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    Proteus 55

    This is a little thing to probably most of you but it is still vivid in my memory; 20 years have elapsed since then. I don’t consider it as any major achievement, but there are definitely lessons learned for me. Just a small thing, a family holiday on the coach (bus); a tour of some fort on the top of a steep hill with very dense woods all the way to the top. This hill had others sights to see as well, and most of the tourists went to see these first, while very few went up the road on foot to explore the fort. I was one of them; I left the group and my family and thought there was ample time for me to get up there, see the place, then return before it was time to leave for the coach bus.

    It was summer and it was very hot; I reached the top with a good pace, however, due to being slightly tired, it took me more time than anticipated to explore the fort. So by the time I finished, I realised that I was running out of time to return back down to the coach bus. I should mention here that I was completely unprepared. No knife, no gear, no protective clothing, not even a cellphone! Twenty years ago not many people thought much of these things, unless planning an expedition somewhere in the wilds. In any case, due to being on that tour holiday with family on the coach, anything I had was back at the bus. So when I had that idea to go off and explore of my own, I had none of these useful (or necessary even) items on me. I didn’t even have tissues or water on me; I remember I was wearing a random T-shirt, shorts and athletic shoes; that’s all.

    In any case, I looked down from the top of the hill and I could just about see the coach as a small mark on the parking lot beneath. So I figured, “hey, let’s not take the road back down, but let’s cut across these woods; I will arrive down there at a fraction of the time due to taking the shortcut”…that seemed like a reasonable idea at the time and even as I now regard it as foolish, back then, it didn’t seem so for some reason. So I did it.

    Cutting across the rather dense patch seemed easy at first and I was glad with the idea. But soon after I discovered that I could no longer see my destination. The trees were so thickly knotted that it was almost hard to squeeze between some of them. A few minutes later, I could no longer see “outside” of the woods. So I moved at the edge to gain better perspective when I realised that the precipice was made of sharp rocks and my footing felt loose and not at all safe. I moved back into the woods aiming to go downhill in order to reach my destination. However without a compass and with the sun almost directly above me (but hardly visible due to the foliage) I quickly lost my sense of direction; with no compass or other aid, I was lost! I was starting to get anxious and then I made the another mistake, moving blindly downhill, without taking much notice of my surroundings. This proved to be disastrous as I nearly fell over passing by some trees and suddenly when I looked back, it seemed to me that the way I entered to the “enclosure” seemed to have mysteriously vanished! Of course, it didn’t vanish but as I clumsily and absent-mindedly entered this “enclosure” like a tiny clearing filled with trees as closely-woven as a mesh, I didn’t notice the entry point through the foliage and the branches closed behind me.
    At that moment, I felt confused and my feelings got the better of me; I thought I was totally lost; I would lose the coach. In fact, unless I managed to get out, it was doubtful that they would find me. I had no way to alert them, no phone, no smoke or mirror or anything…All these thoughts came rushing to my head and suddenly I panicked. Yes, it was panic in its truest sense. I remember rushing about in the clearing, my eyes darting to see a way out but due to my confused state, I failed to see the obvious! The only way out from what I could see was a kind of ridge made of soil at one side of the “enclosure”; this ridge had a huge wild rose bush growing and it was in my way, In fact it was the only thing stopping me to climb the ridge in order to get out. So basically I grabbed lots of grass and green twigs and wrapped them around my hands and with those I grabbed onto parts of the rose bush and pulled myself up and through it…needless to say that my forearms and exposed legs were scratched and marked from the bush but in my state of panic I hardly felt it… I managed to get out of this “enclosure” and I was in such a rough state that when I finally came across a farm with a German Shepherd guard dog on a chain, I somehow managed to scare the dog enough to pass through it on the grounds and down to finally reach the base of the hill. The dog seemed wary of my wild state but despite the vicious snarling it kept backing off until I passed. Some time later I had reached my family. The coach bus was delayed through waiting for me. After the obvious embarrassment and when the adrenaline had settled, I started to think on how foolish I was to do such a thing without considerations or adequate preparing.

    I know that it’s probably nothing major, but for me it taught me how messed up the mind is when in a state of panic and also what the possible consequences could be through my irresponsible action. I never repeated such foolishness. I underestimated the situation and I could have ended up a casualty, or injured. Lessons learned, indeed. Never underestimate Nature, and never enter any unknown situation unprepared.

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    Thank you. Your experience is an great example of how fast things can go seriously wrong when we don’t know what lies before us and we make a poor choice.

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