… went to the mess hall to eat some pollo and plantains… and then had an early night. Very uneventful…

If there is one thing I love more than lying in bed and appreciating the sounds of the chirping birds and the crashing waves, it’s the 3am boom boom boom music that gets blasted from an old stereo system, while a group of young locals engage in an early morning game of football.


It could’ve started earlier, for all I know, but that’s when I woke up. The vibrating and very loud combination of the static & the bass, made it impossible to doze off again… and although I put my own earbuds in, in an attempt to drown out the racket, I could not ignore all of it. This and the incessant barking of dogs ensured sleep was beyond the bounds of possibility.


I was up, packed and ready for my 8am water taxi that would take me to my next island.

*Tip for anyone visiting San Blas… do not bring a large, heavy pack… insufferable…

As soon as I arrived at Walidup, no one knew what to do with me. They DIDN’T have a record of my name anywhere! A flurry of flustered Kuna conversation was swirling around me…


I pulled out my itinerary to show that I was scheduled to stay in Walidup for two nights.

Joanna McBride.


Nothing.


Fabulous.


Another point for Paola…

Nearby, from where I was waiting at the main dock, were some quite attractive over-water bungalows, each with their own dock, deck and hammock. They looked quaint and magical… and everything I had dreamed of when I originally booked.


Finally, still seeming quite befuddled with my arrival and claim to accommodation, they threw me and my pack into one of their boats and drove me to the opposite side of the island.


The over-water bungalows I was dropped off at, were far from magical.

They were charming, yes… but in a more roughing it manner. It was almost as though they had been abandoned and forgotten. The kitchen area was boarded up and there didn’t appear to be any sign of recent life. The cabanas were run down, neglected and in desperate need of some tlc. The floor boards were wobbly, the ladders leading into the ocean were broken, cracked or missing steps… and the shared toilet facilities were dirty… and lacking toilet paper and, in some cases, running water.


To make matters worse… or better, depending on how one might look at it… I was the only one there.


The captain of the boat got out, a midget gentleman, checked all the rooms to ensure they were decent, told me to pick one… and got back in the boat to leave.

Whoa! Hold on right there!


I had questions!!!

  1. Am I the only person here? Yes… but maybe more might come later.

  2. How do I get back to the restaurant and the main dock? Follow the pipe… ?

  3. Is there electricity? At 6pm…


… and then he left…


I was completely alone on the deserted side of Fantasy Island.


Kinda cool.

Kinda freaky.

Really freaky.

So… what does one do when they are a sole cast away in an abandoned island resort?


You scare the fish.


That's right. I went skinny dipping… in the ocean... alone… though, let it be known, I very much struggle with the word “skinny.” I’ve always had an unhealthy fear of the ocean… but given this spectacular opportunity of pure solitude, I decided to abandon all apprehension and just jump right in. Let the sharks take me away in my birthday suit!


I managed to survive the shark attacks. It was quite liberating actually, strolling around in the nude, like I was the only one there… and I was!

My solitude did not last for long… and about an hour later, three other guests appeared. The weather had changed drastically, so by the time they showed up, I was fully dressed and safely in my tiny bungalow.


My room could only be described as primitive… I had a thin sheet over a single mattress, a pillow… and that was about it.


No bathroom towel. No mini bar or complimentary soaps or shampoos. There wasn’t even a glass to use… nor was there a mirror. There was nothing modern or luxurious about my cabana. Primitive

Traveling alone can be very difficult. Taxing. Everything you do, everywhere you go and everyone you meet has the potential to be a lot more challenging that it actually should be.


Insignificant things have the capability to momentarily set you off… like having troubles zipping a zipper, forgetting your mask or being unable to locate something in your pack… All minor things, but still… they take their toll.

It’s the accumulation of these minor incidents that make the bigger ones that much more difficult to handle - like discovering a leak in your pack… or… my particularly favourite and most common inconvenience and aggravation…having my phone battery continuously die.


Half my time is spent either begging my phone not to die, dealing with it dead, desperately searching for a place to plug it in, trying to manipulate a faulty cord, or just sitting there… watching it and waiting (not so patiently) for it to charge.


It’s infuriating. Nothing has the ability to upset me more.


I’ve had quite a few tantrums over the past few weeks, and while I’m not entirely proud of them, they are warranted.


Without my computer at my ready, my phone has become my blog, my writing, my editor, my work, my social media, my email, my telephone, my map, my weather, my camera, my music, my readings, my research, my clock, my notes, my reminders, my translator, my bookings, my banking, my proof of vaccination and so much more… all the time.


ALL. THE. TIME.


When it dies, I am at a complete loss.

This is what happened to me in Walidup.


I arrived at 8am… with an 8% battery charge… and full intention of charging it once I was settled into my bungalow. Full intention doesn’t carry any weight when it’s 8am and the electricity isn’t set to go on until 6pm. What makes matters worse, is a tropical storm rolling in at 10am and trapping you within the boundaries of your primitive cabin… for 8 hours.

As a solo traveler, there are moments that you are simply bursting with confidence and pure independence...

Everything is inspirational.

Everything is adventurous and new.


But there are also those moments when you doubt yourself, feel overcome with insecurity and/or anxiety, and a lot of your time can be spent feeling pretty lonely.


Being on the road alone forces you to self reflect… a lot, and gives you the opportunity to really put things into perspective. Good or bad, your mind can play a lot of games with you and you have to be ready to conquer them, as well as anything a foreign country or culture throws in your direction.


I was beyond bored.


I had nothing to do. No books or magazines to read. No picturesque seascape to gaze at, lovingly. I was unable to even open my hut doors, for fear of the wind ripping them off their already faltering hinges. I couldn’t even do laundry, as I had no running water. Most of my clothes were already damp… and here, I ran the risk of completely drenching them. All I could do was lie on my lumpy twin bed and try to be at peace with the thoughts running through my head.

Then I remembered the Monkey Poop. Whilst in Jaco, I had bought two bags of this colourful, elongated, Costa Rican candy. My plan was to give them to the girls, when I returned to Canada.


What better thing to do when your bored?

Eat.

I was hungry too… as I hadn’t had more than a few plantains and a piece of fried chicken over the past 24 hours. It was sickly sweet and nothing I would ever crave under normal circumstances… but it whiled away about 20 minutes of times, while I shoved each piece of sugary poo into my mouth.

Then it was back to horizontal introspection and beating myself up for having previously wasted a fully charged phone.

I could’ve been editing photos

I could’ve been listening to one of my audiobooks or my music.

I could’ve been writing.

I could’ve been doing anything, but lying here in a decrepit hut… by myself… during a treacherous tropical storm.

My adoration of island paradise was deteriorating quickly. The dark sky trembled with anger. Every spine-chilling crack of lightning and every demonic roar of thunder made me want to leave at once… The threatening and powerful gusts of wind, along with incessant and violent floods of rain… made me wish I‘d never come… I wanted nothing but OUT of these idyllic surroundings…

... well… and maybe a charged phone…


I hated it.


At one point, desperate for both some juice in my battery and something to do, I suited up in my rain jacket and, in my bare feet, followed the pipe, which, I had been told, led back to the restaurant. It was less of a trail... and more like a mud river through a crab graveyard. When I finally reached my destination, I was only met with disappointment. They assured me there was absolutely no electricity on the entire island until 6PM.


My nightmare continued...

After quite a few hours of terrifying boredom, the wind eventually died down… and the rain turned to a light drizzle. That is when I met Maj Lis and Danny.


They had arrived at the tail end of the storm, and immediately took the opportunity of jumping into the rough waters. I heard the kerplunks and the laughter that followed… and dared to open my door to investigate. There they were… having the time of their lives, splashing around. When they got out, Danny came knocking at my door and invited me into their bungalow for, what he described as, the worlds best rum.


Damn straight. Anything to break the monotony of lying around, captive to my own convictions.


They were, quite literally, my calm in the storm.


Danny had a glass half full type of attitude and keep enthusiastically proclaiming “Life is Life!”


Life is Life.

Life is Life.


He mentioned it on more than one occasion, and perhaps a little too frequently. Although his English was quite good, there were a few words he muddled up… but they only served to provide comic relief during a dreary and depressing time.


Welcome to paralyzer” was a good one, quite obviously meaning, “Welcome to paradise.


Perhaps paralyzer was more fitting… He might have been onto something.


Another… hollering at me from the water…


“Joanna! Joanna! Joanna!”

“Do you believe in marmalade?”


I don’t know. Pardon???

Marmalade?


How do I possibly answer that question?


He kept repeating the question… each time, louder and with more excitement.

“DO. YOU. BELIEVE. IN. MARMALADE??”


I am aware of its existence. I don’t particularly like it and it’s not something I normally chose to put on my toast. I much prefer jam or honey… or just a bit of butter.


But… do I believe in it?


I had no other choice but to take the bizarre question and counteract with, “Do you believe in butter?” …spanish translation being “¿Crees en la mantequilla?”


Seemed fair.


... in response to this question, Danny exploded into floods of laughter.


Of course, he got the word wrong.

He meant, ”Do you believe in mermaids?”

Our little captain came and picked us all up for dinner in the wee boat. It was very much appreciated, as I was thinking we might have had to make our way there, following the infamous pipe.


My all-inclusive resort gave us the choice of chicken, fish or octopus- served with rice or plantains.

Nothing else.


Those were our options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Regardless of what you ordered everything was just tossed into a great vat and deep fried until it was almost inedible.


I tried… I really did… but I couldn’t do it.


They also charged $2 for a small bottle of water.


By this time, I had such a hate-on for Paola, that I was even blaming the weather on her.


My stomach wasn’t feeling particularly well and I couldn‘t decide if it was rumbling with hunger, the aftermath of devouring an entire pack of sugar, my anxiety after spending 8+ hours in my own head, the wobbly cabana due to the horrendous weather conditions… or the fact that I hadn’t poo’ed in almost 4 days…


The struggles were real.

The tropical storm continued throughout the night. At 3am, the howling of the fiery wind woke us all up with its thundering and volatile aggression, and I think we all thought we were mere moments away from being knocked into the sea. The rain made it through the sides of the hut and soaked everything, including myself… as I clung to my one thin sheet for protection and warmth.

I can handle a lot of roughing it and primitive conditions… but my comfort cannot be compromised to this extent… especially considering the price I had paid.


I packed up and left... first thing.


I was outta there...

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