When you sleep on a sailboat’s deck, the anchorage sets the alarm clock. This morning, it’s monkey-chatter and tumbling rocks that wakes me. I sit up to a game of push the primate off the cliff. Inspired by the clamber, I head for the back of the boat where a paddle board, kayak, and two dinghies are tied. I sling my running shoes over my shoulder, grab a paddle and CB radio and head to shore.
I drag the paddleboard above the high tide line, rock-hop over cracked coconuts and bleached coral, and sit on a log of driftwood, the perfect shoe-tying perch. Splintered canoes rest on rocks and fishing nets hang over tree limbs. A town must be close, or a least the owners of the fishing boats. Radio clipped to my waistband, I head inland and weave through banana trees in the direction of last night’s music. I ditch the banana forest for a steep road and scare chickens into the shrubs.
Halfway up the hill, thatch-rooves lay camouflaged on the dry mountainside. I walk through the main street, the only street, and toddlers flee at the sight of my mushroom bun, freckles, and rainbow tights. Kids taller than a broomstick stare while adults holler good morning from inside their house.
The town has no shops, churches or electricity but they do have more farm animals than people and papaya the girth of overdue babies. I continue up the hill, and the street narrows into a path barely big enough for motorbikes.
I pass a boy, a bucket of bananas balanced on his head. Around the next bend a newborn suckles, all but toes hidden under its mother’s sash. I overtake a hunched back man, machete in one hand, a drum of water in the other. At a dip in the road, I veer left onto a goat track that seems to snake up a jagged mountain, my type of playground. I turn around and the bay spoons into the ocean, our boat just a speck of white on blue. Ahead, a plantation of palms blocks the sun and flies buzz over piles of rotting palm nuts. At the plantation’s center sits a distillery with no trace of the brewer but plenty of fermented fruit to be boiled. If I hadn’t visited a coconut distillery last week, I would have had no clue what the marble-run of bamboo suspended above a charcoaled pot was. It looks like a monkey’s playground, and with actual monkeys swinging from treetops, it’s certainly more likely than a home-brew distillery that produces 40% alcohol. I search for the brewer, but the only sign of life, other than fruit flies, is a single-person thatched tent that is one monsoon away from twigs.
Not wanting to be caught trespassing, I head back down the hill. A train of men trudge past, the work commute in full swing. They flash a machete and a toothless grin broader than the blade, some laden with water, others snacking on chips. Two teenagers have shotguns slung over their shoulders while one man wears yellow knee-high gumboots and a matching hard hat. Maybe the hat is for falling coconuts, but why the gumboots? It’s dry season.
I make it back to the boat with ten minutes to spare before work and dive into the ocean for three of them. Here, showers are salty, food needs scrubbing, and distractions come in the form of monkeys, fish, and mosquitos. It sure beats sirens and social media.