After an exhausting hike through the thunder and rain, we finally arrived at a clearing. A few farm houses had been built in the clearing and a dog came to greet us. Both groups huddled around a lady called KK, our trip leader and we stood around anxiously awaiting news that we were close to our destination.
“Good News” I remember her saying, “We’re only 200 metres away from our camp”. Everyone silently cheered as we continued to her instructions. We were to set up camp straight away and then set up our own toilet. But the more important things she mentioned was that we had to drop anything metal such as pegs or trangias whenever lightning struck. It didn’t help that we were in a small valley and there seemed nothing above our height.After being let loose, we dashed like small, new born puppies towards our clearing. For some it didn’t fit their expectations, as they were expecting a large grassy area. I was one of those people, and did not suspect that our campsite was wild as this. To make it easier to imagine, it looked like old crops that were trampled by a herd of cattle multiple times resulting in a compact layer, maybe a few centimetres thick, over the dirt. We were surrounded by farmland and to make matters worse, some bits still retained a bit of water from the constant downpour.
We were lucky. The rain had stopped and gave us a window to set up our tents without getting too wet. My tent mate and I hurriedly opened our tent, which had survived through the onslaught of moisture and was barely damp. Setting up the base was a breeze and we had a mishap of pegging the tent down in the wrong spot a few times, but it was finally time to complete the tent and get ready to build the toilet. But as we removed the fly (rain) cover from the bag, we discovered that it was not one for our tent. We spread the fly and had discovered that it belonged to a six man tent which must have come from someone hiding it away from a previous expedition. We both started to panic as the menacing rain clouds gathered once more.
Luckily some other students, had the tragic job of bringing the spare tents up. I say tragic because even for me, an semi-experienced venturer had troubles too with my tent and the overwhelming weight from your rucksack. We entered a frenzy and scattered around looking for the spare tents. As I asked around, I received rumours that one of the spare tents had already been used and so the chances of finding another free tent minimized. Fortunately one was unused and we tore the fly cover out of the bag and set it up quickly thanks to help of two girls. We tossed in our belongings and ourselves as we prepared for the rain.
The rest of the night had nothing of importance. We dug a hole, laid some bamboo and then set up a tarp for privacy. We even got a little lock system going on along with a toilet roll holder. It was quite cosy. Who needs air-conditioned washrooms when you have a cool breeze wafting through the tarp? We cooked with our little fires and changed our clothes. The night ended with a nice bonfire lit up against the starry, evening sky and I took the chance to dry my shoes and towel. A man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do.
The next morning, we had to eat, pack everything up, toilet included, and set off to get to our bus for the trip home. A certain group of people didn’t participate in constructing the toilet and they had the gift of tearing it down AFTER doing all the other tasks. Food was provided by my tent mate last night and I had the joy of preparing breakfast. Nothing better than chocolate cereal accompanied with small cartons of milk. The trick was to get a mouthful of cereal and then sip some milk from the straw. It was efficient plus there were no dishes to do after. Perfect.
The next few hours was a mixture of pain and more pain. We missed our early start and to keep up with the schedule we tried to go faster. To get to our pick up point, we needed to navigate through multiple ridges and then walk a set distance on cemented roads. We waded through, what seemed like the depths of hell, as every corner was lined with new challenges. People and bags fell into mud, tripped on rocks, slipped on sludge but we trudged on. There was the newfound mindset so rigorously focused not on completing the journey but getting home to a nice hot shower and we plodded steadily onwards. Within a good five hours we hit road and only a seemingly endless forty minutes later we arrived at our final destination. It was a trip of ups and downs, new experiences, confrontations but more importantly it was a trip to remember.