War Story: Croc Hunters part III
The smell of markets in the tropics is a cocktail. Tangy fruits, sweating sellers, meat slowly decaying as it hangs from hooks above the counters. Large black flies proliferate; the best salesmen employ young apprenticed boys to shoo them away from the merchandise with long feathered sticks.
“Buenos días señor,” I had specifically chosen a seller without a protégé swatter.
“Buenos dias, what can I offer you?”
“Well it’s an odd one, but I’m a tourist here, and I hear there are crocodiles in the local area. I don’t suppose you know where I could get some meat?”
He laughed. “I can’t help you güero, but try the border.”
A decent lead.
We drove away from the primary point of exit, and headed for the jungle outpost twenty minutes inland. Border towns are nasty enough, but the further from the state capital, the more likely we were to come across what we needed.
Arriving at the Belize border, where a thin brown river snaking towards the Caribbean marks the dividing line between the two countries, we found a greasy little town. Belizean prostitutes hung around outside the cafes, hoping to earn in pesos, the border post was a simple police shack, where the duty officers stood over a charcoal grill made from an oil drum sawn in half.
“What do you think we’re going to find here?”, said the cameraman
“Croc hunters,” I said, “if they’re anywhere, they’re here. Let’s put the word on the street.”
I made a beeline for the taxi drivers. They always know. I put on a similar shtick as I had with the butcher.
“Hi guys, good morning.” Mumbled grunts in return.
“I’m a tourist here, it’s my second last day, and I have heard crocodile is delicious. It sounds mad, but I’d love to know where I could get some crocodile meat.”
Mumbled replies turned into disbelieving chuckles.
“Get out of here you crazy gringo.”
“I’m willing to pay good money.”
“We don’t know. That sort of stuff doesn’t happen here. It’s illegal.”
“Ok, no worries, thanks for your time.”
I turned to my cameraman and gave him a wink. He was nonplussed.
“Let’s go for a walk around the block.”
We did so and sure enough, twenty minutes later, word had spread about my request and they were pitching us.
The first sidled up as we sat in the main square of the three-street, dirt road town. “I’ve got a guy two hours away who has a crocodile chained up in his backyard.”
“Very interesting, we’ll keep it in mind.”
Along came the next. “I know two guys further up the river who steal crodoile eggs from the nests.”
“Even better, don’t go anywhere.”
No far behind him was a rotund fellow who we had spotted exchanging currency further up the street. He introduced himself as El Molusco – The Mollusc.
“I’ve got two guys, ten minutes away on an abandoned building site, with a crocodile in a bag.”