All the while in the tour bus, you were fed up of all the hard talk among the tourists and wished you had some peace to yourself, for which you had opted to come along this tour to the forest lined by river tributaries and a lot of green foliage you had wised to see. From the town to the forest was a good 40 miles of beaten track which wobbled your internals as the bus tried its best to grip the undergrowth that had become so slushy with overnight rains.
You never were interested to get yourself muddied and dirty as you had forgotten a fresh set of clothes in the town hotel that closely resembled a war shelter of the 50’s. The decibel levels of the crowd in the bus had come down, as some were starting to shift their observation out of the windows rather than talking and observing their occupants inside.
A few bends where the bus almost toppled sent a section of the crowd including you on to others who resisted much as they could, only to see themselves thrown off on to others at the next bend. Whatever was eaten at the restaurant seemed to churn inside and threaten to make itself made known to the outside world, because of this rollicking ride.
With a few more upward rides around narrow streams lined with boulders, the driver stopped the bus, as if anchoring itself near a river that passed right across its path. This was where we were to alight, as the path had disappeared under the river. The flow on the top seemed calm but there seemed to be a current that could drag one along, were one to step into it.
The group broke up into different directions after the babel of tongues had stopped, and each one including you wanted to have a shot at solitude and silence. Hark! what was that, a huge eagle scampered across the trees upon the arrival of your footsteps on the foliage of dried leaves, the rustle which seemed deafening in the silence of the retreat. The crowd and the bus was far left behind as one had the time to take a look around . Also, everyone had been alerted to reach the bus in 3 hours time for the return back to the shady township.
There were a lot of rivulets, streaming branches of the main waterway, causing you to make a lot of diversions in your path among the trees, where the descent down to another attractive tributary had you almost running down, so much so, that you had to apply all brakes to stop yourself falling headlong into the river. But fall you did, with your hands supporting and arresting your fall. When you got yourself up, your hands were full of mud. You walked a few steps, where you could wash them in the flowing waters. There seemed to be a lot of fish, in various colors and shapes, scampering away, as your form appeared to them. The crystal clear water was tempting enough to take a drink out of it with your now cleaned and cupped hands.
Rejuvenated by the refreshing drink, you take your camera, a prized possession of any tourist, and start shooting pictures. You step carefully to the edge of the water to take your best shots, at the delightful nature around. You walk along the banks, as the ground is a bit steep to take you back along the path from where you had descended. Enjoying the unfolding flora, you have now left your bus and fellow passengers a mile away. But then there is a lot of time to go back, as you survey your new surroundings that present itself to you. A few butterflies appear as if from nowhere, and as you train your camera, they vanish into thin air. The way has given way to white gravel, rounded ones, large as potatoes, that you have to be careful while you step on them in your progress with your shoes now wet and beyond repair.
It is now, as you near a bend, that your eyes fall upon a canoe, long discarded by some native who might have lived nearby and or had drifted himself to this very spot, and would have abandoned it in search of food, as water along cannot sustain one for long. This seemed to you, once in a lifetime opportunity, as there was an oar that seemed to roar at you to get in, and have the ride across the placid waters of the river now getting wider as it wended its way along. You step into the canoe, which appear wet at the bottom. Throwing all caution to the winds, you get in, seat yourself comfortably amidst the drenched leaves that you had placed as a cushion, you now take the oar and start to row as you had seen rowers throw their arms in the television. Rowing seemed easy partly because the oar was a far cry from its original weight, eager to learn the new skill, you pace the canoe along the bank, keeping it best away from drifting towards the center of the river which appeared to have increased its vigor. The sun was making a hurrying exit made easy by the mountains that now seemed to converge on to the river path. It all seemed to be a perfect setting to enjoy a vacation, until now.
Suddenly, as if the curtains came down, rain bearing clouds stretched itself up the river path ready to welcome you, you who had never accounted for this turn of events, the breeze made way to the wind, which started beating down on your face with droplets of rain that hurt you as you tried to take cover. There was some amount of panic creeping somewhere in you, as the canoe now started to have a life of its own and started cruising along the center and the rain came down heavily. You tried your best to row yourself out of this pandemonium that had started like an orchestra, but tired arms was failing to nature’s fury. You forgot the camera, the bus and the tourists and wished you had stayed put with the crowd instead of venturing yourself out along into a misadventure that would soon culminate with the canoe and your sinking soon. The canoe was going at full horse power, as if an engine had been put on it, but with the rain water beating down, it was fast becoming a vessel full of water.
The only escape out of all this mess was now to jump out of it and swim across to the bank right or left you cared not, for life seemed to be weighing itself up and down based on your decision that you would make now right or wrong you would leave it last to decide. But you never were a good swimmer and always at school knew best how to sink in the pool after paddling with your hands and legs for a few minutes. The depth of this river you could never fathom, if you would jump now, but there was no time for analyzing your pros and cons and how you would fare once you were in the cold running water. How you wished you had stayed at home rather than recklessly scan your brain now at its wits end. There appeared a long log of wood which looked to have got stuck in the drift and this seemed to be a perfect opportunity to jump. Jump you did as there was no moment to lose, now trying your best to swim to the branch and just as you appeared yourself sinking down, you caught hold of the frail branch and crawling on all four limbs, all the while wishing your had long nails on your hands and your feet was webbed as you reached the firm ground on the bank. It now dawned upon you in the fast approaching dusk, that you had lost yourself in nature and had to wait till help arrived after your desperate SOS call from your cell had luckily reached the tour operator…