Of Jaguars and Jack A...donkeys...

Once upon a time in Guatemala, I was sleeping in a tent beside my friend, Lacey, near the ancient ruins of Tikal. The jungle around us was dense and there were signs warning visitors of jaguars. Not like cute signs telling visitors not to feed squirrels but the kind of sign that says, "Hey a jaguar--it can kill you, fool" (loose Spanish translation). Most people would and should be scared enough to be wary of wildlife in the jungle. But me, I was excited and hoped I would see a jaguar....but then again I am the kind of person who chases sharks around with a GoPro while scuba diving...poor decision in hindsight but what can I say--I live on the wild side (pun opportunity shamelessly exploited).

So, it was a dark night and we were so tired. Soooooo tired. A long, hot day of stressful border crossings and buses and I was ready for bed. I didn't even change my clothes. I just plopped on my air mattress in our tent and went to sleep, stank and all. 

Well, around midnight I start to register this really annoying noise. It was loud. Really loud. It sounded like a screeching banshee. But I was still in a semi-dreamlike state and I was so tired, I didn't care what it was. Until Lacey woke me fully, with fear in her voice, expressing concern that a jaguar was outside our tent. Now it may sound like she was being dramatic but that noise was definitely an animal and definitely could have been a really angry jaguar. But I did not care. Did. Not. Care. I was so tired and so annoyed that anything was making such a loud noise and that Lacey had the audacity to wake me up. If it was jaguar, what was I going to do about it from our tent? Ugh, why was I being bothered at all with such petty concerns as our safety and wellbeing? With all of the empathy of the mental health professional I am, I told her I didn't care and to go back to sleep. 

What does this story have to do with NZ? Well, I had the chance to stay at this magical Air BnB accommodation. There was a gorgeous shower, a cute cat, hammocks, and a nice fluffy bed awaiting me after a long day of riding my bike. My scratchy throat of yesterday had been joined by a deep chest cough, monster headache, and all of the congestion in all of the places. In short, I was miserable in paradise. I opted for early bedtime and willed my cough to still enough to fall asleep.

It must have worked because around 11pm, I woke up to idling truck engines and conversations outside my hut. I had bolted the door from the inside but people were trying to jar it open. I could hear a woman’s voice and men’s voices. I was so groggy I can’t remember what they were saying but they were frustrated they couldn't get in. I was in my undies and my glasses were tangled in my bedding somewhere so I didn’t necessarily want to get out of bed. Instead, I shouted, “Hey someone’s in here!” a few times.

The guy continued to shake and shake and shake the door. The shaking and the car engines were so loud, they couldn’t hear me call out. And my voice was scratchy and weak. The guy shook the door so hard that inside bolt eventually gave way and they opened the door. I just blinked angrily in the bright light as I heard a guy say “Oh there’s someone in here. Sorry” and shut the door. There was muffled chatter about staying in other cabins and then the cars pulled away.

Now, you might hear this story and remember that I am a single, solo, female traveler in a foreign country... rural, unfamiliar territory. You might speculate at how scared I must have been, alone, blind, nearly naked and sick as crap-- like how scared I should have been in a Guatemalan jungle with jaguars frolicking about outside my tent.

But like in Guatemala,  I am surprised as anyone to find my reaction was not fear. Oh no. It was downright anger and righteous indignation! Didn’t they know how long it took for me to fall asleep without NyQuil when my head felt like a soggy sandwich? (and not in a delicious PBJ kind of way). Didn’t they know I was trying not to have a cough attack and sucking down disgusting butter flavor cough drops? (yes, that's the flavor they have here--did not make that up). How. Dare. They. How dare they!!! Those sons of biscuits!!!! Now I would have to spend ANOTHER hour or two falling back asleep. And indeed, I woke every hour or so and tossed and turned all night. It was so miserable! I was SO pissed!

In Guatemala, the screaming jaguar actually turned out to be a group of howler monkeys--pretty nasty creatures but not jaguars. Here's a video so you can hear their ungodly racket:


In NZ, the loud jaguars were in fact a drunken wedding party who arrived one night too early and two sheets to the wind. I guess if you are a bit buzzed, it makes too much sense to check in and ask for a key, eh? In the immortal lyrics of Metro Station, just "shake, shake, shake shake, shake it!" ...until the door surrenders. Luckily my hosts were super gracious and apologized profusely the next morning. They refunded my money (no refund for howler monkey disturbances in Guatemala).

What I learned is that though I am easily scared by immature friends and small children hiding around corners, my fear sensors are basically useless in actual situations of concern. But heaven help anyone who disturbs my slumber, be they friend or foe (...which now that I write it makes total sense if you know my dad...). 

And we survived Tikal despite jaguars.

And we survived Tikal despite jaguars.