No amount of training could have prepared us for today’s trek. We left camp at 8am waiting for the light to penetrate the canopy as our camp was right in the heart of secondary rainforest where the canopy was at its thickest.
The 11 of us were very apprehensive as we set off and as we got into the trek it was justified. As we travelled up the hill it became virtually vertical and we had to cling on to the roots of trees, even the fastest group alpha team, which has been racing through the jungle, was slowed down by the terrain. Many of us had to really face our fears and dig deep to make it up the hill.
Emotions were high but the determination of each and every one of us to complete the challenge kept us going. As we reached the top of the hill and the incline was reduced we became more aware of our surroundings and the horror of how many leeches surrounded us hit home.
Julie and myself couldn’t come to terms with it and when we reached base camp had to get Chris and Louis to remove our boots for us in the river. We even stripped down to our underwear for a full-body leech check without caring about wobbly bits on show. Many of us didn’t want to stop for lunch because of this, which made it harder.
The guides really had to work hard to get us all through this day because, for different reasons, we all needed help. The last leg of the trek was downhill and became very slippery which caused a few bumps and bruises.
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At times the guides had to use their machetes to clear a path becuase of fallen trees. After seven hours we reached base camp and our final obstacle was a bridge consisting two bamboo trunks and two wires to hold on to for support.
Julie slipped halfway across but managed to pull it together and make her way to land where Sue, Christine, Jean and Emma were there to greet us with hot tea.
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Arrival at base camp was emotional for all of us. When I saw the roof of our hut I burst into tears which continued in short episodes through the evening. The team felt a mixture of relief, sense of achievement, jubilation and fatigue.
On reflection there were no regrets, we each realised we pushed ourselves beyond the boundaries of our physical and mental endurance.
Our guide Jacee told us that the worst experiences are always the best and we couldn’t agree more.
Later on Day 6: Our lovely guides carved each of us bamboo cups this morning and even fashioned Sarah, Andrea and Vicky bracelets.
After a breakfast of sandwiches and biscuits we set off at a steady pace and were shown how locals used to catch animals in the jungle.
One of the guides demonstrated how traps worked and told us that because they posed a danger to children they are no longer allowed to use them so have to get their meat by hunting and shooting.
The terrain today was steady with a mixture of uphill and downhill and some ledges.
We stopped for lunch after crossing a bamboo bridge over the river and removed some of the leeches from our boots. Our surroundings were spectacular with bamboo shooting high into the sky.
It was great to have the team of 14 back together and Emma especially did extremely well and managed to tackle the hills with a smile on her face.
It took about five hours to complete our final day of trekking but, before arriving to the village where we are staying tonight, we looked at the hill the 11 of us had walked across.
We could hardly believe the journey we had made. To our delight there is a shower and proper toilet at our base for the night and the scenery is spectacular.
After hosing down, washing our clothes and getting settled into our dorms (with beds!), we set off to the local shop and bought ice cream, sweets and beer. What a treat!
The fog rolled in quickly this evening and we are waiting for our evening meal and wondering whether our accommodation at the community project will be as luxurious tomorrow.
The last few days have tested our endurance but the sense of achievement has overwhelmed us all but the challenge isn’t over yet.