15th January 2009:
I spent two hours waiting for the Truckman, but he didn’t show and I only got his voicemail.
He was probably busy. They were expecting the results from the solitary monkey specimen today. Maybe he was miffed because I’d said they should have sampled more of them. When will I learn to keep my big mouth shut?
At noon I gave up and went to d’Hammerhead Bar, but the landlord wasn’t there.
The new field station was supposed to be close to a bridge. It must be near to where I had seen the sign for the RAMSAR site, nearly all the way to Ortoire. I hesitated: it was too far to walk, but it wasn’t straightforward to flag down a ride with no route taxis running, and I did not want to be picked up by a single guy looking for entertainment.
I got stuck at d’Hammerhead for a while because a fisherman called Lambi kept buying me beers. He mixed his with rum, and I asked if he’d finished work.
“No, I’ll go back when the tide is low.” He squinted at the beach “—which is now!” With that he smiled and left, walking perfectly straight as if he’d be downing lemonade for lunch.
He’d offered me to come with him, but said that I’d have to change into short clothes at his place (they wade chest-high into the water to launch the boats), so I declined. Sometimes I regret that I’m not a guy.
The afternoon turned out to be nice, so I decided to walk up to the lighthouse on Brigand Hill. This proved to be the right decision. The steep road was arduous, but the view was worth it:
However, it wasn’t the view that made the walk worthwhile. On my return, I met a Mr. Davis from the Forestry Commission.
“The monkeys are falling from the trees!”
This was the strange manner in which Mr. Davis introduced himself. He and a friend were standing at the corner of the Plum Mitan Road.
“Pardon? Oh, you mean all the dead monkeys they’ve been finding.”
Mr Davis nodded grimly. “Yellow fever, I think.”
“Do they have the results yet?”
He regarded me for a moment and I told him about my meeting with the Truckman, but despite working with the Forestry Commission for twenty-seven years, Mr. Davis knew of nobody who went by that name.
We got talking, and he mentioned a recent Oxford University expedition studying trees in the Nariva Area. He had worked with the expedition and with scientists from all over the world.
I asked him about the manatees.
“Ah, you have to talk to a man who calls himself ‘Yankee’. He’s the boss. You find him on the Cocal Estate. The manatees are on private land, but of course the rangers need access. He’s the one to talk to.”
For the first time, I had a concrete lead. There was only one working estate on the way to Mayaro, about twice as far away as the abandoned field station. That had to be it.
I took out the useless map, and both the ranger and his friend, and later Mr. Douglas, confirmed the location. The Cocal Estate was about half-way down the Manzanilla-Mayaro Road.
It was just about walkable.Americas, Nariva Swamp, Neither here nor there, Travel, Tag Index