An unexpected adventure

by Thomas Heijligen

 

1st day, Sunday

Yes, school was over. My parents allowed me and my friends to go on a tour by ourselves.

Of course we had to pay for it with our own money. So it happened that we flew to Oz. For me and my friend, Donovan, and our girlfriends, Dani and Ruby, it was the first time going outside of our home country.

For the first two days of the week, we planned visiting Ayers Rock and Alice Springs. Then we would look further.

The bus tour to Ayers Rock began at five pm sharp. We arrived there in time and there already was red bus, for perhaps 12 people on board. But at five o’clock there were only eight tourists and the driver: us four, two German students, a tall man with brown hair and a young pretty woman in her best years. There was also an old lady and a huge strong outdoor man with a big backpack and a long rope on it. We only had our small backpacks for the “Three-Day-Tour”. Finally there was a grumbly, selfish bus driver.

We paid the tickets and got on.

“It will be a long and boring journey, but that gives us time for other things” said Dani with a smile on her face and glanced at Donovan.

But I wasn’t interested in doing other things. Maybe, I thought, we have so much time and hadn’t to start already. My girlfriend was upset with me and so I looked out of the window. We passed the last houses of Sydney and in my mind I heard a song from a long time ago. No, that was no song for children.

Maybe I heard it somewhere else.

 “I see bad moon rising, I see trouble on the way. I see earthquakes and lightnin’, I see bad times today.”

The houses went away and eucalyptus trees took their place. The sun was burning through the windows.

“Don’t go out tonight, they’re bound to take your life. There’s a bad moon on the rise.”

I saw only the street and the trees. My girlfriend was still peeved to me.

“I hear hurricanes blowing, I know the end is coming soon. I fear rivers overflowing, I hear the voice of rage and ruin.”

I didn’t know how long the trip was, the sun was an orange fireball now. And I heard the cicadas screeching.

“Don’t go out tonight, they’re bound to take your life. There’s bad moon on the rise.”

Dawn was a crazy time. To hear sounds and see only the eyes of those creatures in the shrubs was scary.

“Hope you got your things together, hope you are quite prepared to die. Looks like we’re in for nasty weather, one eye is taken for an eye.”

I sighed. It was already dark outside. Why did I think of this song? Would anything dangerous happen? Would I die? I looked at my friends in front of me. Suddenly a kangaroo jumped in front of the bus.

I saw it in the light of the bus. Everyone slept. Only the driver and I were awake. He tried to brake but without success. At the last moment before he would cross the roo the driver altered direction and avoided the amazing animal. But then the bus jolted off the road.

All passengers woke up at that moment. Then there was no jolt any more. The bus overturned and caved in a canyon somewhere west of Sydney. Deep in one of the canyons in the Blue Mountains. We crashed against a boulder and fell again deeper and deeper.

I was afraid.

I clang to my girlfriend, and she woke up and clang onto me, too. She cried, I cried, everyone in the bus was crying and the top of a cliff was crashing the bus.

The old lady was flying through the bus. A lot of blood ran out of her face. She was sighing heavily.

A jar, we landed.

The head of the lady crashed against a seat. She was dead at once.

That was the last thing I saw before I fainted.

2nd day, Monday

All the time I was unconscious. Now I felt lips on my own ones. I opened my eyes slowly and stopped short.

Something was wrong. I already guessed it, but I didn’t know. Now I saw the man, the outdoor man, and not my girlfriend in front of me. I tried to push him away.

“What are you doing?” I whispered angrily.

“I had to revive you” he answered with a calm voice.

Slowly I sat up. He helped me. When I looked around I saw that I was the only one, who had been unconscious, but everyone was pale like me and some of them were also injured.

We were about 50 feet away from our bus, or that what was our bus time ago. It was completely destroyed. I looked at the sky. Only a small part was visible. On the left and right were the cliffs of the canyon. There was no chance to climb up.

Suddenly I saw a boulder with a sharp top. I remembered last night, the lady. Fast I looked down again. Donovan saw me awake and came over to me. He had a bloody arm with a shirt wrapped around it. Apart from that, he was okay.

“Wow, Jake, you have rescued him.” He stuttered towards the man who had brought me back to life.

And then he came to me.

 “Not only I’m happy to see you alive. It was hard work to convince Ruby, that this cool man here, Jake, could help you. Do you know what happened last night? The bus driver is too shocked to talk about it.”

When I wanted to start my report, Jake spoke first with his calm voice:

“He has to get healthy before he can talk about it.”

So I was lying there while Jake made a fire, prepared a meal and helped the others. It seemed that he was fit at any time and also healthy. I watched him the whole day working. He built up a small camp, Ruby came to me and we held hands, Jake was still working when all the others were already asleep. Ruby lay close to me. Jake is a great man, I thought. Now I saw that he was also injured. One of his legs was dressed. 

3rd day, Tuesday

It was lunchtime and we all sat around the fire, which was of course made by Jake, and ate his lunch. It was a poor dish and I looked around. The bus driver Daniel poked in his meal. He looked as if he was mad.

Donovan wore a new shirt and looked tired but also strong. Danny was rouged perfectly. In her one hand she held Donovan`s hand and in the other she held her smart phone. Her face said that something was wrong with her mobile. The two German students, Frank and Ellen, were too shocked to say anything.

Jake was so calm like any time. And I couldn’t look into the eyes of my girlfriend.

When everyone had finished eating, Jake started the discussion.

“We have to go downriver. It is the only way to save our lives. We have only a few things to eat and it can...”

“It’s senseless to lead us into more danger. The only way to get help is to stay here. Go with him stupid guys. I will stay here. I’m going to live longer.” The bus driver said.

There was no reaction in Jakes face and he went on:

 “So, Daniel, I wanted to say it before you interrupted me. All help will come too late. Do you stay here with Daniel or do you follow me to freedom?”

Slowly I began to speak: “I'll come with you. You are the man who saved me and I trust you!”

“Yes that’s right, I agree with my friend. I come with you, too.” said Donovan after a little break.

All the others followed Donovan’s example. Only the bus driver wanted to stay there longer. So we got up and started to pick up everything that could be useful on our way. Our backpacks were heavier than ever before. So us seven started the trip through the canyon. We walked, climbed, swam and walked again. Already after a few hours we felt like a real community.

The only thing which was really hard to accept was the comments of the girls. Something like: “Yuk, there is a spider in my hair!”

Then one of us boys had to remove the spider and Jake laughed and said:

“Don’t worry, that one can’t do anything, only those on the floor are viper spiders.”

When it got dark, we set up our camp. We had a “One-Person-Tent” from Jake and a two-person-tent from the German students. So we set them up and made a fire like Jake told me how to do it. After a simple meal, we went to sleep. Jake told us to go sleeping while he was watching the fire. I lay with Ruby in the one-person-tent and the others in the other one. Ruby’s body was warm and it was a great feeling to be so close to her. We kissed a little bit, but we were so tired that we fell asleep very fast.

4th day, Wednesday

I awoke too early. The sun wasn’t shining yet. But I already smelled the fern. I noticed that Ruby and I lay so close to each other to feel the breath on the face. I looked at her, she was beautiful. Carefully I got out of the tent and saw Jake who was already awake, or still from yesterday? 

I didn’t know. He was preparing the breakfast with things from the wilderness. I helped him. After we had packed up the camp we swam further in the river. I heard a waterfall. We climbed over mossy cliffs and held on to dirty roots. Something changed in our community.

We helped each other more and more and maybe it looked like a family. Never before I had been so close to Ruby. There were great moments, like when we stood there in the water and kissed us while the sun’s rays shone on the floor of the canyon like in a cathedral.

We approached the waterfalls. Jake fixed his rope on a big boulder before we got down on it. We finished the stage for today and went swimming in a water hole. It was the first time after the accident that I forgot the old lady.

Even Dani came to us and washed herself.

And it was also the last time she wore make up. She had changed. I didn’t feel any more distance between us. Everything was good until something fell down the water falls. A dead body which swam in its own blood was the one of Daniel, the bus driver. He crossed our water hole. He had a lot of bites. It wasn’t a pleasant look. Why couldn’t one day end happily?

5th day, Thursday

It was a hot day. At this morning we left all the useless things in the camp. We had nothing to eat anymore. The rope was still hanging next to the water fall. Frank’s tent was broken and we didn’t know where we were and how long it would take to get out of this canyon.

The atmosphere was terrifying. The canyon was narrow and we stumbled over slippery stones half the day. The heat was intolerable. In the morning, Ellen had eaten some leaves of an eucalyptus tree and she was feeling bad.

On a small cliff she collapsed and fell down. Frank’s cry was painful. Horrible!!!

Why did she have to die?

I hold on to Ruby. We were all shocked. To see an associate fall into  death is the most horrible thing that can happen.

We camped a few miles later and sat only there and did nothing. Our characters changed again. We had seen death, but we had also hope to live when we work together.

In the evening we didn’t eat. We sat back to back near the fire and tried to come down. Anytime late at night Frank went away from the fire.

6th day, Friday

It was a strange and grey morning when we woke up. Frank was still missing and Jake was still sleeping.

So us other four looked for Frank. Dani found him. She cried.

We ran to her and saw Frank.

We were breathless. Ruby vomited in front of her own feet, and Donovan went to Dani and put his arm around her.

There was Frank; he had no colour in his face. He hung from the eucalyptus tree with a rope around his neck. We all wept, we had a breakdown and our breathing was heavy.

An hour later we told Jake about it, but he only said:  “Yes, I was afraid of that.”

He said it with his calm neutral voice, but I saw the pain in his eyes. Then we stood up and went further, away from the dark things. It was a long and hard trip. Without break, without eating.

We marched further, everyone in his or her own thoughts. We waded through water the whole day and at lunchtime we did a break and built a raft. I felt it was good to do something. It takes your whole attention.

After four hours we had built the raft. Maybe a little bit unstable, but we had one. That was the good message. And the bad one was that Jake was bitten by a spider and had an infection in his leg.  By now we learnt what a real team has to be. We were tired but we had to help our friend.

So we were on the raft the whole time. That was also the only way to get out of the canyon which was a river now. We rowed the whole time and didn’t stop on an island when it was evening. At night the girls were sleeping and Donovan and I were rowing alone.

7th day, Saturday

We had no more power to row. We provided Jake as well as possible. But Jake got worse and worse. A blue line was in his leg.

Now the cliffs began to disappear and at the horizon we could see the ocean.

There were no feelings for each other, I thought, no kissing and no holding hands but we were closer to each other than ever before. The line of blood-poisoning went to Jake's heart. Time to find help.

Silently, we sat there looking at the endless horizon.

“There!!” Donovan shouted with a little bit of hope in his voice.

“There, a city!!”

Yes, there was a city and we were fit again. It was the last hope for Jake, our last hope to get to this city. We rowed to the bank. There was a city. Maybe 15 miles away. We pulled the raft onto the bank and built a barrow for Jake. Then we went straight on.

Mile for mile.

It was a horrible way. No road, nothing. Nothing to drink, only the barrow with Jake. But we had to go straight. He saved our lives and we had to save his.

In the late afternoon we arrived in a small town. We were exhausted. Luckily this town had its own hospital. So we went there and the doctors kept not only Jake but looked also after us four. We have had a hard time behind us and we learnt things which you cannot learn at school. We changed ourselves to the best.

Epilogue

By now a lot of years are gone and we regularly go to Australia. We are still a community:

Jake, the Australian Outdoor Man;

Donovan, the Rugby player, from once who is now a lifesaver with his girlfriend Dani (who doesn’t put on make-up anymore);

And Rubi and I. We both are now looking for new unknown worlds.

But we all do not forget those, who died on this special tour:

Daniel the bus driver, Mrs. Watson –the old lady-, the German tourists Ellen and Frank.

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