Stories by Annie Bananie


Sweeper Ants - Travel Story

Mermijita in the Oaxaca province of Southern Mexico is a rugged, wild beach with a strong surf. Its black sandy shores are like hot coals in the heat of the day. It’s not a beach vacation where you float around in the ocean, while holding a margarita. It’s where you walk the water’s edge with the waves crashing at your feet, in respect for the ocean and its strength. If you dare to stand ankle deep, the tide tugs and tries to pull you in as you push back with all your might. People have drowned in its undertow and red flags fly at its shores reminding you that there is danger in its waters. You become humbled in it’s presence and experience being with it, in humility.

At the far end of the beach is Punta Cometa. You can see it at the top right corner, of this image. This rocky scape boasts hiking trails and a great sunset view. It’s the most southern point in the Oaxaca province.

At the far end of the beach is Punta Cometa. You can see it at the top right corner, of this image. This rocky scape boasts hiking trails and a great sunset view. It’s the most southern point in the Oaxaca province.

We booked our eco lodge through Air B and B and it did not disappoint. Our ECO lodge was at the end of the rugged beach and it’s wild nature was exactly what we were looking for. The lack of road access meant, no big resorts looming about only cacti, tropical plants and the quiet of the birds, the waves, and insects. Our taxi took us to the end of the road and we walked the beach to our little oasis. Other than one other bungalow, we were alone. And that is precisely what I needed. I wanted to retreat into the quiet of life in the jungle, a place where I could simply relax and do all the things that make my spirit sing. It had been a stressful fall and I craved a space where I could relax and just be, and I had found it.

My promise to myself was to wake up for sunrise, and greet the morning light gently caressing the world around me. I wanted to eat loads of papaya and write on a daily basis, and that is what I did. What did I write? I had a small computer and wrote with abandon about my growing up in a small northern town of Ontario, about my travels, motherhood, and being a business owner. I love writing, it is a form or release. When I walk away from a writing session, I feel lighter, with more space to move about in the world. I did yoga, read and simply relaxed while doing nothing. Jay was a perfect support. While I stayed at our hut and on the beach he would walk to town, go to yoga class, get a massage and found his own sense of a personal retreat. In the evenings we would meet to watch sunset and later make a killer supper and play crib. What a perfect little cohesive little existence we made for ourselves.

The palapa was a three level building made with brick and mortar. With no road access, Os the manifester of our cabana had brought all supplies by donkey. One brick at a time and one donkey load at a time, he built the palapa by the sweat of his own brow. His vision is to host people like us, who want to live in the jungle surrounded by wild life.

The first floor was a well equipped kitchen and a great place to lock our valuables. While in Mexico, one must think about where to store valuables, as theft is real. The second floor was a room open to the outdoors, with a fresh breeze, a hammock, and a writing desk. It was the perfect place to do yoga, read, write and hang out. The top floor was accessed by a ladder, kind of like climbing into a tree house. This was our bedroom and it sat right under the palapa. The bed was in-line with the window so that we could lie there under the mosquito net staring at the ocean. The waves were so strong and loud that the first few nights, I barely slept as each crashing wave sounded like a burst of thunder in a raging storm. The sleepless nights were not a bother, as I layed there in gratitude and in awe of my surroundings.

We were powered by solar panels, washed our dishes outside and had a dry compostable toilet. I loved the feeling of living in simplicity and cohesively with nature. There is something to the saying: “Less is more.”

Playa was a gentle dog. I loved how she would always appear out of nowhere, running towards me looking so happy.

Playa was a gentle dog. I loved how she would always appear out of nowhere, running towards me looking so happy.

A beach dog started following us everywhere we went, including in our hang out space in the palapa. We called her Playa, which means beach in Spanish. I am not a dog lover, but somehow she made her way into my heart. I felt sadness in leaving her, and that time came to soon. We spent 10 days there and I could have stayed for another month, a year, a lifetime!

There is nothing like nature to remind us that we are but a spec of dust in this universe of wonder.

There is nothing like nature to remind us that we are but a spec of dust in this universe of wonder.

The last evening, we ended the day, with the glorious colours of the sunset. Its pastel landscape, painting the sky and touching our souls with wonder and a knowing that there is something bigger than ourselves. Nature really is my church. We returned to our palapa full of gratitude and ready to cook supper.

In our absence a copious amount of ants had swarmed our lock box and lines of them marched in confident paths through the trees, and blades of grass. I swept them away with a broom and some water and got away with a few bite marks. Later Jay noticed that there were more ants at the neighbouring palapa. We didn't think much of it, but later we were alarmed.

After supper, I sat up in our hang out spot, swinging in the hammock and reading my book. A half hour later, I decided to go to the bathroom. Upon stepping out of my perch, I noticed hundreds of ants dotting the cement floor. I sat there stunned. Where were all these ants coming from? I walked around them and climbed the ladder to our bedroom. Here too, there were ants on the floor and climbing to the inside of our mosquito net, where we had carelessly left it open. Alarm bells started ringing, we can’t stay here! It’s an ant invasion!

Needless to say we packed our bags and walked out to the beach where phone reception was available and called Os (he was staying in the nearby town of Mazunte). As we talked to our host, we could hear the neighbours who were staying in the palapa next door. The sounds of them sweeping, hitting and yelping with ant bites as they battled agains the army of ants hit my funny bone, and I felt the situation was quite humorous . Like us, they were Canadians and well traveled.

Os explained that they were sweeper ants and to wait about 45 minutes and they would leave. At this point it’s 10:30 at night and we were about a 30 minute walk to town. We trusted in our Mexican friend and decided on waiting it out. Google told us that sweeper ants are carnivorous ants, who knew? They are relentless in their pursuit of their prey and come in swarms and march through homes and “sweep” through to devour salamanders, geckos, scorpions, and snakes. I am sure that they would eat a human if it was incapable of moving . We waited the 45 minutes under the stars leaning on our backpacks and gazing up at the spectacular sky. The milky way sparkled in it’s wake of wonder. Nothing like sweeper ants to make you come out and notice the brilliance above. Forty five minutes later, we returned to our bungalow and Os did not steer us wrong, save for a few ants imprisoned in our mosquito net, we were ant free.

Seven am the next morning came soon enough and our ant friends were back with a vengeance. While Jay was in the shower, and I was greeting Os, I noticed more ants. They were lined up in a 5 feet wide procession and marched up the kitchen wall. They moved in a wave, as though a black blanket on a mission. A couple of geckos cowered in a corner, huddled together for dear life. I stood in the kitchen doorway steps away from their path of execution, and under the palapa. Soon they wove their way through the palm fronts above me and cockroaches started falling from the sky and a scorpion fell at my feet. I didn't even know that all these critters were living right there in the palapa with us! It was very exciting and time to leave.

Despite the ants, I would come back in a heart beat. I have traveled to many places and this is one place that has etched itself in my very being. Thanks Os! It was super fun and exactly what I needed; relaxed with an exciting ending.





Costa Rica Travels

Costa Rica was my 23rd country travelled and it’s in my top three of favourite places to be.  We Wild Camped along the Western coast and was mesmerized by our surroundings. Costa Rica has everything; mountains, ocean, waterfalls, lakes, rainforests, cloud forrests and an abundance of wildlife. The biodiversity alone puts one in awe.

 

We rented a 4 x 4 from Nomad America, a company run out of San Josee by two young guys called Fabio and Luis.  From the moment we inquired about a vehicle they were there, every step of the way to help us plan our trip and make the best choices for our travelling needs.   The vehicle itself was the best travelling decision and enhanced our trip by ten fold.  We rented a Toyota Prado which brought us down the western coast with a few stops along the way.  Our final destination being Matapalo on the edge of Corcovado National Park. 

"Our rig came with all camping equipment including the tent that folds and unfolds from the roof rack.  Fabio and Luis helped us navigate our plans and what we were looking for. Without this powerhouse of a vehicle it would have been difficult to navigate the roads and places we went. " 

"Our rig came with all camping equipment including the tent that folds and unfolds from the roof rack.  Fabio and Luis helped us navigate our plans and what we were looking for. Without this powerhouse of a vehicle it would have been difficult to navigate the roads and places we went. " 


Wild camping in a 4 x 4 is more of an expedition, than a vacation of relaxing in the sun.  It takes some grit to spend days outside in the heat.  One has to be comfortable with digging a hole to relieve oneself of bodily functions and be comfortable going without a shower.  To me this is heaven. Yes, there were moments when the heat got to me and I wished for a hot shower, and a porcelain bowl to defecate in. In my world that is all part of the experience that allows me to step down from my western throne where everything is at my disposal. This gives me an appreciation for the simple things in life.  Nature has a way of healing and no better way to reap her benefits by being right there with her amongst the trees and ocean.

Matapalo Hammocks.jpg

 We followed the western coast down to Puerto Jimenez and then Matapalo. On the way we stopped at Bowie's Point where the restaurant owner let us camp on his property in exchange for us eating in his restaurant.  We also had access to the bathrooms and an outdoor hose as a shower.  Dominical was our second stop and we stayed two nights on a quiet part of the beach and payed a hostel that was 800 metres away, 500 colones ($1.00 U.S.) to use their bathroom and shower.  Our next stop was Matapalo.  This was by far our favourite spot, we camped on the beach with the ocean waves, howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, and whales.  Other than about 5 people on the beach at any given time, we were alone in the beauty of it all.  To get there we road through a rugged road, full of big pot holes, huge rocks and appreciated the high clearance that our trusty Prado gave us.  The road bumped and jostled us around, our camping gear jingled in the back and our laughter echoed in excitement. 

Matapalo beach.jpg

Matapalo was wild camping at it's best  with no bathroom or shower.  In order to cool off we took a five minute hike to King Louis waterfall where we bathed in it's cool water pools (yes, we used biodegradable soap).  Often the sound of howler monkeys bounced off the trees, lizards skipped along rocks and butterflies flitted about.  Yes it was romantic, challenging, fun and I would do it all over again.