I was less than a week into my G Adventures tour of Central America and we’d caught one of the local chicken buses from Caye Caulker to San Ignacio.
San Ignacio sits at the junction of two rivers (the Mopan and Macal Rivers) and we were staying at a rustic eco-lodge surrounded by nature near one of the rivers. As soon as we arrived we were given the opportunity to spend an afternoon river tubing, so myself and a number of other people in my group eagerly accepted. We were dropped off, along with our tubes, without any instruction or safety briefing and told to get out of the river at the exit sign on the right-hand side of the river.
There were no guides or activity instructors accompanying us down the river which didn’t even cross my mind as we all excitedly rushed down to the river and hopped into our tubes.
Off we floated down the river through dense jungle – I lay in my tube looking at the scenery in awe and listening to the deafening hum of insects in the bush. As we made our way down the river we had a fantastic time laughing and chatting about our adventures so far.
Just as we approached the ‘exit’ sign, I noticed a stench – what is that smell!? It smelt like a dead animal. My eyes were then drawn to 2 men in official looking uniforms with facemasks on standing on the bank of the river where we needed to exit. What is going on and who are these men?
As I approached the river bank in my tube, I looked across to the officials and then down to tree roots which were growing out of the muddy river bank. Then I saw feet.
The stench I could smell was that of a dead corpse caught in the tree roots on the muddy river bank. OH MY…
As I stepped out of my tube and placed my feet on the muddy river bank so that I could clamber out, mud slid between my toes and all I could think about was the dead body, a mere metre away caught in the trees roots and mud.
Each of our group clambered up the steep muddy river bank and waited for the jeep to take us back to our lodge. We stood running through scenarios whilst we waited for our ride – what had happened to the person lay dead on the muddy river bank? Once we arrived back at our jungle lodge, the dead body incident was relayed back to the lodge owner whose reaction was somewhat like ‘ah, another one, it happens all the time’.
Apparently, the river is used by gangs to transport drugs north to America and there are often fights between the drugs gangs – leading to dead bodies turning up in the river.
It really highlighted the sometimes stark differences between one country’s daily reality and another’s. I had never seen a dead body before and it is an experience that will stick in my mind for a long time to come.