night fright

From 1989 to 1990, Halil Chalid , at the time a high school student from Makasar, lived in South Australia as an exchange student. Among the host of unforgettable experiences that he had, what he will always remember is getting lost during an excursion at night while camping with his school friends on Kangaroo Island. How do people feel and react when they get lost and don't know whether they will ever find their way back? Halil Chalid will tell you what he went through.

The night was dark. A creepy blackness filled the sky, as though thick velvet were covering the moon and all the stars, so that nothing could shine. The air was clean, crisp, and cold as the wind whistled through the tall trees, sweeping down upon us, biting our ears and noses. The only light we had was from three small torches, allowing us to see nothing beyond our next step. Still, full of energy, spirit, and laughter, we started to walk along a well-defined path leading into the forest.
We, 23 high school kids, were on a week-long school camping excursion on Kangaroo Island, southwest of Adelaide, South Australia. Tonight's program was an after-midnight hike in the forest to watch the feeding habits of wallabees and other animals inhabiting the island.
All too soon, the path dwindled into a paddock of pits, rocks, and tree stumps. Still, we had great fun trying to discern various species of animals against the blackboard of the night. Crunch! We heard something underfoot. Suddenly, we were all filled with terror. It was the skeleton of a wild pig, its teeth glistening in the light of the torches. My imagination saw the animal jumping towards us, drooling at the smell of human flesh.
As we continued our hike, the rough path suddenly disappeared, leaving us with absolutely no sense of direction. We went on in random direction, plowing our way through knee-high grass. It seemed that with every step we made, more bushes sprang up around our feet, creeping up our bodies. Our legs moved uncontrollably, not knowing when to stop. Although they were growing weary, we managed to keep them moving. We trudged along like a tired herd of sheep, grabbing whoever's arm was closest, and believing that en masse we were sure to find a way out of this vast maze of scrubland.
By now, our laughter had changed to nervous giggles as we scared ourselves with wild stories about people vanishing in the darkness, never to be seen again. After a while, even the giggles were gone. Most of us became silent as we walked, closely listening to the crackle of the ground under our feet, to the rustle of the bushes, and to the swish of running water in the distance.
All of sudden, we all stopped short simultaneously. For a few second, no one uttered a word. The sea was in front of us! I remembered turning around to the person behind me, and seeing the fright in his eyes.
"What's the time?!" someone yelled. "I don't care!" replied another. It was about one and a half hours since we began our walk. Our watches were our only guide to what was happening to us. We couldn't tell north from south, being surrounded by bushes and trees, and the sea in front of us.
Everyone was tense now. Tempers flared up, voices rose. We shouted harsh words at one another, only to apologize the next moment. Luckily, common sense took control of us as we began to realize we had to rely on one another to get out of our ordeal. Our vile utterances changed to words of encouragement. Gathering our spiris, we tried to reassure one another that we would find our way back. In reality, we were all scared to death as each step we made seemed to take us further away from our campsite.
Looking up into the sky for a sign of stars or the moon, a few among us saw a flash of light. Then nothing, then another flash. It was the shine of the island's lighthouse, our first sign of direction. At last we knew which way was south, the direction of our homebase. With more confidence, we went on. However, our "track" took us deeper into the scrub. We felt the spikes of the bushes pricking our faces and hands.
Plodding along, I suddenly longed for my family and friends back home. My heart raced, thinking of my life's ambitions, and everything that ever mattered to me. Then it started to rain. Glancing at the person by my side (I didn't even know who it was). I saw tears running down his cheek. I reached out to touch his arm, and I, too, felt hot tears stinging my eyes. Walking, walking, walking to nowhere.
We realized we had been going in circles. It seemed that the beams of the lighthouse hadn't helped much. The unbelievable darkness was intensified by the winds that seemed to be mocking us all. The bushes and the trees became live creatures, their arms grabbing at us as we passed by. It was just like a bad dream: the faster we walked, the quicker the trees ran.
I looked at my watch and saw that another hour had passed. It seemed like ages! Our hair was straggly, leaves were stuck in our collar, and our clothes were wet. Our spirit were dampened too. Still, we moved on in sheer desperation to find something familiar. "Look! In the sky!" I shouted. Stars dazzled through the dark night. How beautiful! I thought. Things were getting better, after all. Weren't they?
Then, one of the girls fell down. Some of us reacted by crying out loud. We boys took turns carrying her. She was weak and very scared. But weren't we all? Then it happened! More of us started to cry. To top it all, another of us (this time a boy) crumpled to the ground. There was no way to go any further, not in this state of near panic. Everything became a blur...
Was it real?! No, it couldn't be. I was shaken back to reality as we pushed one another to get under a barbed wire fence. Where it came from, I don't know. It had shown up as if by magic, leading us onto a rubble clearing, which turned out to be a "beautiful, lovely" road. We dropped down on the hard surface, huddling against one another, crying and laughing at the same time. Not realizing how it came to be, I was holding somebody's head between my hands. His eyes flickered, but his lips were still. I pinched his ears to wake him up; nothing happened. Then I slapped him firmly on the face a few times while firing some questions at him. Faintly, he whispered something. Tears welled up in my eyes. I heaved a huge sigh of relief, knowing he would be all right.
All at once, screams of delight filled the night. Looking up, I saw two bright lights piercing through the darkness. It was a bus-our ride to safety. We were all quiet on the bus ride back to our camp. What was there to say, anyway, except "Thank you, God?"
Once on safe ground in the camp, we unleashed our emotions: we cried, laughed, hugged, praised each other for our courage, and wished each other luck on our survival. What we didn't mention to one another, but what each of us felt inside, was a strong bond among us. In the beginning of the night, we had been a group of individuals, excited to go on an adventurous excursion. By the early hours of the morning, after an ordeal of more than three hours, we had become one, held together by something greater than anything else we had known before. This strong bond was our new faith, our new belief in one another.   

1 komentar:

Keren gan artikelnya, nambah pengetahuan lgi nih :)

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