I was chosen to lead the ultimate tour of South America way back in September. Everything happened very quickly, and here I am, in a Quito hotel room, anticipating the start of ‘El Circuito’ tomorrow as we begin our expedition through 9 countries in 171 days. Not a bad cricket score that, 171-9…I think. To be honest I’m more of a fan of sports that don’t include breaks for tea and crumpets.
I digress. Apologies for the lack of recent activity on this blog, as I’ve had to do a fair amount of research to prepare. At least I got to pop back home to Dublin for the last month to see family and friends – a welcome but unexpected bonus! I was also delighted that The Irish Times published my follow-up article (link below) – I had originally pitched the title of the article as ‘Slothing Around Central America’, but no dice. Oh well.
Unfortunately the region in the title of this blog is a bit of a misnomer now, but I think I’ll keep it anyway. I will understandably be a lot busier on this new tour but I’ll still post updates when I have the time! In this part of the world, there’s always a good story yet to be told. While there may not be as many sloths south of the equator, rest assured that there will be at least one Irish eejit still slothing around.
Queues can take a few hours on certain border crossings, especially on the notorious Honduras to Nicaragua frontier, so you have to get creative. The first time I went through, clearing just the Nicaraguan side took us over two hours. A sloth smoking a joint would have moved quicker than that queue. Therefore I started devising schemes to get the group across more efficiently in future.
Two months later we had to go through the same border, so I pitched my best idea to our driver, and we went for it. We arrived at the migration offices, where a lengthy line had already formed, and we both acted as if we were in a huge hurry. We jumped to the front of the queue, shouting “We’re press!” to anyone who would listen, loudly claiming that we represented a group of important international journalists working on a documentary for the BBC in Nicaragua. It worked beautifully. Plus we didn’t even have to pay a tip!
Next time I fancy being a group of important international film producers. Efficiency rules.
During a conversation about humans that look like animals (sidenote: you know you’ve gone through a lot of conversations at this stage) my mind wandered back to a guy we had drinks with a few weeks ago. His beard and glasses were positively sloth-like. I couldn’t look at him without chucking once I realised. It was that type of involuntary chuckle at innoportune moments you cannot suppress. I felt awful for laughing, but even his slow, deliberate movements drinking his beer mirrored a sloth’s movements. My bad. Ironically we were in Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica, where I’ve seen a dozen sloths by now. SlothMan – the best superhero you’ve ever seen. You heard it here first.
In my welcome meetings for tours starting in San José I attempt present the Costa Rican currency, colones, in a simple way. Simple, as in presenting to 4-year-olds simple, but I hope it doesn’t come across as too condescending.
This is my favourite currency in Central because of its bright colours and depictions of animals. The 10,000 note has a sloth (fitting for such a graceful creature) while the 5,000 has a monkey. Therefore, one sloth equals two monkeys. One sloth is also the same as five sharks or ten deer, whichever your preference.
But if you think having a 10,000 colones note makes everyone in Costa Rica filthy rich, it’s just an illusion. A can of Coke would cost you about a grand in colones, so think of currencies like the old Italian lira. The current exchange rate to the US dollar is currently a bit over 500, which makes a sloth worth a little under US$20. A bargain.
I’ve outlined in my first post how I tried to come up with snappy titles that would draw a prospective reader in. I decided on the current “Slothing Around Central America” title even though the verb “to sloth” is somewhat made up. Plus my Autocorrect keeps changing it to “Clothing Around Central America”, a fashion blog which, given my lack of dress sense, would be a lot more boring. I can only hope the Oxford English Dictionary will soon recognise “slothing” as a legitimate verb.
Previously, I was toying with the idea of calling it “The Wolfe of Central America” with the pun on my surname. You can never have enough puns. But I decided against it due to the negative connotations of the Martin Scorcese film. After all, there are no drugs, hookers or high-rolling bankers in my life, so it would be fairly misleading. It suits me more to sloth around to my heart’s content.