After a few days dedicated to learning the basic skills we’d need for our upcoming few days in the jungle – starting a fire, tying up a hammock, building a shelter – we tightened our backpacks, hitched up our socks, applied bug spray, and ventured into jungle.
With our backpacks filled with our share of the food, all necessary sleeping equipment (hammock, mosquito net, rain cover, blanket), and as few clothes and toiletries as possible (warning each other that it would be a smelly several days), we embarked on a muddy path surrounded by trees and vines crawling with critters. For the first hour-or-so of the trek the people in the front warned those in the back of upcoming dangers: red ants, slippery rocks, unstable trees. But this system came to an end once we realized the perpetual re-occurrence of these things. Throughout the trek we encountered many insects, sloshed through mud, picked leeches off ourselves, and remained in a constant state of contemplating where the best place to step would be. But regardless of how careful we were, (almost) all of us had our fair share of falls. These were identified by those out of view by a scream and a bang, followed by an eruption of laughter.
On our third day of trekking we encountered a new obstacle: caves. We slid on our bums off of rocks into darkness, using our head torches to light the way. Then we navigated our way over damp rocks, hearing the bats above us frantically flying about, to the exit where we had to pass our bags through the space between rocks before squeezing ourselves through after.
By early afternoon we’d finished the day’s trek and arrived at camp. When we did, we didn’t give ourselves even a second to rest; we immediately scoped out the best trees to hang our hammock between, called dibs on our spot, and got to work tying our equipment to the well-spaced trees. On the last day Alice and I decided to share a hammock spot, her hammock hanging above mine. This seemed like a good idea until we realized we weren’t tall enough to actually tie her hammock up and had to enlist Miles and Will to help. We ran into more problems when it came time for Alice to get into bed, a process that was less-than-graceful.
Afternoons were never boring. Disconnecting from electronics, we played many games of “I Spy” and spent ample time delving into books while perched on a rock by the river or nestled into our hammock. We helped with cooking, stir-frying vegetables and stirring pots of noodles, and bathed in the river, finding a hidden spot down the way from camp where we could scrub the sweat and dirt off ourselves. We made mugs out of bamboo which we filed down with our pen-knives and later drank coffee out of. And then, after washing our dishes in the river, we spent evenings snuggled together around the fire before splitting off into our hammocks for a (surprisingly sound) night’s sleep.