Despite being a voracious bookworm, I still managed to have a fairly active and outdoors-y childhood. A fair while ago, I read this post about an adventure trek gone wrong and it reminded me of my very own off road disaster.
I think I was around 14 or 15 and I’d decided to take my younger sister and her friend (7 or 8) for a bush walk. We were living in Jamaica at the time and my mother had a house on a huge plot of land we rather inventively called “The Land”. The Land had no (reliable) running water to speak of, not much of a road to get there and a huge marijuana farm up in the hills behind it (probably the best thing about the whole property, if I’m being honest).
There was only one house next to my mum’s and then, after that, it was just cow fields and a bush track that went who knows where. Being an invincible mid-teen, I decided to find out where the bush track went and, hell, why not bring some little rugrats along for the journey? Also, I feel that I should clarify what I mean by cow fields. These are not the rolling green pastures of the West; these are barbed wired-in, seemingly abandoned plots of overgrown bushland with angry looking cows trying to find food in the scrub.
We set off on our trek without any water and without telling anyone where we were going. A rather large mistake that gradually dawned on me when I realised this was the Jamaican summer and it was hot as balls and I didn’t know where I was going. If we’d stayed on the bush track, we might have been able to just turn around however I’d elected to make things more interesting by climbing through a fence to cross a cow field and soon enough my bearings were shot. I had no idea where we were.
We were hot. We were thirsty and, worse yet, the children were starting to suspect that I had no fucking clue how to get us home. Channelling a future Bear Grylls, I instructed the littlies to drink some water from an unguarded/abandoned cow trough. “You’ll be fine,” I said, not really knowing for sure but hoping it would at least shut them up.
It wasn’t long before we were clearly lost, even I couldn’t hide my concern. My cunning plan was to keep walking in the direction we were going. We’ll end up somewhere, I thought. Nope, we got more and more lost. Being Australian, I instructed us all to yell “Cooeeeee!” into the bush; cooeee is an Australian bush distress call. Or maybe not, maybe I just made that up. (Note: coeeee is an actual thing, I just don’t know what the real purpose of it is. I suppose I could Google it but, fuck it, I can’t give you all the info.)
Regardless of this fascinating tidbit of Australiana, we were in Jamaica so yelling cooee did not a fucking thing and only served to make us feel more lost and alone when no one replied. We all began to imagine ourselves dying in the bush. The children were close to tears. The group as a whole was dangerously close to Lord of the Flies or perhaps Survivor, I honestly don’t know which is worse. Thank god, the kids weren’t any older else I might’ve had a mutiny on my hands.
Then – in just a few steps (or maybe we were running from cows, imaginary bush monsters, who knows? We were maddened by heat and dehydration) – we stepped out onto a main road. So suddenly, I think we almost got run over. The bush just seemed to disappear after vomiting us up on the roadside. I remember looking back and not even being sure where we came from. Again, it may have been the heat.
Thankfully, I knew where we were. We’d come out at the bottom of the road up to my school and it was only maybe a 30min walk home. I felt an immediate and intense sense of relief. We weren’t going to die and, even better, I wasn’t going to have to explain anything to my mum. At that particular point in time the four of us dying in the bush was a much better better outcome than the littlies dying and me living to tell the tale.
Ah modern day children, why would you ever want to stay indoors?