Many years ago I was sent, as as soldier, to Belize for a couple of months every couple of months. My job there was, in the event of an invasion by Guatemala, to talk to the military aircraft pilots and tell them where to drop their bombs.
In reality, this was never going to happen, so the trip was always a jolly, suntan, drinking beer, playing squash, swimming and general enjoyment.
One sunny morning the boss, a short, squat Glaswegian with a broad accent, told me that we (me and him) were going to be choppered down to Cadenas OP (OP is an observation post) where a joint exercise with a Royal Navy warship and the fighter planes was to take place, so I packed up a few bits, hammock, sun cream, food and late afternoon we jumped into our helicopter and set off.
As we landed on the flattened rectangle atop a large hill, several toucans lifted off lazily from their perches, only returning once our transport had left. A look around showed us the sea to our left, open ground to our front and right with heavy jungle behind.
A trail behind led down into the trees where, after looking at our maps and doing some army stuff, we headed down to put hammocks up and make ourselves comfy for the night.
The night falls quickly in the jungle, and the canopy is so dense that within an hour of the sun setting, without artificial light you can’t see your hand in front of your face. All my kit was in my bergan at the base of the tree next to my head, my boss had the same approximately 5 metres to my left. We couldn’t see each other but had a quick chat before being left alone with our thoughts and the noise of the nighttime Belizian jungle.
I nodded off but awoke with a start at a noise. No light, couldnt see a thing but could hear, right underneath my hammock, a noise like a wood saw. Bother. That’ll be a jaguar then. Right, if I just lie here and say nothing it might go away.
From 5 metres to my left I heard, in dulcet Scottish tones “Broono, oot yer bed and kill it.” My reply is unrepeatable here but suffice to say I declined. It finally padded off and we dozed off into fitful slumber.
We woke early, my bergan had been ripped open but nothing taken, we laughed about my cowardice at refusing to leap from my hammock and engage the feline in hand to hand combat, then started to prepare some breakfast. The gas cooker was doing its work when I heard a strange noise. I looked across at my boss who’d heard it too. Sounded like a helicopter. Strange, flying wasn’t due to start for another three hours.
I sprinted back up the track to the top and saw a Royal Navy helicopter approaching our site. Crouching down on the edge of the treeline, I waited for it to land, then saw the pilot beckoning me to his window. Keeping low I ran up, he passed out a package then shooed me away.
I retook my crouched position in the treeline, waited for the deafening noise of the big bird to diminish slightly, so I knew he’d lifted off, checked all was good then looked at the package, now getting warmer, in my hand. Unwrapping the silver foil showed me four bacon and egg sandwiches, prepared on the ship, flown by chopper, eaten by me and my boss. I doubt I’ll ever eat a more expensive, more well travelled butty and it was fantastic.
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