His hair stood up in all directions, wild and tangled. A brightly dyed beard hid an easy smile, his eyes I could not see. They were hidden behind tinted rave glasses. He was well built, he looked like he may have been an athlete or perhaps a carpenter in another life. He swung the machete easily, slicing through the tangled vines hanging above us. I followed. He walked slowly, stooped to examine a brightly coloured snail. Everything he did appeared to have a purpose. We passed through the small jungle clinging to the island’s interior and emerged onto a deserted beach, the sands stretched away from us, patterns dancing in a shimmering heat haze. He stood, arms outstretched, gazing upwards at the swirling clouds. It appeared that this was the place, slowly, and with great purpose, he gestured to a nearby palm tree sloping lazily towards the ocean. I sat. Some time passed. Softly, he began to talk.
“The thing is man, LSD opens my eyes, you know, it allows me to see things in a different way” he knelt in the sand. His fingers traced a pattern that only he could see. “It’s not that I am bored of seeing things in a regular manner, quiet the opposite, I just want to explore the different dimensions I know to exist”. He took off the rave glasses, squinting slightly in the sun, his pupils were fully dilated.
In the distance, we could hear music, our vessel, the MS Independence, was nearby. Aboard the sailboat, the majority of passengers were sleeping off hangovers or starting the day with breakfast and some more beers. “I don’t really like to drink man, for me, it hardens the edges of reality, I get real slow, real stupid, sometimes I even get aggressive. With acid, I learn things.” I sat upon my palm tree and watched him, for someone on psychedelics he seemed remarkably collected. Occasionally something would catch his eye, he would stare into space, smiling quietly to himself. His toes dug into the wet sand. “I don’t consider myself to be a drug addict, quite the opposite, I’m an explorer, I want to see and experience everything that comes my way, whether it’s meeting with angels or listening to clouds”. Angels…. he believes in angels, he did not strike me as particularly religious.
If one was inclined to take drugs in Latin America this was the place to do it. The San Blas islands are truly gorgeous, perfect sandy atolls with swaying palm trees. Fresh coconuts and Lobsters, pretty much everything you need to survive. There is a small population of indigenous indians, the Kuna, living in thatched huts on some of the islands but many, like the one we were on, remain largely unexplored. We had swum here, through some considerable currents. My new friend had remained calm and collected at all times. I knew his name but he had introduced himself as ‘Captain Acid’. He made no secret of the fact that he was on LSD and yet was much quieter, and less trouble, than many of the other passengers, who drunkenly staggered across the decks, sleeping wherever they fell.
I asked him how he had found himself to be here. “In truth, I needed a change, it was time to explore another corner of the world, to try and learn something new about myself and work on my many personality defects” he smiled shyly. “I feel I have a lot to work on, a lot to learn”. I handed him a piece of bamboo, I had noticed he liked sticks, so that he could draw in the sand. “Back home, I continue to explore the world and my personality through psychedelic substances but I have a surprisingly stable life. I get up at the same time every day, I see the same people, I eat with the same crowd every week; I have a truly wonderful life and incredible friends but, ultimately, I felt that I needed to shake things up – I wasn’t learning enough, I wasn’t evolving fast enough”.
He told me of his plans to travel the world, he had been on the road for some considerable time already. “Ultimately, I look forward to going home, this trip has been good for me and, having the opportunity to take LSD in settings such as this, has been a unique experience”. He practised handstands on the beach, perhaps it was the acid but he wasn’t very good. He wiped out three or four times and then dived into the sea to wash the sand out of his hair. He emerged smiling, the sun flashed across his swirling tattoos. “Thanks for joining me man, I dig having someone chilled out to hang with”. Smiling, for a true Bromance was forming, we walked back through the forest, passing a pile of stacked conch shells, perhaps collected by a local. We dived back into the sea. Returning to the boat, I set about writing and taking photos on the deck. I did not see Captain Acid for some time.
Darkness enveloped the ocean, I sat on the deck, coca cola in hand. Someone approached from the shadows. He smiled brightly, “come with me, quietly”. I left the deck, we stooped under some steel wires, attached to some part of the boat I had yet to understand, he clambered around the outside of the boat, a potentially foolish move. Carefully, I followed him. I held on tight to a railing and toed my way past the cabins, spider-manning my way to the back of the boat. He was waiting for me in a life raft that was lashed to the stern. “There are angels in the water” he offered simply. He turned on a torch, I could see nothing. I waited patiently, not wanting to offend him. Out of nowhere, a huge manta ray materialised and glided past us, almost within touching distance. It passed again, almost smiling and slipped into the depths. He turned to me, beaming. “I told you angels existed…”
Writer and entrepreneur. Adventurer and vagabond. Master of the handstand pushup. Conqueror of mountains, survivor of deserts and crusader for cheap escapades. Will has been on the road for thirteen years, travelling to far-flung lands on a budget. Today, he runs a number of online ventures, including The Broke Backpacker – the world’s largest budget travel blog. He is passionate about solving the plastic problem and cleaning up the oceans. Currently, Will is based in Bali where he plans to open his first Tribal Hostel in 2020.