The sun dripped from the sky, seeming to melt me in its relentless heat. Beads of salty perspiration coated my forehead and I slowly became drowned in the substance, my body slick and sticky. My breaths turned to pants, which quickly turned to desperate gasps. I clutched the icy surface of my drink bottle, guzzling the life-saving liquid by the litre.
The dense and humid air lingered and hung about our breathless group, diluted with the thick and potent smell of earth. A hungry forest surrounded us. It seemed to feed on us, lure us into its trap and drain the energy from us. Nature. Who knew it could be so merciless to our pleas?
A blur of platinum white and a fringe of yellow swept over the canopy of heads. People could be seen leaping away from it, dropping towards the floor in fright. The cockatoo had caused quite the stir within our group, and wild chatter rang out from the victims of the near attack. When our Boston-born leader, Sally, had finally hushed the group, we continued our trek.
The endless jungle of gigantic eucalypti held many secrets. I heard the wildlife telling them to us… or maybe just making their sounds. I heard the cicadas drone on and hum their upbeat song. I frowned as the kookaburras’ giggles gradually turned into hurling fits of howling laughter. They threw insults at us, laughing at our incompetence. This bushwalk seemed like it was merely a humorous performance to entertain the wildlife!
As the 12:00 mark had passed, the sun grew as golden and dominant as ever, ruthlessly lashing at my bare skin, sizzling it to a crisp. I reached into my daypack, my hand returning with a nearly empty tube of sunscreen. I clasped the bottle and flicked the lid open. Did I have enough energy for this? Slowly, but surely, the milky white salve was squeezed into a curling tower and I smothered my face and hands in sheets and sheets of it until I had become a ghost.
I could hear the crisp crunching of foliage under our feet, each leaf deteriorating into granules as each member of our party trod towards our far-away destination. The reassuring sound of panting greeted my ears. My classmates were alive!
I swigged another half-litre of water, brushing past the velvety fronds of mysterious bushes. I took a glance at the girl next to me. The pink of her cheeks, the moistness of her hair, the beads of sweat lining her forehead, her open mouth as she gasped for air. Miles and miles of trees lay on either side of us, a rough, rock-strewn dirt path endlessly stretching forward.
Abruptly, the smell of watered down dirt and sweat became diluted with the scent of salty sea spray. All fatigue and pain was sapped away with the excitement that had suddenly risen.
The bush enclosed around us seemed to melt away and a steep hill gradually stretched upwards on the left side of our path. Luxurious houses rose like gravestones from the dirt on the precipice above us. Another sloping cliff rolled down the right side of the path. Green shrubbery and gangly trees were strewn all over the hills on either side of our narrow walkway. We were right in between the two.
As our eyes swept over the new setting we began to make sense of the new smell. At the foot of the hill, a roaring ocean leapt into the hill and a pier stretched out over the water. Where the pier began, buildings seemed to be packed together. The far most building, we were told, was our lodge for the night. Breaths of relief and happiness broke out within our group. We suddenly couldn’t wait to get started on activities. We had found Chowder Bay at last!
Olivia, writing on a whim…