The American consulate was a good sized compound with three low buildings in a reserved section of the city. My meeting with the consul lasted just under an hour. I got the usual prep talk about the political situation in the country which was pretty much quiet for a country surrounded by Communists and hoards of drug lords.
I turned down the offer of having a protective police detail tail me all over the place and was out of the consulate by ten o’clock.
I got another taxi, told the driver to take me to Main Street and off we went.
I wanted to pay a call on the man who had helped me fix this trip. He was an American living and working in Honduran as some sort of building contractor to the Government. When I first started to plan this hunting trip or safari as hunters call it, no one in California seemed to know much about hunting in the back countries of Honduras, my chosen destination after much research. After running into a few dead ends, someone from one of the wildlife associations had put me in touch with Mr. Vickers.
It was Mr. Vickers who set me up with the professional hunter, Ramirez, with whom I fixed things directly. But Mr. Vickers’s help hadn’t stopped there. He was the one who supplied me with the helpful details which made me so enthusiastic about this hunting trip. It was Vickers who filled in the blanks left by Ramirez. Mr. Ramirez didn’t have a phone to talk to me regularly but Mr. Vickers did and we spoke quite often.
As the taxi turned onto Main Street, I checked my pocket diary again to make sure of the address. Cell phones and computer gadgets weren’t up and running here yet like in the USA and so things still had to be written down the old fashioned way — one of the things I had learned from Vickers.
I directed the taxi to drop me off at the right place, a nice one-story structure that looked like it contained the offices of several firms. I paid the driver off and made my way into the building.
On the upper floor, I found the two doors I was looking for, one marked Information and the other Engineers. I went in through the one marked information and found three clerks sitting at their desks beyond a high counter in a large office. All there were Latinos and they looked bored. One of them, a young guy in neat white shirtsleeves and black trousers sitting closer to the counter was looking expectantly at me.
“Mr. Vickers in?” I asked him in English.
“Yes, sah!” he replied with a quick glance at my clothes which told clearly that I was no local or ordinary fellow., The guy was on his feet and hurrying for the inner door.
He vanished in through the door and I waited. In a minute, he was back.
“Mr. Vickers will see you now, sah?” he said, coming quickly over to the counter. He lifted one side of it and I went through, walked across the office to the inner door and went in.
The office beyond was air-conditioned and nicely furnished. Mr. Vickers, a short, thickset middle-aged man with brown hair and beard, sat behind a large desk. He got to his feet as I walked in. He wore the first suit I had seen in the two days since leaving the United States.
“Mr. Vickers?” I asked. We had only talked on the phone but never seen each other.
The man nodded. “That’s right.”
“I’m Zack Alan. The hunter from California.” I said moving towards him.
An expression of recognition and a smile of pleasure lit up Mr. Vickers face. “Ah, yes, welcome, welcome.”
We shook hands warmly across the desk.
“I just called to thank you for all the trouble you went through and the help you rendered to make this trip possible for me,” I said with a smile of gratitude. “No one back home seems to know this even place exists on the map much less find it.”
Mr. Vickers chuckled. “I sure hope they get themselves straightened out fast before the communists find it.”
We both laughed.
“Do sit down, eh? Have a drink with me.” He indicated one of the chairs in front of his desk.
I took the chair and he moved over to a small cabinet to one side. He got out a bottle and two glasses then returned.
“So are you all fired up for the hunt, now…all optimized?” he asked as he powered out a drink of whiskey for each of us. His English was right but his voice had a funny accent to it, like he’d lived in Honduras too long and it was getting right into him, the way he spoke.
“I’m meeting Mr. Ramirez tonight, I said.
“Oh, then your troubles are over …. or rather, just beginning,” said Mr. Vickers as he recorked the bottle, put it aside and sat back down in his chair facing me from across the table. “But I believe you are used to hunting, right?”
“Yeah, but nothing like this.” I shrugged. “I’ve done some hunting in North America and then over in Africa, spent nearly six months down there. It’s mostly open space hunting on both continents…. you know, out on the plains where you can see things a bit better.”
Vickers smiled. “They don’t have much of those here …. the open plains. It’s all thick forest and swamps.”
“Yeah, so Ramirez says. “Sounds like you’ve done some hunting here yourself”
Vickers nodded and chuckled. “I went out with him once … Ramirez … soon after I came out here. The deer park was good enough, but man, I’m telling you, I didn’t like the all night stuff at all. I still have nightmares about it till today.”
I smiled understandingly. He was talking about Jaguar hunting which had to be done only at night due to the nocturnal nature of the animal. Unlike its Tiger, Leopard, and Lion cousins on the other continents, the Jaguar was strictly a night animal but it was no less big and dangerous.
“I prefer the daylight stuff myself,” I said. “But you cats are not very co-operative. Did you have any luck?”
The older man shook his head. “Not me, man. After the first time, I never did it again. I stuck firmly to the daylight routine but Jean kept at it. He got a couple, one of them in broad daylight which was very odd indeed.”
Vickers shook his head with a far away look as if remembering the incident very clearly. “Man, I will never forget that one until the day I die …. put the fear of God into me, I don’t mind telling you! It happened just after dawn one morning. We were just out bird hunting for the pot, and we came around one corner of the camino and here’s this hulk of a cat, a real big bastard, eating an armadillo. All we had with us was just shotguns as you can imagine, No. 6 birdshot, but that crazy bugger, Jean Ramirez, he just let go at the cat without hesitation.”
Vickers shook his head. “The Lord alone knows why the cat didn’t charge …. whether it was the suddenness or the noise …… but the brute just roared and dived into the bush.”
Vickers shook his head again. “There I stood, frozen with fear and terror, and Jean, he just says, ‘come on, we’ll get him now, for sure. He won’t get far, not with all that lead up his ass. He’ll lay up and wait for us, now.”
‘“By Christ, he’ll wait in vain for me,” I told him. “Are you out of your damn mind? Follow that great big bastard into all this dense stuff …. With birdshot?”’
‘“Hell, we got four barrels between us,” he says. “That’ll be enough. Give him yours in the face … blind the bastard.”
‘” Not in a million years!” I said. “Not even with a heavy machine gun! Forget it, forget the whole thing,” I tell him. But, you know, he would just leave it.”
‘“Well, alright, get under that tree,” he says. “I guarantee you he won’t come for you, if you stand still and don’t move, even if he gets past me.””
Vickers shook his head. “Well, I didn’t feel like being left alone in that place so I had no choice but to go with him. And he was right enough about the cat not going far. He couldn’t have gotten ten years when the bastard came. Man, you never saw anything like it! Ramirez, he just stood there and waited for it but at the last moment, when the cat sprang, he dropped down and gave it both barrels in the belly, simultaneously. It blew the gut out the big bugger!”
I shook my head disapprovingly. “Not good, not good at all. That acrobatic stuff is for the movies.”
Clearly, Ramirez was the impulsive kind. Any professional African hunter would have gone back for the rifles then returned to follow up. I made a mental note of things.
Vickers pulled out a drawer of the desk and took out a box of cigars. He offered it. I saw at once that it was expensive Cuban cigars, Monte Carlos number four. I selected one of the big cigars and made myself comfortable in the chair. The man had more to tell and listening to experienced stuff like thing could mean the difference between life and death in a super dangerous region I had never hunted in before.
To Be Continued…..
*Adventures of a tough American millionaire going hunting in the dangerous Amazon jungles*
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