14.01.2012 - 14.01.2012 25 °C
DAY 3 - Taman Negara
Got up at first light again and the rain was noticeably lighter. The water appeared to have dropped by a foot or so and checking Callums pictures and the markings on a tree we agreed that it was indeed dropping. We all made the decision to wait for the water to drop for the next few hours and make a call on whether to continue waiting or to find the river. As walking out was by far the least risky and easiest way out we waited and watched. The day became a weird version of the film Ground Hog Day as it cycled between playing Asshole, staring at the tree, talking about getting out and then playing Asshole again in some weird continuous loop. By 10am we calculated that it was dropping approx a foot every hour and a half. The sun had now started to break through the clouds and the rain was very light. We estimated that we could make an attempt at about 3-4pm but would review the situation at 1pm. The sun got brighter and the rain virtually stopped which felt like heaven. We had a breakfast of another packet of crisps split 3 ways and divided a small packet of sweets out which we had found but kept most of them for our escape attempt. More water was made up using the purification treatment which tasted even worse than yesterday, but at least a sweet afterwards took the edge off the taste.
At 1pm I insisted I would go for a look to see if we could see the top of the bridge as a reference point to send us in the right direction as the monotony of the continuous loop of card games and watching the tree was driving me mad. I managed to wade out to chest height and couldn't see the bridge. It was obvious we needed it to drop at least another metre or more, so upon my return we made the decision to wait it out. Hoping now that the water would drop and we could walk out as we would never have enough time left today to try the river escape and it would mean another night in the dreaded Bumbun. I stayed in my wet clothes and suggested now would be a good time to repair the raft as best we could with some more bottles that Jayne had found. Callum was against fixing the raft as he hated the idea of using it to get out but we all pulled together and fixed it best we could with the idea that we would float it with us if we walked out to hold the bags and keep them as dry as possible.
3pm came and it was evident it had dropped around the amount we needed so we opened the final can of tuna and ate it with the 2 slices of bread between us. It was like the best tuna in the world and Callum even drank the oil it was in to make it last as long as possible. Fired up from our biggest meal for a while we packed everything into as waterproof bags as best we could and started down to the rope. The first few steps in I prayed the bridge would pop into sight and as if all my prayers had come true, it did. Just the top of it but it was enough to send us in the right direction of the path. Across the bridge the path was still flooded knee deep in many parts but it was enough to make out the direction we needed to head. We stomped out of there with me leading the pace at a ridiculous rate. I was determined to get us out as quickly and safely as possible. Callum and Jayne didn't say a word but stomped along behind me keeping up the relentless pace.
The rest of the way back wasn't easy, we were pretty much exhausted but kept up the pace. We got lost once but luckily not too far off track so it was no major drama. There was a water crossing we came to which looked quite deep so I used a stick, prodding it in front of me to gauge the depth (which was chest height) for us to make it safely. We came to a derelict bridge that was marked as a no-go area but we were going to let nothing get in our way and climbed the ropes and balanced our way across.
Eventually we arrived back in the main camp looking tired, hungry, muddy and generally jungle haggard. Going into the ranger station we announced our return to which we got a sarcastic smile and an 'oh, ok - were you there for 3 nights instead of one' comment which made it apparent that they had neither noticed or given a shit about us being missing. The whole village had been flooded up to 4 metres high so it wouldn't have taken a genius to check if anyone was booked into a hut or on a walk and send some help - pricks!
A group of tourists who had just arrived at their 5 star accommodation by the ranger station stopped and stared at me in amazement as they looked at my soaking wet and disheveled appearance. They asked what happened and I relayed some of the story to the looks of disbelief and horror on some of their faces.
Crossing the river we again were met with strange looks from tourists as we stripped off some of our wet clothes and nonchalantly rubbed tiger balm on leeches and flicked them off our legs as the blood ran down to our feet.
We headed back to hand the roll mats back that we had rescued from the raft before dumping it and ended up having a massive argument with the guy behind the desk. He insisted that as we had kept the mats longer than 24 hours and we would lose our deposits. We tried in vain to appeal to his sense of compassion as he was currently holding the only money any of us had for food or shelter tonight, but it was no good. We eventually got back a portion of the deposit which was enough for a shared room together for the night. We then washed our clothes in a bucket outside our chalet in shampoo and body wash as everything was absolutely stinking and it was all we had before luckily managing to find the only place in the village that would take a Visa card for food. (We had hoped to catch a bus immediately upon our intended return we had very little cash left and there are no ATM's in the village - also no one takes card payments!). We even used some of our emergency American dollars to buy drinks at the bar which was a relief.
We ordered just about everything on the menu and was still hungry once we had demolished it all. The rain poured down again as we walked back to our lodge but we went to bed happy to be alive and have food in our stomachs.
We each vowed never to take such risks again but agreed that it had been a useful and life changing experience. The ordeal was a very scary one and we were all in very real danger but through sticking together, keeping calm heads and having a bit of faith in our abilities we made it out safe and sound.
The morale of the story is ALWAYS be prepared for the worst and NEVER underestimate the power of mother nature, she can be ruthless!