The Other Side of Paradise – The Yucatan Peninsula

Sleeping in a hammock on the Caribbean Coast is not always as idyllic as it may first appear…

I stood there captivated by its awesome beauty. A seemingly endless pale blue ocean stretched out to meet an equally blue sky on the horizon. In fact, at times it was hard to even determine the point where they both met. I was on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, a few kilometres north of Chetumal. It was a perfect location, situated on the shore in a small bay. I had arrived by means of a camper van, along with a group of friends I had met along the way.

In a hammock in MexicoThe sun was shining, and a light offshore wind provided welcome relief from its incessant heat. I laid claim to a couple of palm trees by the water’s edge and strung my hammock between them. We had been reliably informed by the locals that it wouldn’t rain, so I settled down to a peaceful night in paradise. As I swung in my hammock listening to the gentle lapping of the waves and feeling the soft cool breeze on my face, I thought, if my friends could see me now, they’d be so jealous! On the distant horizon lurked a big black cloud. Then I heard the sound of distant thunder. I watched for a while and decided that it was nothing to worry about. It didn’t seem like it would come my way, especially as the night air was so calm and gave no indication of change. So I continued to lie there, enjoying the tranquillity of the tropical night. To be honest, the thunder just added to the whole ambience of this wonderful evening. I was a lucky man, or so I thought. But that was about to change.

I drifted in and out of sleep, keeping a watchful eye on the cloud. It never seemed to move any closer. But just when I had resigned myself to the fact that the storm would pass us by, a howling wind suddenly blew in from the ocean like a speeding train. One minute I was swinging peacefully in my hammock, the next it was blown into a ninety degree angle with me stuck inside. I fought against the wind and managed to fall out onto the floor. Realising that rain was bound to follow, I knew I would have to find shelter, and quick. I had two options: my tent, which I had stupidly lent to one of the couples, or the van. The latter was the best option as it was closer and had more room. I was still in my sleeping bag, because I didn’t have time to struggle out of it. Bouncing my way across the field I shouted: “Efrain, open the door!” as he watched with an amused look on his face. I felt the first drops of rain on the back of my neck and just managed to dive into the front seat as the full force of it hit. As I closed the door, it was as if someone threw a bucket of water against the window. I sat there, dry, and thankful that I’d made it in time.

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Through the torrents of rain I noticed that the small air vent cover on my tent was open. The other two will be getting soaked, I thought. When I pointed this out to Efrain he thoughtfully handed me a raincoat. “I’ll do it, shall I?” I said. Outside, the ground was slowly turning into a river. I put on the raincoat and fought my way through the wind and rain until I reached the tent. The cover was attached at one end but not the other, so I quickly threw it over and fastened it. My task complete, I ran back to the van. Sat there in the dry again I suddenly realised that the cover had been full of water and in my haste I hadn’t thought to empty it first. I chuckled to myself as I imagined them sat there dripping wet and cursing me. I spent the rest of the night in the driver’s seat, with my groin rammed against the steering wheel because I couldn’t move the seat back. As I sat there, watching paradise turn into a swamp, I thought to myself, I’m glad my friends can’t see me now.

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