Following allocations there was an aura of excitement surrounding the idea of trek, amongst my new team Alpha 6. There is certainly something exhilarating associated with the test of living off only what you can carry that attracts both adventurers and those who enjoy being challenged. The jungle can be a dark and dangerous place, its mysteries unbeknown to the western eye. Stories of jungle spirits calling out names in the night circulate camp. A dry pair of socks become your best friend and the rain your worst enemy. There is no giving in, no shouting “I’m a celebrity! Get me outta here” to ensure a swift getaway. But we’d all gone a couple of days without a proper wash before, or felt hungry and tired. How hard could it be? Alpha 6 were ready to take on the jungle.
The first few days of trek drifted by quite pleasantly. Every day a large fire was started, no problem. There was always hot food in our mess tins, a tree to hang our hammocks in and dry longs to put on at night. I didn’t really see what the big fuss was about. Fair enough we had been relatively lucky with the weather. We’d experienced a couple of bouts of light rain, but managed to stay warm and toasty throughout. So far our journey had proved to be, well, uneventful. I was concerned I would have nothing to write about. How naive was I.
Following a gruelling five hour trek we made camp for the night. After such a long and tiring day it was safe to say we had high hopes for our new home. These expectations however were not met. Not even close. Rather than the usual cheer upon touchdown at camp, a groan filtered through the troops. The canopy above cast dark shadows on the ground creating a sense of claustrophobia and suffocation. A few sad looking trees were dispersed throughout the space and an unimpressive stream dribbled only inches from the fire pit. The air was dank, the floor coated in mud and everything was wet. Whilst battling with the unfortunate circumstances we found ourselves in, we went about the usual routine of setting up tarps and hammocks for bed, unaware of the fast approaching storm that would soon wreak havoc on our camp.
In what seemed like seconds our quagmire transformed into a raging body of water. What could have once been described as a stream now morphed into a gushing river which begun to overflow and flood the camp. Overhead thunder boomed and rain plummeted to the earth in huge merciless drops. The team set to work. Scurrying to and fro we dug trenches, collected large stones to elevate the fire pit, and found soaking wood in hope of generating a flame. By the time the storm passed we were all pretty cold, wet and filthy. Hungry from the days escapades food was the one thing on everyone’s mind, but, as we soon discovered, wet wood is just as good as no wood at all. After managing to fill our bellies with a meagre portion of undercooked noodles, we skulked off to bed in hope of a brighter future the next morning.
Driven by the desire to not spend one more minute than necessary in the home of shattered hope, we packed up and trekked to our next camp in record time. Evidently there is a light at the end of the tunnel as we were greeted by paradise, our very own ‘Garden of Eden’. Turquoise water foamed and frothed under a cloudless blue sky and rocks decorated with yellow and purple butterflies stood against the current. This biblical image was framed by the rainforest in all its glory; deep shades of green, vines blowing softly in the breeze and the warm sun shining down on the water below. For most, if not all, that was a moment we will never forget.
In my opinion the most valuable lesson to be learnt from trek is the importance of positivity. For a team, an optimistic attitude provides strength and underpins a support system that boosts productivity to a new level. When, inevitably, times get tough, looking on the brighter side is a definitive method to lead a team to victory. And, who knows? Maybe paradise lies just around the corner.