Jane had left her job three months ago. The lure of money and working had long since lost its appeal. Ever since her holiday, touring the outback of western Australia, she had felt time was slipping by. Unlike most women, who's body clocks ticked by in the female need to pro-create, Jane's body clock told her that there is a big world out there to be explored and if she didn't do something about it and soon, it would be too late.
Trailblazer ticket procured. Clothes and items necessary for survival all packed. Jane had deposited the remains of her life savings into an account she would be able to access from different countries and made ready for the trip of a lifetime. Her plans were to leave England by plane to the south of France. Then hike through Portugal, Spain and follow the northern shore of the Mediterranean until she picked up a ship to take her to Africa. Her travels then would take her through several counties in Africa all the way down to Cape Town. There she would fly to Java and tour the Islands. Flip over to Australia, eventually to stay with friends in Perth for a week. Tasmania would be the next stop touring the two Islands, then over to Florida to meet her ex flat mate who had married an American who had made a fortune in Oil or something. From there her plans had yet to be formed. It would depend on how her finances were and what condition she found herself in whether she carried on with the globe trotting, or returned to England and the hum-drum of being PA to the wanker who tried to convince her not to go on the trip.
France had been okay as had Spain. She had had a run in with some Italian yobs that thought an English girl on her own was fair game. They found out, to their cost and bruised bollocks that she was quite able to look after herself. The self-defence classes had paid off and they retired quickly when she started kicking the shit out of one of the four guys.
She got through Africa without too many mishaps although, her intention of following a set travel plan got thrown out of kilter when she found herself travelling into a war zone in Namibia. Not wanting to end up as another western statistic, she wisely detoured away from the area and hitched a lift with two Aussies who were going in the same direction. They turned out to be nice guys who treated her with respect, but kept her at arms length. Jane thought that she was reasonably attractive, had a good body and felt a little miffed that these healthy looking blokes didn't even lay a pass on her. Their reluctance to make a move on her was explained after a few days, when she walked in on them coupled in the traditional doggy fashion. Their predilection was apparent then as she backed out of the tent and left them to it. Very soon after, she and they parted company to go separate ways.
A few days after leaving the two guys, Jane hooked up with a Kiwi girl who was heading towards Rwanda to study the forest Gorillas. The invitation from Sara to join her was an opportunity Jane didn't want to miss. It would take her off of her planned course, but she had seen so many of the wildlife documentaries of Dianne Fosse and her studies of the species, that she was very excited to have the chance of seeing these magnificent primates in the wild. Who knows, she thought, I may even get to touch one.
They arrived at the base camp of a multi-national study group of scientists a week later. The scientists, who promised to take them into the forest the next day, treated Jane and Sara with great respect. Jane could hardly wait and slept only fitfully that night under the canopy of canvas and mosquito netting. The heat and humidity didn't help her rest, so it was a very sticky and tired Jane that emerged the next morning from the tent. Jane needed a shower, but was quickly told of the need to conserve water even though a stream or rivulet formed a defensive barrier on one side of the base. The water is tainted; she was informed, by oxidants from the rotted foliage of centuries. Even to bath in it was asking for a bout of illness that might actually result in debilitation or worse. The nearest supply of fresh water was in the forest where a river came over a fall of breath taking splendour. It also happened to be close to where the Gorillas like to nest for the night.
Breakfast was a meagre affair of maize cakes and jerky. The former was tasteless and just filled a hole, while the latter was so tough; Jane thought she might leave her teeth in it. A Swedish scientist told her to suck on the jerky for a while until it softened, then chew it. That way it kept the saliva going and became quite nutrious. Jane tried it and still hated the stuff, but kept sucking and chewing the jerky as the group made off to find the gorillas.
They made their way through dense forest and jungle. Vines and oleanders hung down creating curtains that were almost impenetrable. The rich loam under foot gave off a pungent smell of mulched down detritus that fed the trees, who's canopy was some hundred feet above the jungle floor and allowed, only small glimpses of the sun to penetrate to the struggling saplings and ground based plants that littered the floor. The heat was unbearable, but worse was the humidity. Jane's safari jacket soon became soaked through with her sweat, but taking it off was not an option, because the mosquitos were up early today and would have reduced her fair skin to a mass of bite and stings. She listened to the advice of the scientists and kept her skin covered as much as possible.
After a couple of hours, the lead tracker held up a hand to signal for silence and for the group to halt. Whispered conversations told Jane that the gorillas should be near, but they were a very nervous bunch and sudden noises could scare them off without the group catching sight of them. It seemed that the gorilla troupe was just in front of them because the leader motioned for everyone to squat down in the brush while he crawled forward to see where they were.
Jane chose the wrong place to crouch down. Almost immediately, some ants whose line of march was interrupted by her feet and legs attacked her. These ants, about one and a half centimetres long, managed to get inside her jeans and began to bite her ferociously. Trying to pat the devils only created a disturbance that got her some warning glares from the scientists to keep quiet. Jane scrambled out of the way, but she had already been severely bitten and was in a lot of pain.
A quick inspection by one of the scientists revealed that she would have to return to camp to get the bites seen to. The salve that he carried for just such an event didn't help too much. While she was having her legs looked at, the scout returned to tell them that the gorillas were on the move already and that they would have to move fast if they were to catch sight of them. One of the bearers was assigned to taking Jane back and the group left her and Abou behind.
Jane tried to get up to follow her guide but the pain was so great, she could only limp slowly through the dense vegetation. After an hour, they had only made a couple of hundred yards from the stop the party had split up from. With every step, the pain became worse and Jane was beginning to cry from the combined effect of the bites, heat exhaustion and the lack of sleep.
Eventually, they got to the edge of a small lake that the group had circled earlier. Abou suggested they stop for a while. He thought that they would not get back this evening unless Jane rested and bathed some of the sting pain out of the inflamed bites. Jane could not have agreed more and slumped to the bank of the lake gratefully. She removed her jeans with difficulty and began to splash water over her calves and lower legs, which had taken the brunt of the attack. The cool water helped to soothe some of the immediate pain away.
She asked Abou if it was safe to paddle in the water, or were there nasties that would make a meal of her in there as well.
"It's okay missy." He replied in his broken English. "The water safe and fresh, good to drink and no fishes or scorpions in this area, too shallow and rocky for them to hide in."
Jane dangled her legs in the water, allowing the coolness to complete the job of relief to her tortured legs. She felt a little self conscious about showing her legs to the African. Although she would have given her eye teeth to have gone for a full dip in the cooling glass like lake, she thought it too much of a risk to remove any more clothing. She needn't have worried, because Abou had decided that he needed help to get Jane back to the camp. He explained that she would very quickly become as immobile as she was before the lake. Bite and stings in this environment soon became a problem and if left untreated, became life threatening. He had decided that he would go for help. He guessed that it would take him an hour or two at most to get to the camp and then roughly the same time to return. She was to remain in this place and wait for him to return. He left her a flare gun, which was for defence purposes only. Should she find herself in trouble, she was to fire a flare into the trees. The noise, smoke and disturbance would drive away any animals including leopards, but they were rare around here. With those comforting words, he melted into the surrounding jungle and left Jane to herself.
.... There is more of this story ...