You’ll never know what you are capable of overcoming… until you are put in an impossible situation you have no other choice but to overcome.
I was reminded of this recently, when I stumbled upon an old memory. A single blurry photo is all I have left of the event. But that one simple photo represents a distinct moment of re-birth: when the sheltered life that had defined me for 20 years was suddenly rendered useless, and I had to shed every impulse to cling to comfort, and instead look to my own means to make it out alive.
It was 2009, and I was with one companion, at the start of a long foot expedition near the Chinko river in Central Africa, when a monstrous storm approached us in the distance. The wall of cloud crawled above us and was set ablaze by the edge of the sun, before turning black when it snuffed out the sky.
First, the violent surge of wind sent a microburst on top of us, causing dozens of trees crashing all around. We were forced to cling to the trunks of the largest trees to avoid getting crushed by the weaker ones.
Next, we helplessly watched as sheets of rain poured down relentlessly, with no tarp or tent to hide under. We quickly built our own leaf shelters from material found in the forest. In the darkness, I accidentally grabbed a small tree notorious for housing a particularly aggressive black ant that carried a poisonous sting. I was struck on my arm, neck and head dozens of times before I realized my mistake.
Naked, shivering cold, head throbbing from ant stings- I curled up in a ball in my primitive little shelter, and felt the minutes tick by in the relentless downpour. My frail lean-to was useless with its numerous cracks in the leaves. It only offered a vague feeling of warmth- maybe from the heat radiating off my body and lingering in the enclosed space. Then I wept, like a baby, from both fear and misery. Somehow, I managed to finally doze off into blessed sleep.
The next morning, the warm sun tickled me through the leaves of my shelter, and I slowly crawled out, stiff and naked. Laying next to me, eerily, was an old buffalo skull I had not noticed the night before. I didn’t know what to make of the strange symbol; I only knew that my companion and I had survived a monster tropical rainstorm with no proper shelter, no blanket to keep us warm, and on the verge of hypothermia. No one would ever believe our story.
At some point during the night, the soft, weak part of the boy, that had been pampered all his life had died; and in his place, was left a new person- standing awkwardly in a blurry photo, machete in hand, ready for what the day would bring.
(Tags: Survival , Africa , Safari )