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Jinja Island Boat Dock Morning

A Man, A Plan, A Canal…

May 2014

Case and I were picked up by Ian in the morning on his little blue and white speedboat, the Sea Nile, a 1970s Luger – hilariously carpeted, as were all things in the 1970s.
My first boat!

Ian gave me a go on the run over to the his island… sorry, MY island… at least for a year… welcome welcome to Jinja Island.

My first boat house!
My first jungle home!
My first tropical paradise!
My first island!!!

No sooner had we dropped off our bags than we were whisked over to Jean’s place in Dolphin Bay (around the back of Jinja) for lunch. Jean’s a local guy with a lovely palapa-style restaurant called Valle de los Ranas (Valley of the Frogs) which sits out on the water… inspiration for Jinja, methinks!

Jean’s place is famous for its fish tacos, but since this was our first time, we went for that giant burgers instead.

That night we chilled in the warmth of our new home. Ian and Vanessa were good enough to give us the master bedroom while they slept on the couches downstairs.
The next day, the initiation began in earnest. Ian showed Case and I around the island, explaining how to maintain everything – the solar set-up, the water system, the composting toilet (that’ll have to go).
The wine can stay.

Sunday we went to Rana Azul – a little restaurant hidden away in nearby Terra Obscura bay – something of a weekly tradition for the ex-pats around these parts. On the way we met Ernie from the episode of New Lives in The Wild featuring Ian’s island. Once at Rana, Case and I learnt how to make cocktails as we would be replacing Vanessa and serving in the bar come next week. We met the regulars – Bill and Janis, Jane and Peter, Tony and Marilyn, Linda and Wayne, Cathy, Lyn, Axel, Captain Ron, Captain Ray… and Josef, the Austrian guy who runs the place.

The Rana Azul Massive

Then it was back to Jinja. Ian and Vanessa stayed at Bill and Janis’s for the night, giving Case and I our first night alone on the island. An island!!! This is boss!

I'm grinning a bit much there, aren't I?
The next day I started work – I had a crazy idea that it might be intelligent to remove the many tree stumps that littered the island. It would be a few months later that I would discover that the tree stumps kinda keep the soil together – it would be better to just dump soil all around them. But hey-ho, I was having fun with my pick-axe.
Funny, I don't look crazy... OR DO I?

Case meanwhile was busy befriending Campesino, the impeccably well-mannered Jinja Island dog, and the nine chickens that would be our indefatigable early morning alarm clocks for the foreseeable.

Ian and Vanessa dropped by to say farewell, and just like that, Jinja Island was ours!

Shall we hammock now or hammock later?

Case and I spent the next week getting to grips with our new environment – the chickens, the geckos, the exotic birds, the boat, the long trek to town, the VHF radio network (our secret codename is BEN 63), Dolphin Bay… it was a steep learning curve.

We marvelled at the bananas growing out the back, and fell in love with the baby coconuts and the tiny geckos running all over the shop.

It would be less than a fortnight when we got our first proper deluge – the weather here is either sunny or monsoon, with little in-between. I made a mental note to buy some wellies.

The next Sunday we scooted off to Rana Azul and got to work behind the bar.

It had only been a few weeks before we got our first visitors – Ed and his buddies. Ed was a friend of a friend who was travelling through Bocas. It was a bit of a panic to be honest, we had barely got to grips with the place, and here we had four people descending on us… six people in a house that’s about right for two.
Our first CouchSurfers!!

They were a good bunch, they introduced us to Cards Against Humanity (which will be a running theme throughout the year), we introduced them to Rana Azul and we drank a good amount of alcohol. Yay!

At the end of the month we were invited to fellow Brit-Gringos Peter and Jane’s place at Split Hill, 10km south of Jinja.

We caught a lift there with Bill and Janis, our wonderful neighbours from the US who have kinda adopted us. They’re like the coolest neighbours EVER. We love ’em.

I like this place. I think I’ll stay.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes is a British adventurer, presenter, filmmaker and author. He is the only person to have travelled to every country in the world without flying. From 2014 to 2017 he lived off-grid on a private island that he won in a game show, before returning to the UK to campaign for a better future for the generations to come.

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