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Jinja Island Wonder Woman

The Yule Tides

December 2014

Globally, 2014 was the hottest year on record. This is because global warming is a real thing that will eventually affect each and every one of us, whether you live up a mountain or not. Anybody who says otherwise is a damn fool.

This was the sight I woke up to on December 2nd, 2014:

This situation is a direct result of rising tides – December 2014 saw the highest tides in the history of Bocas Del Toro. Most of the town was underwater. The real kicker? It’s salt water. When the tide recedes, it leaves salt in the soil. And salt IS NOT GOOD for plants and trees.

On my little island, it’s not that much of an issue – the palm trees are quite hardy and I can always – at some stage – build a small levee.

But just imagine you live on Tuvalu, or Kiribati, or the Maldives. Your soil is being salted every year by the sea, so much so that root vegetables are no longer viable and your fruit trees are dying.

That’s bad enough, but now imagine you live in Bangladesh – 100 million people living below sea level. Where the hell are they supposed to go? They’re completely surrounded by India – another country that’s already packed to the rafters with people.

But does anybody seem to care? Nope. You know when we will care? When we start to lose pretty much every beach in the world.

At the time, Ben and Jazzy were still staying with me on the island, and we had been joined by two new “surfers”, Alex from Canada and Colm from Ireland. They had to wade to the boat dock. I was thinking of building a raised walkway from the house to the dock anyway for when we had a downpour. Now the matter was even more pressing.

Ben, Colm and Jazzy left on the Wednesday and were promptly replaced by Veronica from Cuba (yellow blouse) and Sarah from the US (in the blue). Alex stayed on for another couple of days.

Veronica was a real ray of positive sunshine, her boundless optimism was infectious. Sarah was a cycle-rickshaw wallah from Austin, Texas. She liked to dress as Wonder Woman.

Just as Alex, Veronica and Sarah left to explore the archipelago, I took in Jayson and Cindy from Canada. It was all go with the CouchSurfers this month! Jayson followed The Odyssey Expedition and was already friend of mine on Facebook.

Cindy and Jayson only stayed for one night (not long enough!) but they did leave me an amazing present:
MAIS OUI!! Merci beaucoup Jayson et Cindy! No sooner had Jayson and Cindy left than I found myself hosting these three guys: Renne, Bjorn and B-Man.

Like Jason, Bjorn also followed the Odyssey Expedition and did an incredible amount to help me win SOS Island.

We met at the deck at the back of Brisas Hotel, and who should we bump into but Vreni of Oktoberfest and Halloween fame!

We were joined by Sarah Wonder Woman and a good night out was had by all.

The next day, Bjorn, Renne, B-Man and I headed back to Jinja, accompanied by a guest of honour…

That’s my top mate Anna.

Anna and I go waaaaay back. Until I started on The Odyssey Expedition she ran the dance studio above my office on Dale Street, Liverpool. We’ve been to three or four Glastonbury festivals together, we even met up in Indonesia, which at the time was in country number 179 of 200.

Anyways, it being six months since I returned to Panama, it was time for me to do a border run to Costa Rica to get another 180 day stamp in my passport… and Anna came with me. Bjorn and the boys looked after the island (and Campo) while I was away.

It did mean once again traversing the BRIDGE OF DOOOOOOM on the Panama/Costa Rica border at Sixaola.

I’m sure it’s got even more scary holes in it than last time I crossed it back in June.

After a night on the tiles in Puerto Viejo, Anna went to explore Costa Rica for a few days and I headed back to Jinja… because I had yet another visitor… and this time it was somebody I’ve known for even longer than I’ve known Anna.

Helen and I met in Cambodia back in the spring of 2002. We shared happy pizza together and travelled down the Mekong River Apocalypse Now-style to Phnom Penh. There we found out she’s a crack shot with a 6-shooter. Django Unchained has nothing on her.

Helen was only staying for one night. In the morning she asked me the best question ever… “is there supposed to be a scorpion in the shower?”


After dealing with our unwelcome visitor, we headed out on the speedboat.

We trundled over to Erika and Jose’s place, the scrumptious Dolphin Bay Hideaway, as they were having a jolly old Xmas party at their fabulous place up on the hill.
Later we went to Blue Coconut, the bar on the Solarte Island.

But it was a flying visit. My friends in the bar said they’d take Helen back to Bocas town for me. We said our goodbyes (hopefully not for another 12 years, mind) and I headed back to Jinja. I had work to do, dagnamit!

Check out that brooding intensity! That’s a guy who knows how to drive a boat!


I got back to find Campesino had decided to start sleeping in a washing bowl that was ludicrously too small for him.

Oh Campo, you adorable pup you.

Just to go back to what I was saying about global warming/high tides/salt in the soil earlier, here’s what my banana trees looked like by December 23:

I had to chop them down, as you can see. But don’t worry, they’ll grow back bigger and better soon enough. Tell you what though, chopping down a banana tree is SO! MUCH! FUN!

Banana trees are basically just giant plants, their stems are more akin to that of broccoli than of a normal tree. As a result, you can chop all the way through them with just one hard blow with a sharp machete.

That day I ran around like a crazy fool getting the house tidy, the grass trimmed (with help from my main man Ricardo) and everything ready. If you thought Jinja Island has had a lot of guests already this month, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…!

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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