Alan Cree brought home an unexpected souvenir from a nightmare trip to Belize
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The Independent Online
When some acquaintances of ours started a yacht chartering business around the Belize cays and along the Rio Dulce river into Guatemala, we gladly accepted their request to bring out their favourite foods in return for a dream holiday on the cheap.

Our trip started with an evening out in Belize City where the nightlife is wild and varied but also mainly illegal and dangerous. Everyone referred to us as Honkies.

After three days on the boat it was clear our friend had been transformed into a tinpot dictator. The boat was his island nation and we were his incapable populace. At one point my wife was scolded for spilling a glass of water. On a boat? It was impossible to sleep in the intense heat in a cramped cabin, so I slept on the deck - where I was likely to meet the captain sleepwalking naked or wake up in the middle of tropical storms.

My wife and I would spend the early mornings counting mosquito bites on her legs and applying yellow antiseptic cream to them. We reached the dizzy heights of 186.

For a complete change we rented a canoe. Unfortunately a squall struck and we were only saved by baling water with my souvenir straw hat.We had four days to go when I noticed a nasty rash on my face which developed into a vast plain of coldsores weeping pus and frightening the local children.

We managed to convince a tour operator that we were not a health risk to remote tribes and took a lengthy journey to visit Mayan ruins in the jungle. As the guide explained proudly that the Mayans were the greatest civilisation ever, ignoring my inquiries as to what had happened since then, my wife created a diversion from the approaching confrontation by having a close encounter with a spider wasp. When we had all gathered back together I noticed that my left foot was rather uncomfortable. The guide helpfully explained that we should be careful not to stand in a nest of fire ants.

Our troubles did not automatically come to an end after our return to the UK. My face healed in time for my suntan to fade but I was becoming concerned by a large lump on my right shoulder which alternately itched or hurt and showed no signs of abating. My colleagues were concerned by the bloodstains on my shirt and I visited the occupational doctor. Putting his vast knowledge of tropical diseases at my disposal he diagnosed an insect bite.

Four weeks later I caught sight of my wife's expression as she recoiled in horror while changing my dressing and hysterically explained that I had a prawn-like animal with large black eyes living in my back.

I created a great deal of interest at the hospital casualty department where I had the alien removed at knife point and sealed in a glass case. We never did find out what it was, or more importantly what it would have grown into, but I do know there are more species of fauna in one square mile of Belizian rainforest than in the entire United Kingdom.

The next year we had our holiday in Pembrokeshire.

Alan Cree writes on environmental issues.

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