Colombian Exchange Ch2

The Colombian Exchange

Chapter 2

Father O'Brien looked accusingly at the silent telephone receiver and placed it slowly back on its cradle. He had been left hanging on the phone so long that the switchboard operator had disconnected him. It didn't surprise him, most of the time he had been in Managua seemed to have been spent waiting to be put through. But then charity seekers were never high on anybody's list of people to talk to nowadays.

His eyes drifted over to the window, where the grime of the overcrowded city was being scoured from the glass by torrential rain. He knew that, outside, the sudden arrival of the rains in the Nicaraguan capital had greatly worsened the plight of the city's poor, sweeping away the shanty huts pitched on the earthquake ruins of the former financial centre. Even now, two years after the earthquake of 1972, nothing had been rebuilt. No flashy limousines cruised these streets, no office blocks rose elegantly to the tropical skies. The area was the preserve of the homeless, of those with nothing more than their lives to lose if the ground gave way beneath them.

Even though the land was worth nothing, St Anthony's Catholic Mission to Nicaragua could only just afford the rent on this dilapidated office, on the edge of the ruins, which served as their base of operations in the capital. From here, every day of the week, he and Bob Cody fought with the watchdogs of bureaucracy to get relief for their desperate flock.

O'Brien stood up and eased his old bones. He had been sitting still too long - alone in the office - cajoling, liaising, organising, trying to squeeze a little more from a system that looked on poverty like a disease, something you either had or didn't have. He moved across to the window to look out onto the busy, rain-slick streets below. How different Managua was from everything he had grown up with back in Ireland. Not that he minded. Not at all.

Suddenly he looked round as a big, bearded man with unruly brown hair rattled a dripping umbrella in the doorway. Father O'Brien's voice still hinted at the soft mists and flowing streams of his native Ireland as he said, 'If only this rain would wash away some of the suffering out there, eh Bob? It would be helping us for a change.'

In contrast to O'Brien's accent, Cody's was pure New England. 'Which is more than the government of this country is prepared to do!' He hung up his umbrella and dripped across the bare wood floor.

The priest understood the young American's frustration. At twenty-five, Bob Cody had at last arrived amongst his fellow man, to do – as best he could - the work of Christ. But O'Brien wondered if five years at Seminary College was the best education for the job. If St Thomas's College in Boston was anything like Dublin had been, it would be very correct, with hushed and dusty corridors filled with an air of purposeful self-improvement, steeped in philosophy and buttressed by the unswerving rules of the Roman Catholic Church. But what had that to do with this?

He looked at Cody's crumpled white shirt and faded jeans, strange clothing he was sure after the greys and blacks of a Catholic boys' school and St Thomas's College. What could such places teach a young man about the noise, the chaos, the simple struggle to exist that faced the poor of a third world country every day of their lives?

Cody saw the old man's concern and glanced at his reflection against the dark sky in the rainy window. Unconsciously he ran a hand through the unruly brown hair. He ought to have had it cut, he thought - same thing with the beard - but somehow there were always more pressing things to do.

He also saw the exasperation on his face. 'I'm sorry, Father, but it makes me angry to think that I can't get hold of something as simple as plastic sheeting to help the families in the slums.'

'I know, Bob, but you must learn to be patient.'

'I've run out of patience, Father. I've had enough of the games these people play. We all know that there's foreign aid money available.' He laughed bitterly, 'Or there would be if President Somoza wasn't siphoning it off into his own bank account. That money was sent to help the children – our children. To keep them alive!'

'But you must still be patient,' O'Brien said. 'Anger won't help anyone.'

Cody's voice shook with emotion. 'Don't you think so, Father Joseph? Don't I have a right to get angry when I see girls sold as prostitutes, boys beaten to death for stealing a piece of bread?'

'Of course you do!' O'Brien's eyes were on the young man's face. 'You think I don't feel the same? Anyone with an ounce of humanity in their heart would be angry, but anger is not the answer.' He put a thin hand on Cody's arm. 'Believe me! I have been working in Latin America for twenty years. I know what I am talking about. You will never bulldoze your way through their systems. Look for ways around them, use your head, Bob, not your heart.'

Cody sighed. 'I expect you're right, Father Joseph, I'm sorry.'

'I am. You're young Bob. I am old. It took me many years to learn this. And it was hard.' He changed the subject abruptly. 'But! I have something else for you. How long have you in been Nicaragua, now?'

Cody thought about it. 'Six months, give or take.'

'And you've not been over to the East coast, in all that time?' The old priest crossed to his grey metal desk and shuffled amongst some papers.


'Then there's something I want you to do for me.' O'Brien turned, smiling and added, 'And I think you will do an excellent job of it. Sit yourself down.' He pulled up one of the hard, upright chairs. 'I was telephoned yesterday by Sister Maria-Theresa of the Convent of Our Lady in Bluefields. She wants me to go down and see some poor woman who has fallen foul of the authorities over there on the East coast, but I think you should go. It's time you had a change of perspective.' He cast a glance at his young protégé. 'Do you know why they call that part of Nicaragua the Moskito Coast?'

'Because of the mosquitoes?' Cody hazarded.

'Right.' O'Brien replied. 'There are more mosquitoes than there are trees and there's no shortage of either.' He grinned. 'It'll be a unique opportunity for you to see more of this beautiful country. Mind you, there's not a lot over there these days, but Bluefields used to be a busy enough port when the British ruled there a hundred years ago.' He drew something from the envelope and passed it across the desk. 'I've got you a ticket for the bus. You'll have to get down to Managua Airport at dawn tomorrow. The bus leaves from there and you'll ride it as far as Rama, across the mountains. From there, you'll take the ferryboat down the Rio Escondido for ten hours. It's a wonderfully scenic day out, my boy, and Sister Maria-Theresa has arranged for you to stay at the Hotel San Cristobal.' The old priest smiled roguishly at the young man from New England. 'I believe it even has a bath.'

He took back the ticket and carefully returned it to its envelope. 'God-knows why, but your lady-in-distress is incarcerated in some place a dozen or so miles outside Bluefields, a tiny coastal village called San Blas. How you'll get there, I am not certain, but Sister Maria-Theresa's work takes her there from time to time, so I'm sure you will be safe enough in her hands.' The priest smiled again, as though perhaps he and the good Sister went back a long way together.

Bob Cody took the envelope and tipped its contents out onto his own desk.

'Oh, you'll need to go steadily, Bob,' Father O'Brien said whimsically, one hand on his tall friend's arm. 'The lass is in the family way and we don't want you having to assist at a birth, now do we?'

Cody's face paled and O'Brien laughed. 'Don't look so worried.' He turned for his umbrella. 'Didn't they teach you about these things in that Seminary College of yours?'


Father O'Brien's description of the journey as scenic was a masterful piece of Irish blarney.

Despite the earliness of the hour, the bus, when it ground up the hill outside the airport, was already filled almost to overflowing with all kinds of humanity. Cody squeezed and apologised his way to the only available space, at the back of the bus, where he coerced his big frame into the last seat. He pulled his backpack onto his knees and looked inwards across an aisle, piled high with assorted private belongings, at the careworn woman opposite him. The driver engaged the gears and the labouring vehicle lurched away from the town's brash advertisement hoardings into the rising sun and the mountains of Nicaragua - climbing out of the city into the scrubby countryside above. Bob Cody braced himself as the driver worked at the steering wheel and time and again, when he fell against the old woman beside him, she shared a toothless, wrinkled grin with her fellow traveller.

With the unending climb and the airless heat, the noise of the engine grew distant in his ears and the landscape reeled past his unfocused eyes. For the first time since he had arrived in this country, he had nothing to do. The unceasing demands of the job at the Mission had filled every waking hour, it seemed, since his feet had touched the dirty streets of Managua. Cody watched a young mother across the aisle from him as she rocked a grisling baby against her breast. She had the strong features he had become used to in Central America. He wasn't sure if they were from Indian blood, or were Hispanic, but the high cheek-bones and dark eyes certainly gave her that Latin look that was so different from the girls he'd grown up with.

In his mind's eye he pictured Rosylin, his older sister – step-sister really but he always thought of her as closer than that – with her pale, New England complexion and blond hair. She was expecting a baby. With shame, he remembered that he had not replied to her letters from home. He tried to recollect when her child was due. Had it been born yet? Was it a boy or a girl? Again, he was annoyed with himself for not finding time to reply to her letters. Ros would make a good mother - a bit hard on the wayward, he recalled with some chagrin, but always fair.

The Indian woman shifted her bawling baby from one arm to the other and Bob watched her absent-mindedly until she eased a heavy breast from her worn, cotton blouse. The nipple was large and brown and hard. She jiggled it in front of the child's face tempting him to seize it in his grubby hands and force it into his mouth. It had only taken a moment and her eyes lifted to hold Bob's own as the child sucked greedily. She smiled at him and he quickly looked away to hide his embarrassment. He'd never seen a woman's breast till he came to Nicaragua. At first, it had shocked him to see babies suckling from their mothers as naturally as the animals in the field. It still embarrassed him. A Jesuit school had been no place to learn of such things.

Alert again, he thought of the woman that he'd been sent to meet. He tried to conjure an image of her in his mind. Was she anything like this peasant girl? He had no idea but the thought disturbed him.

The mother left the bus just before noon, when the toiling vehicle drew to a halt in a remote mountain town. The great machine stood impassively in the ragged bus-station, only its cooling motor ticking, as the occupants dismounted to take advantage of the stop to breathe the clean air, buy tortilla or a plate of spicy nacatamales and a warm beer. Cody watched the girl sling the baby behind her in a shawl and pick up her meagre belongings to set off on foot over the brow of the hill and away in the direction the bus had just come.

In no time, he realised they were away again. The driver was talking to him, gesturing towards the coach. He nodded, 'yes, I'm coming,' seeing the Indian girl's head and shoulders in his imagination, still visible above the crest of the road, with the tiny grisling baby wrapped in its native woven shawl.

There was much more room on the bus as it descended into the trees and heat of the Moskito Coast. Every primitive town they stopped at had its peeling Coca Cola billboards and once-painted, tin-roofed cafe where people alighted onto the brown, earth street, until Bob could please himself where he sat. He picked up his bag and swung himself down the aisle till he was sitting behind the driver. The smoke from the man's cigarette was carried over him by the hot, wet draught from his open window.

The driver met his gaze in the mirror, his expression blank, incurious. His eyes rested on Bob's face for a moment, then moved back to the road ahead as he braked for another tight bend, verged with heavy, dark-green trees.

By the time they reached Rama, there was only a small collection of committed travellers left on board to accept their bags from the driver's nicotine-stained hands and lug them across the hard earth road to the jetty where the ferry waited.

Cody was unsure at what time the boat would leave to carry them down the brown, swirling Rio Escondido to the town of Bluefields. He knew the capital of the coast area was nine or ten hours down river, but there was an interminable hold-up delaying their departure. The heavy heat and its accompaniment vicious mosquitoes grew with every hour they waited. Some passengers sipped beer in the small bar on board the ship; others sat ashore in one of the tin-roofed cafes at the head of the dilapidated wharf. With the oppressive weather came a listlessness in the travellers and workers alike. The black labourers, waiting to cast-off the ship's lines from the dock, sat on the wooden bollards, or sprawled on the rough planking of the jetty, unmoving, listening to ceaseless Reggae music that lurched from a radio which stood by itself in the middle of the landing stage.

Suddenly there were signs of movement. The captain appeared on the deck, the line-handlers rose to their feet. Smoke rose from the ferry's exhausts, passengers exuded from the shadows where they had been vainly trying to stay cool. Baggage was dragged up the rickety gangplank and the boat cast free from the land.

The delay remained unexplained as the ship gathered way into the fast flowing, brown river. Cody watched the landing stage slip past the deck for a minute before turning to the ferry's open-air bar where he ordered a Coke and took a seat to watch the town grow smaller until all signs of habitation had gone, replaced by scrubby mangrove trees and muddy riverbank. He sat for a long time, unable to bring to his mind any picture of where he was going, or who he would meet there; just mesmerised by the unending vegetation until, with the last of the daylight, the thunderstorm that had been threatening all afternoon eventually broke upon them. The heavy drops of rain that drove him inside also drove away the mosquitoes and left the small ship in the gathering darkness of night, rolling down the surging river into God knew where.

These were his abiding memories as, just before midnight, he stepped out of the electric-lighted saloon to see that the ferry was tying up at a glistening, street-lit dock in Bluefields. As he stepped ashore, the river poured away, bloated, beneath the gangplank into the unseen ocean while from a black sky, split by violent flashes of lightning, salty rain drove into his face.

A hand reached out for his arm as he mounted the steps from the boat. 'Let us get indoors out of this weather.' Sister Maria-Theresa spoke closely into his face to be better heard through the deluge. Her umbrella had collapsed in the driving wind and she stood in the gloom of the street lights, her nun's habit more or less concealed by a voluminous plastic mackintosh that seemed as determined to get out of the wind as she did.


In the bar of the Hotel San Cristobal, which doubled as its reception, they shed their soaking outer clothes and caught their breath while, above their heads, slow moving fans stirred the thick, humid air ineffectually.

Cody stood by as the nun negotiated the formalities of his accommodation with a shirt-sleeved barman, who was clearly more interested in the televised football game than he was in the customers dripping on the linoleum floor of his hotel.

As he watched her, Bob guessed that she was American, though her native language seemed to have become lost somewhere in her travels around the Catholic missions of Latin-America. Instead, when she turned to speak in English to him, she gave the impression of translating the words back into her mother tongue before uttering them. The effect was disconcerting and he had to force his tired mind to concentrate in order to gather the meaning from her slow, plodding speech.

He carried his bag to a table by a shuttered window, across the room from the television and the football game, and listened to the woman as she sipped her drink frugally and articulated the story of the girl in the jungle prison.

Apparently, she was young and not a local woman, but English. The news surprised him. It was unusual to hear of British travellers in Nicaragua. The Sisters of Our Lady had only recently learned about her, over the unofficial radio network that linked the Catholic Church workers on this difficult and isolated coast.

'I cannot imagine under what pretext these people are holding her,' she pronounced. 'To keep her alone in a cell like that. And in her condition! We still would not have known she was there if the Indian woman who nursed her had not told one of our workers!'

'Is she ill, then?' Bob Cody asked.

'Of course she is ill,' the Sister snapped. 'The poor woman has been locked away in a prison without any medical assistance. And she is expecting a baby!'

Bob Cody thought again of the young Nicaraguan mother on the bus and the tiny, brown face of her hungry child. 'Sister, wouldn't it be better if a woman were to see her?' He hesitated. 'I mean, if she is expecting a child, surely that's more, well, something you would be better able to help with.'

'She is not going to have the baby while you are talking to her,' the nun said impatiently. 'I asked Father O'Brien to find out why she is in that terrible place. It is our duty to see what can be done to help her.' She suddenly smiled at his naiveté. 'Bob, let us look after the mother,' she stood up suddenly, 'and leave God to look after her child, eh? Now I must get back, it is very late.' She enveloped herself once more in the rustling plastic mackintosh. 'There is a fisherman named Julio. He is a good man and with the Lord's help, and Julio's fishing boat, you will go up the coast tomorrow.'

Cody walked with her to the door of the hotel. Outside, lightning flashed around the river delta, suggesting to him that he might need a lot of help from the Almighty. 'Of course, Sister,' he said. 'I'll do my best.'

'I'm sure you will manage famously!' There was just the hint of Father O'Brien in the way she said it and he wondered again how well those two old campaigners knew each other. 'Good night, Bob,' she said, 'and God bless you.' Then, gathering her huge raincoat about her, she stepped out into the hostile night.

Bob Cody wearily carried his bag up the creaking stairs of the hotel. His bedroom, with its peeling wallpaper, was illuminated by the yellow light of a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. Its main piece of furniture, besides the sink and the iron bed, was an absurd dressing-table that surely had once been in a grand hacienda. Above this, a dull mirror reflected back his exhausted, bearded face.


Mosquitoes whined as Bob Cody lay on the hard bed. How much had changed in his life to bring him to this dingy room in Nicaragua. Not so much, he thought. The first years of his life had been spent in rooms like this. The squalor of his mother's city flat was easy to recall with its high ceilings and brown, peeling wallpaper. He remembered the greasy dishes that lay unwashed for days in the kitchenette when his mother was working. He'd had to learn how to fend for himself from a very early age. She came home most nights long after midnight and sometimes, if she wasn't too tired, she would carry him to his room from where he habitually fell asleep on the stained settee in their living room. Other nights, she would just cover him with a blanket and he would find her in the morning fully clothed on her bed where she had collapsed, too tired to get undressed.

He understood now how hard it had been for her, trying to earn enough to keep them both off the streets, but at the time, he had resented it. She'd had nothing left to give him by the time she'd worked the hours she did. She'd married his father straight from school and had imagined that he would provide for her and the child he had given her. But gambling had swallowed up the wages she'd hoped for, long before she or the baby ever got to see them.

It wasn't easy in the fifties to leave your husband, no matter how badly he treated you, and she had stuck with the man for five years before he finally left them for another woman. Then the landlord's heavies had evicted her and her boy and they'd lived with her brother till she got another apartment. Unlike the young Bob Cody, who had simply seen empty rooms with no one to love him, she had seen the need to work to pay the rent and keep them fed. So she had waited table in diners during the day and worked in bars at night.

For years she thought that the Italian woman across the hallway who took her money with such enthusiasm was looking after Bob while she was at work, but the woman took no interest in the boy, sending him across to his own apartment whenever she'd had enough of him and seldom cooking for him, except when his mother argued with her.

Was it any surprise the boy stayed out at night? What was there to go home for? Then there had been the run-ins with the police – the misdemeanours to start with; daubing paint, smashing bottles, the angry protests of a confused ten-year old. But inevitably these had not been enough and he had graduated to petty theft from stores or automobiles.

By twelve, he had a police record and by thirteen, he was on probation.

The realisation of the pain he must have brought his mother wrung the heart of the young man on the hotel bed in Bluefields. He could still see the tears on her face, the guilt in her eyes, as she watched him being removed from the juvenile court and taken into care. He realised now how deeply she had blamed herself for his behaviour. She saw it only as her fault that he had gone bad, that she had failed him. But what choice had there been for her, he thought now. What support had there been for her, or him, in the Boston of the nineteen-fifties?

Even in the boys' home Cody had rebelled, taking beatings regularly for his refusal to conform, and it was only after the affair with the handgun that he had finally faced up to the possibility that the badness was within him - that he could no longer blame it only on his circumstances. And it had taken three months in a juvenile detention centre to make him see that.


It was still dark outside his window when Sister Maria-Theresa knocked on the door of his bedroom. The lamp burned above his head and his bible lay beside him on the bed. He must have fallen asleep while he was reading it. He looked about. He was still wearing the clothes he had travelled in and his tongue was dry in his mouth.

'Yes?' he called.

Her voice came back through the door. 'It's time to be going, Bob. It will be light in half an hour.'

He rolled off the bed. 'I'm all set,' he replied. 'Give me a minute.'

'OK,' she said, and he heard her coat rustling away down the corridor.

He went to the window and looked out at the night. There was no hint of dawn yet, but he could see that the storm of the night before had blown itself out, leaving stars so bright he thought you could probably read by them. The young missionary changed his shirt and washed in the cold water that trickled from the tap in his sink. He brushed his teeth and hurriedly stowed his belongings back into the rucksack. A glance round the room reminded him of the bible lying on the rumpled bed. He swept it up into his jacket pocket and turned out the light. Was there faint daylight coming in at the window?

The two of them walked in silence through the deserted streets. The roads were washed clean by the night's rain and a dog slunk away as they hurried on to the town quay.

Across the dark, swollen river, the din of an outboard-engine grew louder until, against the pale grey eastern sky, Bob could make out the source of the raucous noise. Suddenly the engine cut and a crude fishing-boat materialised at the bottom of the steps, guided silently by a very old man, whose gnarled black face was topped with a mat of white hair.

'This is Julio,' Maria-Theresa said. 'He is from the village of El Bluff, across the bay there, on the end of the peninsula. He will take you to San Blas.'

The man uttered a few rapid sentences to the Sister, who answered him in his own language.

'What did he say?' Cody asked.

'That God is in his heaven and all is right with the world,' she said, then she laughed at his disbelief. 'I translated it freely, Bob. He speaks English of a kind. They all do here; it is a legacy of the British. I am sure he will speak more slowly for you, though, eh, Julio?'

The fisherman grinned, pleased with the joke and nodded to the nun and held out a hand to help Cody down into the frail craft.

'Good luck and God speed,' she called before the deafening outboard burst back into life. Julio bobbed and mouthed a few words, but Cody could hear little over the noise of the motor. He made an encouraging face, waved at the nun and settled himself on the seat in the bow to watch the miracle of a sunrise unfold before him.

As the headland out to sea etched itself in stark silhouette against the sumptuous pink sky and the engine thrashed against the current in the river, the white houses along the quayside flushed with the growing warmth of the new day. God was indeed in his heaven. The wind had all but died and the sky above them was lightening from indigo to blue, with no trace of the storm from the night before.

Insistent waves slopped over the bow of the boat, which lurched across the rushing tree-lined river, but to his intense relief, Bob Cody realised that the voyage was not to be up the exposed seacoast. Instead, the native vessel crossed the open water of the estuary to the other side, where the river ran more easily, sheltered by a long peninsula that lay between it and the sea. From there, Julio stayed close inshore, where the water was almost calm and the wash from his boat caused waves that lapped against the roots of the dense mangroves. Occasionally their passage would disturb a crocodile that would slip menacingly into the turgid water, or a startled white egret would rise clumsily into the air in front of them.

There must have been some current pushing against them, so that the sun had risen, scorching, into the sky behind them by the time the ancient pilot brought his labouring craft to rest. They had reached a bend in the river where a dilapidated ferry lay moored to a makeshift jetty on their right. It appeared to connect the two halves of a road that would otherwise have been separated by some three quarters of a mile of water at that point. Julio brought his boat effortlessly alongside the jetty and cut the motor. There was complete silence.

Away to their left, across the river, the other section of road rose out of the languid water and was immediately swallowed up by the jungle. Beside them, the nearer track curled up and away from the water's edge, becoming lost in trees that changed quickly from mangroves to tall hardwoods further inshore. To call it a road, Bob thought, was to stretch the English language. It amounted to no more than a series of opaque puddles loosely connected by stretches of wet mud.

Cody gestured to the shore. 'Is this it?' he asked his guide.

'Yes,' Julio assured him with much nodding. 'You want I come back fo' you tomorrow?'

'Yes,' Bob agreed, standing up carefully and nodding in his turn. 'Tomorrow.' He reached over the side of the boat and pulled the bow nearer to the jetty before passing his backpack over the gunwale. Then with a scramble he was up out of the fishing boat, on his hands and knees on the rotten wood planking.

'You sure?' Julio asked. 'Is a whole lot of jungle out there. You think you going to be all right by youself?'

For the first time, Bob Cody took an objective look about him. Sister Maria-Theresa had given him directions how to find the village from this landing stage but her instructions had not prepared him for the dense vegetation that he now found on either side of him.

The road, as he had seen, was no more than two flooded wheel ruts and even then, the only vehicles he could envisage passing this way would be four-wheel drive trucks or military jeeps. As soon as it left the swollen riverside, it immediately plunged into hot, wet, pungent shade. It was as though mankind's fleeting tenancy on the land was ended. On both sides of the track the jungle was growing back over the bare earth, creating a high domed roof overhead. Cody was astonished that there was as much green-stuff trailing in the air as there was covering the ground. It draped itself from the branches of the trees as dense tangling lianas, or as exotic air-plants, hanging like flower baskets, often a hundred feet above his head. In amongst the towering trees he saw tall ferns, twenty feet high, fighting for the dappled sunlight with bushes flowering with brilliant red and orange flowers. All around him the dripping air was filled with their peppery fragrance and through this heady atmosphere came a troubling cacophony of piercing calls and squeals - produced by what birds or animals, he could not begin to guess.

Julio clambered from his boat, dragging it behind him till he had made fast the painter to the jetty. 'I ain't think so, Massa Bob,' he grinned and the old face wrinkled even more about his white teeth. 'I going show you the way!'

Arming himself with a lethal-looking machete, the old fisherman plunged barefoot up the track. At first, Cody tried vainly to keep his feet out of the puddles to avoid unseen water-born parasites, but even so his boots soon became waterlogged and in places the track was so flooded that he had no choice but to splash through, calf deep.

For the first mile, their route lay steeply uphill. His legs ached with the effort of each sucking footstep and his shirt stuck to him, drenched with sweat. He toiled upwards, gasping in the thick, wet air and swatting angrily at the tiny insects drawn to his face and eyes. But the mosquitoes were so numerous and Julio's pace so exhausting that he had little enough energy for anything but the occasional impulsive slap. After thirty gruelling minutes, the track levelled out and made an abrupt right turn, now following a slight ridge southwards, where the direct sun began to penetrate the canopy, fighting through the slash made in the jungle by the road. The black guide stopped and waited for Cody to catch him up.

'It look to me like you need a rest, Massa Bob,' he grinned again at the younger man's discomfiture.

Cody lifted his broad-brimmed hat and mopped at his face.

'I do, Julio,' he panted, shrugging off his rucksack to find his water bottle.

As he tipped his head to drink, there came a sudden violent commotion from the trees immediately beside him. In fright, he spilled the warm water over his face as something crashed through the jungle no more than six feet from him.

'Monkeys,' Julio laughed at his reaction and Cody hurriedly replaced the lid to his water bottle still peering into the foliage, searching for the cause of the uproar, but despite its violence, he could see nothing moving. He swung the backpack onto his shoulders. 'OK,' he said, quickly. 'Let's go!'


Chapter 3