Travelling with royalty - no ants in our pants

28th February 2007, Exeter
We arrived home yesterday landing at Heathrow to a chilly damp morning where the air felt wonderfully clean and fresh after the suffocating warmth of Trinidad. There is much to appreciate in Britain but it passes unnoticed unless you've been away for a little while. The streets seemed so clean after the rubbish everywhere in the towns of Trinidad. It also sounded very quiet!

Our flight was not due until the evening of the 26th so while David and Karl spent the morning packing their ants and caterpillars, we hosed some of the accumulated dirt off the car and then hosed the accumulated dirt off ourselves. Mid morning we went up to Asa Wright to pay our bill and enjoy a final coffee on the fantastic veranda where the humming birds and agoutis did their best to make us regret that it was time for us to leave.

Mid afternoon the heat at Simla got too much for us all so we packed the car and moved down to the air conditioned airport to pass the few hours until our flight. Here Ian and I managed to have our two small bags and hand luggage searched five times! It's surprisingly embarrassing having people wearing rubber gloves tipping out your dirty laundry and rummaging through your cosmetics bag. Needless to say all they found to confiscate as an illegal export was our bottle of water. Why they kept picking on us we cannot imagine but it worked to the benefit of our scientific friends who walked serenely through as we occupied the search team, saving them some possibly awkward questions that may have arisen concerning their insects. Although regarded as a pest and not an illegal export, the airline may possibly have been unhappy had they known several thousand non-fare-paying ants were on board.

Bachac ants are definitely not wanted. Wall poster in Valencia, Trinidad

Caribbean Airlines flight from Port of Spain to London

Our flight was uneventful. We touched down briefly in Barbados where three Glaswegians got on and sat nearby. They were typical stereotypes spending the journey speaking loudly and incomprehensibly as they purchased alcohol from the stewardess as well as consuming all the cheap gin and rum they'd been allowed to bring on board. (Unlike us with our dangerous bottle of water!) We understood only one word of their vocabulary but it's quite likely it was the only word they knew. It didn't really make us proud to be British. Trinidadian English is far more comprehensible to our ears. Around 3am they eventually burped their way to sleep and the rest of the trip was peaceful.

Representatives from London and Whipsnade zoos should have been meeting us at Heathrow to collect their quotas of ants but the timing was wrong. With 25 nests and limited suitable short-term storage facilities we decided to return to Exeter via Bristol where several containers were needed at the zoo. We travelled with royalty, carrying 25 huge queens in margarine tubs complete with their thousands of attendants. We eventually reached Exeter late afternoon. The ants still had to be taken on to their temporary home in Paignton but for us the holiday was over.

All that remained of our money, about £2.20