Having had fun with origami money boats two days ago, today I took the opportunity to jump into a boat of my own. Thankfully this particular boat was not crafted out of paper, which I think is a fairly good thing when you’re cruising across a crocodile-infested lagoon. I haven’t studied crocodiles a lot (I can’t bloody find one for a start - they’re clearly afraid of cameras), but I suspect that if I stood in front of Mr Croc whilst holding a beautifully crafted paper swan, he wouldn’t be admiring the quality of my paper folding.
We had booked in for a one hour Jungle Tour as a group of four people; Christian, Sarah, Christine and myself. Arriving at dockside in the late afternoon, our first task was to read and sign their disclaimer form. It was the usual arrangement; in the event of death as a result of turning the boat over, hitting a tree or being eaten by a crocodile they lay claim to your house, children and priceless collection of Justin Bieber memorabilia.
I must point out that it was only after initially signing their disclaimer form that we were given our safety equipment. There appeared to be good reason for this, as having donned my life jacket I felt about as safe as a man walking into a cage of hungry lions dressed as a pork chop. I can only presume that the purpose of our life jackets was to make us slightly more chewy when being masticated by a crocodile. The safety equipment in our boats wasn’t much better, consisting mostly of four inflatable plastic tampons attached to the boat sides as buoyancy, two of which had more holes than a colander.
Having inspected the ‘safety equipment,’ we were introduced to our guide Martinez. Now, its very important I get his name right as he did say to us that if we enjoyed ourselves we should make sure “not to forget” him. I realise that in some parts of the world this can be a hint to leave a big tip. But I got the impression that on this occasion he just felt unloved, the poor guy.
So let me introduce our guide Manuel to you - approximately 5ft 6 tall, 41 years old, Mexican, dark hair, fat, with a medium-sized moustache, Gemini with a hairy back and mild halitosis.
Before we jumped in our speed boats, we were taken through the in-depth safety briefing and important safety signals. Being in Mexico, we were unsurprised by the amount of thought and effort they’d put into their set of safety signals; one arm in the air moving up and down for ‘slow down’, a lasso motion for ‘speed up’, two arms waving in the air for us to signal “help!!!!” and one arm in the air with ‘v for victory’ sign for “I’ve just successfully thrown my passenger out of the boat and she’s currently having her leg chewed off by a large croc.”
After our 10 second safety briefing, we clambered into our boats. I was with Christine - approximately 5ft 3, American, brown and purple hair, slim, slight moustache and with a mild kamikaze attitude. She didn’t ask me “not to forget” her - God, I only wish I could - I’m just getting into the swing of describing people.
We set off at speed - our guide Mauricio in the lead boat, Christine and I in the second boat and Christian and Sarah in the third. And when I say “set off at speed,” I mean just that. Our guide Malcolm sped off into the distance like he was late for his appointment at the local whore house. Perhaps if I’d seen more of him during the trip, rather than just as a speck in the distance, remembering him wouldn’t be such a problem. We stuck the throttle fully down and set off after him. I tried my very best to be as unsafe as possible with some kamikaze steering in order to cut the distance to our guide and generally increase the risk of Christine losing her Justin Bieber collection.
Now, at the very beginning of this story you may remember that I said that we were on the ‘Jungle Tour.’ In all honesty they might as well have called it the Tour De France, such was the amount of actual jungle in the ‘Jungle Tour.’ It was only after about 25 minutes of wave jumping, salt-water-in-the-face, mental driving that we actually reached anything that could be described as ‘jungle.’ A row of trees on either side of a winding strip of water and a single stork bird standing to attention like a guard at the entrance. The stork - approximately 2.7ft tall, slim, thin legs, Capricorn, bipolar - seemed quite happy to stand in the crocodile-infested water and watch us sail on by. I suspect there was a reason why there was only one stork - his friends had been eaten by crocodiles, with their legs used as post-meal cocktail sticks.
Having made our way through the (3.4) trees, we were now approaching half way. There was just time to drive slowly past an area with adults and children swimming (which we nicknamed the crocodile ‘cafeteria’) and a bridge with people on it, all staring down at us wondering what we were doing. I’m pretty sure that some of them had never seen a boat before, such was their reaction. Perhaps the bridge wasn’t connected to any land. They certainly looked miserable, so I stood up and gave them a big two-handed wave to try to cheer them up. Just as I did so, our guide Matthew screeched to a halt, executed a very swift 180 degree turn and began speeding back towards us. It became apparent that, in my over-exuberance to wave at the miserable bastards on the bridge, I had inadvertently given the ‘SOS, emergency, holy shit! Help!!’ signal. Oops!
After apologising for the ‘SOS’ incident, we sped on to the half way point. It was now time to turn around and head home, traveling back past the ‘cafeteria’, underneath the bridge (remembering not to wave), past the pile of stork bones and back across the second section of the lagoon. We did so with no more incidents, mostly thanks to some more sensible piloting by Captain Christine.
Arriving back at the dock we clambered off the boats. It had been a really fun trip - one that would live long in the memory, along with our guide… errr… Bill. No, shit… what was it?
Having finished our Jungle Tour, I felt it timely that I re-assured our guide Margaret that I would remember him for eternity (someone needed to boost his self-esteem, the poor bloke). I took his photo and told him that I would frame it and hang it on my lounge wall. As he stood with his hands out, palms facing the heavens, and staring at me with sad looking eyes, I felt for him. I ran towards him and embraced him with a big squeezy hug - one that would provide him with enough love to last a very long time. As I stood back and stared into his (now rather shocked looking) eyes, I could tell he appreciated the gesture. In fact, he continued standing there in the same position with the same expression for a very long time as we strolled away…