By the beginning of April 2017 I had everything worked out: I would stay here on Jinja until mid-June, spent the summer in the UK and return to Bocas in September, as I had done last year. I would use that time to help my dad and work on my next book, Top of the World – the story of the second year of The Odyssey Expedition.
Carl and Marcela were up for island-sitting, and I would have plenty of time to get things completely excellent for their stay.
A proofing copy of Man of the World would be winging its way to me from my publisher, Jared before the end of the month. It was all very exciting!
Under my house I set up the Jinja Island cinema, and invited CJ and Jess over to watch Moonlight in the twilight.
But then, on April 18th 2017, I awoke to find my phone alight with notifications.
The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, had called a snap election for June 8th.
While I was back in the UK in January, after attending that anti-Brexit rally in Liverpool, I wrote to my local Labour MP, Stephen Twigg. imploring him to not vote with the rival Conservative party to enact Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the legal mechanism for the UK leaving the EU.
I will go into this matter in more detail on my upcoming Project Hope blog, but suffice to say, doing so would not only be utterly pointless (the Conservatives had a majority, they didn’t need the extra votes), it would also be incredibly foolhardy, as no groundwork, preparation, preliminary discussions or anything had been done, and Labour would be better placed pointing this out to the government (and the media) rather than just going along with it like a bunch of f***wits.
I said that if he voted with the Tories, I would stand against him in the next general election, thinking that wouldn’t be until 2020.
Since Mr Twigg had indeed voted with the Conservatives on this bill, I really didn’t have much of a choice, you see unfortunately for me, and unlike 99% of the wankers in Parliament, I’m a man of my word. If I say I’m going to do something, I damn well do it. See also: visiting every country in the world without flying, and winning an island on a gameshow.
And so I had just a week to get my shit together and head back to the UK. An American couple I knew agreed to look after the island (and Campesino) until Carl and Marcela arrive in June.
My last night on Jinja Island I photographed the stars in the sky and played music on the boat dock. The bioluminescence glowed in the dark water below. I’m going to miss this place.
The morning of my last day on Jinja began as the sun rose over the Caribbean Sea…
I waved goodbye to my home, my humble shack in the jungle. I thought I would be leaving for just a few months. As things turned out, it would be a lot longer than that.
I stood beneath the famous Jinja Island oar for one last photo…
Said goodbye to Campo…
…and floated away.
Exactly three years to the day since it began, my life on Jinja Island came to an end. It was a wild ride.
I learnt a lot about myself and my abilities. Living off-grid is a steep learning curve. I picked up a ton of new skills: from how to fettle a boat to how to fix a generator, run a solar set-up, install a flush toilet, build a staircase, lay floorboards, look after chickens, find poison dart frogs, make chocolate, grow bananas and plait palm fronds.
I made a stack of new friends and had the pleasure of hosting many of my old ones.
My parents came to Jinja, and I’m so glad they did while my dad was still relatively compos mentis. In my time on the island more than 250 people came to visit. Living on my own island was not as lonely as you might expect.
When the water was still and the sun was shining, it was paradise. There was a magic in the air, a soft walm calmness and an enveloping beauty like I’ve never known.
I won some and lost some, dusted myself down, and tried again.
But above all other things, I lived. I lived on an island in Panama, and squeezed every last drop of fun, delight and adventure out of the experience.
Goodbye Campo. Goodbye Jinja. I love you x