So, my mate and I were road-tripping fromMelbourne to Perth; settling our tent on whatever roadside or woodland we hit upon as the sun went down. Brilliant. As part of our trip we got involved in what we called “night-time adventures”; we’d build as big a fire as our Pom hands could muster, settle down with a mug of goon (or two), and then head off to explore.
This particular night we were in the Grampians. Drinks downed, we set off. I’ve never been a fan of the shadows, and clutched my mate’s hand with a start as the torch’s beam caught upon a tree trunk. We giggled and carried on walking.
Always about taking our adventures to the next level, we slipped through a break in the trees. Then another. And again, weaving our way deeper into the woodland, chatting as we went, and laughing, with only a touch of nervousness, as we impersonated the snot scene from The Blair Witch Project.
After some time we hit a clearing and lazed back as we gazed at the stars. But the nip of the night air began to bite and we decided to head back, stepping through the nearest gap in the trees. And the next.
They seemed to be growing tighter though, as we squeezed through smaller spaces, and snapped back twigs as we moved. And then… Oh no… I dropped the torch; darkness. We scrabbled about for it on the floor, but nothing.
No torch.No light. Oh God. It was okay though, we figured. We’d just push on forward. The glow of the moon gave us some light, albeit haunting. But the breaks between the trees were swiftly disappearing; the branches became a mesh, growing thicker as we pulled them back to get by.
The neatly navigable gaps from our walk in were nowhere to be found, and we had to step over and around branches, and bend under others to get through. And then my mate stopped.“Is this the right way?”, she asked.
“I thought so”, I said, slightly higher-voiced than usual.
“I thought it was that way.”
And it hit me… we were lost. Totally lost. In the bush. At night. Blair Witch images flickered back but the laughter had stopped. Our only option was to pick a direction and hope for the best.
Chit chat faded. I could hear only the pumping of my heart. This was madness. Total. Unadulterated. We were trapped in a crazy mess of bushland, at night, with only the shadows for company. No one knew where we were.
We stumbled upon a fallen trunk and considered sleeping there, but the Blair Witch scenes became scattered with those of us still lost the next day, like some sort of Neighbours special.
We could only push, and crawl, and scramble on. Scratched and sore, my energy levels were dropping. I could feel myself wilting as we trudged on, knackered.
Until: “Oh, wow. What’s that?”. I pointed at an orange glint through the branches.
“Our fire!” The embers of our fire. Beautiful… amazing… home… We forced our way through the last bit of bush and breathed. And hugged. Phew. Safe.
And made an unspoken agreement that never would the mix of goon, bush and “night-time adventures” take place on our trip again. Maybe.