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New Adventures in Solitude

July 2014

I returned from Glasto with only a few days to run around and see everyone. The next day, my brothers Alex and Mike accompanied me and regulars Brian and Soraya for Fact Cinema’s film quiz.

(Which we won.)

Before I left I did the rounds, dropping in to Chester see a very heavily preggers Lucy, her husband Tim and baby Saul. Tim wants to call the new baby Saul II: Saul Harder.

I also caught up with my friend Michelle, who also happened to be heavily pregnant. Must be something in the water.

Anyway, getting back to Jinja as soon as possible was a bit of a priority, so, one last night out with the lads in Liverpool…

When I say “flying visit!”, I mean “flying visit”! Bye mum! Bye Liverpool!

I took the train down to London, arriving around 1pm. Before I flew back to Panama, I had a date with some globes… I had been asked to take part in a photoshoot for the Australian magazine Frankie

They were running a story about my travels around the world. It was quite cool as Frankie was one of the few magazines that Mandy used to read when we lived together in Australia in 2011.

The shoot, with incredibly talented photographer Stephanie Rose Wood, took place in Bellerby and Co’s workshop, where they make bespoke hand-painted globes of the world. I was in HEAVEN.

Stephanie got some great pics for the article, although I felt like I played second fiddle to the beautiful globes. I hope one day I’m rich enough to buy one!

Afterwards I met up with Casey for what would turn out to be our last night together. The next day she drove me to Heathrow Airport. So this was it. As always, at a bloody airport. I hate airports. As a parting gift, I gave her my old hat.

Doesn’t mean you have to like it.

And so back to Panama...

The plane left and landed on the same day. I got to Panama City airport and jumped a taxi to the Albrook bus station. Then it was a FREEZING COLD (as always!) overnight bus to Almirante, the port for Bocas Del Toro. I got back to Bocas before 8am, paid a taxi guy to take me back to Jinja and there I was.
Home Sweet Home!

Thankfully, my super neighbours Kent n’ Marcy and Bill n’ Janis had been looking after the animals when I was away. They rock my world.

But here I was. Casey-less. On my own.

Okay, so I’ve travelled on my own a lot, but I’ve never lived on my own. I was living with my parents until I was 18, then I was in uni for a few years, living with friends, then Mandy then Casey… I never really had a place to myself. And now, I’m alone. On an island.

It was strange.

And so to work, I guess. But nobody told me just how much it rains in July. It was insane.

The storm raged throughout the night. It was, quite frankly, terrifying. I was utterly alone, on an island, in a wooden house with a metal roof.

I disconnected the solar panel batteries, unplugged everything, turned off the CB radio and placed my electronic items in a wooden box. My only light was a torch. As the storm passed over the island around 4am, I squatted on the ceramic tiles in the middle of the kitchen, in my wellies, heels together, fire extinguisher in hand, waiting for a direct hit. And then this happened…

The good news: the lightning didn’t hit the house. The bad news:

It snapped this Jinja Island tree LIKE A TWIG.

Crazy as it might seem, the dog Campesino and the chickens (all 11 of them) were totally zen during the storm. I didn’t hear a peep out of any of them. The next morning I had quite a bit of a clean-up job around the house. I realised I could do with some drainage channels to help get rid of the surface water the next time it truly hammers down… I figured that these storms weren’t a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Three of the four new chicks were doing well, but the one we called Caska was having real trouble. She was a wee timid thing and the other chickens would bully her and steal all her food. So I let her hop up the stairs and come eat in the house.

She would come up every day at lunchtime, regular as clockwork, the cute little thing.

Aww

Every Wednesday and Thursday I do the weather on the radio for the “Bocas Emergency Network” (or BEN). Us landlubbers (or ‘dirt people’ as we’re known) team up with the yachties to present a show every morning at 7.45am on the VHF radio network. It covers any news, gossip, coming and goings, what’s for sale and what events are happening across the archipelago.

Doing the weather is quite fun, and a good excuse for getting out of bed in the morning. I like to make up ridiculous Grand Poobar-style titles for myself such as “Second Trombonist In The Coconut Army Choir”. Although I dunno if the Americans who make up the majority of people on the network get the joke.

A couple of Americans that did actually find me amusing were Dave and Tori, a young couple who had met working in Texas and were now yachting around the world on their lovely little boat the Eva Marie. They summoned me on the radio (my callsign is “BEN 63”) and asked if I wanted to meet up.

Not long afterwards, the three of us found ourselves out in Bocas Town for a night of booze, hilarity, giant Jenga.

Afterwards I retreated back to Jinja and spent the next few days wandering around the island jabbering to myself. I’m not into all this solitude malarkey… I need to find me some house guests… some – dare I say it? – CouchSurfers.

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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