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One Night in The Jungle

This is the story about my worst experience in my life: get lost in the jungle alone by my self. It happened several years ago when I was assigned by my company to do a research in a traditional gold mine. The location of the mine site was at the top of mountainous ridges in Buol, Central Sulawesi, above 2000 m above sea level. We had a base camp on the nearest village on the plain area downhill, it took 8 hours walking from our base camp to the mine site through the narrow path all the way in thick forest and ought to cross over one river.

One day in our mine activities, our food supplies were decreasing. So, as a research coordinator, I decided to come back to the base camp in the village to take food supplies on the next day. One of the local helper suggested me to go with one guide or porter to accompany me along the way. But I refused it, because I thought I already knew the route to base camp since I had been back and forth several times. And I didn’t want to disturb the work schedule of any worker. Because we were already in dead line time to finish the job as soon as possible. So I chose to go downhill to camp by my self, so other people would keep doing their job.

After having a breakfast, I started to trek down the hill by expecting to arrive at the basecamp village before the dark. I brought one lunch meal, drinking water, GPS and one machete to clear up the way. The first 4 hours trekking was good, the sky was clear, I didn’t feel any tired since the route was descending downhill. At the lunch time, I stopped by the river to have lunch and take a rest for a moment. After having my lunch and I already got enough energy to continue my trip I crossed over 10 meters-wide river with a knee high stream.

One hour walking from the river, my pathway was getting denser and unclear. I thought I must take wrong route, It seemed different from the previous route. I checked on my gps and damn it! the gps was low battery and unable to connect to satellite. I tried to unattached the battery and reattach it to get better connection but it was in vain. I didn’t bring any spare battery. I tried to be calm and not panic. I attempted to find the original route. I made my way through the thick forest by machete to find the right path. I convinced my my self that I was not fairly far from the route, I just got lost several meters from the original route. I tried to keep calm and think normally. But after almost 2 hours researching the route, I didn’t get any sign that I would find the way. However, the day was already late afternoon, the sun was going down the day was getting a bit dim. Then I decided to follow back my route to get back to the mine site, at least I had to find recognized path that I passed before. Unlucky me, it was not an easy thing. I was unable to track back my path. I didn’t know where I was, I got lost in the middle of nowhere. I kept swinging the machete to the thick brush to make the path, at least I had to find the river which I crossed over. But it seemed forever.

Then, the worse thing happened, I unintentionally cut down the bees hives, and automatically a group of bees attacted and chased me in a second. I threw away my machete and I ran aggressively to any direction through the shrubby vegetation. Some bees successfully landed on my head and left hand, I got stung and it was really painful. I kept running and swatting them all the way even I knew it’s useless. Then I spotted one shallow stream in front of me with a waist-height water flowing. I instantly plunged into the water and immersed my body under water for a while to avoid the pursuit of the bees. That incident compelled me to cease my way home. I decided to find a place to stay this night and then I found one big boulder with a rather flat on the top. I got to the boulder and stay till morning the next day.

I wanted to make a flare to light the night but my matches was already soaked. So I spent that night in the darkness alone without any meals. I also run out of drinking water so I ought to refill my bottle with the water from the stream. I couldn’t sleep that night. My left hand and my forehead were getting swollen due to the venom of the bees. The pain was starting to spread on my left hand. I tried to restrain. I had to think clearly what direction should I took next day. The strange thoughts began to permeate in my mind. I was thinking what if I couldn’t find the way back home, I would die in the middle of jungle and nobody would find my body. I would be a delicious meal for the wild animals. Ahh..I tried to control my mind and think clearly to resolve my problem. And then I just remembered that the village was not far from a big river. So if I followed down the small creek from here I would end up in the river close to the village. I couldn’t wait the morning to start my endeavor. But it seemed to be the longest night in life. The time was really slow. I checked my watch many times.

When the sun showed up in the next morning, I began to follow down the stream. I walked slowly following the stream flow. I took a rest sometime to get my energy and drink some fresh water from the river. The vegetation around me was really different. I believed I had lost far away from the normal route. After walking more than 8 hours without any meal, I finally reached the village before the dark.

Lesson learned
From this worst experience I take a lesson learned that if you are wandering in a new region, never going  just by your self no matter how detail you know this area, especially if you take a long path. You have to be with local people who understand the region. Anything could happen. 


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