Nights on Deserted Islands

“Nights on Deserted Islands.
Lesson #1: Don’t walk between the trees”

Around midnight, I give up. I can not sleep. The cod I lay on is too hard. I don’t have any cover, and there is no space anymore in the tent. Half of us sleep under the sky. Seems romantic, sleeping under the open sky on a Pacific island, but the combination of the wind with my wet T-shirt and shorts, make it too cold to have romantic thoughts.And above all, adrenaline pumps in my veins.

Clipperton, a deserted island in the Pacific, one thousand miles off the coast of Mexico. We traveled for weeks to reach this forgotten piece of land. I don’t see much of it, in the darkness. The ground is covered with a thick layer of grinded light coloured coral. I can see the shades of the palm trees a few hundred meters from where we pitched our tent. I can see a few stars in the moist sky. Clouds are passing by regularly. In a distance, I hear the waves braking.
This scenery could have been from anywhere. Somewhere in Africa, the Caribbean, or Mediterranean. But this is much more exotic. This is the Pacific. We are the first people to set foot on this islands since months. Years probably. And that makes it special, exotic, exciting. A deserted island called Clipperton.

Jay sticks his head out of the tent.
“Shit, I can’t sleep”, he sighs.
“You know, Jay, what we could do? We could go to the landing spot, and get some of the sleeping bags, and cushions. I just can’t sleep on this cod without covers.”, I wisher softly not to wake up the rest of the landing party.
“Cool, let’s do that. Here is a flashlight. Let’s go”.

I put on my wet shoes. It was a pretty rough landing on the island, this afternoon. There is no port nor jetty here. We had to steer the dinghies through the surf and jump in waist-deep water to offload our gear, wading through the water, trying not to trip over coral heads and not to step on sea urchins. My shorts are still wet too, making it difficult to walk.

The beam of the flashlight veers left and right, lightening up the hundreds of land crabs crawling over the broken coral, in between the boobies, sleeping with their beak tucked in their wings. Most birds don’t even move as we walk close to them. They don’t know these big creatures, called humans. The boobies are not conditioned to be scared of humans, that is clear. One flies straight into Jay in a typical booby-clumsy attempt to land. The more gracious these birds are in the air, the more silly they behave on the ground. Their way of landing and taking off, often involves tumbling upside down, tripping over their own feet. Nature can’t be perfect in everything.

We get close to the palm trees, lining up at the beech.
"I hear the sound of rain coming closer”, says Jay.
"Hmm, rain, and all we have is T-shirts and shorts..”, I mumble.

As we negotiate our way inbetween the palm trees, the first drops fall. Big drops. Platsh, platsh, platsh. Warm drops. The strong smell of ammoniac cuts off our breath. As we sway the flashlight to and fro, the beam catches the side of Jay’s head for a moment. I hold his hand, take the light, and shine it onto his face. It is covered with a white thick glue-y stuff.

“Jay”, I can’t catch my breath from laughing, “that ain’t rain, man, that is bird shit”.
Jay shouts “Oh shhhhit”, as he starts running to the beach, from under the trees. “Oh shhhhit”!
“Yeah, shit indeed!!”, I laugh.

We shine the light in the trees. The palm trees are full of boobies. Dozens of birds sit on each branch. Hundreds of boobies in each tree, thousands of them in the small bush we just walked through. And it seems like they don’t do anything but shit in their sleep. The palm trees, the leaves, the ground, is covered with white smelly guano. And so are we. From top to bottom.

Welcome to the deserted island of Clipperton! Welcome to paradise!

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danandmarsh 05 May, 2009 04:56  

I didn't know where this story was going........ pretty funny, pretty funny shit!!
No pun intended :)
what an adventure.....
just stumbled onto your site.

May be some interesting reading, my brother and wife are walking from California to Jerusalem.

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