Anyone remember that little kindergarten chant we did as kids? “Goin’ on a lion hunt. Goin’ on a lion hunt. I’m not afraid!” That’s what kept me going today as I saw the next yawning expanse of mud ahead (“can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Gotta go THROUGH it!”) Sploosh, splosh, sploosh, splosh. Or the tall grass impeding our passage across a swamp and hiding the water holes we tried valiantly to avoid (“gotta go THROUGH it: swish, swoosh, swish, swoosh).
Truth be told, today is the first day that I finish off with a feeling that I might actually have a chance of accomplishing what I set out to do! What a relief to finally think it might, just MIGHT not be too much for me. It was a good day.
Which came as a bit of a surprise. The night saw my lying awake in my tent, tossing around with tremendous stomach cramps. Not sure why – food, water, exhaustion? – but it was miserable. So the morning dawned with me one unhappy camper (trekker!). Breakfast was a necessary evil and I couldn’t eat much despite forcing myself to try. And thereafter, the nausea set in. I dug around in my pharmacy and found the MCP (Metoclopramide and as you can see, I take the pharmaceutical part of my packing quite seriously). SO GLAD I PACKED IT!!! I almost didn’t. As I was sorting through all my gear at home, removing things and reducing both overall weight and volume, I had the MCP in my hand, thinking ‘haven’t needed it on the last 2 expeditions, so really it’s just extra weight?’ I would have been wrong – sure glad I have it with me.
Within about 90 minutes, I was no longer miserable and even started to feel hungry, so suggested a short snack break. And from then on – golden! We made good time, I remembered to regularly eat and drink a bit, and I even began to enjoy the swamp-hopping. Which is good, because today is very much swamp day. Lots of the time we were forging across expanse fields of swamp, hopping from one grass cluster to another, balancing on small sticks and trying desperately to avoid any holes deeper than our boots are tall.
The day also brought steep climbs with it – but every day does. Papua is comprised of one ridge after another, there really is not much in the realm of flat terrain. You’re basically always either going up or going down, and most of those ascents and descents are of the quite steep to very steep sort. Nevertheless, it was going well and just as I started to feel pretty comfortable, Papua did what she does and threw me a new test: a straight-up downpour. So, hiking poles in one hand and umbrella in the other, the mud-situation greatly exacerbated, we plowed on. The rain turned to hail for about 10 minutes and I was doubly glad to have my umbrella to fend off the pelting icy balls.
During all of this, we passed a group heading the opposite way (lucky bastards – on their way home!), and discovered that the group was only porters and guides. The climbers had all bailed, ordering a heli to pick them up at basecamp and forgoing the trek out. They had needed 7 days to trek in – rather than the anticipated 5 – and were too low on supplies to risk needing so long to get back out. I’m busy thinking “7 days?!” and “heli out…sounds wonderful!” as the guides exclaim that they can’t believe we’re already so far – they thought they’d find us two hills further back. That was the first time I realized we were making such good time. A bit later, the rain let up and we were able to continue on past the in-between camp. And arrived an hour earlier than planned at camp 3.