The ongoing Ditchmonkey diaries continue…..
I arose with the sun, muscles aching from the previous day’s activities, my hands were stinging from the combined effects of scratches, blisters, insect bites and lacerations from handling bamboo. Looking down at my hands, I hardly recognised them, filthy despite having been washed, covered in callouses and deep cracks. No time for contemplation now, time to grimace as I ease my way back into yesterday’s filthy clothes, grab something to eat and set to it once again.
The machete fits easily into my hand now, the skin is toughened were it rubs and I am getting used to it’s ways knowing from long practice exactly how hard and at what angle I need to strike green bamboo, dead bamboo or any type of woods that I might come across in order to achieve a swift clean cut.
It wasn’t like this to start with; I would either waste energy and strike too hard, the blade swinging dangerously through and past the target; or not with enough force and find the blade and soon myself tangled in a mass of undergrowth. Long hours of arduous work, slipping in mud on the river bank, being bitten by hordes of sand flies, carrying heavy loads and hacking, constant tedious hacking have now brought me to the point of being vaguely competent with the machete. All this whilst clearing land in Spain, just add a few degrees in centigrade, rack up the humidity to unbearable whilst taking away the brandy coffee and the home cooked food and it could be the jungle.
Yesterday I even had the opportunity to try cooking snake for lunch as Antonio, the one year old dog, caught a large grass snake and killed it before anyone could come to it’s rescue. It was a beautiful creature, about two foot long with glistening scales, Joe challenged me to eat it.
“You’ll be lucky to get one of them in the jungle” he said with a mischievous glint in his eye. I pretended not to notice the challenge and opted instead for cold roast chicken sandwiches with stuffing and mayo. There is plenty of time to get used to eating weird and wonderful things, the useful Spanish phrase manyana comes to mind.
I may have shunned the option to eat snake but when a momentary lapse of concentration with the machete lead to an opportunity to practice my first aid I embraced it. It was only a small cut but out came the iodine and the zinc oxide tape and before you could say “oh gosh I appear to have cut my self”, or words to that effect, the wound was sterile and dressed and I was contemplating a lesson learnt in machete use.